One of the stars of the Green Bay Packers’ summer practices has been Carrington Valentine, who was quickly able to crack into the first-team cornerback rotation as a seventh-round rookie. Those practice reps translated to early playing time for Valentine on Family Night, when he came off the bench for the first-team defense as the fifth cornerback behind Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, Keisean Nixon and Corey Ballentine.
Just one week later, with Alexander out of the lineup, the rookie made a start at outside cornerback across the field from Douglas. Against the Cincinnati Bengals in the preseason opener, Valentine registered four solo tackles — tied for the team-high — to go along with three pass breakups and an interception. If you want to see his impact on the field for yourself, take a look at the video below — which highlights some of the key plays he made in his first “NFL” game.
It's hard to not get excited about Carrington Valentine pic.twitter.com/WnaNpqO9FO— The Big Ten's Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) August 14, 2023
Clearly, Valentine is a great athlete. He’s also doing pretty much all you can ask for a young Day 3 selection to do at this point in the summer. The only thing standing in between Valentine and playing time this regular season is the logjam that the Packers seem to have at the cornerback position.
At outside cornerback, the expected starters in Week 1 — at least until Eric Stokes (PUP, ankle) is proven to be healthy — are Alexander and Douglas. Nixon has been working as a slot corner full-time and the assumption is that he’ll play that role once games count. For reference, Douglas played there some in 2022 but looked much better when he was allowed to be an outside corner.
If Alexander, Douglas and Stokes are healthy...that leaves Valentine as the fourth corner on the roster for the regular season and probably the fifth corner in line for playing time? That doesn’t seem right, when the 21-year-old rookie seems to growing with every opportunity given to him.
If the firm plan is to give Nixon — who played well in the preseason opener — the slot role, now might be the time to start tinkering with the idea of Douglas playing the safety position. Douglas has practiced there, in a limited capacity, over the last two summers and safety is a spot where the Packers could use some more competition.
Against the Bengals, you could (and I would) argue that the team’s best safety performance came from Tarvarius Moore, who was the team’s fourth safety on Family Night and third safety versus Cincinnati. Green Bay’s offensive line is trying to find “their best five” and changing up their day-to-day lineup to be certain of their Week 1 depth chart. There’s no reason that shouldn’t be the same in the defensive secondary. Valentine has given the Packers’ brass plenty of reasons to begin shuffling around their defensive backs.
Are we certain that Alexander, Valentine and Nixon at cornerback with Douglas and one of Darnell Savage, Moore, Jonathan Owens or Rudy Ford at safety isn’t the team’s best secondary option? The only way to know is to try it, which is what we’re seeing on the offensive line right now — and have seen throughout the summer.
No one seems to be running away with the starting safety job that was left vacant when Adrian Amos hit free agency. The Packers have too many cornerbacks who should be considered “starting caliber.” Testing out Douglas at safety to give Valentine more good-on-good looks seems like an easy way to solve this problem. And there’s no better time than this week, coming off of Valentine’s stellar preseason Week 1 performance and going into two days of joint practices against the New England Patriots.