One of the big question marks surrounding this year’s Green Bay Packers team entering the summer programs was who would become the team’s main “star” cornerback?
As Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry told reporters at OTAs and mini-camps in the NFL today, “You better have a good nickel wedge or star”.
“It’s a unique position because you have to be able to play man, you have to be able to play zone,” Joe Barry told reporters via Packers.com. “And when I say zone, you almost have to be able to play like a linebacker. You have to be involved in the racing game and the racing is suitable. We’ll be asking our nickel to be involved in the pressure package, so it’s a unique position, but we have a bunch of guys learning it like they learn all aspects of the background.
Earlier this summer, defensive back coach Jerry Gray mentioned that upon entering the mini-camp, the team had a handful of players they were looking for to fill the slot corner role, and their hope was reduce that number to one or two by the early in the regular season.
I guess that pool of potential nominees included Darnell Savage, who saw his fair share of slots in the slot last season. Jaire Alexander could also see an increase in nickel snaps just like Jalen Ramsey did in 2020 in the Brandon Staley / Vic Fangio defense. And of course Chandon Sullivan, who was the team’s main star corner last season.
I would also cast Will Redmond, Shemar Jean-Charles and maybe Adrian Amos sees opportunities there as well.
However, while training camp is only a week old, as noted Larry mccarren of Packers.com, one player in particular took much of the early shots in slots corners – and that player is said to be the incumbent, Chandon Sullivan.
“Who will play the primary role of star or nickelback?” Well, from the first shot, training one, training camp, it’s Chandon Sullivan. There is a lot to be said for a stable tourbillon, which is solid every time.
In a more modest role during the 2019 season, Sullivan impressed, allowing a completion rate of just 42% on 36 targets. Last season, in a full-time role for the Green Bay Packers, his numbers increased across the board, albeit in a larger sample that should have been anticipated somewhat.
In 2020 specifically, Sullivan allowed a 65% completion rate on 77 targets and 11.8 yards per catch. He would give up two touchdowns and walk away with one interception and four breakage passes. The opposing quarterbacks passer rating when targeting Sullivan was 91.3.
Granted, he was picked in the playoffs by Jared Goff and Tom Brady, who pitched 11 times in those two games. Sullivan allowed seven receptions for 84 yards — however, to his credit; he was much better in the second half of the NFC Championship game.
When you compare Sullivan’s performance in the slot to other nickel wedges, it did pretty well. According to PFF ($$), he ranked 5th out of 25 nickelbacks eligible for snaps per target with 7.0. His 10.8 snaps per reception were for second and the 1.13 yards per snap he allowed was tied for 10th.
As I’ve mentioned a few times this offseason, when this 2020 season is over, I think Sullivan will have taken the most shots of the slot machine. That said, I think his overall shot count will be down from last season as we see more of Alexander and Savage in that role under Barry.
We are only a handful of practices in training camp, and a lot can and will change over the next month or so. But for now, it looks like the Green Bay Packers’ star cornerback role belongs to Sullivan, and it’s up to him to lose it.