The Green Bay Packers entered the 2016 season appearing to have depth galore at the cornerback position. Sam Shields had the left cornerback job on lockdown, with Damarious Randall on the right side and a combination of Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter coming in for sub packages. Add in undrafted rookies Josh Hawkins and Makinton Dorleant and you get a talented and young group with depth and great ball skills.
Just a week and a half after final cuts, the team suddenly is in trouble at that position. Dorleant was placed on Injured Reserve almost immediately to make room for long-snapper Brett Goode, and Josh Hawkins’ hamstring injury has kept him on the sideline during practice. Now, Sam Shields is in the concussion protocol following a hit late in the game against Jacksonville. His absence at Wednesday’s practice leaves the team down to just three true corners plus utility defensive back Micah Hyde.
Now, we are learning of a couple of interesting reports out of Packers’ practice today which appear connected to the issues at hand at cornerback. Here is the first, from the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood:
#Packers expected to cut RB Jhurell Pressley to promote PS player, per league source. There are indications Pressley could return next week.— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) September 14, 2016
On first glance, this move would not be a shock; Pressley was inactive for the team’s first game, and the fact that he made it to the Packers in waivers following final cuts suggests that he could still be available a week from now. If the team were to want to add a running back next week and Pressley were to be unavailable, they could go after Storm Johnson, who just worked out for the team.
However, adding a player from the practice squad seems a bit surprising, since the Packers do not have a single cornerback on that unit. In fact, the only defensive back on the ten-man squad is safety Jermaine Whitehead. However, one of the team’s final cuts, cornerback Robertson Daniel, is currently a free agent and could be a potential target. Another option would be to pursue a player from another team’s practice squad; however, any Vikings corners are off-limits because there are fewer than five days to go before the Packers-Vikings game. In addition, any player signed in this manner would get a minimum of three game checks of active-roster pay, regardless of whether the team were to release him after just one contest.
However, there is another possible option in play, as the Packers had one of the practice squad players switch sides today. According to Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, rookie wide receiver Herb Waters was working as a cornerback in the portion of Wednesday’s practice that was open to the media.
Is this a sign that the Packers view Waters as a corner moving forward? If anything, it is highly probable that the team just needed another body at the position to get through practice, as ESPN’s Rob Demovsky suggests. However, given cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt’s admitted penchant for players with raw coverage skills, there is a non-zero probability that the team might see Waters as a candidate for a full-time move to the defense. Still, most of the players that Whitt has coached up in recent years at least had some collegiate experience at cornerback - Sam Shields famously switched from receiver to corner before his final season at Miami, while Quinten Rollins and Demetri Goodson each had a year at corner after completing their basketball careers. The fact that Waters has no substantial corner experience makes a full-time move unlikely.
Stay tuned as we keep a close eye on the transaction wire to see if any moves are made to bolster the position.