Packers Roster Countdown: Part 17

We lead off the top 10 of our list of the Packers' most important players with a part-time player: cornerback Sam Shields. Shields will have to fight to remain the No. 3 corner, which could become an every-down position this season.

As we've done in past years, we're counting down the Green Bay Packers' roster, from No. 90 to No. 1.

These rankings are not simply based on skill. Players were ranked on their importance to the team. Skill, a player's position, the depth of his position group, the odds he contributes, salary and draft history all play a part in how a player is ranked. More than the ranking itself, hopefully you will learn a little something about each of the 90 players in the process.

No. 10: Which way is his arrow pointing?

There's no doubt the Packers wouldn't have won the Super Bowl had undrafted Sam Shields not went from the bottom of the cornerback depth chart to essentially a full-time player as the third cornerback.

If Shields had taken a step forward last season rather than a step back, maybe they would have won another.

Shields' coverage was fine. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he led the team by allowing one catch for every 11.2 snaps in coverage and yielded a passer rating of 87.1. That's not too far out of tune to 2011, when he also led the team by allowing one catch for every 15.0 snaps in coverage and yielded a passer rating of 89.2.

It was the rest of his game that was lacking. It's easy to forget Shields is a relative newcomer to the position after playing wide receiver for his first three seasons at the University of Miami.

"Sam's problem was me," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "I did a poor job with Sam. I did a poor job with him. I took for granted that he knew or was going to know some things. He's still a young player.

"He didn't play as well last year, and that's on me. He's going to play better, because I understand how to coach him and not take for granted some things that a guy who's played on defense a little bit longer just understands just from playing it."

Too often, Shields was that slightest fraction of a second slow in recognizing run and pass. And too often, Shields treated tackling like it was an optional part of the game. It wasn't just that Shields was a bad tackler. It was that he seemed unwilling to get involved in the physical part of the game.

Shields said he didn't get cocky after his successful first year. He said he understands that tackling is his big issue.

"It's getting right right now as we speak," he said during the minicamp.

Last year, Shields was the unquestioned No. 3 cornerback headed into training camp and wasn't pushed for the job until the regular-season finale, when it became a time-share with Jarrett Bush. Bush remained ahead of Shields during offseason practices, and second-year player Davon House and rookie Casey Hayward will be in the mix, too.

The third cornerback will be more important than ever for Green Bay. Last year, he played 71.2 percent of the defensive snaps during the regular season, including five games of at least 94 percent. This season, the third corner would play just about every snap if Charles Woodson winds up playing safety when coordinator Dom Capers puts his base 3-4 defense on the field.

To be that every-down player, Shields must prove he can tackle.

"That he does," Whitt said. "I'm going to give him every opportunity once we put pads on to see if he wants to do it or not. He's going to have every opportunity."

If you missed ...

Finley, Burnett and ...: 11-15

Three O-linemen: 16-20

Some surprises: 21-25

Safety dance: 26-30

Bush and four on offense: 31-35

Two DL and Driver: 36-40

Make-or-break camp for two vets: 41-45

Going hog wild: 46-50

Rookies at key positions: 51-55

Gurley's detours: 56

Fighting for jobs: 57-60

Five defenders: 61-65

Don't be surprised if ...: 66-70

It's Noah's Ark: 71-81

Roster long shots: 82-89

Longest of long shots: 90


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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