The cornerbacks for the 2012 Green Bay Packers are a big reason for the team's 6-3 start. Despite suffering multiple injuries, young players have stepped up into big roles and made big impacts, with one rookie well in the running for defensive rookie of the year.
Tramon Williams has bounced back from last year's injury to play solid ball this season. He's regularly matched up on an opponent's best receiver, and has done a solid job of taking that player away, with a few notable exceptions: specifically, Reggie Wayne for the Colts and Marques Colston for the Saints. Otherwise, he appears to be much closer to his 2010 form rather than his injured state in 2011.
Charles Woodson, though technically more of a safety, still gets some consideration in this unit, as he played in the slot regularly before his injury. It appears though that his quickness is markedly reduced, and he's not able to cover the smaller, quicker receivers that he could in the past.
Before injuring his leg, Sam Shields appeared to be back to his 2010 form as well, as he has bounced back very well from an ugly 2011 season. Shields is showing the good ball skills and speed that he needs to be effective, and he is also showing a willingness to get his nose dirty and tackle that we haven't seen from Shields in the past. What has brought his value down is the absurd number of terrible pass interference calls that have gone against him, called by both the replacement and regular referees before his injury.
Casey Hayward is easily the breakout star of the Packers' defense this year though, and is probably the one holding the most responsibility for the defense's ability to overcome injuries. His instincts have been excellent, reading the quarterbacks very well, and his ball skills have been marvelous (see his end-zone interception against Houston). All in all, he probably deserves to be the MVP of this group so far this season.
Davon House has stepped in well on the outside in the nickel package once he returned from his shoulder injury. House has looked like an untested second-year player at times, but has also shown flashes of the ability that made him a preseason favorite around APC. There's still improvement to be made, but the evidence is there that House can develop into a very good corner, and do so fairly quickly.
Jarrett Bush...oh what do we do with you? Remember when he started at cornerback in week 1 against the 49ers? Now he's limited to the occasional snap in the dime package, and even those snaps are few and far between. He's a sure tackler, but his coverage skills are ugly, especially when playing outside rather than in the slot. He hasn't shown anything that we don't know about him: he's great on special teams, but don't count on him to cover on the outside.
Overall grade: B+
Hayward's emergence, combined with Shields' and Williams' improvements off unpleasant 2011 seasons are a huge reason why the Packers' defense has been effective this season. There is a lot of young talent in this unit, and the only reason that they don't get a grade in the A range is because of some injuries and a little blip of inconsistency against the Colts. Still, this unit deserves a lot of credit for the team's 6-3 start.