Packers: Quinten Rollins knows his third season is crucial
GREEN BAY — Damarious Randall isn’t the only former high draft pick with something to prove in the Green Bay Packers’ secondary this season.
While Randall, the team’s 2015 first-round pick, has vowed to show “why I was drafted in the first round” this year after a sophomore season plagued by injuries and inconsistent play, he wasn’t alone in his struggles. Quinten Rollins, the team’s 2015 second-round pick taken 32 selections after Randall, also dealt with health issues throughout the season — his groin injury required postseason surgery, like the in-season procedure Randall had — and is looking to bounce back in Year 3.
But unlike Randall, Rollins made no bold pronouncements during the team’s organized team activity practices and minicamp earlier this month.
“He’s his own person, I’m my own person. Everybody in this locker room has a way they go about themselves, and he’s probably more vocal than me,” Rollins said. “We’ll see.”
While Rollins took a more measured approach to discussing his expectations for the upcoming season, he is clearly disappointed in how he played in 2016 and recognizes how crucial 2017 is for him.
“It is what it is. It was just a down year,” Rollins said. “Obviously, there were some things that caused last year to go the way it did. At the same time, I’m not one to make excuses. You learn from them in various ways, which I have and which I’m doing.
“I hold myself to a high standard. Obviously last year was a down year. I struggled. But at the same time, I know where I’ve got to get to, what I’ve got to get back to, so I’m just looking forward to having the opportunity to come in and compete every day.
“In this business, regardless of what’s going on, if you’re going out there, you’re getting judged. That’s just how the game goes. But I’m healthy now, so I feel like I’m going to get back to where I was, where I should be and I’m just going to pick it up from there.”
After a strong finish and flashes of playmaking as a rookie in 2015 — Rollins had a sack and two interceptions, including one that he returned 45 yards for a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams — Rollins missed three games in October with the groin injury, then missed the team’s first two playoff games with a neck injury and concussion sustained in the regular-season finale at Detroit.
He came back just in time to be part of a secondary that was torched for 392 yards and four touchdown passes by NFL MVP Matt Ryan in the Packers’ 44-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.
In the wake of that performance, the Packers used their top two draft picks on defensive backs in April, as they had with Randall and Rollins: Washington cornerback Kevin King, whom they took with the first pick of the second round (No. 33 overall) after trading back, and North Carolina State safety Josh Jones (No. 61 overall).
With the release of former No. 1 cornerback Sam Shields because of lingering concussion issues and the free-agent departure of versatile safety Micah Hyde, the secondary needed a talent infusion. The team also brought back 2011 fourth-round pick Davon House in free agency after he spent two years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While coach Mike McCarthy singled out Randall at the end of minicamp as one of the team’s top offseason performers, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said House had the best camp of his guys, followed closely by Rollins.
“Q had a really good camp,” Whitt said. “Outside of House, his camp has been the best out of everybody.”
Whitt has always said that the best players will play, regardless of their draft position or their histories, good or bad. He’s put the playing time where his mouth is on that, having benched starters who weren’t performing in favor of lesser-known players, and when Randall and Rollins struggled last year, Whitt tabbed LaDarius Gunter as the team’s top corner, even though he came in with Randall and Rollins in the same rookie class but as a little-known undrafted free agent.
That means Rollins will have every chance to earn playing time, even with House, Randall, King, Gunter and others in the mix.
“I ain’t ever been hurt. That was my first surgery. That was the first time I’ve been through anything like that. But it’s all part of the process,” Rollins said.
“I’m just really looking forward to getting the opportunity to get back to my standard of play — which I feel like I was getting into a groove as a younger player.”