Packers: Quinten Rollins makes big impression at cornerback
GREEN BAY — Early in training camp, Mike McCarthy warned the media corps not to focus too closely on which players worked with the first-string, second-string and third-string offenses and defenses at practice. The Green Bay Packers coach knew reporters would still keep track of who lined up where with whom, but his argument was the reps wouldn’t necessarily line up with the coaches’ depth chart.
Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt’s room has always been a meritocracy. And while he has been working to get his top players as much work against two-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the first week of training camp, Whitt made one thing abundantly clear Wednesday: Third-year cornerback Quinten Rollins has been the team’s best cornerback so far.
Better than veteran Davon House, who came back as a free agent after two years in Jacksonville. Better than 2015 first-round pick Damarious Randall, who was drafted one round ahead of Rollins, the team’s second-round selection that year. Better than rookie Kevin King, who worked with the No. 1 defense until a shoulder injury sidelined him earlier this week.
“ ‘Q’ has practiced better than all of them,” Whitt said. “He’s pretty much outplayed everybody.”
Whitt said that when healthy, he has six corners he wants to get work against Rodgers. On the first day of camp, he went with House, Randall and LaDarius Gunter as his top three corners; the next three practices, it was House, Rollins and King.
When King sat out Tuesday’s practice, Whitt said he gave Rollins the choice — line up inside, where he’d been for those three practices, or outside, in King’s place.
“I said, ‘Where do you want to play? Outside or inside?’ He said, ‘I don’t care,’” Whitt said. “Right now, he’s just playing well. The kid is coming in with a focus that our standard of play wasn’t there last year and he’s a very prideful man. He hasn’t said two words. He’s just been working. That’s what I like. We don’t need a lot of talking. We’ve got to get to work.”
Randall and Rollins struggled with injuries and inconsistent play last season, as both players battled groin/core muscle injuries that required surgery (Randall in-season, Rollins after the season). While Randall vowed during the offseason to show why he was a first-round pick, Rollins has made no such proclamations.
As well as he’s played, he’s not getting ahead of himself.
“It’s still early in camp,” Rollins said. “There’s still a lot of ball left to be played. We’ll see how it finishes out.”
Getting his kicks
Special teams coordinator Ron Zook likes what he’s seen so far from undrafted rookie free agent punter Justin Vogel, who has had a few shanks in the handful of practices the Packers have had live-punting but has been relatively solid otherwise.
During Monday’s practice, Vogel punted six times and averaged 46.7 gross yards and 4.16 seconds of hang time. His one bad punt was a 37-yarder with less than 3 seconds of hang time; of his other five punts, four were 48 yards or longer and two had hang times of 4.5 seconds or better.
Vogel is the only punter in camp, though the Packers don’t necessarily have to have a punter with them now in order for him to be their guy.
Last year, incumbent Tim Masthay and challenger Peter Mortell battled until the Packers cut both of them in favor of Jake Schum, who was the punter last year but was waived with a back injury during the offseason.
Zook said he’s looking forward to seeing Vogel kick Saturday during the team’s annual Family Night event at Lambeau Field.
“In the National Football League, consistency is a key. And he knows that,” Zook said. “I think he’s doing good. Once again, everything’s new. It’s like all the rookies. He gets a little added interest because he does handle the football. But I think so far he’s done a nice job.”
Guion still part of plans
Even with a four-game suspension looming to start the season and an offseason DUI arrest in Hawaii, veteran defensive lineman Letroy Guion apparently remains squarely in the Packers’ plans.
Asked why he has kept Guion on the roster despite multiple off-the-field issues, general manager Ted Thompson replied Wednesday, “Letroy’s made some mistakes, but we’re just not there yet.”
Guion’s four-game suspension is for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. He’ll start that suspension after camp ends and miss the first four regular-season games, but he can take part in all of training camp and all preseason games.
Asked how he’s coaching Guion with the suspension looming, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac replied, “I’m just treating him like I always have until I get some more direction from the people above me. I’m just coaching him as hard as I can and working him as hard as I can.”