Damarious Randall’s time with the Green Bay Packers has been a roller coaster ride.
There was widespread approval when Ted Thompson drafted him in the first round in 2015. He’d had a fine college career at Arizona State. Most draft experts agreed that he would go late in the first round. His NFL combine numbers were well above average among his 2015 cornerback classmates.
Let’s not forget, he also had a decent rookie year. In playing in 15 games, and starting in 11 of them, Randall recorded 58 tackles, 14 passes defended, and three interceptions, including a pick-six.
We all know about his calamitous second-year letdown – a year in which he played through several injuries.
Take a look at the chart below for the 2015 first-round cornerback picks (technically, Randall had been a safety in college). The chart indicates their overall draft selection, team, and number of tackles, passes defended, and interceptions in 2015 and this year to date.
[table id=14 /]
Randall clearly performed well, and in line with his draft selection, in his rookie year, and he’s doing so once again this year – he leads the quintet in passes defended and is second in interceptions.
It’s looking more and more like injuries played a large role in his poor year in 2016 – he was on the injury report for 14 games, with neck, groin, and foot ailments. Following that year, I speculated that there was a mental component to Randall’s play, adding: “He looks like one who has completely lost his confidence, but that can be harder to cure than trying to learn new techniques.”
In 2017, TP reported that Randall showed up with the right attitude. Damarious had this to say to the press as the season approached: “Obviously moving forward, I am healthy and hopefully I’m going to stay healthy. And people are going to see why I was drafted in the first round.”
I was guardedly optimistic that DR might be able to hold onto a starting job despite the Packers using its first two 2017 draft choices on defensive backs.
Randall indeed started out the season with a bang. If memory serves, he was the top-ranked CB by Pro Football Focus in week 1 – against the Seahawks and QB Russell Wilson no less. He sagged considerably in mid-season, but over the last month PFF was again ranking Randall’s performances among the league’s best.
I’d say that Randall’s resurgence has been a quiet one, at least until he made some postgame remarks after the win against the Browns. In a little Twitter war, Randall made it known that Cleveland’s talented wideout Josh Gordon had but one catch when Gordon was matched up against him.
Just a few games ago, Davon House was considered to be the team’s No. 1 cornerback. Aided by House’s injuries, however, Randall has reclaimed that label.
The fact is that Green Bay’s pass defense has been making a mild comeback.
On the year, they have averaged giving up 240 yards through the air, ranking 24th in the league. In four of their last five games (omitting Pittsburgh) though, they have surrendered just 161, 230, 209, and 236 passing yards. It’s not jaw-dropping, but it’s a notable uptick – and the play of Damarious Randall is a big part of it.
Randall’s resurgence offers considerable hope as Packers fans turn their attention to next year. Let’s see how he performs against the league’s No. 5 and No. 31 receivers, Minnesota’s Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.