We have just two more sets of players to reveal in our ranking of the Green Bay Packers’ 2016 90-man roster, and today we knock out the penultimate set with the players ranked between 11 and 20.
This group contains a whole bunch of defensive backs - in fact, five of the ten players in this set are on the two-deep in the secondary. That alone should explain why the Packers’ secondary is looked at as one of the best in the NFL (which we examined in today’s Cheese Curds), and the fact is that several of these players are just getting their careers started.
As a reminder, this is how we see the roster as it currently is, prior to any development that will take place or be put on display during training camp. Now, without further ado, here are players 20 through 11.
20: DB Micah Hyde
Now that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is established as the starter at free safety, Hyde took a back seat and is the primary backup at both safety positions. He also remains a solid slot corner, and is a willing tackler in run support. Furthermore, he is still the top option on punt returns, and although his numbers took a massive tumble last season (5.8 yards per return) compared to his first two years (13.6 with three TDs), he is still a steady and consistent option. Hyde is one of the primary reasons that the Packers’ secondary is looked at as being one of the deeper units in the league.
19: DT Letroy Guion
Guion started all 16 games at nose tackle in 2014, but only started four contests in 2015 after B.J. Raji’s return from injury. Still, he pitched in with plenty of snaps at both nose tackle and 5-technique in the base defense and can contribute here and there as an interior pass-rusher as well. With the Packers’ line skewing very young thanks to recent draft picks, Guion and Mike Daniels will need to lead the way.
18: TE Jared Cook
Richard Rodgers and Jared Cook are incredibly complementary players. Cook has impressive speed and athleticism, some of Rodgers’ weaknesses, but Rodgers’ hands are exemplary while Cook’s have always been questionable. Still, Cook has carved out a very productive career as a receiver despite having abysmal quarterback play around him, and it will be exciting to see him attack the seam with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football.
17: CB Quinten Rollins
It seems that you can’t mention Rollins without discussing his past as a point guard and the fact that he played just one year of college football. He seemed to have transitioned to the NFL just fine as a rookie, and now projects as the Packers’ top slot corner - a position which should earn him playing time on more than half of the team’s defensive snaps this season. His ball skills are already excellent, and a full offseason under Joe Whitt’s tutelage will continue to improve his coverage abilities.
16: OT Bryan Bulaga
Bulaga’s injury history remains a constant concern, and is a reason why he is not higher on this list. In 2015, he missed four games to injury, and there was a noticeable dropoff to Don Barclay. Bulaga remains a solid pass protector and a decent, if unspectacular run-blocker, and he should remain penciled in as the starter at right tackle for the next four seasons thanks to the 5-year deal he signed last offseason.
15: RB Eddie Lacy
The questions around Lacy’s weight will remain until he steps onto the football field this summer for some actual game action. Once he sees live action, that will be the first true test of whether he has regained the agility that made him such a devastating weapon out of the backfield in his first two years. The receiving ability is still there and he is certainly capable of being a three-down back and one of the best at his position in the league.
14: CB Damarious Randall
While Rollins mans the slot, Randall has locked down the starting left cornerback job as he enters his second year. The college safety made Ted Thompson’s faith in him pay off last season, coming up with three interceptions and 14 pass breakups. He has all the skills to be an elite cornerback in the NFL, and his physical style is a great fit for the press-man coverages that the Packers often employ. He could well be in the top ten next year and could even be the highest-rated defensive back if he continues on the path he set out as a rookie.
13: S Morgan Burnett
Now that he has a safety partner who complements him well, Burnett has quietly become one of the most steady and consistent strong safeties in the NFL. He is one of the very best players at his position in run support, and he is solid if unspectacular in coverage. You won’t see him making many headlines or flashy plays, but Burnett is the member of the secondary who quietly helps keep the whole unit functioning properly.
12: C Corey Linsley
Linsley enters his third season after going through some injury troubles last season and being held out of spring practices. However, he should be in consideration for at least Pro Bowl honors if he maintains the level of play that he displayed in his 13 games last season. He has become incredibly quick off the snap, often getting the ball away and engaging his defender before the opposing player has even begun to move. With the two elite guards around him, Linsley anchors one of the best interior lines in the NFL.
11: CB Sam Shields
It seemed that Shields had a quiet season in 2015, but ask around and you’ll find that most analysts feel he had one of his best years. He did lose five games (including one playoff game) to a concussion suffered late in the season, but was his usual self when he returned against Arizona in the Divisional round. The Packers can confidently line Shields up on the right side against any receiver and trust that he will keep them in check.
Stay tuned tomorrow as we reveal the top ten on our countdown!