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Packers Training Camp Preview: King & House should help bolster CB unit

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The development of youth at cornerback is vital, but two new acquisitions hope to provide the group with improved effectiveness and consistency.

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

Continuing our series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster prior to training camp, Acme Packing Company examines the cornerback position and reveals the pre-camp predictions for the team’s 2017 53-man roster. Ten APC contributors submitted full roster predictions, and we will present the consensus predictions drawn from those individual guesses over the days leading up to camp.

The last time we saw Green Bay’s cornerback group, it was getting dismantled by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the NFC Championship Game. After Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns on that occasion, it was clear the Packers needed to find a solution for its rather porous secondary, which ranked 31st in the league in 2016.

Enter veteran and former Packer Davon House and rookie second round pick Kevin King. Together, the newcomers will be counted on to boost the secondary and, perhaps, even become the unit’s starters. Behind them, it’s up to several players in their first four seasons to take a step forward, led by high draft picks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins.

The Packers saw contributions from eight different cornerbacks last season after initially carrying six on the active roster after training camp. Gone are Micah Hyde, Sam Shields, and Makinton Dorleant, but Green Bay has several young players that showed promise in limited playing time last season.

Here is a peek at the group of newcomers and returnees.

Returning Players

Damarious Randall

Year: 3rd
Age: 24
How acquired: 1st-round draft pick in 2015

After what was a shaky season at best on the boundary last season, Randall will move inside to the slot in 2017. In what is labeled the “star” position, Randall should have an opportunity to utilize his playmaking instincts, which were on display in college at Arizona State. The role was previously occupied by Micah Hyde and Charles Woodson in the past, and Randall could really blossom if he can overcome the injuries that inhibited him last season. A big bounce-back season is needed from the former first round pick, a player who enjoyed an impressive rookie season in 2015.

Quinten Rollins

Year: 3rd
Age: 25
How acquired: 2nd-round draft pick in 2015

Like Randall, Rollins has been plagued by injuries during his time in Green Bay. Even when healthy, Rollins has been a model of inconsistency. He had an excellent rookie training camp and created turnovers as a rookie, but has often followed up those big plays by giving up big plays to the other team. Speed, especially recovery speed, has been a question surrounding Rollins. This season will be critical to Rollins’ development and his future in Green Bay. Competition should ensure that he does not have another self-proclaimed “down year” in 2017.

LaDarius Gunter

Year: 3rd
Age: 25
How acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent in 2015

Oddly enough, Gunter became Green Bay’s top second-year corner as the 2016 season progressed, eclipsing both Randall and Rollins on the depth chart. Gunter was tasked with following the opposing team’s top wide receiver, an unenviable job in the playoffs when he faced Odell Beckham Jr., Dez Bryant, and Julio Jones in consecutive weeks. His performance in the postseason was a bit rocky, but Gunter has an opportunity to be one of Green Bay’s top four corners in 2017, even with the new roster additions. Long speed is an issue with Gunter, but his size (6’2”) makes him a natural outside cover man.

Josh Hawkins

Year: 2nd
Age: 24
How acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent in 2016

Mostly a special teams performer as an undrafted rookie, Hawkins found some time in the secondary as the season wore on and injuries mounted. Playoff experience and an offseason to further learn the Packers’ defense should benefit Hawkins as he fights to remain on the 53-man roster. Hawkins had a terrific training camp as a rookie, but he will need another this preseason to earn his spot.

Demetri Goodson

Year: 4th
Age: 28
How acquired: 6th-round draft pick in 2014

Goodson was beginning to gain extensive playing time in Green Bay before suffering an awful ACL tear around midseason. Although he is a candidate to start the season on the PUP list, Goodson has reportedly made great strides in recovering from the injury and may be able to return by mid-training camp. Even if he does, Goodson has significant ground to gain in order to win a roster spot in a crowded defensive backfield. At 28, he’s older than most fourth-year pros and has not yet established himself as a viable NFL starter.

Herb Waters

Year: 1st
Age: 24
How acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent in 2016

Waters has an interesting story, signing with Green Bay as an undrafted rookie wide receiver before converting to cornerback at the end of the 2016 training camp. After spending most of the year on the practice squad, Waters was called up to the big leagues in early January. Waters’ length and size make him an intriguing cornerback prospect and he’s been a fast learner so far. He may be a dark horse candidate for the opening day 53-man roster this season.

New Additions

Davon House

Year: 7th
Age: 28
How acquired: Unrestricted free agent in 2017

When House was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the offseason, Packers’ media jumped on the bandwagon to bring him back to Green Bay. Sure enough, House was signed back to the squad and now holds a good chance of earning a starting role in Week One on a unit desperately needing veteran stability. House is well-suited for the outside corner role with his size and physicality, and he’s stayed healthy the past two seasons.

Kevin King

Year: Rookie
Age: 22
How acquired: 2nd-round draft pick in 2017

Green Bay added starting potential to its roster when it made King its first pick in April’s draft. Although he’s not a polished product, King has a blend of size, length, and speed that cannot be taught and is not matched by another member of the unit. While expectations should be cautioned for King as a rookie corner, it’s not unreasonable to believe he will emerge as a key role player in 2017.

Donatello Brown

Year: Rookie
Age: 26
How acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent in 2017

A former Division II player at Valdosta State, Brown has good size (6’0”) and speed (reported 4.43), but is old for a rookie at 26 years of age after leaving school for two years. Rarely tested as a senior, Brown still made All-Conference and would give the Packers the increased speed and size they’ve been looking for this offseason.

Raysean Pringle

Year: Rookie
Age: 23
How acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent in 2017

The Green Bay Packers have looked high and low to find players that fit their specific cornerback traits and Pringle is another one of those athletes. A running back and wide receiver at Southern Utah, Pringle was brought to Green Bay to play cornerback. Pringle is most likely in a Herb Waters type of situation, fighting for an opportunity on the practice squad while he learns the position.

Daquan Holmes

Year: Rookie
Age: 22
How acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent in 2017

A late undrafted signing in June after attending rookie tryouts in May, Holmes stands 5’11” with a reported 4.45 40-yard dash time. Holmes, who attended American International, has drawn comparisons to Malcolm Butler, another former small-school cornerback. He has a long way to go to prove himself worthy of a roster spot, but Green Bay liked what it saw from Holmes in tryouts.

Lenzy Pipkins

Year: Rookie
Age: 23
How acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent in 2017

Pipkins is another cornerback with plus size at 6’0,” but watching his film, you can see a player that is not afraid to pop a ballcarrier in run support and is a superb special teams player. A player that exudes confidence, Pipkins is a player to watch in camp after putting himself on the map with a graduate transfer to Oklahoma State last season.