The Green Bay Packers had five cornerbacks available for their wild card game with the New York Giants. Two of those corners were undrafted rookies and one of those two was a guy who had never played corner before this season and spent the entire regular season on the practice squad.
Those two undrafteds, respectively, were Josh Hawkins and Herb Waters.
The Packers’ other healthy corners for the Giants’ game were LaDarius Gunter, Damarious Randall and Micah Hyde, who is technically a safety.
Hawkins Has Been Made an Example
Our assumption going into the game was Hawkins, who could be the fastest guy on the roster, would play out of necessity. However, neither Hawkins nor Waters played a single snap on defense.
Hawkins has played only eight defensive snaps all season, seven of which came in week 3, when the Packers played Detroit. In that game, Hawkins committed one of the Packers’ reoccurring sins of the 2016 season — giving up huge pass plays right before the half. Hawkins let Lions’ receiver Marvin Jones get behind him for a 73-yard score with under a minute left in the half.
Hawkins hasn’t been the only Packers’ corner to commit such an egregious sin, but he has been the only one in Mike McCarthy’s doghouse since doing so.
Why has Hawkins gotten only eight defensive snaps all season? If he isn’t good enough to play with this cornerback group, he isn’t good enough to be in the league. So get him off the roster.
I would point out that LaDarius Gunter hardly played at all last season and is now the Packers’ top cornerback. The difference there is, the Packers’ cornerbacks performed at a much, much higher level in 2015.
There was no reason to give anyone else a shot.
Will the Packers Follow Form?
Getting back to the game — Gunter, Randall and Hyde each played 63 defensive snaps. The Giants ran 63 offensive plays.
Gunter, as we’ve detailed, was largely left to cover Pro Bowl receiver Odell “Boats & Hoes” Beckham Jr. He had four catches for 28 yards on 11 targets.
As we’ve also noted, Randall had himself a hell of a game. Randall has been up and down all season — mostly down. However, on this day, he played a fine game.
You might say, “But he gave up that 41-yard touchdown to Tavarres King!”
Yeah, he got burned there, but he was also expecting help deep from the most undeserving Pro Bowler not named Teddy Bridgewater I’ve ever seen, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. We maybe have said this 100 times, but as long as Mr. Awareness, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is one of the Packers’ safeties, we’ll probably have to say it 1,000 more times.
As the deep safety, you have one fucking job! Don’t let anyone get behind you! Instead, Clinton-Dix jumps the underneath inside receiver on that play. If Damarious Randall is at fault for something on the King touchdown, it was assuming he could rely on Clinton-Dix to do his No. 1 job.
That brings us to Hyde. He has been asked to play corner more often than the Packers could have envisioned because of injuries.
Injuries to Sam Shields and then Quinten Rollins and Randall throughout the 2016 season have put Hyde at corner, usually in the slot. That’s actually a role Hyde has shown tremendous promise at early in his career. However, the thinking is he’s too slow to play corner, despite his consistency and demonstrated playmaking ability at the position. Thus, the Packers consider him a safety until their hand is forced.
Well, we’ve got news for you.
The Packers probably just found their best cornerback combination by total accident.
1. LaDarius Gunter on the opposition’s No. 1, 2. Damarious Randall on the outside and, 3. Micah Hyde as the Swiss Army Knife.
We’ve talked a lot about Randall’s struggles, but Quinten Rollins — who was out with a concussion against the Giants — has struggled at a similar level in 2016. We, along with the Packers, feel Rollins is a better fit in the slot, rather than outside. However, the Packers have been playing Rollins outside — with Hyde in the slot — when Randall has been sidelined.
That hasn’t worked well. Neither has Rollins in the slot. Regardless of where Rollins has lined up this season, he consistently gets beat by stop-and-go routes. If you’re going to be in the league and be successful in the league, that has to stop happening eventually.
That’s some rookie shit, but somehow, Rollins played considerably better in his first year.
And in instances where Randall and Rollins are on the field together, it looks like a competition to see who can screw up more often. Or at least one of — you did it last week, I’ll take care of sucking this week.
Those two guys don’t work together. At least not now.
Gunter isn’t fast, but he’s physical and has proven that he can handle whatever is thrown at him. Hyde is just fundamentally solid — an occasional playmaker, but also a guy you know isn’t going to make the boneheaded play that screws the whole game.
Randall and Rollins both have more athletic ability than Gunter and Hyde put together. They’re both young too. As such, you get the gambler mentality.
I’ll take a risk, go for the big play and if I fail, I can make up the distance with my speed and athletic ability.
The Packers can get by with one of those guys on the field, but they can’t get by with two. Maybe against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 1. Not in the playoffs, henceforth.
So now we wonder what happens if Rollins is cleared to play?
Are the Packers smart enough to realize he should stay on the sidelines? That their cornerbacks, as they are currently, give them the best chance to advance in the playoffs?
We’ve certainly seen Mike McCarthy insert an underperforming player back in the lineup after returning from injury before. But if he uses the same logic he used with Hawkins, then he won’t put Rollins back out there.
Can’t trust him. It’s that simple.
That is, unless someone else gets injured.
And if someone does get injured — and we’re not hoping anyone does — it better be Randall or the Packers may well be done.