As the Green Bay Packers near the end of their spring practices, there remain several questions about the team’s roster and how the starting lineup will set up for week one of the 2017 regular season. Each NFL team faces these questions, but some more so than others and many in different positions or portions of the roster.
Last week, ESPN compiled a list of the biggest roster question or decision that faces each team in the league before the start of the 2017 regular season. Some of these involve contract extensions, others face uncertainty about the quarterback position — something that the Packers thankfully do not have to concern themselves with.
For the Packers, however, the focus is on the secondary and specifically just how the cornerback unit will shake out by the time the start of the season rolls around. Here is a passage from the article:
Secondary rebuild. The Packers' Achilles' heel in 2016? Its secondary. Passing yards piled up against Green Bay's young cornerbacks, though injuries played a big part. The secondary will look much different in 2017, as the Packers drafted cornerback Kevin King and safety Josh Jones in the second round while also bringing back Davon House in free agency. Green Bay will also count on player development from its young defensive backs, including former first-round pick Damarious Randall and former second-round pick Quinten Rollins. Ensuring that this group is in a far better place this season is essential.
This is an interesting choice, since the roster decisions themselves are pretty much set; it’s instead the slotting of the players on the depth chart that has yet to be decided.
In my view, the Packers probably will keep no more than six corners on the day-one roster, and it would be a surprise if more than one undrafted rookie makes the team. Kevin King is guaranteed a spot of course, as are the recently-signed Davon House and former first-round pick Damarious Randall. Joining Randall would likely be fellow third-years Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter, leaving likely just one spot for another player. With Demetri Goodson likely to start the season on the PUP list after his torn ACL last year, that means that a rookie would likely fill the sixth spot (if the team elects to go with that number).
Furthermore, if there is a sixth corner on the team come week one, that player would need to make an impact on special teams, as he would be highly unlikely to see any substantive snaps on defense behind the five veterans. With back-of-the-roster players at other positions also making special teams contributions, rookie corners are competing not only with their fellow position-mates but with those all across the roster.
Ultimately, the roster decisions at cornerback aren’t the big question mark — it’s the starting lineup and the distribution of snaps that has yet to be determined. THAT topic, more so than personnel decisions, will be crucial to follow throughout training camp.