Green Bay Packers

What went wrong in the Packers secondary?

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 01: Green Bay Packers corner back Damarious Randall (23) looks on during game action between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions on January 1, 2017 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)
(Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

The Green Bay Packers came into this season incredibly excited about the back end of their defense.

They held the belief they were both deep and talented.

Damarious Randall and Quentin Rollins both showed promise as rookies. They had high draft pedigrees as first and second round picks.

With Joe Whitt coaching them, the belief was they were only going to get better in their second year.

Sam Shields returned as the team’s top cover man. He was a good option when he was healthy to shadow the opposing team’s top wide receiver.

They were so confident in their cornerbacks that they were willing to let Casey Hayward walk away with minimal resistance.

The belief was that they finally had a defense to pair with a high-flying offense to get them back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010.

Things did not go according to plan. Instead of being one of the strengths of the team, cornerback was arguably the biggest reason the Packers did not reach the Super Bowl.

Sam Shields was unavailable for almost the entire season with a concussion that he suffered in the season opener.

At the time, the injury was seen as an opportunity for Randall and Rollins to grow up fast. It was also an injury that was seen as sustainable because of the depth the Packers theoretically had in the secondary.

Instead it turned out to be a similar injury to the one the wide receiver corps suffered with Jordy Nelson a season ago.

Nelson was seen as a big loss, but one that could be overcome because of the depth the team had at his position. Instead of rising to the challenge, the Packers’ receivers wilted because they were put in positions they were not ready to perform in.

In 2016, cornerback was a similar situation. Randall and Rollins were put in positions they were not ready to be in.

Damarious Randall was the leader in the clubhouse for most disappointing player in 2016. There is a litany of reasons for that. He performed poorly before battling through injuries that made his performance worse.

Even before the injuries that he suffered throughout the year, he looked nothing like the player that got the Packers excited for the 2016 season.

He was too soft in man, indecisive in zone. He did not tackle well. If the Packers had any other options it’s possible that Randall could have found himself on the bench.

A variety of injuries to his teammates kept him on the field. By the end of the year, Randall compared himself to Davante Adams in 2015.

Randall suffered injuries that caused him to struggle like Adams did after a solid rookie season. The Packers have to hope Randall can bounce back like Adams did in 2016.

Rollins was not too far behind Randall in terms of disappointing the team.

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Washington Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder (80) catches a touchdown pass over Green Bay Packers cornerback Quinten Rollins (24) during a match between the Washington Redskins and the Green Bay Packers on November 20, 2016, at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire)

LANDOVER, MD – NOVEMBER 20: Washington Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder (80) catches a touchdown pass over Green Bay Packers cornerback Quinten Rollins (24) during a match between the Washington Redskins and the Green Bay Packers on November 20, 2016, at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire)

He showed potential in spurts during his rookie campaign. He showed athleticism that was tantalizing for a slot corner.

He was decisive and a sound tackler once a receiver got the ball in their hands.

In 2016 he resembled nothing of the sort. He was indecisive and not nearly as physical at the line of scrimmage. He was caught flat-footed far too often, which caused him to get beat.

He too suffered through injuries that hampered him through his sophomore slump.

Ultimately the injuries and inconsistent play caused Randall and Rollins to give way to Ladarius Gunter as the team’s top cornerback.

Gunter battled through the year all things considered, but was embarrassed in the team’s final two playoff games.

Ultimately the season ended with the Packers having major questions about the future of their defensive backfield. A season with optimism ended with bitter disappointment.

Shields was released following his concussion. That means the players who ended the season on the field are the only ones left in the cornerback room.

The Packers could be faced with the possibility of having to replace Shields with a veteran or having to spend another high draft pick.

That would have been unheard of considering how Rollins and Randall played in their rookie campaigns.

The Packers cannot afford to give up on Rollins or Randall yet, but they also cannot afford to have them as their only options going into 2017.

It’s an interesting situation they face going into another season in which they hope to compete for another Super Bowl.



  1. Joe Doe

    Feb 16, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    You have made an attempt here at assessing each corner individually while neglecting the safeties and coaching. You, as most beat writers, have missed the aspect of coaching to its entirety in this article. Two things show that coaching is the PRIMARY issue with the Packers secondary. First, rewatch (or maybe watch) some tape. Notice the safeties’ pre-snap movement which often gives the quarterback the defensive play. Give yourself a test, watch the play, rewind and watch the safeties movement and watch the play again. Notice how few reads a quarterback has to go through. It’s the equivalent of an OT being in a three point stance every run play and two point stance every pass. Secondly, those corners got burned regularly, and almost always threw their hands up suggesting they should’ve been getting help. Our secondary, clearly does not have the chemistry to be successful. Capers is a bum. It’s almost unfathomable that a SuperBowl was won in his tenure. The defense is ALWAYS lesser than the sum of its parts.

  2. Allen

    Feb 15, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    iDC where you get drafted. If you have a 4.6 guy covering a 4.3 receiver on an above average QB it’s gonna get ugly sooner or later. We need 2 CB with minimum 4.45 X40 speed including at least 1 seasoned vet and one 1st or second day draft or I can all but guarantee Dom will be need to be sharpening his resume by week 17

  3. Kyle

    Feb 15, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    They have a complete lack of talent and skill at the CB position, it really is that simple. Randall is the worst corner I have seen on GB since Ahmad Carroll; he has good ball skills but it doesn’t matter since he is terribale at everything else. Besides never being lined up in time, never being near his WR he is the worst tackling player I have ever seen…Deion was better. Rollins lacks speed and has the awareness of a goldfish, should be in the 20s if we are talking Madden ratings. Gunter is a perfectly fine player, if he is your 4th corner; if he could run he’d be ok. And that’s it, since Hyde really isn’t a CB. If they don’t bring in 3-4 new corners through the draft and FA nothing will change next year.

    • Ben H

      Feb 15, 2017 at 6:39 pm

      It isnt like they are going to give up on young newly aquired talent this early. If GB were to recruit serious talent to preasure the opposing QB more consistently the opposition wouldn’t have the success passing the ball nearly as much. I dont think Belichick is going to coming to GB any time soon. The next coach in line with the highest winning percentage has occuoied the head coaching job in GB for over a decade.

  4. G Wack

    Feb 15, 2017 at 6:34 am

    What Defensive secondary?

  5. Andy Peth

    Feb 15, 2017 at 2:57 am

    Going from “decisive” to “indecisive” would seem to be a coaching issue–both in technique and scheme. Of course, it could also indicate laziness by the players themselves. At any rate, both the coaches and players should be on high notice in 2017: Produce or be gone.

  6. Fatz2fly

    Feb 14, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    In a word, coaching. That starts with McCarthy, who is a B- at best in the NFL. Imagine Belichick with the stable of talent the Packers have had in the past 18 years. We would have five or six more Lombardy trophies on display.

  7. Jim Taylor

    Feb 14, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    Hah !!! St. Vince would have sent Capers and all the defense coaches to the unemployment line YEARS ago !! The continual FAILURE of the defense, YEAR after YEAR is sickening to watch. The two greatest quarterbacks in NFL history have seen their achievements SQUANDERED away by IDIOTS who cannot field,or, manage even an AVERAGE defense !!

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