Okay, perhaps empty is a bit of a stretch. The safeties are all present. Expect Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Micah Hyde to be bringing their A game as the Packers head into Dallas this weekend to face long-time rivals (yes, this dates back decades now) Dallas Cowboys and their megalomaniac supreme leader general manager Jerry Jones.
But what about the cornerbacks? Decimated would be an optimistic term. And if you are true to the definition, decimated means it is only reduced by one tenth. The Green Bay Packers would be lucky to just have a decimated cornerback corps. The Pack doesn’t even have that. Luckily Damarious Randall was only mostly dead kind of injured. Heading into the Wild Card match-up last weekend against the Giants, he was still listed as questionable with a knee injury.
Ledarius Gunter had an excellent game containing Beckham last weekend. He got in in OBJ’s head and managed to put mental oven mitts on the receiver. But he is still a second year CB. His physicality makes up for lack of experience. But only two seasons in, he still has lots to learn.
Oh, and the Packers promoted some guy named Herb Waters from the practice squad to plug a hole at CB. I’ll be perfectly honest. I had no clue this Herb guy even existed until last week. And to make him all the more the international man of mystery, he’s not really even a cornerback. He was an undrafted receiver from the University of Miami that didn’t make the Packers final cut at the end of the 2016 training camp. But some braintrust in the Packers leadership that asked him, “So, you couldn’t cut it as a receiver in the NFL, how about we make you a cornerback?”
So to summarize, the Green Bay Packers have a semi-injured second year CB that is known for being lost in space on a regular basis and a guy who has never, ever played a down of football an NFL regular season and, moreover, has never played a down of a regulation game as an actual member of the secondary as our two cornerbacks. Do I need to remind anyone that Dak Prescott is scary good for a rookie QB and that Dez Bryant doesn’t always hold his head on his head after dropping the ball?
The Dallas aerial game is scary good. And the Packers are playing in the Jerrydome. This isn’t some cold weather game at Lambeau where the crowd noise and Gunter manages to get into a whinybaby rockstar receiver’s head (why yes, I am looking at you, OBJ)?
We all know that Ted Thompson loves to promote and develop from within. But the idea of Herb Whatshisface lining up against a Dez Bryant is terrifying. This is not a time to put forth the mantra, I’m not a cornerback, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. This is the divisional round of the playoffs, not some preseason match-up against the Browns when you can pretend a receiver is a well-trained cornerback.
Meanwhile in NFL retirementland, you have former Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman all but begging for an audition to make that dearth of CB’s at 1265 a little less terrifyingly nonexistent. Peanut all but begged for an audition in Green Bay last week with his tweet on January 4, 2016:
I’m ready to Run the Table if y’all need some CB’s @AaronRodgers12
So here we have a guy with 13 years of NFL experience. Sure, he’s 35 but he isn’t dead. He has more years of experience than Randall and Gunter (oh, and the erstatz CB dude as well) combined.
Sure, he doesn’t know the system, but he’s not an unknown commodity that is still at the see one, do one teach one neophyte level of learning how to be a corernerback like Herb Waters is. He’s a two time Pro Bowl CB who has played against Dez Bryant before. Who knows the angles of a play and can close the gap quickly. Randall, Gunter and the Holiday Inn Express dude have combined for whopping FOUR interceptions (truth be told, all four come from Randall.)
Want to know how many Peanut has in his career? That would be 38, along with 9 defensive touchdowns.
Repeat after mean, Peanut Tillman is not a slouch. And more importantly, he could potentially add that veteran leadership and all the knowledge and wisdom such an elder statesman imparts that the secondary is sorely lacking. In that magical 2010 year, the Packers had the grand old man Charles Woodson whose leadership was as invaluable as his play on the field. It made a difference. It may sound hokey, but his One Heart speech embodied that leadership and that desire for greatness.
The Packers could sure use a new heart in the secondary, even if it is for just the end of this year.
The 2010 Packers were magical. And this year’s incarnation is often compared to that team with its next man up mentality. But keep in mind that 2010 didn’t have a paucity of cornerbacks. It had Woodson as well Tramon Williams and Sam Shields all available to play CB during that playoff run. The 2010 Packers didn’t lack for CBs like this team does. And if the Packers have any chance of defeating aerial monsters like Dallas, Atlanta or Seattle, or AFC powerhouses like Brady’s Patriots, they need to neutralize the passing game. I just worry that the anemic remnants of the CB corps are simply not enough.
Draft and develop and next man work when there is a large stable of players already in the system being raised from the ground up. Right now, Ted Thompson is licking a wetnap trying to catch a cornerback buzz with what’s left and healthy in Green Bay.
Key free agents were critical improvements to teams that made it to the Super Bowl. Reggie White was an instrumental addition in the nineties. Charleswoodson was invaluable in 2010.
Could Charles Tillman be that last piece of this season’s puzzle that makes a trip to the Super Bowl not just a dream but a distinct reality?