Nick Foles may have just led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl, but back in 2015, he put himself on the highlight reel of a rookie Packers cornerback with little experience in football. Quinten Rollins picked off a Foles pass against the Rams, returned it for a touchdown, punctuating Rollins’ best game as a pro.
Since then, however, the highlights have been few and far between for the former third-round pick. Injuries derailed his 2016 campaign and an Achilles tear ended his season in 2017.
Even before those injuries, Rollins failed to consistently show he had the athleticism needed to play cornerback in the NFL, struggling to run with tight ends at times, never mind receivers. Watching him try to chase around the speedy Falcons receivers on the slick track in Atlanta underscored the need for a revamp in the secondary (Kevin King is a 4.4 player, Jaire Alexander ran 4.38 at the combine and Josh Jackson reportedly ran in the 4.4’s at his Iowa pro day).
Early in training camp, Rollins played in some dime situations as a corner, then as a linebacker, an indication Mike Pettine wants to see him play a little bit of everywhere. Rollins may have to stick as an overhang defender rather than a cornerback if he’s going to make this team.
Here’s the problem: Jaire Alexander pushed his way into the No. 1 defense thanks in part to Kevin King looking like a legit impact corner early in camp and Davon House struggling. Second-round pick Josh Jackson shuffled in the slot and the boundary with the No. 1 unit, all signaling Rollins’ spot as a corner remains very much up for grabs. It’s not just possible, but likely he’s no better than CB4 on this team right now, and by the end of camp, that could be more like CB6 behind King, Tramon Williams, Alexander, Jackson, and House.
Hell, why couldn’t Lenzy Pipkins be ahead of him? I’ve seen more in the last year from him as a corner than Rollins.
Could his role in the box as a dime linebacker add value? Sure. Well, maybe. How many traditional inside linebackers are the Packers going to keep? Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan feel like locks. Oren Burks makes the team. And undrafted free agent Greer Martini already plays on multiple No. 1 special units early in camp. If he makes the team as a special-teams player and backup linebacker, where is Rollins fitting on the roster?
We already know it’ll be tight to get all these receivers onto the team. Green Bay lost a projected roster spot with the news Bryan Bulaga will be healthy for Week 1, a trade the Packers would take 110 times out of 100. But if Rollins isn’t a rotational cornerback, doesn’t play on special teams, and only has value as a box linebacker/safety hybrid, it’s hard to see him making the team.
Someone like Joe Thomas made the roster under somewhat similar circumstances in the past as a speedy backup linebacker, but he also played on just about every special-teams unit. For now, that’s not Rollins. If he’s a safety, he’s behind other safeties like Marwin Evans and Jermaine Whitehead as backups who play special teams.
It’s become increasingly difficult to find a spot for him on the Packers team. He’s not a corner. Not a safety. Not a linebacker. For Green Bay, if Rollins doesn’t prove definitively he’s one of those things, he’s proven definitively he’s not worth keeping on the roster at all.