Based on how they were used last season, it seemed logical that Damarious Randall would stay at cornerback and Quinten Rollins would replace Casey Hayward in the slot. After all, according to Pro Football Focus, Rollins played 19 percent of his snaps in the slot compared to less than 5 percent for Randall.
Not so fast, though.
Through the first three days of training camp, Randall and Rollins have continually swapped spots when Green Bay lines up in its nickel package. On one snap, it’s Randall at left cornerback and Rollins in the slot — or the "star" position, as cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt calls it. On the next, it’s Rollins at left cornerback and Randall in the slot. In the base defense, Sam Shields is the mainstay at right cornerback but Randall and Rollins have split time on the left.
“What we’re looking at right now at this point in training camp is we want to try to try as many guys as we can, play them in all different positions,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Friday. “Obviously, when you get into the season, an injury here and there, the more a guy can do. It’s one of the things we think we do have with both Damarious and Quinten. You see them both working inside and outside. I think they’re very capable of playing either way. As we go through the preseason, we’ll probably try to get a certain number of reps with those guys playing different positions.”
Randall, who ranked second among rookies with three interceptions, said the who-plays-where question might be based on weekly matchups. Randall played safety at Arizona State, where he frequently came down to the line of scrimmage to cover slot receivers, so he has ample experience playing in that role. Rollins, who had two picks and led the team in passes defensed per snap, has the physicality to challenge bigger receivers or be used as an extra run defender.
“I’m a versatile-type player,” Randall said this week. “Guys like that like to be around the ball. Playing on the inside, that’s where the ball goes a lot of the time. The quarterback drops back to pass, either to the tight end or to the slot guy. At the end of the day, it’s being around the ball more. That’s just something I’ve been accustomed to, just looking forward to seeing what we’re going to do with it.”
Rollins, the former college point guard at Miami (Ohio), played outside during his one season on the college's football team. A quick study, Rollins wound up earning snaps in the dime package and started four of the final five games.
"You've got to stay sharp in both areas," Rollins said. "You can't just over-rep in one area and then game time comes and you've got to get reps in another area and you're not necessarily prepared. The fact that we're interchanging like that, it's just going to help us in the long run."
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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.