Grading the Packers: Cornerbacks

Harris, Woodson carry position that needs better depth

Al Harris and Charles Woodson have seemed to improve with age, but how long can it last? The veteran cornerback duo frequently shut down opponents throughout the 2007 season, and they are expected to do the same in 2008. Behind the two, however, the depth is thin, and that's why general manager Ted Thompson will be seeking cornerbacks in the upcoming free agency period and NFL draft.

Will Blackmon has all the promise in the world, but he has yet to prove that he can be durable. Jarrett Bush and Tramon Williams had their moments in their first full season of regular playing time, but they were inconsistent. Harris and Woodson may play another year or two beyond the 2008 season, but it may not be realistic to think they will be starting for the Packers beyond that next season.

Here are individual assessments of each of the cornerbacks:

Al Harris: The veteran cornerback had his roughest outings at the team's two biggest games – at Dallas in late November and in the NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants. In both games he was beaten repeatedly by the Cowboys' Terrell Owens and the Giants' Plaxico Burress.

Take away those two games, however, and Harris performed at a Pro Bowl level worthy of being named to his first all-star game, in which he will play this Saturday in Hawaii. Harris started in all 18 of Green Bay's games. He had 37 tackles (34 solo), two interceptions and nine passes defensed in the regular season.

Harris, 33, has played well against opponents' top receivers throughout the season and has been durable for the Packers, but Packers general manager Ted Thompson no doubt will be bolstering the depth behind Harris this off-season to improve competition behind Harris.
Grade: B

Charles Woodson: Many experts felt that Woodson should have been named to the Pro Bowl team as well. He had 64 tackles (54 solo) with four interceptions and 10 passes defensed during the regular season, and didn't allow a touchdown pass. He also scored two defensive touchdowns – one fumble return (Oct. 14 vs. Washington) and one interception runback for a touchdown (Nov. 4 vs. Kansas City).

Woodson missed two games with a toe injury that he sustained on Thanksgiving Day against Detroit, but returned in time for the playoffs.

Like Harris, Woodson is playing well but getting up there in age for an NFL cornerback. He will turn 32 on Oct. 7, so he may not be around much longer in Green Bay.
Grade: B+

Tramon Williams: He is probably the most improved of Green Bay's cornerbacks. Williams made the team as a free agent last summer, then worked his way up to the top backup on the team's nickel and dime passing defenses. In his first full season, Williams played in all 18 games for the Packers. He had 11 tackles (10 solo), one interception and four passes defensed in the regular season. He only allowed one touchdown.

Williams also returned punts and kickoffs. He averaged 22.8 yards per kickoff return and returned six punts for 118 yards, including a touchdown Nov. 18 against Carolina.
Grade: B-

Will Blackmon: Can Blackmon get through a season without an injury? That's the big question surrounding the second-year. For the second straight year, Blackmon missed games due to an injury.

Thumb and foot injuries hampered Blackmon this season, year after he played in just four games with foot and rib injuries. Blackmon played in nine games with one start, and was listed as inactive for the other seven regular season games. He was not on the 45-man game day roster for either of Green Bay's playoff games. When Blackmon did play, he was one of the top backups in the team's passing defenses.

Blackmon has all the potential to start and is a dynamic punt returner (13.3 yard avg. on eight returns, including a 57-yard return for a touchdown Dec. 9 against Oakland). Until he shakes the injury bug, Packers fans may never see him reach his full potential.
Grade: C-

Frank Walker: Green Bay's only free agent signing of the offseason, Walker played in 12 games, rotating in as the nickel and dime back. He did not play in either of Green Bay's playoff games.

Walker had 10 tackles (9 solo), one pass defensed and 12 special teams tackles.

Walker is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent later this month. His future in Green Bay appears doubtful at this point because of his lack of production last year.
Grade: D

Jarrett Bush: He had a strong training camp to enter the season as the team's top ‘nickel' back. He started for Charles Woodson (toe) Nov. 29, but did not play well against the Cowboys and was demoted.

Bush played in 14 games in the regular season and both postseason games. He had a chance to pounce on a loose ball while on punt return in the NFC Championship Game, but the Giants recovered.
Grade: C-

Packer Report Top Stories