Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2015 season. Today, we examine the cornerbacks. Follow along with all of our positional breakdowns here.
With a few notable exceptions, the Green Bay Packers tend to fill holes on their roster by acquiring multiple players in the draft. When their defense sunk the Super Bowl hopes of the nearly undefeated 2011 campaign, the team spent its next six draft picks on that side of the ball. When the ground game sputtered in 2012, the front office responded with the selection of Eddie Lacy in the second round of the 2013 draft with Johnathan Franklin following two rounds later.
So when the secondary needed a boost after 2014, Ted Thompson used his top two draft picks on defensive backs: Arizona State corner/safety hybrid Damarious Randall and Miami (OH) playmaker Quinten Rollins. The team also signed oversized cornerback LaDarius Gunter in undrafted free agency to shore up the group.
Below, we review all of the Packers cornerback additions for 2015.
How acquired: Drafted in first round (30th overall)
Stats: 58 total tackles, 14 passes defensed, three interceptions, one pick-six
Though tasked with converting from safety to cornerback during training camp and the preseason, Damarious Randall made a rather seamless transition. He played a significant number of snaps and made precious few mistakes early on. On the Packers' goal-line stand against the San Diego Chargers in Week 6, Randall correctly diagnosed Philip Rivers' intentions, jumping into the flat to bat down his pass on fourth down.
Opposing offenses began to expose Randall more as the season wore on, however. In the playoffs, Randall's left Larry Fitzgerald open on the sidelines, opening the door for a 75-yard catch-and-run that set up the Arizona Cardinals' winning score.
Still, Randall had far more pluses than minuses during his rookie campaign. Barring a setback, the team expects him to start opposite of Sam Shields when the 2016 regular season begins.
How acquired: Drafted in second round (62nd overall)
Stats: 31 total tackles, six passes defensed, two interceptions, one pick-six, one sack
What Quinten Rollins lacked in refinement as a rookie, he made up with elite instincts and playmaking skills. In far less snaps than fellow draftee Randall, Rollins recorded nearly as many interceptions and as many scores. The ball just seems to find its way to Rollins, who earned more and more playing time as the season unfolded.
With Casey Hayward potentially departing in free agency, Rollins has a great opportunity to become a featured cornerback in the nickel and sub packages. How much he improves between now and Week 1 will determine how much more he plays.
How acquired: Signed to three-year, $1.58 million deal
Stats: Two total tackles
After going undrafted, Miami (Fla.)'s LaDarius Gunter signed with the Packers largely due to the success of Shields, another former Hurricane. Gunter's gamble was rewarded, as he made the team's season-opening 53 where he remained for the entire year.
Gunter played little on defense during the regular season, though he saw some action during playoffs when injuries depleted the secondary. Despite his inexperience, he didn't look out of place, suggesting that he might have a bright future in Green Bay.
How acquired: Signed to one-year, $112,000 deal (prorated amount)
Robertson Daniel spent virtually the entire season on Green Bay's practice squad, developing his skills and working towards next year's training camp. However, when Andrew Quarless landed on season-ending injured reserve in January, the team elected to promote Daniel to the 53.
Daniel hasn't shown what he can do on an NFL field, but his size (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) and athleticism (4.46 40, 6.87 3-cone) make him an appealing prospect.