When Sam Shields missed games near the end of last season, rookie defensive back Quinten Rollins got unexpected opportunities – and he made the most of them.
During the first half of last year, Rollins saw only spot duty. He did, however, make a splash in the October 11 game versus the Rams, getting two interceptions, and returning one for his first NFL touchdown.
In five of the last six regular season games, mostly as a fill-in for a concussed Sam Shields, Rollins impressed his coaches, making 22 tackles and defending four passes.
Rollins has picked up where he left off in training camp. In the nickel scheme, he and Damarious Randall have been trading off playing left cornerback and the slot position.
Rollins has displayed tight and aggressive coverage throughout the week. He flashes to the ball once thrown, which has already resulted in several passes defended and near-interceptions.
Even Randall has suggested that who plays where could depend on the receivers who are facing the Packers that week. By switching positions, both players will also be better able to change spots in the event of injuries.
On Friday, defensive coordinator Dom Capers confirmed the plan, saying “(W)e want to try as many guys as we can, play them in all different positions.”
Playing the slot spot near the line of scrimmage calls for strength and ruggedness. Both players have sufficient, and almost equal bulk – at 5’11’ and just under 200 pounds.
As for the left cornerback job, neither Rollins nor Randall has a wealth of experience.
Rollins, a basketball star, played but one year of football at Miami of Ohio.
Randall played only two years of football beyond the community college level – and that was as a safety at Arizona State.
Even if second-round draft choice Rollins doesn’t overtake first-rounder Randall for the starting outside cornerback job, it looks like the coaches will get him plenty of playing time in 2016.
Not bad for a guy in just his second year in the league – and third year of football since high school.