Confident Goodson eyes larger role in defense
Demetri Goodson doesn't want to say he was lost.
However, the learning curve was steep for the former Gonzaga point guard-turned-Green Bay Packers cornerback once he arrived at last year's organized team activities. When his position coach Joe Whitt shouted directions, sometimes a small panic would hit the sixth-round draft pick.
Goodson had questions but was afraid to raise his hand. He didn't want to draw attention for the wrong reason, especially when sharing a room with veterans like Tramon Williams and Jarrett Bush, who knew Dom Capers' defensive playbook inside and out.
"Coach would tell somebody like a certain thing to do and I'd be like, 'I have no idea what he's talking about,'<TH>" Goodson said. "I was scared to say something because I don't want to feel stupid or anything like that."
The 5-foot-11, 197-pounder remained on the fringe of the 53-man roster, competing with practice-squad holdover Jumal Rolle for a reserve role behind Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House and Bush.
The Packers bet on Goodson's upside and sent Rolle back to the practice squad. A few weeks later, Rolle signed with Houston where he finished with 19 tackles and three interceptions in 10 games.
Goodson was inactive for all but one game through November. He didn't play a defensive snap all season, but his athleticism showed on special teams. He finished the year seventh in coverage-team tackles (six) despite playing only six games.
"He really jumps out at me on special teams," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think at corner he's still learning more of not what to do, but the identification and what the guy on the other side of the line of scrimmage is doing, he's definitely making progress. Extremely competitive and obviously an excellent athlete. He's definitely moving forward."
When the season was over, Goodson went back to Waco, Texas, to train for his second season. He turns 26 this offseason and knew he'd need to contribute more in 2015.
Training with friends and former teammates, Goodson worked on his press technique, tracking deep balls and defending against the slant. Goodson tried to take what he'd learned from Whitt to improve his backpedaling through drills and weaves. He also hit the weights hard. Really hard.
"I didn't really take a break," Goodson said. "I just kind of worked out every day, doing drills, ball drills. I put on I think 13 pounds in muscle. Just staying focused on football. When football wasn't here, it was key for me in making that next jump because I felt that I was going to have to come back in and play."
He was right. Williams and House signed elsewhere in the offseason. Bush, 31, remains a free agent. Instead of bringing in another high-priced free agent, the Packers bet on Whitt to bring along another collection of young cornerbacks.
They drafted Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins with their first two picks, but the organization likes bringing rookies along slowly during the offseason program. So it's been Goodson who's been lining up on the boundary across from Shields on the first-team defense.
Extra reps in the offseason don't mean you've secured a starting job. Two years ago, running back Alex Green started the summer taking snaps ahead of Eddie Lacy. By the end of camp, Green had been released and Lacy was anointed the bell cow.
It helps with confidence, though. Goodson isn't able to press in the noncontact practices, but he's challenging receivers on routes. Last season, he consistently went against Jordy Nelson on the scout team. Now, it's time to show what he learned from those experiences.
"I was nervous last year, to tell you the truth," Goodson said. "Not scared-nervous, but just nervous being on a whole new team and not really knowing what to go off of. This year, I feel confident coming back and having that whole year to get better. Going up against Jordy every day in practice got me a lot better. So I definitely feel like I'm ready."
Goodson stops himself when he says he felt lost as a rookie. Instead, he admits to battling confidence issues. After transferring to play football at Baylor in 2011, he had only two full seasons to relearn a position he hadn't played since high school. The jump to the pros was even more drastic.
Now, he feels ready to compete for playing time and defensive backs will be needed. Goodson saw how quickly players can go down after Williams and Shields left within a few plays of each other in Miami last season, and the defense had to react quickly.
Whether he stays in that spot on the perimeter or not, Goodson has his eyes on the quarterback and a larger role this season.
"I feel like when I first got here, I was learning how to play corner. Now, I feel like I'm an actual cornerback," Goodson said. "Playing cornerback isn't just going out there and just covering guys. It's a lot more thinking involved.
"I feel like I got 10 times smarter than I was last year. Last year, I was out here just holding people. Now, I'm thinking with the game."
-- email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod