The Green Bay Packers appear dangerously thin at cornerback heading into a playoff matchup with Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
On Tuesday, longtime NFL standout Charles Tillman said in a tweet in which he tagged Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers: “I’m ready to run the table if y’all need some CB’s.”
Instead, the Packers, naturally, signed Herb Waters off the practice squad on Wednesday. Waters is an undrafted free agent who spent the entire regular season on the practice squad.
“I look at it as a big opportunity,” Waters said. “Just taking it one day at a time, just focus on my technique and doing what my coach told me to do.”
It's been quite a journey. Waters played receiver at the University of Miami and with the Packers throughout training camp before he moved to cornerback in Week 2.
“I look at skill-sets,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said that week. “I don’t necessarily look at anything other than skill-sets. And he has the skill-set that I like. He has long arms, he can bend, he has good balance, he has the height. And so now can we work those skill-sets into playing defensive back. That’s my challenge and I’m excited to work with him.”
The Packers lost cornerbacks Damarious Randall (knee) and Quinten Rollins (concussion) during Sunday night’s victory over Detroit. Randall practiced on Wednesday but, even if he is able to play against the Giants, how much can he help? Since missing six out of seven games at midseason due to a groin injury that required surgery, Randall’s played in 73.1 percent of the defensive snaps the past six games. In the last three, he played in 42-of-66 vs. Chicago (63.6 percent), 62-of-78 vs. Minnesota (79.5 percent) and 26-of-66 vs. Detroit (39.4 percent).
Without Randall, Rollins, rookie Makinton Dorleant (knee) and longtime starter Sam Shields (season-ending concussion), the Packers’ secondary depth has been tested to the max. They finished the Detroit game with one former college free agent (LaDarius Gunter) and a backup safety (Micah Hyde) as the cornerbacks and a starting safety (Morgan Burnett) in the slot.
Only Tillman knows whether he was truly serious in his interest. And who knows if he'd be physically ready to contribute after retiring in July following an ACL tear sustained in the 2015 regular-season finale. Regardless, for a team with Super Bowl aspirations as one of the 12 teams in the playoffs, general manager Ted Thompson could be gambling the entire season on Randall getting healthy or undrafted rookies Josh Hawkins (eight snaps on defense all season) or Waters contributing.
At Miami's pro day, he measured 5-foot-11 3/4 and ran his 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds.
“I think it’s just a great credit to Herb and a credit to Joe Whitt,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s a young man that’s got a lot in front of him. I’m excited for him personally because I know what he’s put into it. I thought he was a good receiver prospect, too. He’s worked his tail off. You talk about the practice squad players (and) what they have to do during the course of practice, but there’s a group of them that are always there after practice and so forth. It’s about opportunities and Herb has done a great job making this switch and doing the extra stuff. I’m very proud of him for what he’s done and really putting us in a position to bring him up because that obviously tells you how we feel about him.”
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.