After the Green Bay Packers parted ways with eight-year veteran Tramon Williams during the offseason, Sam Shields became the undisputed number one cornerback on the team.
Now, the relatively soft-spoken Shields not only finds himself at the top of the depth chart, he is also one of the key defensive leaders and is tied with Morgan Burnett as the most experienced player in the Green Bay secondary.
At age 27, Shields is already the sixth-oldest player on the Green Bay defense and the oldest player in the secondary. Excluding Burnett and Shields every other defensive back has less than four years of playing experience. The Green Bay secondary now belongs to Shields, and it is his job to serve as an example to the younger defensive backs on the roster.
Shields’ story is an inspiring one. He has gone from an undrafted rookie out of Miami to the top of the depth chart for a perennial powerhouse. He is a big reason why a defense that has struggled in recent years is slowly but steadily improving.
Over his career, Shields has appeared in 67 of a possible 80 games. In those games, he has recorded 203 tackles, 15 interceptions, and 53 passes defended. He led the team in both interceptions and passes defended in 2013, and has ranked near the top of the team leaderboards every year since 2011. Shields also made many crucial plays in the team’s Super Bowl run of 2010.
Now, the secondary belongs to him. He is the old, experienced veteran in the defensive backfield, and can serve as a good example to the large number of younger players.
Casey Hayward will likely be assuming the starting job opposite Shields. After being primarily a slot cornerback so far in his career, Hayward can learn the intricacies of playing outside from Shields.
Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins are both rookies who will look to adjust to the professional level. Both are speedy players who are not super tall (5’11’’), and have rotated between both cornerback and safety roles. Shields can help them adjust to the NFL and utilize their speed and lack of size to their advantage.
LaDarius Gunter’s story is almost the same as Shields. He is an undrafted rookie out of Miami, and chose to sign with Green Bay largely because of Shields’ history. Once again, it is now on Shields to help mold Gunter into a legitimate NFL player.
Even the safeties will be looking to Shields in preparation for the season. The relationship between safeties and cornerbacks is very important. While Shields and Burnett have been around for the same amount of time, Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sean Richardson and the rest of the safeties are all much younger. As the leader of the cornerbacks, it is Shields’ responsibility to lead and communicate well with Burnett and the corps of safeties.
The Packers benefit from having one of the youngest teams in the league, because the young age does not translate to poor performance. Green Bay’s crop of young talent is what will help elevate the defense to a level it has not seen since 2010. With an established veteran who is still relatively young like Sam Shields, the Packers’ secondary is in good hands heading into 2015.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .