Green Bay Packers: Ted Thompson’s Cornerback Problem

Sep 25, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Damarious Randall (23) during the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Damarious Randall (23) during the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Green Bay Packers are facing a major problem at cornerback. With Damarious Randall out “several weeks”, pulling out a win in Atlanta becomes an even more difficult task. While unfortunate, a lack of cornerback depth did not have to be an issue for the team. Ted Thompson’s decision to let key players leave in free agency has come back to haunt him.

The Green Bay Packers are heading to Atlanta looking to become 5-2. A major obstacle in their way is Julio Jones. The NFL receiving yards leader (830) will look to continue his hot start against a team he has dominated in the past.

In 2014, Jones hauled in 11 catches for 259 yards. His big night was almost enough to overcome an early deficit to the Packers. This year, it is unlikely that Green Bay can build an early cushion due to their offensive struggles.

Therefore, the Packers will have to keep Julio Jones from repeating his 2014 performance if they want to win. Unfortunately, this will be a difficult task due to injuries and a lack of depth at defensive back.

According to Ian Rapoport, cornerback Damarious Randall will be out for several weeks after undergoing groin surgery.

With teammate Quinten Rollins also hampered by a groin injury, the task of slowing down Jones falls to Ladarius Gunter, Micah Hyde, and Demitri Goodson. Surely, Dom Capers will provide safety help, but this could open up opportunities for Matt Ryan over the middle.

Packers coaches and players will be preparing all week for this challenge but it is a reactive solution to a Ted Thompson created problem.

In Julio Jones 2014 showcase, the only player to slow down the Atlanta receiver was former Packer, Davon House. When given a crack at the job, House used his length to slow down Jones at the line-of-scrimmage. He was also able to compete for jump balls that would have been easy touchdowns against smaller cornerbacks.

After a solid 2014 season, Ted Thompson elected to let his former 4th round pick walk in free-agency. This was a surprising move as the general manager has made a career of retaining his draft picks over signing free-agents.

However, Thompson is also unwilling to overpay for players. As House went on to sign a 4-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars worth 10-million in guaranteed money, fans trusted they could absorb the loss of one cornerback.

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After, deciding to let veteran Tramon Williams leave as well, the depth chart was looking sparse. A once deep unit was left with only Sam Shields and Casey Hayward as reliable options.

Knowing he was looking thin at such an important position, Ted Thompson loaded up with Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins in the first two rounds. Trusting two rookies to fill the hole was a bold but fiscally conservative move for the team.

Randall and Rollins strong rookie play gave Thompson enough confidence to shed another cornerback in the off-season. This time, it was former second round pick, Casey Hayward. While injuries derailed his time in Green Bay, he always had a knack for being around the ball.

This attribute has continued in San Diego where he has both prevented the big play and forced turnovers (3 interceptions).

By letting House, Williams and Hayward go over a 2-year span it appears defensive back is one position that doesn’t apply to Ted Thompson’s own personal philosophy,

"“I like to gather the chicks all into the barn and keep them all to myself.- Ted Thompson"

Because of Thompson’s tendency to undervalue his cornerback’s the Packers face the Atlanta Falcons with little hope of slowing down Julio Jones. They were able to survive against Chicago with strong play from Ladarius Gunter, but it is unlikely he can repeat the performance against Jones.

Few general managers would expect a second-year, undrafted player to assume this duty, but Ted Thompson has. Some might call this faith in your players but in reality, its a mistake.

Next: What We Learned From Week 7

If Julio Jones has a big game and the Packers lose, Ladarius Gunter and Demitri Goodson will be the focus of negative attention from fans. However, it is Ted Thompson who should be held accountable for exposing his young players to a seemingly impossible task.