The biggest downfall for the Packers last season wasn’t the revolving door at running back, it was a porous secondary decimated by injuries. The Pack came into last year with high expectations for a secondary lead by veteran Sam Shields, second year pros Demarious Randall and Quentin Rollins, versatile Micah Hyde and steady safety play by Morgan Burnett and Haha Clinton-Dix. Unfortunately for the Packers, the bad luck would start in week one and carry over all season.
Week one versus Jacksonville, Sam Shields went down with a concussion that would turn out to be season ending and possibly career ending. Packers’ fans still had hope that promising second year corners Randall and Rollins could fill the void left by Shields. The injury bug continued to haunt the Packers secondary with injuries to Randall and Rollins. This led to the Packers starting undrafted, second year player, Ladarius Gunter at cornerback. Even Micah Hyde would go on to miss some time during the season. What had looked like a deep and talented secondary had quickly turned into a who’s who of defensive backs starting for the Packers. Gunter got better as the year went on, but he continued to draw tough defensive assignments against the other teams’ number 1 wide receivers. When Randall and Rollins were on the field, they did not perform at a high level. The two bright spots for the Packers were Burnett and Clinton-Dix as they supplied the only form of consistency the secondary had all season. After a loss in the NFC Championship game, it was clear that the secondary needed to be addressed this offseason.
The Packers’ philosophy has always been to build through the draft. They very rarely chase after free agents and when they do, they always seem to be players that need their careers rejuvenated i.e. Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers. Fans became anxious as free agency began for Ted Thompson to go out and sign a free agent. Thompson went out and signed a very familiar face to Packers fans. Davon House signed with Green Bay after being released by the Jaguars after a down year. House had been a very promising young corner for Green Bay before he left in free agency. He had a very good year in Jacksonville in the 2015 season. Going into 2016 Jacksonville switched defensive schemes and House did not adjust, leading to a poor showing in 2016 causing his eventual release. House was definitely a good start to revamp the secondary, but surely more help had to be on the way at the draft.
The 2017 NFL Draft saw the Packers trade out of the first round. They ended up getting the 1st pick of the second round and took Kevin King, a 6’3” cornerback out of the University of Washington. This seemed like a perfect fit for Green Bay. King is a fast and tall corner that the Packers desperately needed to add. With their other second round pick, the Packers addressed the secondary by drafting versatile Josh Jones, who seems like an obvious replacement for the role Micah Hyde played. Thompson addressed two glaring secondary holes in the second round of the draft.
With training camp upon us, it is hard to not have a sense of optimism about this Packers secondary. With Davon House projected as our top corner, we have a veteran presence that should provide stability and leadership for a young secondary, which was missing last year. Randall and Rollins should be much better than they were last year when they were battling through injuries all of last season. Add in a very much improved Ladarius Gunter and a promising rookie in Kevin King, the Packers cornerback depth chart looks like it has the ability to be among the best in the NFC North. At safety the Packers return Burnett and Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix is fresh off of his first trip to the Pro Bowl and should continue to prove he is a top 10 safety in this league. Rookie Josh Jones and Kentrell Brice should provide solid depth at the safety position as well.
I have a few predictions for certain players from this secondary. Look for Clinton-Dix and House to have Pro-Bowl caliber seasons. I also expect Damarious Randall to have a bounce back season and show that last year was a fluke. Kevin King will work his way into a starter opposite of House by the end of the season and get defensive rookie of the year consideration.
Packers fans should be excited heading into this season. This is the most depth we’ve had at defensive back since Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, and Sam Shields were leading the defensive backfield. With steady performance from these defensive backs, it’s hard to believe the Packers won’t be competing for the Lombardi Trophy this year. As always for TitleTown, it’s Super Bowl or bust.