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Packers CB LaDarius Gunter Emerges as Secondary Savior

With the Packers' top three corners having missed nine of a possible 18 games — and counting — LaDarius Gunter has filled the void and generally delivered.

The Green Bay Packers bounced back from a loss to the Dallas Cowboys by beating the Chicago Bears.

And a big reason for that was because cornerback LaDarius Gunter bounced back from a poor performance vs. Dallas by turning in a gem of a performance vs. Chicago.

Just how much faith do the Packers have in Gunter?

Just go back to Thursday night’s game. Less than a week after giving up two touchdowns in the loss to Dallas, Gunter took center stage against the Bears. Gunter’s assignment? Shadow Alshon Jeffery, Chicago’s top offensive player and one of the premier receivers in the NFL.

The results? According to data provided courtesy of Pro Football Focus, Gunter allowed three completions in nine targets for 33 yards. Gunter broke up one pass and gave up a passer rating of just 45.1.

“They have confidence in me,” Gunter said after the 26-10 victory. “They see me every day, they know what I can do, and I’m grateful for it.”

Gunter’s poor showing against Dallas overshadowed so much strong play before that game. In fact, he’s been a savior in a cornerback corps that has been riddled with injuries.

— Veteran Sam Shields suffered a concussion in the season-opening game at Jacksonville and is on injured reserve. There’s a chance he won’t play another game this season — or ever.

— Damarious Randall, last year’s first-round pick, missed the Giants game with an injured groin, returned but injured the groin again vs. Dallas, missed the Chicago game and had surgery that will sideline him for several weeks.

— Quinten Rollins, last year’s second-round pick, has missed the last two games with an injured groin.

All told, those three have missed nine of a possible 18 games, with that missed-games count to grow by at least two for Sunday’s showdown at Atlanta. Getting by against Chicago without the team’s top three cornerbacks is one thing. It will be quite another against Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, who is No. 1 in the NFL, No. 2 in average gain and tied for No. 2 in touchdowns. His favorite target is Julio Jones, who leads the NFL with 830 receiving yards and is fourth with 20.8 yards per catch.

Gunter played cornerback for eight regular-season snaps last season. How odd is this? Last week, defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Gunter is “our veteran guy now.” For the most part, he’s played like a veteran. Gunter has allowed a completion rate of 59.4 percent for the season, based on PFF’s best estimation of coverage responsibilities. Obviously, the Dallas game can’t be overlooked, but against Detroit in the third game, the Giants in the fourth game and the Bears in the sixth game, he allowed five completions in 16 attempts.

“I think it shows you why he’s been given starter reps,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday. “Back to training camp, this guy, he’s just such a tenacious competitor. That’s what you look for in your young players is to take a step. So we talked all week about moving on, cleansing ourselves from the Dallas loss. Just the basics of what we do and how we play, and clearly how we train and what we believe, were not there Sunday. So, the ability to move on and just start clean against the Bears, that was everybody. I thought our team did that, and he was a great example of that.”

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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