Although Tramon Williams was the Packers’ No. 1 cornerback in 2012, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be back there in 2013.
That much was assured as Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt discussed the increased competition among the team’s cornerback contingent, which blossomed with the addition of defensive rookie of the year candidate Casey Hayward and maturation of third-year cornerback Sam Shields this season.
Whitt went on to say the 29-year-old Williams isn’t on the downside of his career, but championed the production from the team’s youngsters whom he expects to push for top billing in the secondary next season.
“I tell you what, the group is going to be very competitive moving forward,” Whitt said. “We have a number of guys that it’s going to be interesting who the guys are going to be that run out there Day 1 because right now I couldn’t tell you who’s going to do what because of the way that Sam and Casey have played and with Tramon and House there, there are four guys that are vying for two spots, maybe three with nickel. It’ll be interesting to see who gets them.”
After having his 2011 season derailed by a lingering nerve and shoulder injuries, Williams took steps towards recapturing his 2010 form, a campaign that earned him his first Pro Bowl nod and a contract extension that runs through 2014.
A healthy Willliams returned to form this season. He was tabbed as a Pro Bowl alternate after tallying 61 tackles, 16 pass deflections and two interceptions, but struggled in two of the team’s last three games this season.
Across from Williams, there was room for plenty of competition for the starting spot in the team’s 3-4 base defense. Throughout the course of the season, the role bounced from veteran Jarrett Bush to second-year pro Davon House to Shields to Hayward and finally back to Shields, who had a breakthrough year after suffering his own setback in 2011.
Hayward, who had six interceptions this season, also filled nicely into the team’s slot corner spot after 36-year-old Charles Woodson was lost for two months with a broken collarbone.
Going into the offseason, Whitt believes all four players have what it takes to figure into next year’s starting secondary equation at a position that’s quickly become one of the Packers’ deepest units.
“I believe in not allowing anybody to be comfortable,” Whitt said. “We don’t work in a business that you can get comfortable and so the guys, we’ll always say, their play will dictate who runs through the tunnel. The guys that play the best will play, that practice the best, that have the best tests. We’re about winning championships, and we fell short. And that’s our charge. We’re going to put the guys out there that are doing the best. If it’s a different guy each week, that’s what it will be. We’re going to do that.”