Now just three short days away from training camp and we are almost done with our look through the Packer depth chart. And as we get to the defensive backfield here, there is a new name, signed earlier this week that we can discuss, but we’ll get to him later. For now, let’s look at the 17 defensive backs that are on the roster right now.
#37 SAM SHIELDS
5’11” 184 lbs. Age 28 (7th Season)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on April 24, 2010 from Miami (FL)
Strengths: Blazing speed allows Shields to never be out of the play no matter how badly he’s beat. Has very good ball skills and can pluck the ball out of the air like a receiver. Extremely quick backpedal and flips his hips with incredible fluidity. Smart player who has gotten miles better in his positioning in zone coverage over his career. Also has improved his tackling dramatically over his first six seasons. Extremely athletic with good leaping ability.
Weaknesses: Slim frame and sometimes can get out muscled by the bigger possession receivers. Sometimes flips his hips too much and can get turned around. Can be beaten on double moves as he jumps the first cut. Has had an injury history and has missed at least one game every season.
Underrated Attribute: Hands
Role: #1 corner, shutdown coverage option.
Best Case: Shields emerges as the top option in the NFC North and makes his 2nd Pro Bowl with career highs in tackles and interceptions as he picks off six passes.
Worst Case: Shields misses time again and misses too many tackles as he is passed on the depth chart by Damarious Randall.
Projection: Shields, as the true #1 corner, will set career highs with five picks and over 60 tackles while being chosen to the Pro Bowl.
#23 DAMARIOUS RANDALL
5’11” 196 lbs. Age 23 (2nd Season)
Drafted in the 1st Round (30th Overall) in 2015 from Arizona State
Strengths: A former college safety, Randall is a strong tackler who has a high football IQ to find the ball and hit with authority. Has strong coverage skills and can match up with most receivers man-to-man. Excellent ball skills and high points the ball effectively. Once he has the ball he also knows what to do, returning one for a score as a rookie. Also is strong in run support.
Weaknesses: While a good athlete, he is undersized in height for an outside corner in the modern NFL and can be beaten on double moves. He also sometimes goes for the big hit and fails to wrap up.
Underrated Attribute: Ball Skills
Role: #2 corner, occasional slot corner.
Best Case: Randall steps up in Year 2 even more and has a Nick Collins type year with 5-7 interceptions and 2 touchdowns. He plays in every situation and eventually cements his starting role opposite Shields for the forseeable future.
Worst Case: Randall has a solid year, but doesn’t improve much from Year One to Year Two, and ends up as a decent starter but nothing special.
Projection: Randall has all the talent in the world and ends up becoming the breakout star of the defense, and one of the biggest steals of the 2015 Draft.
#24 QUENTEN ROLLINS
5’11” 195 lbs. Age 24 (2nd Season)
Drafted in the 2nd Round (62nd Overall) in 2015 from Miami (OH)
Strengths: Rollins has excellent ball skills and good hands to create turnovers and the vision to make plays after the pick. He also has excellent leaping ability and plays like a point guard, high pointing the ball well to make deflections and interceptions. Excellent coverage man in the slot, showing good footwork and quick hips to run with opposing receivers. Also drives on the ball well and makes sound tackles. Excellent lateral speed, plays faster than he runs deep.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t always play with good technique and relies too much on his natural ability. Has a reputation as someone who gambles too much for the big play instead of making the easy one. Also doesn’t have great deep speed.
Underrated Attribute: Hands
Role: Slot Corner
Best Case: Rollins has a Casey Hayward-type season with around five interceptions and makes numerous impact plays that changes games. Ends up as a key member of the defense and forms a strong trio that ranks among the best in the NFL.
Worst Case: Rollins continues to be plagued by the mistakes of his rookie year such as jumping routes too much and missing tackles and he ends up losing time in the slot to Randall and outside to Gunter.
Projection: Rollins, like Randall, has potential to be an elite corner and in 2016 he takes the first step toward that. He ends up as one of the best slot corners in the league and ends up making numerous plays that will turn games around.
#36 LADARIUS GUNTER
6’2” 201 lbs. Age 24 (2nd Season)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 8, 2015 from Miami (FL)
Strengths: Excellent size for an outside corner, can match up with the biggest receivers. Also has improved ball skills from college and is a playmaker during camp and the preseason last year. Good tackler and shows great physicality at the line in coverage. Also brings special teams ability and can make tackles down the field. NFL Comparison on his draft page is Josh Norman.
Weaknesses: Only average speed and can be beaten down the field by faster receivers. Still needs work on is technique and can be turned around on crisp routes. Also hasn’t seen the field much on defense in the regular season so we don’t quite know what we have.
Underrated Attribute: Physicality
Role: #4 corner, Outside defender.
Best Case: Gunter makes the jump in Year Two and cements himself as the fourth corner and becomes a good outside corner.
Worst Case: Gunter fails to make a jump and ends up as strictly a special teamer, falling behind Micah Hyde in the dime coverages.
Projection: Gunter has the talent to be a good outside corner like Al Harris, and ends the season as the top corner in dime.
#20 MAKINTON DORLEANT
5’11” 182 lbs. Age 23 (Rookie)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 6, 2016 from Northern Iowa
Strengths: Natural coverage corner who can mirror receivers and strong press coverage skills. Breaks on the ball well and has solid reactionary skills to make plays. Solid tackler who is willing to stick his nose in on run plays. Also has significant experience on special teams.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t have great form on tackles and can be run over. Needs to bulk up to be an outside corner and needs work on his technique. Still raw with his footwork.
Underrated Attribute: Toughness
Role: Fifth Corner, Special Teams
Best Case: Dorleant makes the roster out of camp but doesn’t need to do much on defense due to the depth in front of him, much like Gunter in front of him. He ends up playing significant time on special teams coverage units.
Worst Case: Dorleant struggles in camp and doesn’t stick out enough to make the roster. He ends up in final cuts and has to catch on somewhere else.
Projection: Dorleant was a bright spot of minicamp and with his pedigree as a playmaker at Northern Iowa, he ends up becoming a special teams keystone.
#31 ROBERTSON DANIEL
6’1” 205 lbs. Age 24 (2nd Season)
Signed as a Free Agent to the Practice Squad on September 7, 2015
Originally Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent by Oakland on May 8, 2015 from BYU
Strengths: Above average length and athleticism and the drive to make it to the active roster. Daniel turned from a transfer into a starter immediately after arriving at BYU. Uses his length well to wrap up tackles and deflects passes at a high rate. Plays excellent off coverage.
Weaknesses: Not ideal speed or quickness and struggles with technique. Also has been in trouble with coaching staffs in his past (suspended in 2014 for one game). Struggles with press coverage.
Underrated Attribute: Motor
Role: Fifth corner, Practice Squad Candidate
Best Case: Daniel shows why the Packers signed him to the practice squad last year and he makes the team out of camp and makes his presence known on special teams.
Worst Case: Daniel ends up not showing enough development for his age and gets passed by other guys on the depth chart and ends up being a victim of cuts early in camp.
Projection: Daniel has potential, but I don’t see him jumping Dorleant or Gunter to make the roster as a corner. He is a practice squad candidate but I can’t quite see him there right now with some of the other guys. He would make it on the PS if the teams decides to keep a bigger corner.
#28 JOSH HAWKINS
5’10” 189 lbs. Age 23 (Rookie)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 6, 2016 from East Carolina
Strengths: Athletic, instinctive corner who can shadow receivers all over the field. Solid ball skills (5 INT in 2014), can jump routes and make plays. Hard worker, willing to put in the time off the field to improve. Good recognition in zone coverage, doesn’t get picked on when facing the ball. Sticks his nose in on tackles and will mix it up. Ran a 4.39 40 time at his Pro Day.
Weaknesses: Struggles with back to the ball. Closing burst isn’t ideal. Undersized and needs to bulk up to be an outside corner.
Underrated Attribute: Zone Recognition
Role: Fifth Corner, Special Teams, Practice Squad.
Best Case: Hawkins excels in camp and shows playmaking ability, allowing him to jump the other rookies and make the squad, where he excels as a gunner on special teams.
Worst Case: Hawkins is a solid, but unspectacular player in camp, but that isn’t enough to survive final cuts.
Projection: I like Hawkins’ potential, and his speed is something always in demand. I think he as a strong camp, but ends up a victim of final cuts but get the final practice squad spot.
#41 RANDALL JETTE
5’11” 193 lbs. Age 23 (Rookie)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 6, 2016 from Massachusetts
Strengths: Experienced, started all 44 games he played in college. Turnover machine, he recorded nine interceptions, forced three fumbles and recovered four more. Persistent, never gets down after a rough play. Good coverage skills, works hard in the film room and it shows in his drops. Reads receivers well, and is confident he can shut them down. Compares himself to Joe Haden.
Weaknesses: In his own words, needs to cut down on his false steps. Can get happy feet in coverage. Gambles at times too much.
Underrated Attribute: Tackling
Role: Fifth Corner, Special Teams, Practice Squad
Best Case: Jette shows the ball skills and playmaking ability much like Sam Shields did in 2010 and he ends up making the team before getting playing time late in the year.
Worst Case: Jette is a solid player, but doesn’t show enough in camp to beat out the other rookies, and ends up a victim of final cuts.
Projection: I don’t think Jette makes the team, but it’s a close call between him, Dorleant, Hawkins, and Daniel. I also think the Practice Squad spot is a toss-up. But Jette has the potential to play in this league and I think he will, whether it is for Green Bay or somewhere else.
#39 DEMETRI GOODSON
5’11” 197 lbs. Age 27 (3rd Season)
Drafted in the 6th Round (197th Overall) in 2014 from Baylor
Strengths: Athletic, former basketball player who shows great leaping ability and good vision. Willing to play special teams, shows promise as a gunner, and can make plays in punt coverage. Can keep up with receivers in coverage and make big plays deflecting passes.
Weaknesses: Older for a developmental player at 27 and ceiling is pretty much set at this point. Also has off-field concerns. He is suspended for the first four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances. Still needs a lot of work on coverage technique
Underrated Attribute: Speed
Role: Special Teams
Best Case: Goodson shows enough in camp to keep his job once he returns from suspension.
Worst Case: The team decides that he isn’t needed anymore and he is released during camp or after is suspension.
Projection: Goodson hasn’t really developed like the team has hoped since he was drafted, and with his suspension now hanging over him, the team ends up releasing him during camp.
#0 WARREN GATEWOOD
5’11” 188 lbs. Age 22 (Rookie)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on July 20, 2016 from Alcorn State
Strengths: Good ball skills, picked off eight passes in his career. Comes up big in big games, picking off three passes in the SWAC Championship game and taking one back for a score. Willing tackler, shows solid form wrapping up.
Weaknesses: Came here late, which doesn’t help him. Good athleticism, but not great and can be beaten in coverage. Small-school prospect, we don’t know his skill level against top competition.
Underrated Attribute: Special Teams (blocked one kick in 2015)
Role: Practice Squad candidate
Best Case: Gatewood shows a lot of potential in camp, but even though he doesn’t make the team, he gets a spot on the practice squad.
Worst Case: Gatewood comes in late and doesn’t learn the playbook in time and is one of the first cuts of camp.
Projection: Gatewood has potential as a special teams guy, but the Packers have a lot of guys like him so I don’t see him making it past first cuts.
#21 HA HA CLINTON-DIX
6’1” 208 lbs. Age 23 (3rd Season)
Drafted in the 1st Round (21st Overall) in 2014 from Alabama
Strengths: Great athlete, a natural center fielder on the field with good ball skills and a willingness to hit in the middle of the field. Led the team in tackles last season while also chipping in three sacks. A smart blitzer who has gotten much better last year, he has the speed the recover after making a mistake. Good in coverage, can play slot corner if needed. Shows up in big games.
Weaknesses: Can overrun plays in coverage and still needs to finish plays when given the chance at a turnover. Hands are suspect right now, and doesn’t force fumbles.
Underrated Attribute: Blitzing
Role: Starting Free Safety, Ascending Star
Best Case: Clinton-Dix takes that next step in Year Three and becomes an All-Pro safety with an increased turnover rate and 5 interceptions. He starts to become a Nick Collins-type player.
Worst Case: Clinton-Dix only remains good and not great.
Projection: I can’t help but see the comparisons from the first two seasons of Ha Ha and Nick Collins. Both are exceptional athletes but struggled with causing turnovers early in their careers. And like Nick, I think Clinton-Dix makes that jump this year to a true star.
#42 MORGAN BURNETT
6’1” 209 lbs. Age 27 (7th Season)
Drafted in the 3rd Round (71st Overall) in 2010 from Georgia Tech
Strengths: Smart, cerebral safety who doesn’t make mistakes, whether is it is run support or coverage. Very good tackler, leading the team in 2014 and consistently ranking near the top of the team leaderboard even when he misses time. Good closing speed and doesn’t get thrown at a ton. Can play centerfield if needed.
Weaknesses: Injury risk, has missed multiple games in three different seasons, including last year. Also doesn’t create many turnovers with only seven career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.
Underrated Attribute: Communication
Role: Starting Strong Safety, Leader in Secondary
Best Case: Burnett shows the playmaking ability he had at Georgia Tech and starts forcing more turnovers while also keeping his strong tackling and leadership.
Worst Case: Burnett misses time and continues to struggle with causing turnovers leading to a solid but unspectacular season.
Projection: I am a big fan of Burnett and what he does. I think he gets two interceptions and becomes that perfect complement to Clinton-Dix as they form one of the best safety duos in the NFL. He doesn’t get the recognition but continues to march his way to a Packer Hall of Fame career.
#33 MICAH HYDE
6’0” 197 lbs. Age 25 (4th Season)
Drafted in the 5th Round (159th Overall) in 2013 from Iowa
Strengths: Extremely intelligent, deliberate player. Always seems to be thinking one step ahead of the offense. Has ball skills and started to finish the plays with five interceptions the past two seasons. A sound, efficient tackler, Hyde is as assignment-sure as it gets. Also brings great versatility as he can play every position in the secondary as well as special teams. Also is a dynamite punt returner, sure-handed with a knack for the big play. Is tied for the team record for punt return touchdowns with three.
Weaknesses: Not a great athlete compared to his peers and can be exposed by faster receviers. No dominant skill on defense, more of a jack-of-all-trades guy.
Underrated Attribute: Playmaking
Role: Swiss Army Knife
Best Case: Hyde does a little bit of everything, picking off a couple passes, running a punt back, forcing a fumble or two, and gets a long term deal to stay.
Worst Case: Hyde gets passed over by more athletic guys during the season and ends up walking in free agency.
Projection: Guys like Micah Hyde are extremely valuable to teams like the Packers and he will be here for a long time.
#29 KENTRELL BRICE
5’11” 200 lbs. Age 21 (Rookie)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 6, 2016 from Louisiana Tech
Strengths: Exceptional athlete, he jumps out whenever Louisiana Tech’s tape is played. Explosive in drills, ran 4.4 40 time, jumped 42 inches, broad jumped 11’1”, and put up 21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench. A good tackler (146 the past two seasons), Brice plays sideline to sideline and hits with power and leverage, driving ball carriers down. Solid in coverage.
Weaknesses: Undersized for a strong safety, and can over pursue plays. Aggressiveness sometimes gets him into trouble as he is sometimes right on the edge with his hits.
Underrated Attribute: Range
Role: Backup Safety, Special Teams demon
Best Case: Brice shows the coaches why he stuck out in minicamp and he makes the team as a backup safety and special teamer, becoming a vital member of the special teams unit.
Worst Case: Brice is just a workout warrior and doesn’t make it past final cuts, but ends up on the practice squad.
Projection: I think very, very highly of Brice, and think he can be a starter on a top team at safety. For now, I see him as a Chris Banjo-type with more athleticism and defensive ability, so I think he takes that spot and becomes a key special teamer.
#32 CHRIS BANJO
5’10” 207 lbs. Age 26 (3rd Season)
Signed as a Free Agent on July 29, 2013 from SMU
Strengths: Great special teams guy, plays on every unit and was named a captain for the playoffs. This hard, sacrifices his body for the play and is rarely out of position. Defensively, is a good run defender who hits hard and had the quickness to play strong safety.
Weaknesses: Only average in pass coverage and doesn’t have spectacular speed. Also can go for the big hit, which can lead to whiffs and big plays.
Underrated Attribute: Leadership
Role: Special Teams Captain
Best Case: Banjo continues his ascendance to the top of the special teams guys in the league and makes the Pro Bowl.
Worst Case: Banjo gets beaten out by guys like Brice for that special teams spot and he catches on with another team.
Projection: I like what Banjo brings, but he is limited to just special teams, much like Jarrett Bush was (but much better). I think that with Brice, he brings more than Banjo does while still having potential to be a stud on special teams. I think Banjo plays in the NFL in 2016, just not in Green Bay.
#25 MARWIN EVANS
5’11” 211 lbs. Age 23 (Rookie)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 10, 2016 from Utah State
Strengths: Good athlete, ran 4.47 40 at Utah State’s Pro Day, while also jumping 42 inches. Did a little bit of everything his senior year, recording 73 tackles, one interception (which he took back for a score), and two sacks. A strong tackler and solid coverage guy. Good range.
Weaknesses: Inexperienced, only played two years of Division I football after transferring from Community College.
Underrated Attribute: Explosiveness
Role: Special Teams, Practice Squad Candidate
Best Case: Evans jump everyone and makes the roster as a special teamer.
Worst Case: Evans doesn’t show much during camp and becomes a victim of the first cuts.
Projection: A Wisconsin native (Oak Creek), Evans has intriguing athletic ability, but there is a lot of people in front of him and he probably doesn’t make it past final cut down day.
#35 JERMAINE WHITEHEAD
5’11” 195 lbs. Age 23 (2nd Season)
Signed as a Free Agent on May 18, 2016
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent by San Francisco on May 5, 2015 from Auburn
Strengths: Good straight line speed and closes on ball carrier quickly. Breaks on the ball very well and read routes with an experienced eye. High points the ball very well and makes plays in coverage. A natural center fielder who can also play slot corner. Played against quality competition in college and held his own. Pure coverage guy.
Weaknesses: Not great in run support, and lets the runner get to him. Also isn’t a great tackler in general, can get dragged. Can get confused jumping routes and in play action. Has character concerns stemming back from college. Was suspended four games and limited to special teams in two others in 2014 after altercation with coaches.
Underrated Attribute: Closing Speed
Role: Backup Safety, Special Teamer
Best Case: Whitehead’s coverage skills develop in Green Bay and he makes the team as a playmaker.
Worst Case: Whitehead never really grows as a player and he doesn’t survive first cuts.
Projection: Whitehead is high-risk, high-reward and as a purely coverage guy, doesn’t really fit into the Packers style right now. He is cut after the fourth preseason game on the cutdown to 75.
First Cuts: Whitehead, Gatewood, Goodson
Final Cuts: Evans, Hawkins, Jette, Daniel, Banjo
Making the Team: Shields, Randall, Rollins, Gunter, Dorleant, Clinton-Dix, Burnett, Hyde, Brice
Early next week, we’ll get to the specialists, which will be very short. And then next week, I will briefly cover the entire 53 man roster and practice squad.——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.