In a team-based sport, the cornerback position is one of the most vulnerable. The majority of the time you are covering a world-class athlete by yourself in open space in front of thousands of fans. When a team doesn't add a sufficient pass rush on the opposing quarterback, that task becomes exponentially more difficult.
The Packers have lucked out in recent years with hidden gems like Al Harris and Tramon Williams, while adding superstar talent like Charles Woodson as well. Al Harris has since retired, and Woodson appears to be in the twilight of his career as he moves on with Oakland Raiders. However, Tramon Williams appears to be just entering his prime, and with a bevy of young talent around him at the cornerback position, the Packers are looking to solidify the starting spot opposite the 2010 Pro Bowler.
The APC writers were quite divided in their projections at the cornerback position, but a decision had to be made. A majority was found, and although some believe the Packers will keep a six-man rotation at corner, we landed on five as the majority. Here are the compiled results of the five writers projections.
Cornerbacks on the 53-man roster: FIVE
Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward
No surprise to see Tramon Williams get the clean sweep as the choice to start at the Right Cornerback position. Williams will be looking to establish himself as a leader on and off the field for the Packers after the departure of locker room leader Charles Woodson. If he can stay healthy, and the defensive front seven can provide an improved pass rush, Williams numbers will likely return to their 2010 form.
Casey Hayward gets the nod over Sam Shields three votes to two to earn the starting role opposite Williams. This battle could go back and forth during camp and preseason games, and could be determined on a week-to-week basis during the regular season by coach McCarthy and company. Both players are young, talented corners who have the ability to be Pro Bowl caliber defensive backs when all is said and done. I think Hayward gets the early lead due to his breakout rookie performance.
If Shields doesn't beat out Hayward for the starting spot, expect him to see extended playing time within the nickel and dime packages.
Davon House, when healthy, could threaten for valuable playing time of his own. House appeared to be on pace to make quite a splash his rookie season until a shoulder injury halted his progress. House has the ideal size (six-foot-one, 195 pounds) to be an excellent bump-and-run corner in the NFL. If he can establish himself in that role, he could end up as a key contributor in the Packers defensive backfield.
Jarrett Bush was only left off of one writer's roster projections, and appears to be slotted as a special teamer who occasionally will be called upon in passing situations. Bush has been acceptable at best in his time at the cornerback position. He will have to make some serious strides if he expects to contend for a top spot in the playing rotation.
Practice Squad: Micah Hyde
Hyde made the team in all five projections, making the 53-man roster for three, and practice squad for two others. The fact that the Packers drafted him before they addressed their needs at linebacker should show that Ted Thompson and company has high hopes for Hyde. He has shown his versatility as both a safety and cornerback in college, and also was a dangerous return man in the special teams game. He has the skill set to challenge for playing time as a rookie, but I wouldn't be surprised if it simply becomes a numbers game and Hyde spends the majority of 2013 with the practice squad. I do expect Hyde to eventually become a solid player for the Packers in the future, and if the Packers don't resign Shields next off-season, that could open the door for him.
Means received one vote for practice squad duties in our writers' projections, while Nixon did not make the cut. The Packers brought Means in this past April in one of their only additions of the off-season, which shows that the team is interested in Means, and what he might bring to the team. I believe his size (five-foot-10, 188 pounds) will make it hard for him to survive the bump-and-run style of play that Dom Capers expects from his cornerbacks.
Nixon appears to be a long shot to make the team, but the fact that he is still on the training camp roster is a promising sign for the young undrafted free agent. If he can make some plays in training camp as a punt or kick returner, he could make the team in special teams capacity.