GREEN BAY – Damarious Randall needed to make a play.
A week after Stefon Diggs burned him in Minnesota, the Green Bay Packers' second-year cornerback was having more problems. Detroit Lions receiver Marvin Jones beat Randall down the right sideline for 38 yards. Not the way Randall envisioned bouncing back Sunday.
He could’ve sulked. Especially when Lions tight end Eric Ebron appeared to have a reception two plays later. Instead, Randall made an adjustment, stealing the football from Ebron and returning his first interception of the season 44 yards.
From getting burned to making a highlight, all in two plays.
“That’s life for a cornerback in the NFL,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “The thing I was proud of Damarious (on Sunday) is, you saw when they threw the fade, he was right here and the receiver made the play, but he came back a play or two later and stole the ball off him. That’s what you have to do. You have to have that kind of temperament, that kind of attitude.”
For two weeks, quarterbacks have picked on Randall.
He has learned life isn’t easy as a top cornerback. With Sam Shields stuck in the concussion protocol, Randall has assumed top coverage responsibilities. It hasn’t always gone smoothly.
Diggs caught nine passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. On Sunday, Jones finished with six catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns.
Randall wasn’t responsible for every catch and each yard. Jones’ 73-yard score before halftime Sunday came when rookie corner Josh Hawkins stumbled, then missed a tackle. But more often than not, Diggs and Jones were Randall’s responsibility.
Yes, he’s given up big plays. Capers is staying patient with his young corner.
“You’re not going to make every play,” Capers said. “They’re going to get some plays in there on you as a corner, especially. You’ve got to find a way to come back and make your plays, and he did that almost back-to-back.”
Without the veteran Shields, the Packers’ cornerback position is mostly a three-headed rotation of second-year players. Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter come from different pedigrees. Randall and Rollins were the Packers’ first- and second-round picks in 2015, while Gunter signed as an undrafted free agent.
Now, their distinctions have been more blurred. While Randall struggled, Capers said he was most pleased Sunday with Gunter.
“He probably played the best of our group there (against the Lions),” Capers said. “I thought he did a nice job in his press coverage. He had good technique, got his hands on the receivers and did a good job”
Gunter had a chance to intercept Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the end zone. Shadowing Jones in the end zone, Gunter turned his head and had the football slip through his hands, hitting his helmet before bouncing incomplete.
“He just didn’t come up with the ball,” Capers said. “I think he’s like all of these young guys. The more they play, the better they get. We had a lot of them out there yesterday.”
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