Big Night for Cornerbacks

The starting spots seem secure, with consistent Sam Shields and rising Davon House, but it's the jockeying for roster spots that'll be worth watching when the Packers face the Chiefs.

At least at the top of the depth chart, the battle at cornerback for the Green Bay Packers is over.

"We're in a position right now where the starters are not really going to play that much (against Kansas City on Thursday)," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said on Tuesday. "It will be big for the men who are five, six, seven, eight in the room that are trying to make the team and the ability to go out and show what they have to offer and if they're going to be part of the 53. That's what this game is going to show. The starters aren't going to be out there too much."

With that, it appears Sam Shields and Davon House will be the top cornerbacks when the Packers begin the regular season at San Francisco next week.

Shields has had a quiet training camp. That's quiet in a good way. He's shown up and taken care of business, with just three balls thrown his way in three games. Entering his fourth season, he's emerged as a leader by example with his on-the-field play, consistency, toughness and classroom study.

House had a miserable first game against Arizona, when he yielded a 38-yard touchdown to Andre Roberts and a 36-yard completion to Charles Hawkins. Given the depth of the Packers' secondary, House's spot on the roster seemed in jeopardy. Instead, that game has been just a blip on the radar, with House taking a series of strong practices to the games. Against St. Louis and Seattle, he's allowed one completion (in six attempts) for just 9 yards.

"I think his response to his first game was needed and was appropriate," Whitt said. "He's continued to go down the road that he's going down. It's time to be a good football player, which he has the ability to be, every day."

What about Casey Hayward and Tramon Williams? Hayward is out again after aggravating the hamstring injury that kept him out for the first three weeks of training camp. Williams has practiced twice since coming back from a knee injury sustained on the third day of camp. At this point, Williams appears to be the odd man out of the starting lineup — though that's certainly subject to change based on what happens on Thursday night and the four practices leading up to the San Francisco game. Hayward, with six interceptions as a rookie and one against Seattle, should be in the mix for the nickel role if healthy.

"If he is cleared, he will play. If he is not cleared, he's not cleared," Whitt said. "I'm comfortable with where he is."

If Hayward's not ready, it will be fifth-round pick Micah Hyde at nickel, which essentially is a starting position for the Packers. He's played 142 snaps in the preseason — 39 more than anyone else on the Packers' defense, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Hyde lacks the desired speed but he's intelligent, mature and fearless. He's been an excellent tackler, shown a knack for blitzing and simply has a feel for the game that can't be taught. He's played well enough that defensive coordinator Dom Capers said he'd be comfortable playing him right away. Capers leaned heavily on several rookies last year, including Hayward and M.D. Jennings in the secondary.

"He can really tackle," Whitt said of Hyde. "Is he going to be 100 percent on tackles? Probably not. Nobody is, but the willingness to go in there and hit it and hit it without fear, I've been impressed with that. As a rookie, you want to get those guys as many snaps as you can if they're going to be available for the first game. He's a guy who is in the mix for playing in the first game, so he can't get enough and I'm going to give him as much as I can."

With Shields, House, Hayward, Williams, Hyde, veteran Jarrett Bush and impressive James Nixon — who is out with knee and ankle injuries — the Packers have enviable depth at a premium position. They're the front-runners for roster spots, with Brandon Smith and Loyce Means a consideration for the practice squad.

So, what happens when everyone is healthy?

"That'll be a good problem to have," Capers said.


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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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