Green Bay Packers

The Packers Need To Find A True Slot Corner

Photo Credit: William Glasheen-USA TODAY Sports

Under new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley, the Green Bay Packers have a beautiful opportunity to remake the unit and finally get at least league-average defense. Hafley’s background with defensive backs and love of press-man coverage could ultimately mean a sticky, aggressive defense. His style is good for Green Bay’s current corners, and a deep draft class and a ton of capital in the first four rounds means they can add to the room.

It looked like Green Bay had a deep secondary this past season, but it didn’t work out that way. Jaire Alexander dealt with injuries and some interpersonal conflict. Eric Stokes‘ various injuries may have sapped his speed, and Rasul Douglas now plays for the Buffalo Bills. Carrington Valentine showed impressive ability as a rookie, but the Packers need to add to their cornerback room. Based on need, positional value, and draft depth, don’t be surprised to see Green Bay target cornerback in the first round this spring.

While building their board, the Packers must modernize their defense under Hafley and consider investing in a slot cornerback. They must view it as a separate position. Green Bay just can’t throw bodies in the slot and hope for the best. The Packers need to intentionally invest in the slot CB position to keep their defense modern.

Green Bay’s current crop of corners work best on the boundary. The Packers drafted Stokes to use his speed to keep up with the fastest wideouts near the sidelines. Valentine showed he was at his best on the boundary. Alexander can theoretically do it all, and he’s on the smaller side of Green Bay’s typical size requirements. But they ideally want Alexander on a team’s top WR, and his injury history makes working in the run game risky.

Joe Barry either played guys out of position to handle the slot, like Douglas, or used the team’s kick returner. The scheme didn’t put players in the position to succeed; it was often a square-peg/round-hole situation. The Packers never really found an answer in the slot.

And that role is a necessity in today’s NFL.

Smaller wide receivers are succeeding in the NFL. Smaller receivers like Jayden Reed, Tank Dell, Zay Flowers, and Josh Downs filled the 2023 draft class and had a significant impact in their rookie seasons. Of course, size isn’t the only key to success in the sloe. Elite change of pace, speed, and release can help bigger receivers also see a ton of success on the inside.

The slot role is so vital that Green Bay finally started charting slot WR prospects with a different set of criteria than traditional WRs. They relaxed their usual size requirements for Amari Rodgers and Jayden Reed, viewing them as slot receivers. Reed can still do damage lined up anywhere, but he showed particular skill from the slot.

So, if the Packers are willing to update their size thresholds to attack the slot, they need to do the same to defend it.

Becoming a true slot defender requires a different skill set than a boundary corner. Slot CBs need to be able to handle shiftiness and twitchiness and have great change-of-direction skills. Pure burst is nice, but short-area quickness is crucial to staying on target.

The Packers don’t really have a perfect answer. Keisean Nixon has been the closest they’ve had, but there were plenty of times when opposing quarterbacks picked on him. Nixon is at his best at using his intelligence and motor to make plays over raw athleticism.

We know the Packers love elite athletes, but that generally comes with having strict size standards. Green Bay needs to ease those standards and look for someone smaller with the skills to man the role full-time.

We just saw the Kansas City Chiefs defense dominate in a Super Bowl, thanks to Trent McDuffie, who made a reasonable case for Super Bowl MVP. The Chiefs spent a first-rounder on McDuffie in 2022 and play him mostly inside. McDuffie consistently disrupted the San Francisco 49ers offense. Despite being Kansas City’s highest-targeted player, he only allowed a passer rating of 39.6.

And McDuffie is actually larger than Alexander. The Packers don’t need to draft 5’9” corners to match 5’9” receivers, but they need to be open to drafting smaller corners with the focused skills to excel in the slot.

The slot cornerback role will only grow more important as the league adapts to smaller, twitchier receivers. Green Bay can’t just throw fringe roster players at the role and call it a day. This year’s draft represents the perfect opportunity to attack the role meaningfully by adjusting their size thresholds and spending premium capital on it.

Green Bay Packers
The Packers Need to Trade Up To Avoid Missing Out On First-Round Talent
By Garrison Anderson - Apr 18, 2024
Green Bay Packers
Peter Schrager Mocks Intriguing Outlier Amarius Mims To the Packers
By Matt Hendershott - Apr 18, 2024
Green Bay Packers

Pump the Brakes On the Kenny Clark Trade Rumors

Photo Credit: William Glasheen-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Gutekunst is no stranger to executing big trades, having completed deals that sent Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Rasul Douglas out of town in the past […]

Continue Reading