After an injury-ravaged season for Green Bay’s defensive backs in 2016, the Green Bay Packers finally look healthy and deep in the secondary. Incumbent corners Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, and Ladarius Gunter return alongside starting safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett. Davon House was brought back after a two-year hiatus playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but saw very little action this preseason. Several new faces and practice squad holdovers have been making noise in camp as well. There will be tough decisions to be made as Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy decide which players in the Packers secondary make the final 53-man roster.
Green Bay Packers Secondary Looking Better Than Expected
Rookies Making Waves
The preseason is where younger players can receive enough playing time to show they belong in this league. Head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson must be impressed with what they’ve seen from their depth in the back end. Second-round pick Kevin King has looked the part as an impressive athletic boundary corner, but must become more consistent to be a week one starter.
Fellow second-rounder, safety Josh Jones, has impressed coaches as well. The aggressive defender plays at a different speed than most, making tackles behind the line of scrimmage and delivering explosive hits on special teams. Both high-pedigree rookies have the speed and physicality needed in this league. They will be difficult to keep off the field.
There will be several undrafted rookies competing for a final roster spot as well. Two that have stood out thus far in the preseason are Donatello Brown, from Valdosta State, and Lenzy Pipkins out of Oklahoma State. Pipkins graded out as one of the top cornerbacks in the league over the first two preseason games before having some struggles against the Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams. Brown played almost the opposite, struggling to make the field at first but recording his first interception in the final exhibition game. Both had their share of ups and downs but should have done enough to at least lock up a spot on the practice squad.
Second-Year Pros Eyeing Big Jump
Green Bay’s most imposing position group on defense has undoubtedly been the safeties thus far. After seeing time in every game last year as undrafted rookies, safeties Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans look poised for larger roles in 2017. Both are hard hitting players with adept ability covering the back end. They have each recorded an interception this preseason and Evans led the team in tackles this preseason.
Green Bay’s final wild card is second-year cornerback Josh Hawkins. He worked his way onto the roster last year, appearing in ten games. Somewhat undersized for Packers cornerbacks, the 5’10” Hawkins makes up for his size with sticky press coverage ability. He has shown a knack for getting his hands on the ball, recording several pass breakups throughout the preseason.
Final Roster Prediction
Safeties(5): Clinton-Dix, Burnett, Jones, Brice, Evans
Green Bay’s starting safeties are in little jeopardy of losing hold on their respective duties. Clinton-Dix should continue to roam the back end while Burnett continues to move closer to the line of scrimmage. Jones may steal some of Burnett’s time as a dime linebacker, but they will most likely remain on the field together.
It will be interesting to watch how Evans and Brice are deployed in sub packages. Both will see plenty of time on special teams along with Jones. After recording a single start in his rookie year, Brice will look to expand his role. With Burnett becoming a free agent in 2018, any of these players could make their case to become Green Bay’s starting free safety.
Cornerbacks(6): House, Randall, Rollins, King, Gunter, Hawkins
King, Randall, and Rollins are viewed as Green Bay’s future at the cornerback position. After a season plagued by injuries and inconsistent play in 2016, Randall and Rollins will look to bounce back this year. Randall appears to be spending more time as the team’s slot corner while Rollins switches to the outside. King and House should see plenty of time on the boundary due to their size and press coverage ability.
The forgotten man this off-season has been LaDarius Gunter. That was until he recorded a sack and an interception in the final preseason game against the Rams. He has proven that he can play valuable snaps with the starting defense. It will be interesting to see whether defensive coordinator Dom Capers continues to use Gunter in slot duties after being overwhelmed on the outside last season.
Hawkins has the experience and natural coverage ability that should help him fend off several of the younger rookies on the roster. With five safeties on the roster, it will be tough for one of Green Bay’s impressive undrafted rookies to make the final 53.
Needless to say, the Green Bay Packers have much more depth in the secondary this season. They head into the season healthier than the past several years. There is a good influx of veteran presence and young potential on this team. It’s truly anybody’s game in the secondary this year with eleven players all possessing the ability to play in this league.