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Packers Training Camp Preview: Draft & Free agent additions revamp CB room

There’s plenty of youth in the room, but an old friend is back to provide veteran expertise as well as solid play on the outside.

NFL: Green Bay Packers-OTA Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Continuing our series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster heading into training camp, we examine the cornerbacks and reveal our pre-camp predictions for the team’s 2018 53-man roster.

Sometimes you get the feeling that history really does repeat itself. A year after selecting a safety highly in the NFL Draft, the Packers went back-to-back at cornerback in rounds one and two. No, this isn’t the 2015 Draft, when Ted Thompson picked Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins after selecting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in round one the year before. Instead, Brian Gutekunst took Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson in the 2018 NFL Draft following Josh Jones’ selection in round two a year ago.

Those two players should inject some athleticism, ball skills, and tenacity into a unit that needs all of those qualities. However, new general manager Brian Gutekunst dipped his toe into the free agency waters as well, bringing back a veteran and former Packer to help lead the unit.

Here’s a look at the ten cornerbacks on the Packers’ 90-man roster as camp is set to open.

Tramon Williams

Years of NFL experience: 11
Contract Status: First year of two-year,
2017 Stats (Arizona Cardinals): 13 games played, 9 starts; 41 total tackles, 39 solo; 2 interceptions, 12 passes defended, one fumble recovery

Williams returned to Green Bay after two years in Cleveland and one in Arizona; entering the year with the Cardinals he was an afterthought, but stepped into the starting lineup near midseason and put some excellent performances on tape. Williams’ instincts and ability to anticipate throws are still exceptional, and his veteran leadership will be a key component of his presence in Green Bay. Look for him to lock down a starting spot on the boundary to start the year while he helps to mentor this young group of players.

Davon House

Years of NFL experience: 7
Contract Status:
2017 Stats: 12 games played, 12 starts; 44 total tackles (37 solo); 1.0 sack; 1 interception, 6 passes defended

Like Williams, House departed Green Bay after the 2014 season, instead heading to Jacksonville. However, he returned a year sooner, joining the Packers on a one-year deal last season before re-signing this spring. House had a rough year in a Packers uniform, playing hurt for much of the season and struggling to stay with receivers. Look for him to play a depth role rather than being counted on as a starter.

Demetri Goodson

Years of NFL experience: 3
Contract Status:
2017 Stats: None (spent most of 2017 on PUP and Injured Reserve)

After returning to the 53-man roster from the PUP list after midseason, Goodson didn’t play a single game because he messed up a hamstring in one of his first practices back from his ACL rehab. Packers coaches have often praised Goodson in the past, but his inability to stay on the field over the past two years is something he must overcome to have a shot at the team.

Quinten Rollins

Years of NFL experience: 3
Contract Status:
2017 Stats: 6 games played, 1 start; 17 total tackles, 8 solo; 2 passes defended, 2 fumble recoveries

Another player who ended the year on IR, Rollins started out last year’s training camp as a starter on the outside rather than in the slot, where most expected him to play. The former point guard is entering just his fifth season of competitive football after playing one year at Miami University, but he’ll need to really impress this summer to keep his job.

Josh Hawkins

Years of NFL experience: 2
Contract Status:
2017 Stats: 15 games played, 3 starts; 37 total tackles, 27 solo; 6 passes defended, 1 forced fumble

Hawkins’ best skill is easy to define: speed. He’s a burner, but he has found himself out of position too many times to be counted on as a lock to make the roster. In two years and 26 games with the Packers, he has just seven pass breakups and no interceptions; he’s very much a bubble player coming into 2018.

Donatello Brown

Years of NFL experience: 1
Contract Status:
2017 Stats: 4 games played, no stats

Brown is another fast corner with good size at 6-foot. However, he’s an older player, having already turned 27 years old this offseason. He gained some valuable experience on the roster late last season after spending most of 2017 on the practice squad, but he could be destined to go back to the PS once again in 2018.

Kevin King

Years of NFL experience: 1
Contract Status:
2017 Stats: 9 games played, 5 starts; 27 total tackles, 21 solo; 5 passes defended

The Packers traded down out of round one in 2017, picking up King with the first pick of the second round. Despite showing excellent promise against some of the league’s best wide receivers (such as Julio Jones and A.J. Green), a nagging shoulder injury kept him from being fully effective and he landed on IR after nine games. After having his shoulder cleaned up, King should be ready to unleash his absurd athleticism (99th percentile by SPARQ) on the NFL.

Lenzy Pipkins

Years of NFL experience: 1
Contract Status:
2017 Stats: 12 games played, 1 start; 14 total tackles, 11 solo; 1 pass defended

Big and physical — those are the two words that best describe Pipkins’ game. He made the roster out of training camp as an undrafted rookie last year and played significant snaps in the final few games of the year. Having an offseason in the Packers’ strength and conditioning program should give him a good shot at the team again.

Herb Waters

Years of NFL experience: 1
Contract Status:
2017 Stats: No stats (spent 2017 on Injured Reserve)

A converted college wideout, Waters was impressing cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt in spring practices last year. Unfortunately, an injury suffered early in training camp landed him on injured reserve. Now healthy, Waters will be fighting for a special teams and backup spot or perhaps another year on the practice squad — but he should be viewed as a dark horse to make a run at the roster.

Jaire Alexander

Years of NFL experience: Rookie
Contract Status:
2017 Stats (Louisville Cardinals): 6 games played; 19 total tackles, 13 solo, 1.0 TFL; 1 interception, 4 passes defended

Finally we come to the rookies, starting with the 5-foot-10-1/4 Alexander. Sure, he’s a bit shorter than the Packers’ traditional cutoff for corners, but he has exceptional speed and quickness to go with excellent ball skills. His 2017 was marred a bit by injury, but he still played exceptionally well — he just didn’t have as many opportunities to make plays on the football as he did as a sophomore. Alexander should compete for a spot early on, either on the boundary or in the slot where he can put those excellent agility skills (6.71 cone, 3.98 shuttle) to use.

Josh Jackson

Years of NFL experience: Rookie
Contract Status:
2017 Stats (Iowa Hawkeyes): 13 games played; 48 total tackles, 34 solo, 0.5 TFL; 8 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), 18 passes defended; 1 forced fumble; 5 punt returns, 36 yards (7.2 average)

Often mocked to the Packers with the 14th overall pick, Jackson fell to 45 where he was a terrific value pick for Gutekunst. His one year as a starter and his experience in a zone-heavy scheme at Iowa may give fans pause, but he was a first-team All-American and the numbers above speak for themselves. He’s also a very good all-around athlete with good size (just over 6-feet). Don’t be surprised if he also ends up starting games this season, and together with Alexander and King, he makes up the third part of a young trio that should be manning the back end for several years.