The Packers defense has needed rebuilt for a few years now, particularly in the secondary. There is not one player from the start of the 2016 season left in the secondary – an extreme overhaul to say the least. Out of 15 players on the 2016 roster, they had two first round selections in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21st overall in 2014) and Damarious Randall (30th overall in 2015) along with second round pick Quinten Rollins in 2015. It was also comprised of nine undrafted free agents, yes that is correct NINE with the outlier of Sam Shields who was injured week one of the 2016 season. However, they may have completed their full makeover by the start of the 2019 season.
The rebuild started with the 2017 NFL Draft when the Packers took Kevin King and Josh Jones with their first two picks. Both are promising young players that have struggled through their own issues for two years. King has been battling through injuries, but he has showed a big upside when healthy. The defense is different when King is in the lineup. Jones has had problems finding a role in the defense. He has shown flashes, but there has been too much inconsistency. At the end of last season, Jones started finding a role in Pettine’s defense and became pretty successful. It is safe to say year three, for both of these players, is a make or break year.
Before the 2018 NFL Draft, the rebuild continued with a key addition of bringing back Tramon Williams. Williams brings with him more than his on field play. He is a great mentor on and off the field for the younger players and a huge piece to the puzzle. A month after the return of Tramon, the Packers spent their first two picks of the draft on Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson. Again, they focused their first two picks on secondary players. Jaire Alexander looks to be the real deal after a stellar year one.
Jackson went through some rookie growing pains, but he shows a huge upside. The Packers then had a surprise in undrafted free agent Raven Greene who saw the field last year as a free safety. The Packers made a late addition to the cornerback room in Tony Brown who quickly played his way on to the field. Brown also showed promise last year making the most of his opportunities. In early December, the Packers claimed rookie Natrell Jamerson off waivers. I believe the speedster from Wisconsin was on their radar during the draft but went a little too high in the fifth round. All of these young players showed signs of promise, and they need to continue and stack success in year two.
The 2019 off-season was one that Packer fans have never experienced. They made a huge splash in free agency, and among their signings was safety Adrian Amos. He was a key piece to the Bears defense, and he will be a center piece for Mike Pettine as well. The trend continued in the 2019 NFL Draft with another first round selection dedicated to the secondary with safety Darnell Savage. He has been moving up draft boards since the NFL Combine, and the Packers traded up to go get their guy in the first round with their second pick.
Then they added another speed corner in Ka’dar Hollman in the sixth round. The makeover did not stop there. They added corner Chandon Sullivan and safety Mike Tyson after the draft. A lot of the 2019 additions are wait and see, even with Savage. He has a lot of hype around him at the moment, but let’s give the kid time to get on the field. On the other hand, Adrian Amos is huge for this defense. He is a player they desperately needed in the back end.
The one thing that sticks out to me is that this group has no choice other than working out. The 2019 defensive backs can not afford to be a repeat of the group from 2016. The front office and coaching staff have put too much stock into rebuilding this secondary.
This gives the new look secondary five players drafted in the first and second rounds of the draft, two key veteran additions, and a few young freakishly athletic guys hungry to make a name for their self. The off-season is still young and their are plenty of moves to be made, but this secondary has all of the pieces to be successful. They have a great blend of experience with youth, and more importantly they have the ability and attitude. This could be the Snow Fly Zone we have all been anticipating.