Sep. 23, 2016
Packers' Player Grades and Future: Secondary
This is the final addition of my regular season grades and predictions for the future, and it is also the one that people are most concerned about. The secondary, which includes cornerbacks and safeties, is the most bipolar group of the Packers. At safety, the Packers have one of the best duos in the entire NFL while at corner it is a completely different story. S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix made his first Pro Bowl, where CB Damarious Randall wouldn't have made the WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, high school) honorable mentions. So here are my final grades of the Packers.
Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix: A+
Ha-Ha was out there virtually every play, was third in tackles with 80, first in interceptions with five, and had half a sack and a forced fumble to go along with it. And, he was in his first Pro Bowl yesterday in his third NFL season. He is an extension candidate, and if the Packers don't give him one it will be something to laugh about from an outsider's perspective. We just might have the best duo in the NFL now that Earl Thomas in Seattle might be done for his career, and Ha-Ha had the better season.
Morgan Burnett: A
That's not to say that Burnett had a bad season himself, as he was the leading tackler on the team. To be fair, safeties should not be two of the top three leading tacklers on the team, but Burnett and Clinton-Dix are the biggest playmakers in the secondary. Burnett also had three sacks and two interceptions, so he was all over the place. The best part was that he only missed one game this season due to injury, as he has been banged up a lot in the past.
Kentrell Brice: B+
He was one of the better undrafted players the Packers brought in this season, but to be fair there were way too many to choose from. Brice was a key figure in the Dallas game after Burnett went down with his injury early in that game, and he played in every game during the regular season as well. As a backup safety, he was a big reason why the Packers felt comfortable enough to let Chris Banjo go in the offseason.
Marwin Evans: C
I don't think we had a lot of expectations from Marwin Evans, and thankfully he didn't have to play a whole lot this year. He played in every game so he gets a grade, but he didn't do a ton either, so I'm giving him a C.
Chris Banjo & Jermaine Whitehead: Incomplete
The Packers cut Banjo after he got hurt early in the season, and Whitehead spent most of his time on the practice squad.
Quinten Rollins: C+
Just because Sam Shields was lost for the season in the first game doesn't mean that it is fair to cut these guys any slack, but they are all getting a boost due to having to accept a bigger role in their grading, assuming they would have played the same way with Shields. Rollins was the number one corner in my opinion this year, and although he had a bad year too, he was better than Randall and Gunter, which isn't hard. At this point, he is the top corner in the future, which hopefully sets off some sort of panic button in Ted Thompson's mind.
LaDarius Gunter: B
Gunter had his games where he didn't seem atrocious, and he wasn't even really expected to play a whole lot this season. Instead, he ended up starting 15 games and being the guy the Packers counted on to stop Julio Jones. He didn't do that, but after going from the number four corner to the number one corner within two weeks, he deserves some recognition for that. He also forced two fumbles and was tied for the most pass deflections on the team.
Damarious Randall: D-
I don't want to give him an F, mainly because a lot of people have been saying he battled through injuries. I also am understanding in the fact that his role got bigger with the Shields injury. However, he was garbage this year. There's a saying for quarterbacks similar to "you are so bad, if you threw a ball out of a boat you couldn't hit water" and Damarious Randall was the defensive back's equivalent of that. For instance, Marvin Jones and Stefon Diggs had back to back mega receiving games early in the season, and Randall never recovered. Any time someone threw the ball at the receiver nearest to him, they had a ten yard cushion. Aaron Rodgers is great, but he can't prevent Randall from doing that.
Demetri Goodson: D
He spent a good portion of the season suspended, and when he came back he wasn't able to help solve the cornerback issues. He has had three years to earn a roster spot, and I don't think he has come even close to deserving one.
Josh Hawkins: B
Hawkins was on the team all year, and being a sixth corner not much is expected of you. He met his expectations in my mind.
Sam Shields, Makinton Dorleant & Herb Waters: Incomplete
We all know why Shields' grade is incomplete, but I'll explain the other two. Waters spent most of the season on the practice squad and was bumped up when the corners got even more banged up. Makinton Dorleant spent the first half of the season on IR, played in a few games, then went back.
Micah Hyde: A
Hyde is the lone free agent, outside of maybe Sam Shields, in the secondary, and the Packers have to bring him back. He's not really a corner, but after the Sam Shields injury he ended up playing more and more in coverage and did a great job being a natural safety. He also was a key part of the win at Dallas in the playoffs. 60 tackles, three interceptions, one sack and one fumble recovery is much more than I expected Hyde to have to do, and now I have him as one of the three Packers Thompson must bring back.
I have already stated that Hyde is the lone free agent of this group, but the Packers have more to do than just bring him back. In my opinion, we need to spend a high draft pick on a corner along with signing a high level free agent. Trumaine Johnson or AJ Bouye are the highest profile options that I believe would be a fit for the team, but I will take whatever we can get. Ross Cockrell and Jerraud Powers are less expensive options that would be an improvement on this defense.
As far as the draft goes, unless a really good pass rusher falls to Ted Thompson or all of the top corners are taken, Thompson must draft one. Maybe even two. Expecting a corner from day one to be great isn't reasonable, but even drafting one could light a fire under the feet of Randall, Rollins and Gunter. This draft is not short on quality corners in the first and second rounds, with Sidney Jones of Washington being the main guy the mock drafts have the Packers taking. There is also Desmond King of Iowa, Tre'Davious White of LSU and Jourdan Lewis of Michigan in the area where the Packers will draft. Above Sidney Jones is Marshon Lattimore of Ohio State, Teez Tabor of Florida and Marlon Humphrey of Alabama, and I wouldn't mind if Thompson traded up to get one of them.