When the Green Bay Packers’ offense struggled in 2015, it was the defense that stepped up to help guide the team to another strong season, even if it did not end in a fifth straight division title.
A big reason for the defensive unit’s overall improvement was the play in the secondary. Just five years ago, the Packers’ pass defense ranked dead last in the NFL. Last year, led by a group of young playmakers, Green Bay rose to the sixth-best defensive backfield in the league.
Despite the relative youth of the secondary, the Packers’ unit has the potential to rank among the best in the league in 2016 by most defensive measures. Cornerbacks Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, and Quinten Rollins and safeties Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will serve as the anchors of a talented group of playmaking defenders.
The Packers elected to go with a younger group in the secondary after allowing Tramon Williams and Davon House to depart in free agency last year. That left Shields, still only 28 years of age, as the oldest and most experienced man in the backfield. Burnett, like Shields, will be entering his seventh year in the league, but the other three core members all have racked up less than three years of experience.
Green Bay selected Randall and Rollins with its first two picks in the 2015 draft, and they both exceeded expectations during their rookie seasons. The duo combined for five interceptions (including one pick-six apiece) and 20 passes defended. Both are due to have expanded workloads this season, especially with the departure of Casey Hayward.