2017 Packers Preview: Make or Break for Packers CBs
The Packers were in a bad way at cornerback in 2016.
The tl;dr version goes like this: injuries, sadness, inconsistency, regression, fourth stringer now number one, pain.
The nadir of the entire experience came on two plays bookending halftime in the NFC Championship, and I promise this is the last time we’ll speak of this.
As the Falcons closed out their first half drive, Julio Jones beat Ladarius Gunter easily for a touchdown to put the game essentially out of reach.
Then, on the Falcons’ second offensive play of the second half, Jones, apparently deciding that his last touchdown hadn’t demonstrated enough style points, stomped through the Packers secondary en route to a 73 yard score, leaving the battered remains of Gunter and Damarious Randall in his wake.
2017, though, should be different. There’s plenty of new blood in the position group, key players are finally healthy, and (perhaps most importantly) it probably can’t get any worse than it was last year.
Veteran to watch: Damarious Randall
Entering his third season, Randall falls firmly into the “veteran” category. Now having been through two full seasons and two full offseasons, there’s no reason for any kind of youthful excuses about Randall’s play this season.
Now free of his nagging groin injury, the stage is set for Randall to finally realize his potential, and the Packers appear to be setting him up for big things. While he played almost exclusively on the outside last year, he appears to be in line for some serious work in the slot this season, a move which should suit his quick twitch, high agility game quite well.
However, if he washed out in the slot, he could quickly be trending towards becoming the latest disappointing defensive first round pick.
Notable newcomer: Davon House
House doesn’t fit the strictest definition of newcomer, but his arrival is noteworthy nonetheless.
Cast off by the Jaguars two years after signing a very profitable contract, House returns to the team where his NFL career began.
To what end, though? During his ill-fated Jaguars tenure and his first go-round in Green Bay, House was never a lockdown corner. He had stints of solid play, but nothing that would qualify him as a legitimate number one cornerback.
A stint or two of solid play could be enough, though. The Packers certainly have other corners whose professional ceiling may be higher than House’s, but it remains to be seen how quickly they can approach that ceiling. If House can be solid early in the season, he could be just the bridge the Packers need to get to those more talented youngsters.
Biggest question: How quickly will Kevin King come along?
King is probably no higher than fourth or perhaps third on the Packers’ cornerback depth chart right now. That’s fine. That’s how things go for rookies. The question is how long he’ll stay there.
The Packers didn’t draft King to give him a de facto redshirt season. This team badly needed an influx of talent at the cornerback position, and King will be expected to bring his prodigious athletic gifts to bear sooner rather than later. How quickly he does it could determine how well this position group performs this season.
Key number: 7
Packers cornerbacks produced just seven interceptions in 2016, their lowest total since 2007. It was just the second time since 2007 that the group had produced single digit interceptions in a season.