LaDarius Gunter has become an indispensable part of the Green Bay Packers’ defense.
After helping stop the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz in Week 5, Gunter had a poor game against Dallas. Gunter, however, bounced back with superb performances against Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery and Atlanta’s Julio Jones the past two weeks. While Jones certainly wasn’t at his best physically, Gunter helped limit the NFL’s best receiver to three catches for 29 yards.
“I think Gunt’s a typical young guy that the more he plays, the more confidence he gets, the better he gets,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Monday, a day after a 33-32 loss to the Falcons. “At that position, there’s going to be a few bumps in the road. That’s just the way it is in the NFL with the people you’re going out there and lining up against every week. But I thought, for the most part, Julio Jones didn’t end up being the issue in the game.”
Gunter entered the season as the team’s fourth cornerback but a rash of injuries have thrust him into not only the starting lineup but the No. 1 role. With Sam Shields on injured reserve, Gunter will be a key defender for the rest of the season.
He’s risen to the occasion. According to Pro Football Focus: “After starting the first six weeks as the 86th-graded cornerback, LaDarius Gunter has been the 15th-best cornerback in the entire NFL. He held his own against the explosive Falcons offense on Sunday, giving up three catches on six targets for only 30 yards and added a pass defended. Matt Ryan only had a 64.6 rating when throwing into Gunter's coverage.”
Gunter almost won the game with an aggressive break on a pass to Mohamed Sanu late in the game. Had Gunter gotten there a split-second faster, he would have had a clinching interception rather than just an excellent pass breakup.
“Just seeing how you match up with the guys who are the best in the league and coming out and performing the way I did gives you a lot of confidence moving forward,” Gunter said on Monday.
What has he learned upon being thrust into full-time duty?
“Just go out and play your game, no matter who you’re going against, and just use your technique and compete.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.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.