Packers: Will secondary take the next step?


While being a Green Bay Packers fan has been relatively easy since the Brett Favre era, there are always causes for concern with each year’s team.  Since the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, they’ve had one of the most consistent offenses in the league.

Where the rift comes between fans is what needs to happen on the defensive side of the ball.  We’ve already went in depth about Dom Capers and his defense as a whole earlier this year, but let’s get more specific about the topic.

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Green Bay’s formula for success has been let the offense dominate games, and have the defense bend but not break.  The Packers could afford a big play here or there, take a risk now and then, and still recover.  Capers has been one of the best at utilizing different defensive schemes, zones, and blitzes to consistently create turnovers and get the ball back to their high powered offense.

This philosophy does come at a price however, and that price is the secondary.  When the Packers bring the house in their zone blitzes, it leaves outside corners on islands.  Luckily for Green Bay, they could run this scheme with relative confidence having Tramon Williams and Sam Shields as their primary corners.

Now that Green Bay’s secondary has gotten significantly younger and less experienced after the draft, one has to wonder if their defensive philosophy will stay the same.

Jul 30, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward (29) rides a bicycle to training camp at

Ray Nitschke

Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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To start, it appears that the second starting corner back position is Casey Hayward‘s to lose.  This will be Hayward’s fourth year, and will be looking to continue his rise back to prominence after his stellar rookie season.  Yet, there could be arguments made against Hayward and why you could see him back in nickel and dime packages at any point during the season.

The two biggest concerns about Hayward are his height, and ability to stay healthy.

Casey played in only three games in the 2013 with a nagging hamstring injury and despite playing in all 16 games last season, he has been dealing with a foot injury this offseason.

My other concern is his height and lack of experience playing against top caliber receivers.  Hayward is listed at 5’11”.  His teammate, Shields, is also listed at 5’11”.  Shields can play just fine, so what’s the problem?  Shields makes it work with his supreme speed and ball skills.

How many times have you seen Sam go stride for stride with a receiver down the sidelines and make some kind of spectacular, Charles Woodson-like play on the ball?  Hayward is going to need some time and help out on his island, at least for the first part of the season.

Now let’s talk about the youngsters.  First-round pick Damarious Randall, second-round pick Quinten Rollins, and undrafted LaDarius Gunter have all made noise already and it’s only August.

May 28, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Quinten Rollins (24) gets ready during Rookie Orientation Camp and Organized Team Activities at the

Don Hutson

Center in Green Bay. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

In Green Bay’s only preseason game so far, Rollins had four tackles and a game- high two pass deflections while Gunter had the team’s only interception.

The Packers have used Gunter and Randall primarily on the outside, and for at least Randall, expect him to stay out there, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky.  The surprising play of Gunter adds even more depth to a secondary that has not been able to get over the hump of consistent play for quite sometime.

Between Rollins/Gunter surprising coaches this early and Randall breathing down Casey Hayward’s neck for that starting CB job, expect to see a lot of these three in weeks and months to come.

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  • With confusion of where Damarious Randall was going to play somewhat cleared up, the safety positions also cleared up.  There should be no questions about Ha Ha Clinton-Dix heading into this season, as he emerged as one of the most consistent defensive players the Packers have, as well as one of the best young safeties in the league.

    The question comes with his teammate and strong safety, Morgan Burnett.  Burnett stays relatively healthy, only missing four regular season games the past four seasons, but is known to give up big plays and lacks in the cover game.  Despite his ability to stay on the field, it wouldn’t surprise me if Burnett was on some kind of clck with the coaching staff.

    With versatile Micah Hyde and young safeties Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo behind him, Burnett could find himself in a similar position to Hayward.  Green Bay now has depth in their defensive backfield and I can’t imagine the coaching staff standing pat after all of these defensive failures come playoff time if players are struggling.

    Fans are aware that this defense isn’t terrible.  It’s not a liability 95 percent of the time, but unfortunately the past four seasons the only time it is a real liability is when it matters most; playoff time.  If the Packers want to return to the Super Bowl in the near future, it starts on the defensive side of the ball.

    I understand Green Bay’s defense ranks near or in the top 10 in almost every significant defensive category and that’s why the Packers regularly make the playoffs.  If you want to relive the glory of winning a Super Bowl, this defense needs to take the next step and not be satisfied with just being a good regular-season defense.

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