Over the next two weeks, 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 2019 season. Today, we examine the cornerbacks.
The proximity to the name “cornerback” to “quarterback” fits nicely with Ron Wolf’s maxim of draft a quarterback as often as possible. They’re valuable, possibly the most valuable non-quarterback position on a roster, they’re hard to replace, and finding quality starters often proves just as difficult.
Brian Gutekunst, who comes from the Wolf school, follows this maxim, drafting two corners last year with his first two picks, hitting on a future star in Jaire Alexander while Josh Jackson’s future remains in doubt. He further bolstered the position with Tramon Williams to go with the ascending Kevin King, setting the Packers up nicely to compete with modern passing games.
Without glaring needs at the position heading into 2019, Gutekunst looked for an opportunity to develop talent, plucking Chandon Sullivan from Philadelphia after a dreadful season in which he had to start before he was ready due to injury. In the draft, Gutey bet on size and attitude with Toledo standout Ka’Dar Hollman who excelled in training camp as a press man corner.
How acquired: Signed as a free agent from the Philadelphia Eagles
Stats: 30 tackles, 6 pass breakups, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble in 16 games
Sullivan entered training camp as little more than a body, yet he outplayed and outlasted guys like Tony Brown and Josh Jackson, as well as the next guy on this list. In fact, Sullivan displayed so much promise, they tried him at safety just to find a way to get him on the field.
During the season, Sullivan played in all 16 games, fitting in at cornerback as well as safety in dime looks and by the end of the year earned the preferred job as opposing tight end cover player. Mike Pettine trusted him with reps against guys like George Kittle and Sullivan held his own.
His leaping interception against the Cowboys was one of the plays of the season. If Tramon Williams isn’t in the Packers plans for 2020, Sullivan, still only 23 years old, could fit in as the slot corner of the future.
How acquired: Drafted in sixth round (Pick 185)
Stats: 37 snaps in four games with four coming on defense
One of the standouts in rookie camp and training camp, Hollman never got the chance to show what he could do in the regular season because the Packers secondary stayed remarkably healthy. Not having to play a sixth-round rookie at a priority position will always be good news for teams hoping to compete for Super Bowl titles, but the results tell us little about Hollman’s ability to play meaningful snaps.
At times, Hollman ran ahead of 2019 second-round pick Josh Jackson, which isn’t that surprisingly considering Jackson’s relative inexperience playing man coverage. That’s right in Hollman’s wheelhouse and if Sullivan does grab the reigns of the nickel corner in 2020, Hollman looks good to get in the mix at CB4, which could make him the first cornerback off the bench if Kevin King or Jaire Alexander get hurt.