Packers planning to rotate three defensive backs into 'star position'
GREEN BAY - There will be no shortage of player combinations in the Green Bay Packers' secondary this season, starting with the team’s season opener Sunday against New Orleans.
As far as defensive passing game coordinator Jerry Gray is concerned, he has options depending on what team the Packers are facing, and he plans on using all of them.
The “star” or slot position is a critical piece to new defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s scheme and Gray said the three options he has for that spot are cornerback Chandon Sullivan, cornerback Jaire Alexander and safety Darnell Savage.
"Come Sunday at 3:25, you’ll know who we're going to be lining up there,” Gray said.
Sullivan was the Packers’ slot man last year and practiced a great deal there during training camp, but Gray has the luxury of matching up players because he has enough depth in the secondary to fill whatever spots might be vacated.
He has three safeties who played a lot this camp in Savage, Adrian Amos and Henry Black and he has at least four corners in Alexander, Sullivan, Kevin King and rookie Eric Stokes who are capable of starting. Stokes is the only one lacking in experience, but he got a lot of practice time at the position when King was out with a hamstring pull.
Gray learned a lot about the speedy rookie and said he will find ways to use him because he has proved he belongs.
“At some point in time, Stokes is going to be on the field,” Gray said. “And they (veteran players) want to know, can he go out there and do what he's supposed to do and we not lose the game? I think that's what football players want to know, can you play at a high level?”
The Packers had three players on the injury report and the only one who did not practice was safety Vernon Scott (hamstring).
Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (back) took part on a limited basis and looks to be very questionable heading into the opener. It’s possible the medical staff is eyeing Week 2 for his return because he only started practicing Monday.
“He's doing better,” coach Matt LaFleur said before practice. “He'll be out there today in a little bit limited capacity. But I think we'll just give him the week and obviously we want to make sure that he continues to put back-to-back days together and comes out healthy and is feeling good.”
The other player on the injury report is nose tackle Tyler Lancaster (back), who was a limited participant.
The Packers’ medical and training staff has been emphasizing lots of fluid intake this week because its going to be hot and humid in Jacksonville on Sunday.
The hot temperatures here broke this week and it was a little chilly at practice Wednesday.
LaFleur doesn’t have a quota for what each player should drink, but he does have a requirement.
“Every time they pee, you want it to look clear,” he said.