It’s not really news that the Packers secondary, cornerbacks in particular, did not fare exceptionally well in 2016.
Sure, you could watch the games and see that, but there seems to be a lot of misplaced blame on everyone from Dom Capers to Ted Thompson. Those guys aren’t infallible, but in this case, I don’t think they’re to blame. Bad things happen, guys get hurt. If you really want to blame something and you won’t blame injuries, how about blaming math?
There are 32 teams in the NFL. Let’s assume that talent is evenly distributed across the league. That means that one team has the #1 quarterback in the league (the Packers) and another has the #32 quarterback in the league (take your pick). For spots that have multiple starters, would could say that each team has an option between 1 and 32 and between 33 and 64.
This is not exact, but it can help us frame the issues the Packers had last year. Bear with me.
Since Sam Shields was a Pro Bowler, we can say he was above average, at least 8th best. Damarious Randall was young and still adjusting to a new position, but he was a first round talent (albeit very late in the first round because the Packers are always so successful), so let’s say he’s an average #2 cb, making him around the 48th best corner in the league.
Already, you can see the impact of losing Shields. Most teams have a wide receiver in the top 32, but the Packers don’t have a corner in that tier any more. Quentin Rollins is a basketball player trying to play football as a #3 corner – if he were an average #3 corner, he would be around the 80th best corner in the league.
So, we started the year with (for rough mathematical argument’s sake) the 8th, 48th, and 80th best cornerbacks in the league.
And they all went out with injuries.
Then you had Micah Hyde, a safety, paying slot, let’s say he was their 4th corner, somewhere around the 100th best corner in the league.
But because of Hyde’s size and speed limitations, he plays mostly slot. That leaves Ladarius Gunter, CB5, an undrafted free agent the year before, who played a grand total of 8 defensive snaps all season, clocking in around the 150th best corner in the league.
And he was their top guy.
He was matched up against Julio Jones, the best receiver in the league, plus Dez Bryant, easily a top 5 talent. Against the 150th best corner in the league.
You wanna blame Dom Capers for that? Ted Thompson? Don’t forget that Demetri Goodson and Makinton Dorleant were two corners on injured reserve as well. Think of the ripple effect on depth that has – it’s not just the 150th corner against the top receiver in the league – who guards the opponent’s number two and three receivers? When you get that many injuries at one position, it’s extremely hard to recover.
Now, you can go ahead and blame Ted Thompson for not having a deep enough secondary, but everyone was raving about corner depth last preseason. Many people follow that up and say that that Ted should have signed someone during the season.
This is the NFL. If you can play, a team will pay you millions of dollars to play. When 32 teams each take about 5 corners into the season on their roster, that’s about 160 cornerbacks accounted for, not including ones on injured reserve and practice squads. Do you think there’s a bunch of great corners that want to play in the NFL that are better than those guys that none of the other teams bothered to sign?
Newflash: there aren’t.
What happened last year sucked with a capital SUCK, but that doesn’t mean someone’s to blame. Ok, fine, blame Ted, call for his firing, yell at the clouds, whatever, but it won’t do any good.
They were decimated by injuries at one position. If you won’t blame injuries, you can just blame math.