Green Bay Packers cornerback Josh Gordy breaks up a pass attempt to tight end Jermichael Finley during training camp practice Tuesday at Ray Nitschke Field. / Jim Matthews/Press-Gazette
After an interception and a sack during garbage time in the preseason opener at Cleveland, the Green Bay Packers wanted to see Josh Gordy in action against guys that might actually make an NFL roster.
Sure enough in Friday’s second preseason game against Arizona, Gordy got the first crack to play behind the cornerback trio of starters Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson and nickel back Sam Shields.
Gordy didn’t make any splash plays, as cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt calls them.
“But he didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, either,” said Reggie McKenzie, the Packers’ director of football operations.
The first-year cornerback spent 10 weeks last season on the Packers’ practice squad, then was promoted to the roster on Dec. 1. He was active for two regular-season games, playing against San Francisco and Detroit on special teams, and was inactive for the final seven games, including the playoffs and Super Bowl XLV. Though he didn’t get any game action in 2010 on defense, he spent valuable time on the practice field and in the meeting room with veterans like Williams and Woodson.
His path to the NFL didn’t differ much from that of Williams, who was undrafted out of Louisiana Tech and waived by the Houston Texans. Williams spent nearly three months out of football before the Packers signed him to the practice squad. Gordy wasn’t drafted when he came out of Central Michigan in 2010 and signed with Jacksonville as a free agent. He spent about a month out of football after the Jaguars released him before final cuts before the Packers gave him a look.
At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, Gordy is even built like Williams (5-11, 191).
“He’s not a 6-1 or 6-2 corner like a Woodson,” McKenzie said. “He’s not that type, but when you look at guys on film and see how they compete and how they battle receivers, that’s what jumps out. So you automatically know he’ll compete on special teams, and he’ll get better. He’s quick enough, and he’s fast enough. So you give him a shot.”
On Friday, Gordy’s shot came at the expense of veteran Jarrett Bush and underachieving fourth-year pro Pat Lee. Bush has a place on the team as a special teams ace and as a versatile defensive back who can play safety or cornerback, although he has spent most of this preseason at corner. However, Lee may be sliding down the depth chart. While playing in the subpackage with the starters in the preseason opener, Lee gave up a 27-yard touchdown to Browns receiver Joshua Cribbs. Lee had decent position but never turned around to play the ball. Lee, a former second-round draft pick, has battled injury problems and has never been able to consistently contribute even as a backup.
So against the Cardinals, Gordy was elevated to the No. 4 cornerback spot, meaning he lined up in the dime defense and worked against slot receivers. Then, when Williams and Woodson left for the night in the second quarter, Gordy played on the outside in the base defense while Shields played on the other side. Later in the game, Gordy was paired with Lee, Bush and rookie Brandian Ross at different times.
Gordy finished with one tackle and wasn’t credited with any pass breakups. He said the one play he’d like to have back was a deep curl the Cardinals completed against him but otherwise felt he held up OK.
“He’s been playing well, and I think he did some good things out there,” Williams said. “I don’t know about making any big plays, but I think when we watch the film as far as assignments and things like that, he did a great job.”
When camp opened, Gordy was an afterthought. The Packers drafted a cornerback, Davon House from New Mexico State in the fourth round, and he seemed likely to push Bush and Lee for the No. 4 cornerback job. But House pulled a hamstring early in camp and has missed both preseason games. Without the benefit of any offseason program, House may be too far behind to be ready to play early in the season.
The combination of House’s injury and Lee failing to live up to expectations has opened the door for Gordy.
Gordy spent the offseason working out in Atlanta with NFL veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes, who has become Gordy’s mentor. The two went to the same high school, Washington County High School in Sandersville, Ga., although Gordy was in grade school when Spikes broke into the league.
“I stayed with him over the summer and worked out with him,” Gordy said. “He showed me a lot of great things off the field and on the field. Just talking to him, a 14-year vet, you can learn a lot from those guys.”
Gordy also learned a lot last season during his stint with the Packers. Though the lockout robbed him of his first chance to work out in the team’s offseason program, the former honors student in high school banked mega knowledge from last season.
“Coming in, there’s some things you already know and don’t have to worry about on the field,” Gordy said. “Now you can worry about recognizing formations rather than worry about your own play. When you know what the offense is doing, you can recognize plays that much faster.”
Who knows what will happen this week if House returns, but Gordy feels like he took advantage of his chance.
“I feel like I had a pretty good game and went out there and did what I could with the opportunity I was given,” Gordy said. “Coming off a good week last week, they said they wanted to see me earlier in the game against better competition, so they gave me an opportunity. Overall, I think I had a positive day.”
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