MINNEAPOLIS - It’s not like rookie cornerback Damarious Randall needs to talk more; that part of his game won’t ever be lacking.
But with starting cornerback Sam Shields out with a concussion against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday night, Randall takes on a role as the senior man at the position. None of the other full-time corners have played more downs on an island in critical situations than the 24-year-old Randall.
Against the Vikings, 2015 first-round pick is expected to assume the right corner spot that Shields has manned for the past four seasons and play in the slot in nickel and dime packages if defensive coordinator Dom Capers chooses to make a switch after Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter struggled there in the opener against Jacksonville.
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The Packers have other leaders in the secondary with safety Morgan Burnett and safety/dime corner Micah Hyde, but Randall is the Alpha in the cornerback room heading into this game
“’D’ is very talkative like I’ve always said,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said earlier this week. “But he’s a really smart kid. Sam doesn’t say much in there, so ‘D’ does most of the talking in the room anyway.
“So if Sam is in there or not, he’s going to lead the conversation of the group. But he studies more film than anybody else in the room. A lot like ‘Wood’ (Charles Woodson) used to do or Tramon (Williams) used to do, ‘Hey guys, I’ve seen this formation here. They’ve run this route a number of times. Look for that.’”
Randall got off to a very good start against the Jaguars.
He played all but four snaps on defense and 13 of 28 on special teams and finished with five tackles, including one for loss, and two pass break-ups on defense and one tackle on special teams.
He saved a touchdown by getting tight end Marcedes Lewis out of bounds on a long screen pass and was first on the scene on the critical fourth-and-one stop that sealed the Packers’ victory with 14 seconds left in the game.
It’s a similar start to his rookie season when the completion rate against him was Darrelle Revis-like. However, he couldn’t keep it up and said after the season that he wore down physically and mentally.
Whitt said he thinks Randall has started to take the next step in being a complete corner.
“He has started to take a leadership role,” Whitt said. “He has a ways to go there, but I’ve really been pleased with how he’s approached training camp into the season this year much different than last year.
“He’s really matured and he’s really taken the step that we need him to take to be the guy that we need him to be.”
And they'll definitely need him Sunday night at US Bank Stadium.