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Defensive Back Attrition Jeopardizes Packers’ Postseason

How’s that for stating the obvious? The injury bug has bitten the Green Bay Packers at the worst possible time.

Here’s where things stand: safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett are healthy. On the outside or in the slot, Micah Hyde and LaDarius Gunter are healthy enough.

The walking wounded are Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, and Makinton Dorleant. Let’s face it: Dorleant is essentially a practice squad guy, and the other two have been playing like practice squad guys. If the Packers can find a fill-in or two, how much worse can they play than their two top picks of 2015 – and giving them the benefit of the doubt, especially when they aren’t healthy?

Unless we hear of a very favorable injury update on Rollins, I doubt the Packers would be inclined to take any risks in view of the kind of injury (neck) he had on Sunday. Mike McCarthy has sounded hopeful, but I suspect that is a ruse.

Other DB Options

I would doubt that the Packers would want to bring someone new on board at this stage – there’s too much coordination needed among the DBs to expect a non-Packer to capably come to the rescue. The different schemes and formations defensive coordinator Dom Capers uses have already resulted in numerous “miscommunications” between cornerbacks and safeties – many of which have resulted in long pass completions. That happened again against the Lions, but QB Matthew Stafford missed the throw.

In these desperate times, is there anyone left who might possibly help bail the team out?

Josh Hawkins – undrafted out of East Carolina, the rookie cornerback was signed last May – aided by two preseason interceptions, he impressed coaches enough to win one of the final roster spots. At 5’10”, 189 he has great 40-yard dash speed (4.39), and a fine vertical leap (40.5). He’s currently on the 53-man roster and was healthy, but regrettably was inactive against the Lions. Against Detroit in game 3, he gave up a 73-yd TD pass to Marvin Jones with a half minute left in the first half, and he’s been an outcast ever since

Herb Waters – the only cornerback currently on Packers practice squad – a receiver, and one-year starter, out of Miami. The Packers signed him in May and converted him to cornerback based on his skill set. At 5’11 ½”, 188 he’s said to have “deep speed” when a receiver – the longest of shots, but the Packers have been interested enough to keep him around all year and develop him. Waters is an unknown quantity who didn’t even record a stat in any preseason game

Robertson Daniel – undrafted cornerback out of BYU in 2015 – he’s bounced around on practice squads of Raiders, Packers, Redskins, and Ravens for two years. At 6’1”, 209 he has decent speed (4.46). Daniel has been on the Packers’ practice squad for most or all of 2015, momentarily on the active roster in January 2016 and was with Packers during 2016 preseason, but didn’t make final roster. Daniel was last with team as a practice squad player until September 27, 2016 and spent the final two months of the year on Ravens’ practice squad

Jermaine Whitehead – free safety, and the only safety currently on the team’s practice squad. He was undrafted out of Auburn in 2015. Whitehead has been with the 49ers and Ravens, then signed by Packers last May. At 5’11”, 195 he has a slow dash time of 4.59. Whitehead failed to make the final cut, was put on practice squad, briefly put on active roster in midseason but recorded no stats in two games, then finished out the year on practice squad

Marwin Evans – strong safety – yet another 2016 undrafted DB, out of Utah State. At 5’11”, 211 he has sufficient speed (4.47). Evans has stuck with the team all year, and has six special teams tackles, including one impressive one in the Detroit win. Evans is the likely fill-in for Morgan Burnett when he is moved from safety

Kentrell Brice – free safety – took 74 percent (49) of the defensive snaps against the Lions, and another 20 special teams snaps. Brice totaled five tackles in the game. At 5’11’, 200 Brice is perhaps the fastest Packers DB, at anywhere from 4.38 to 4.44 dash speed. He’s the the most physical tackler among Packers DBs and his playing time has steadily increased throughout the year

Prospects for Sunday’s Game

I expect to see Josh Hawkins active and getting considerable playing time as a cornerback on Sunday. The Packers obviously had increasing confidence in him until the first Detroit game, and he has better athleticism than any of the team’s starting DBs. In hindsight, he should have been active against the Lions last week, especially since Green Bay was playing several already-injured DBs. Given his athleticism, it might be worth trying to see how he matches up (with safety help) against Odell Beckham, Jr., far and away the Giants’ most potent receiver. Gunter is the only other matchup possibility I see, but the speed differential (4.43 vs. 4.69) terrifies me.

It’s likely that Morgan Burnett will be moved from safety to cornerback or slotback on a play-by-play basis, with Evans being the likely sub at safety.

We’ll surely see a lot of Kentrell Brice, and in a variety of roles, as we did against the Lions as the injuries piled up.

Daniel and Whitehead appear to be marginal players, not what you want to play major roles in a postseason game. Waters, largely unknown to all but the coaching staff, is still under development.

I expect the Packers to be changing personnel, or the positions they are playing, on a lot of plays – and hopefully trying to disguise the formations until the last second.

These are scary times, but great opportunities for Brice, Hawkins, and Evans to come through in the next-man-up tradition.

Final Thoughts

The Packers aren’t going to help out the Giants by disclosing how bad the injuries to their DBs are, or who the Packers are planning to send onto the field on Sunday. Don’t believe a thing you hear all week coming out of the Packers front office or from the players. We’ll all have to just wait and see – and hope.

Is Charles Woodson still on NFL Countdown on ESPN? Has he stayed in shape? Pick up the phone, Ted Thompson!

Rob Born

I’m with Matt: “You gotta make those chunk plays!”



  1. rebelgb January 4, 2017

    Neither Burnett or Hyde has anything close to the wheels needed to cover on the outside. Expect a lot of dime defense and a very real version of the ‘bend dont break’ defense. We will need to run the ball, which I think we will do well, and we need a at least 28 from the Offense. Honestly I like Aaron at home in January. Our secondary may be beat up but our Oline is money and our WR’s are deep and healthy. If we get just 2 big plays out of the combination of Matthews/Peppers and Ha Ha we will win the game.

  2. Howard January 4, 2017

    I think the Giants will have a fairly good idea who will be the Packers defensive backs. They may not where they are going to play and there tendencies at their position. That may be a good thing. Keep it simple and get in the receivers face with safety help. Dare the Giants to run.

    If the Packers are going to sign a player from another teams practice squad or from retirement the Packers will need to make a move today or tomorrow morning. If they don’t make that move soon and they need help because someone is going to IR they will wait to make moves till Saturday and roll with their current squad or practice squad.

    1. Howard January 4, 2017

      Not sure why the team made the call today on Waters coming off practice squad, but the good thing is the Giants have no film on him as a DB. The other good thing is the Packers do have film on Waters as a DB and that film is probably working against Rodgers, Nelson, Adams, and Cobb in practice the last 4.5 months.

  3. Kato January 4, 2017

    The pass rush should be the focal point of game planning. That is the only chance they have. The giants won a couple of super bowls with below average secondaries and a great pass rush. Here’s to hoping Julius Peppers can contribute, Clay Matthews becomes interested, and Nick Perry can keep up his level of play. And a defensive lineman besides Mike Daniels can be a factor play in and play out. That is a lot to hope for.

  4. Kato January 4, 2017

    Yo Nick Collins what you up to nowadays? Al Harris?

  5. Chad Lundberg January 4, 2017

    TT just activated a player who a receiver in training camp to compensate for the loss guys! WE’RE SAVED!!!

  6. Empacador January 4, 2017

    What’s Ahmad Carroll doing these days? Talk about your sophomore slumps. One can only hope Randall/Rollins blossom in their 3rd year.

    1. PF4L January 4, 2017

      Ted hopes they can blossom, because the way it stands now in the drafts. He’s on a serious losing streak. And in a draft and develop philosophy, you’ve got to hit on draft picks. How long did it take Perry to start making plays, his 5th year? Where the f has Datone Jones been? etc.

  7. PF4L January 4, 2017

    I never heard of this Defensive back Attrition guy? Does he have a 1st name?

    When the fuck did we get him? Practice squad, udfa? wtf?