Two young cornerbacks, Quinten Rollins and Ladarius Gunter, starred in the Green Bay Packers’ preseason defeat of the New England Patriots on Thursday night.
Rollins, a second-round pick in this year’s draft, was remarkably consistent in his play, finishing with two pass breakups. The Miami (Ohio) product is battling for the fourth cornerback role with first-round rookie Damarious Randall, who didn’t make the trip to New England due to a groin injury.
Gunter, an undrafted rookie, made the defensive play of the night when he wrestled a ball away from Patriots wide receiver Josh Boyce and returned the interception 28 yards, setting up a 25-yard touchdown run by Alonzo Harris. The former Miami Hurricane is making a strong case for a spot on the 53-man roster.
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"We’re getting our hands on a lot of balls," head coach Mike McCarthy said about the Packers’ secondary in general, per Pete Dougherty of Press-Gazette Media. "You can see it in practice. As a secondary, it’s happening a lot more this year than in prior years. You can see it in the training camp practices and I thought it definitely carried over tonight."
The Packers are slated to start Sam Shields and Casey Hayward on the outsides, with Micah Hyde manning the slot in the nickel package. However, given the way they’ve stood out so far, the team’s younger corners are sure to push these three for playing time during the regular season.