It was clear after the poor showing by the Green Bay Packers defense in Denver, that changes are needed. And the biggest change that needs to occur defensively is inserting Damarious Randall into the starting lineup at the cornerback position.
When the Packers selected Randal with their first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, it was clear they viewed him as a potential starting corner and through seven games, the former safety with 4.4 speed has proven more than capable of taking over the job. And due to injuries in the secondary, Randall, who started the year as the fourth corner on the depth chart has already played close to 70 percent of the snaps.
But, after lining up Casey Hayward outside opposite of Sam Shields in the starting defense all year, it’s time to make a change. Hayward is a solid corner, in the slot, but on the outside, his lack of size and speed just make it difficult to compete with the game’s top wide receivers, as evidenced by the abuse he suffered at the hands of Demaryius Thomas.
Now Randall also struggled to cover Thomas, one of the top wide outs in the NFL, but he at least battled and made an interception in the fourth quarter, which turned out to be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal performance.
The rookie from Arizona State may be young and inexperienced, but he also has eight passes defensed and one interception, compared to Hayward, who have five passes defensed and no picks. This isn’t to say Hayward should be relegated to the bench. The truth is that Green Bay plays three corners on nearly 70 percent of its snaps anyway, so moving Hayward back to the nickel permanently means he will still see significant playing time.
The player that would lose snaps in this scenario is Micah Hyde, who doubles as a safety and slot corner. Simply put, Hyde has struggled this season and in particular the last two games. Defenses have figured out his coverage weaknesses and how to exploit them. Hyde is a decent role player, but he shouldn’t be one of Green Bay’s top three cover corners. Those roles, when everyone is healthy, should go to Shields, Randall and Hayward.
Of course, this Sunday against Carolina, the Packers will likely be without the services of Shields and second-round rookie corner Quinten Rollins, meaning the Packers will have to roll with Hayward and Randall as starters, as well as Hyde in the nickel. But, when the Packers are healthy, Shields, Randall and Hayward should be the top three corners and in all reality, Rollins, the speedster from Miami Ohio, should be the fourth.
Green Bay was fortunate to hit on Randall, who already looks like a playmaker and now it’s time to up the return of their investment. As on organization, the Packers have never been afraid to play young players when they have earned the playing time and they shouldn’t shy away from starting Randall now. He gives them the best chance to win and with a difficult schedule upcoming, the Packers can no longer afford to keep trying their failed experiment of making Hayward into a starting corner.