Over a two week span, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2018 season. Today, we examine the cornerbacks.
The Green Bay Packers’ defense struggled in 2018 as Mike Pettine took over for Dom Capers, but as much as Dom’s system was simply stale, the underlying issues this season were much more about talent level and health. While the Packer defense is stacked up front (When healthy), everything behind Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark was questionable at best entering 2018. Fortunately, one of the few positive developments on defense came at corner, and while the Packer pass defense still struggled, there are, at least, a few building blocks in place.
13 games played, 11 starts
11 passes defended, 1 interception, 66 tackles (61 solo), 3 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries
The Packers spent a first round pick at their weakest position, and the results paid immediate dividends as Alexander immediately became the team’s top corner. He was the single best Packer secondary player across the board, elite in coverage, in tackling, and in run support. While some lament that the team missed out on safety Derwin James, an elite player in his own right, it’s likely that Alexander ends up as the more valuable player, locking down a side of the field for the foreseeable future. For a team that started Lenzy Pipkins as their top corner in a playoff game two years ago, Alexander is just about the biggest upgrade imaginable.
7 games played, 5 starts
4 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 20 tackles (16 solo), 1 TFL, 1 fumble recovery
Breeland became available this offseason because Washington has no clue as to what they are doing and let him walk in free agency. After he failed his physical with Carolina once he signed a free agent deal, Breeland signed with the Packers. Returning from a bizarre leg infection, there was bound to be some rust on his game, but once he shook it off he was excellent opposite Alexander. We should not ignore the rust entirely, as it did lead to a few penalty-filled games early on in his brief stint with the team, but the real Breeland showed himself late, and there is enough positive history here to give some confidence in his game going forward. Only 26, and still in his prime, he should rightly be one of the most attractive corners on the free agent market. Hopefully he’s willing to return to Green Bay.
6 games played, 6 starts
2 passes defended, 1 interception, 17 tackles (14 solo), 1 TFL, 1 fumble recovery
The legend of the Fisher King holds that the final guardian of the Holy Grail has suffered a leg or groin malady, and can only move enough to fish, and that the health of the land waxes and wanes with his own health. Such is the legend of Kevin King, who is forever injured, seemingly the missing piece on the field when he is not, and the health of the defense waxes and wanes with his presence. King is maddening as a very good, very physical cover corner who rivals Alexander in production on a per play basis. Unfortunately, he just can’t stay on the field, and while he remains an intriguing prospect, time is running out on King. After playing in just 15 games over his first two seasons, King needs to show up in 2019, or he might not be a Packer in 2020.
16 games played, 10 starts
10 passes defended, 0 INT, 49 tackles (39 solo), 1 TFL
The Packers’ second-round pick kicked things off with a bang, with a nice game in limited action against the Bears, but it was mostly downhill from there. Opponents began to realize that Jackson lacked the raw speed to keep up with most NFL receivers, and capitalized when he was in one-on-one situations. Jackson’s performance seemed to spiral when he was successfully picked on, and in his better moments he still showed the technique and tackling that landed him in the second round. If he’s going to stick at corner, that technique is going to have to become rock solid. But he may be better served in terms of fit and confidence with a move to safety, where Green Bay could certainly use the help.
16 games played, 16 starts (7 at cornerback)
2 passes defended, 0 interceptions, 54 tackles (40 solo), 0 TFL
Speaking of which, Tramon Williams — veteran, Super Bowl hero, and all around great player — returned to shore up the corner position. But while the brain was game, the body unfortunately was not. Williams would often be in perfect position to make a play, only to see a younger, faster receiver run right by him as if stuck in quicksand.
Williams was moved to safety around the middle of the season where he was a much better fit. He’s not a banger anymore, but he can still shut down tight ends and running backs, and he’s adequate if unspectacular in run support. Williams is an underrated Packer, and one of the better corners in team history. If he loses another step, it’s probably over for him.
11 games played, 3 starts
5 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions, 34 tackles (30 solo) 1 TFL.
At some point Brian Gutekunst just started collecting athletes, and Brown is example 1A. One of Brown’s closest physical comparables is none other than Jaire Alexander, and it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Brown’s issues weren’t as much about play as they were discipline, as he was repeatedly flagged for unnecessary, late hits. When he wasn’t committing game-killing penalties he put that athleticism to good use, staying with receivers as well as just about anyone. Brown is raw, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him turn into a very good corner in the near future.
3 games played
2 tackles (1 solo)
There was no reason to bring House back, and in his very limited playing time, he showed why. His second stint as a Packer has been an unmitigated disaster as House was one of the worst players in the league. Originally intended as a steady hand while Damarious Randall, Quentin Rollins, and Kevin King developed, House instead spent most of his time getting torched, and being caught out of position. He’s a free agent, and if he lands another job it would be a surprise.
Natrell Jamerson, Deante Burton, Will Redmond
Former Badger Natrell Jamerson had a cup of coffee on special teams, and impressed. Jamerson suffered a gruesome broken leg in college, but recovered well and put on a show at the Combine and at Wisconsin’s Pro Day. He was officially a corner for the Packers, but would be well-served by a move to a position that lets him head downhill with more abandon. Will Redmond served as special teams fodder in a few games, and was nothing to write home about. Deante Burton was Moonlight Graham’ed and never got on the field.