Newly-signed Randall 'most talented' of young CBs
The Green Bay Packers announced the signing of first-round cornerback Damarious Randall on Tuesday, the last unsigned rookie from last month's draft class.
Contract details were not immediately available for Randall, who played safety for two seasons at Arizona State but is transitioning to cornerback with the Packers. Since returning from an ankle injury that forced him to miss rookie orientation, the 30th overall pick from this year's draft has impressed coaches.
Randall is one of three young cornerbacks distinguishing themselves in the competition behind starters Sam Shields and Casey Hayward, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said Tuesday.
With a foot injury keeping Hayward out of practice during the Packers' opening day of minicamp Tuesday, Randall got the first crack of first-team cornerback reps opposite Shields. He's in the mix with second-round cornerback Quinten Rollins and undrafted rookie LaDarius Gunter, both of whom also got first-team reps.
"That group in particular," Whitt said, "has sort of separated themselves from the group of eight young guys. Now, one of those three got to separate themselves from those three guys, which who that'll be, I don't know. They all have talent.
"D (Randall) is probably the most talented of those three, but Q has great instincts. He's probably the most instinctual, and Gunt probably has the most technique right now, but they all have a long ways to go."
Gunter is the biggest surprise of the young trio.
At the NFL scouting combine in February, Gunter ran a 4.69-second, 40-yard dash. His poor test results were a major reason he was undrafted out of the University of Miami.
Whitt said he isn't concerned with Gunter's speed. On the practice field, he said, Gunter has shown a knack for locking down on receivers.
"He's shown to me that he deserves an opportunity to be in the conversation with those other two guys with how he's played. So he's going to be given that opportunity," Whitt said. "… He hasn't been giving up completions. He's just done a nice job. He has a long ways to go, too."
While Randall's physical talent has exceeded the Packers' crop of young cornerbacks – and physical talent often is most important in the NFL – Whitt said he's impressed with Rollins' natural feel for the position.
It's a surprising compliment, considering Rollins is only entering his second season at cornerback. He never spent time at the position before last season, his lone year playing football at Miami University.
Whitt said Rollins reminds him of Hayward, a ball hawk who routinely makes plays in the Packers' secondary. He said the rookie needs experience, and he must continue to learn the defense. When his knowledge catches up to his instincts, Whitt said Rollins could be a special player.
"Some guys have just instincts," Whitt said, "some guys run fast. That's just a trait that God gave them. I hope that when he understands what he's really doing, that it'll take him that much further. For a guy that right now is playing so much on instincts and feel, once he really understands defensive football and what the quarterbacks think and where he fits in the defense, and where he wants to send the ball, once he understands it he can be a high intercept-type guy like Casey."
For all the praise they received from their position coach Tuesday, each rookie still has a long way go. They are not only transitioning to professional football, but also the Packers' defense.
Still, it could be an intense battle to be the team's third cornerback when training camp opens next month.
"It's so early right now," Whitt said. "I can tell you this, I like the effort that they've been giving. I've already talked about the instincts of Quinten, the athletic ability of D, but we have to get those instincts and that athletic ability doing what we want them to do and understanding where our help is, understanding what techniques we're playing in, and why. But I can see they're both really smart kids, and they're working hard."
-- firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood