Over the next few weeks, we will break down each position on the Green Bay Packers' 2015 roster in detail, discussing each player and making our predictions for the final 53-man roster.
As the Green Bay Packers near the opening of training camp, Acme Packing Company's roster breakdown now reaches the defensive backfield. Cornerback, once a strength for the defense, has become something of a unknown entering 2015. That isn't to say Green Bay lacks talent at the position, but when a longtime starter and proven backup pack their bags and leave town in the same offseason, that security comes into question.
Still, the cornerback position retains its most irreplaceable starter as well as several battle-tested reserves.
H/w: 5'11", 184
NFL seasons: 5
College: Miami (Fla.)
2014 stats: 40 tackles, 9 passes defensed, 2 interceptions
Contract status: Second year of four-year contract extension worth $39 million; 2015 cap hit of $9,062,500
Sam Shields is the last remaining "starter" from the Packers' Super Bowl-winning secondary (the team effectively played nickel as its base defense). With Williams' departure making Shields the official graybeard of the group, Green Bay will lean on him now more than ever.
While Shields played well in 2014, he fell somewhat short of the expectations created by his massive contract extension. The speedy corner must turn that around this season, as he'll be tasked with covering the opponent's No. 1 receiver even more than in past years. Just as importantly, Shields has to stay on the field. If he goes down, the Packers have no established outside cornerbacks to fill his spot.
Age: 25 (turns 26 in September)
H/w: 5'11", 192
NFL seasons: 3
2014 stats: 43 tackles, 7 passes defensed, 3 interceptions, 1 pick-six
Contract status: final year of four-year rookie contract worth $3,309,912; 2015 cap hit of $1,053,154
Since arriving in Green Bay in 2012, Hayward has established himself as the secondary's top playmaker. He led the team in interceptions that year with six. He added three more in 2014, including his first pick-six.
Barring a major upset, Hayward expects to line up on the boundary opposite of Shields. Outside of a stretch his rookie year, Hayward has spent nearly all his time working inside. Position coach Joe Whitt has expressed confidence that the transition shouldn't trouble Hayward, but the corner's average foot speed may be more easily exposed there. The bigger challenge, though, will be durability. Hayward missed all but three games his second season and endured hamstring issues last year as well.
H/w: 6'0", 197
NFL seasons: 2
2014 stats: 114 tackles, 2 sacks, 9 passed defensed, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles; 4 kickoff returns, 96 yards (24.0 average); 14 punt returns, 221 yards (15.8 average), 2 touchdowns
Contract status: third year of four-year rookie contract worth $2,338,108; 2015 cap hit of $629,527
Hayward's injury absence two seasons ago opened the door for Micah Hyde, then a rookie taken in the fifth round. Hyde proved to be one of the draft's best values, providing solid play as a nickelback and return man. He expanded his repertoire last year, playing safety in addition to his other roles.
It does not appear the Packers plan to give Hyde much run along the boundary, preferring to keep him in the slot and back at safety. However, given the less-than-stellar injury histories of Shields and Hayward, Hyde could find himself starting outside at some point this season.
H/w: 5'11", 197
NFL seasons: 1
2014 stats: 6 tackles
Contract status: second-year of four-year rookie contract worth $2,323,152; 2015 cap hit of $535,788
The Packers knew Demetri Goodson was a project when they invested a sixth-round pick on him in 2014, and the corner played little as a rookie outside of special teams. Now with his first full NFL offseason under his belt, Goodson hopes to challenge for a meaningful role in the defense. House's departure creates an open spot for a bigger corner, and Goodson could fill the void.
At the same time, Goodson is older than nearly every other player in the secondary. He may not have much room to grow physically, and there isn't much time left for him to figure out the nuances of the position. This is a make-or-break year for the second-year corner.
H/w: 6'0", 175
NFL seasons: 1
College: Utah State
2014 stats: (none)
Contract status: second-year of three-year rookie contract worth $960,000; 2015 cap hit of $435,000
Quietly added to the practice squad midway through the 2014 season, Tay Glover-Wright possesses plenty of physical gifts worth developing. Some scouts compared him to Shields prior to the 2014 NFL Draft due to his sub-4.4 speed and receiver-to-corner college transition. He didn't grab hold of a roster spot his first year the way Shields did in 2010, but Glover-Wright could make the leap entering his second season.
While he's light for an NFL defensive back, Glover-Wright's length and speed make him an intriguing prospect. If Whitt can work his magic on him, the Packers may find themselves with another undrafted free agent steal.