Last year at this time we were all wondering what the heck happened to the Packers secondary. It seemed that every cornerback took a significant step back in their game and replacement for Nick Collins never surfaced. This past season helped erase many of those concerns, but some players bounced back better than others. Sam Shields played an impressive year, Davon House was solid for his time on the field, and rookie Casey Hayward took the league by storm. The main problem though was Tramon Williams did not return to his 2010 form. Williams had an okay year, but he struggled down the stretch and did not have an impressive playoff performance. Now it seems that Williams has publically admitted that the shoulder injury he suffered in 2011 has still not fully healed. This is a problem and it raises two questions….first, should the Packers move on from Williams and second, if he does stay should he be relieved of his number 1 cornerback duties in 2013?
Many of you remember that in week 2 of 2011 Williams suffered a shoulder injury which caused nerve damage. Although he has admitted that he should have rested the injury and let it heal, he instead decided to play the rest of the 2011 season with the bum shoulder. The injury neutralized his ability to play bump and run and impacted his tackling abilities as well. Flash forward a year we have seen another year of Williams struggling in bump and run coverage and tackling. In his defense, Williams was better than his awful 2011 year, but he was nowhere near his 2010 break out year.
We are now two years into this injury and the hard question is going to be whether Williams can come back from it at all. Every indication so far points to this shoulder problem being a chronic issue, which may change Williams’ ability as a corner. So should the Packers consider moving on from Williams in order to free up some cap space and give more opportunities to the younger guys such as Shields, Hayward, and House? It’s not a terrible idea, but probably rash at this point. Williams is still a good cornerback and a solid starter who can contribute. He just is not the shut down corner that he appeared to be at the end of the 2010 season.
The best solution is to fall back on competition. Williams was handed the number corner job in 2012 and the younger players never had a true chance to challenge Williams for the ability to play that position. It seemed as though the Packers assumed Williams was the best corner and assigned him the top receiver for each upcoming opponent. This practice will need to change in 2013. Shields has elite speed and an ability to cover. He also finally showed a toughness and willingness to tackle in 2013 that was lacking in his two previous seasons. Casey Hayward was the main playmaker for the Packers defense during the four game run when Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson were both injured. Hayward has remarkable ball skills and also has an ability to step up and tackle when necessary. Although he will probably handle the slot corner position, he should be expected to get more snaps in the base defense as well. Davon House also needs more time on the field, since he has the size and strength that other corners do not have right now. These four can form a deep rotation unmatched in the NFL today. The great change from today’s news is that it simply cannot be assumed Williams is the best of the four corners….it’s time for competition to take hold of the cornerback spot.