Well, a lot of the off-season talk and certainly much of the draft talk for the coming months centers around one of the Packers’ most glaring needs – that of a cornerback or safety. While draft speculation is fun (and to some extent…irresistable even when the draft is FOREVER away) much can change before the Packers pick at number 21 in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Scenarios will change and though we know that Ted Thompson doesn’t draft by need, getting a solid defensive back in this year’s draft, somebody who can be “plug and play” so to speak, would be a real boon for a defense that has taken it’s knocks both on the field and off.
But are cornerbacks and safeties “plug and play”? Even the best physical specimens have a limited understanding of the pro system. During the Scouting Combine, Deion Sanders (who I appreciate a bit now that he is NOT playing) had something interesting to say about the way defensive backs are being coached nowadays. His basic point was that coaches now are teaching defensive backs concepts rather than technique and that actual technique sound corners are a rare breed in the NFL.
This rings true to me as a Packers fan for a couple reasons:
1. Green Bay has gone through a lot of defensive backs but when they find one that “gets it” they work hard to keep them. Tramon Williams and Nick Collins are a couple examples of this and hopefully Sam Shields will be next on that list. Part of the reason we work hard to sign them is that we have taken the time to teach them not only the defensive concepts, but we have also taught them the proper footwork needed especially when they end up matched up one on one.
2. Watching prospective draft choices that might possibly still be around when the Packers pick, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix in particular showed some real fluidity in the hips and though his speed was not great, I like him a lot once our coaching staff gets a chance to work with him. I know safety Calvin Pryor is a player a lot of Packers fans like but if I had to choose, I would take the guy that is gonna be able to turn his back and trail guys like Calvin Johnson rather than a safety who is going to be squared up to the line.
3. While the team definitely needs to upgrade in this area, there is still some hope for the Hydes, Houses, and Bajos of the world. There’s no substitute for experience and they now have a lot. Plus another offseason ,OTA’s, Training Camp, and technique could improve now that the concepts are all second nature to these guys.
No matter what happens between now and the draft on May 8-10, the Packers have a shot at taking a major step forward in the defensive backfield. But don’t expect even a very talented defensive back to be perfect, especially in terms of technique. We could get a guy who can make an impact early. But rookies will get burned in our division from time to time and the most important thing for the Packers is not to get a finished product because their aren’t any…especially in terms of technique. We need a smart, strong, fast difference maker with the right attitude and he WILL develop the technique to help us in the long run.