We’ve been waiting for it for three years, but the end of cornerback Jarrett Bush as a member of the Green Bay Packers appears to be getting closer.
As we’ve documented many times, Bush is a liability on defense. What’s kept him on the team thus far is his play on special teams.
A few years ago, Bush’s play on special teams was terrible. He was a penalty machine.
However, over the last season and a half, Bush turned into someone the coaching staff counted on for his special teams play. Granted, he’s been a member of one of the worst special teams units in the NFL, but at the very least, he was one of the better players on a terrible unit.
Today, Bush was replaced on some of the No. 1 special teams units by rookie undrafted free agent Sam Shields.
We’ve discussed Shields several times — some good, some bad.
Shields has made numerous plays during training camp as a cornerback and had an interception in Saturday night’s preseason victory over Seattle. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has raved about his long-term potential.
On the downside, Shields was given several opportunities as a return man and hasn’t shown he can catch the ball. He’s lost two fumbles in the first two preseason games.
All of that being said, Shields real potential to make an immediate impact is on the special teams coverage units. During his junior season at the University of Miami he was the Hurricanes special teams player of the year. He won the honor largely based on his play as a gunner on punt coverage.
Shields has blazing speed, but after his performance as the Packers return man, it looked like he might have an uphill battle making the team, despite his play at cornerback. With his elevation on special teams and Bush’s demotion, his chances have improved dramatically.
Bush is Shields chief competition for the sixth cornerback spot on the Packers roster.
One player we haven’t talked about much is tight end Tom Crabtree, who was on the practice squad last season.
Crabtree, who is former undrafted free agent, was also elevated on special teams today. He replaces Donald Lee.
Crabtree and Lee are in a somewhat similar position as Shields and Bush.
While Lee has played well during training camp and the preseason, he seemed to be a marked man coming into camp.
The Packers are loaded at tight end with Lee, starter Jermichael Finley and Spencer Havner. They also drafted Penn State’s Andrew Quarless in the fifth round of this year’s draft.
Finley has the No. 1 spot nailed down, while Lee and Havner are competing for No. 2. Crabtree, however, has significantly outperformed Quarless, and the Packers are going to have a hard time cutting him because of that.
The elevation of Crabtree on special teams may signal Lee’s time with the Packers is coming to an end.
Certainly, there is plenty of time left in the preseason for things to change and both Shields and Crabtree need to perform on special teams to stick, but according to coach Mike McCarthy, they’ve earned their time.
“Sam’s earned it,” McCarthy said. “Sam’s definitely getting some time with the 1’s. We do want to get closer to what we feel are going to be the the guys who we’re going to be playing with. There is some projection, and you want to get some more information on particularly your newer guys, Tom Crabtree like you stated, and Sam Shields. Once again, it’s kind of the same answer to a different question. It’s all part of these preseason games.”
The Packers may end up keeping four tight ends simply because they have four solid, NFL-caliber players, but they won’t keep seven cornerbacks, and we may finally see the end of Jarrett Bush.