The Green Bay Packers used their first two draft picks on cornerbacks who fit their mold.
In two seasons at Arizona State, first-round pick Damarious Randall intercepted a total of six passes. In his one season as a junior-college cornerback, he had nine interceptions.
During his one and only season playing football at Miami (Ohio), second-round pick Quinten Rollins intercepted seven passes.
It might seem like a common-sense thing, but the Packers put a high value on cornerbacks who can take away the ball. Simply knocking down the pass isn’t good enough.
“You know, this is a passing league now, and interceptions, turnovers, is a way that you can really change the game, so I value it,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said during the draft. “I think we’re very good at it. Six years we’ve been here, we’re No. 1 in the league by a good margin, and I believe both of these guys have the skill-set to get the ball, add it to what Sam (Shields) and Casey (Hayward) can do, and Micah (Hyde). That’s very exciting, the ability to be able to get the ball and go score with it.”
Whitt’s right. The Packers are No. 1 in the NFL by a “good margin” in interceptions. Since the start of the 2009 season, when Dom Capers came onboard as defensive coordinator and Whitt took over the cornerbacks, the Packers have 72 interceptions from their cornerbacks alone. That is 10 more than Chicago and at least 20 more than 27 teams. (See chart at end of this story.)
While it’s true that Charles Woodson had a big say in that — he had 19 interceptions from 2009 through 2012 — the Packers’ cornerbacks have had no problem picking up the slack since he was released. Green Bay’s corners had 20 interceptions the past two seasons — only Seattle (22) had more. They grabbed 11 interceptions last season, one behind Houston.
The Packers will have to replace another takeaway artist this season. Since becoming at least a part-time starter in 2008, Tramon Williams intercepted 24 passes. If you include postseason thefts, Williams has 22 interceptions over the past five seasons. Only Seattle’s Richard Sherman (25) has more.
Who’s No. 3 on that list? Sam Shields with 20. He figures to be paired with Casey Hayward, who had six interceptions as a rookie and three in part-time duty last season. Over the past three regular seasons, they are tied for sixth among corners with nine picks.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.