Reps Paying off in the form of Experience for Ladarius Gunter

 The Packers sure do love their undrafted cornerbacks.

Ever since Tramon Williams and Sam Shields became a household names after their iconic performance(s) in the 2011 playoffs and other regular season affairs,  the "undrafted" concept in players that make the trek to Green Bay has always been illuminated.

Currently, Josh Hawkins, Ladarius Gunter and Shields, now a veteran, remain as the only undrafted corners on the roster. Hawkins has only seen eight defensive snaps in the last five games combined and Shields isn't able to be activated from injured reserve until week 15 for a concussion he suffered in the season-opener.

As a result, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins remain as the next duo to serve as the primary starters — until they suffered injuries of their own. A thin secondary has been the story of the year so far for the Packers, as have the piling injuries at other positions.

This left Gunter and Demetri Goodson, who missed the first four games due to suspension, to help commandeer the pass defense. As a result, the Packers have allowed 1730 yards passing through their first seven games. That ranks as just the 13th-most in the league, serving as a testament to how servicable the young group has been. The 13 touchdowns they've surrendered puts them in a deadheat tie with the Chiefs for 20th-most, and opposing quarterbacks have completed 63.2 percent of their passes against this secondary. Good for 18th of the 32 teams.

Gunter has played the most snaps of any of the Packers' cornerbacks through the last three games. In the process, he faced receivers the likes of Terrance Williams, Alshon Jeffery and Julio Jones. He even occasionally shadowed the Cowboys' human security blanket in Jason Witten for a good portion of their week six match-up.

In his most recent showing, Gunter remained plastered on Jones for a majority of the Packers' loss to the Falcons and helped limit him to just three receptions for less than 30 yards. While his performance flew under the radar, the secondary as a whole faced their fair share of struggles in Atlanta, en route to Matt Ryan carrying out a near-300-yard day.

Gunter was a prime contributor in the preseason last year and ultiamtely helped earn him a 53-man roster spot. However, just last August, Gunter was flirting with disaster and in danger of losing that spot going into 2016 with a less than optimal showing in the first three preseason games. In the finale against Kansas City, he showcased his 6'2" frame — considered oversized for a corner, and elevated with a 33.5 registered vertical leap to intercept Aaron Murray.

Since, Gunter has steadily improved in pass coverage and has even showcased a versatile ability to cover in the slot, which is where he picked off Murray in the preseason. There's obvious, quality talent in Gunter, as evidenced by his 350 defensive snaps played in 2016. That's 81.4 percent of the team's total defensive snaps and more than any other corner on the roster. The only two players he sits behind are Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who has played every single defensive snap for the Packers this season.

The more repetition the undrafted cornerback out of Miami sees, the more accustomed he'll be to securing top-tier skill position players. With Micah Hyde playing more nickel corner in the last few games and likely to continue doing so moving forward, Gunter will have more help on the back-end until Rollins and Randall are ready to return to the lineup. 

In the meantime, some grey areas of social media have critiqued Gunter for his "snappy" responses to reporters in his post-practice interviews. "Snobby" or "rude" some may call his demeanor, but truthfully, there's obvious frustration in the second-year Gunter. Frustration with himself.

There's only so much one corner can do in coverage, but as a collective group, the 247 yards the defense has allowed per game this season, which is below the league average, is unacceptable. At least in Gunter's eyes.

This kind of mindset may be the spark needed to ignite a young player who was tossed into a leading role to increase his studying, increase his work input and his understanding of the game and his assignments. Gunter has his own destiny before him and under the coaching of Joe Whitt Jr., whose unit has recorded 80 interceptions since he took over as the cornerbacks coach in 2009. The Packers have yet to create many turnovers in 2016, tallying just five. Three of them from linebackers.

A tune that the Packers will hope to change as they prepare for their third meeting with the Colts in eight years. A team who commandeers a ninth-ranked passing attack in terms of total yardage and can provide a series of speedy tests for Gunter and company.

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (31)

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NickPerry's picture

November 03, 2016 at 05:41 am

If Gunter plays the way he did against Atlanta the rest of the way, I could care less how he treats the media. He's the one CB that can get "Physical" with a WR, the Packers will need that moving forward.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 03, 2016 at 06:36 am

Gunter may end up being the best CB out of the trio of Randall, Rollins, Gunter that came from last years draft. Time will tell. Randall and Rollins are still young in experience. I really like the future of our CB position though.

He has the size to be able to match up against the bigger WR's. We really haven't had a CB like him for a while. He really stepped up his game against 2 of the better WRs in the league. Jones arguably is the best, and he was essentially a non factor in the game..

It will be interesting to see who Gunter lines up against the Colts. If Hilton plays I hope Gunter doesn't line up against him because I don't think he is fast enough to stay with Hilton. Gunter would be a better matchup for Moncrief.

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NickPerry's picture

November 03, 2016 at 06:51 am

Isn't julio Jones as fast as Hilton? No matter Hilton is much, much "Quicker" than Jones and that could be scary against Hilton since Gunter is so long. I agree he'd be better matched up on Moncrief. Rollins practiced yesterday and a "Limited" basis but Goodson was out (Concussion).

Can Brice play CB or is he just a Safety? The way that kid tackles he'd definitely cause some fumbles, an ability that seems to have left the Packers since the days of Woodson and Company.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:00 am

Jones might be faster then Hilton. I am not sure off hand what their 40 times were. But yeah, Hilton is so quick and fast.

From what I have heard it sounds like the 'plan' was to play Rollins against the Colts. Hopefully he can come back especially if Goodson can't play.

I have wondered that. If Brice can play CB. I am not sure if he can or not. He has the speed just not sure if he can run backwards fast enough or not.
But they have to find ways to get him on the field. Honestly I would consider putting him at ILB or come up with some other packages. I haven't seen a safety that can hit like him since probably Atari Bigby. And I think Brice hits harder. I still don't know how he went undrafted.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:03 am

Goodson is out of practice now too?

Did someone bring a goat into the CB team room?

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:08 am

Goodson apparently suffered a concussion at some point during the game. Or displayed symptoms of one after the game.

The good news is that Rollins practiced. Even if it was limited, that is good news.

We can't afford to have anymore injuries to the CB position though.

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dobber's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:29 am

The Colts listed Hilton as a DNP yesterday with a hamstring issue. Once you get past him, Dorsett is a speed guy but has been a nonfactor in two seasons.

The Colts are beat up, too, with 9 guys listed as DNPs, including Hilton, their top cover corner Vontae Davis, a starter at safety, DE and both guards (on an already terrible OL). The Packers need to exploit that really bad Indy OL and pound Andrew Luck this weekend. Period. He's a big guy who can run, but he's no Cam Newton. This is the week to reverse the Atlanta approach, send guys after Luck, and let your DBs cover.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:34 am

I heard that Hilton may not play. Which would be good for us. That type of WR we have struggled covering.

I agree they need to attack a lot more. They don't have the rushing threat that Atlanta had either. They don't have the dominant WR like Atlanta has either. Gunter should be able to take on whoever he is lined up against without a lot of safety help. Freeing the Safety's to roam more.

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L's picture

November 03, 2016 at 11:12 am

Did the Packers not constantly role the safety over the top of Jones all game long? If so, I think that may have played a pretty big factor into why Jones was limited since M.Ryan has typically taken what defenses are giving him this year. Not to take away from Gunter's defense on him, but I think he was getting a lot of help. In all honesty I wasn't paying enough attention to how our defense was defending him every snap to say for sure, but I did notice it often enough.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:10 pm

I'm trying to be kind here. From the tone of this article, it almost sounds like we don't need Randall and Rollins back. We do, big time. Capers has had to change the nature of his defense to cover up the inadequacies of the CBs.

I think there is little chance of Gunter being better than either Rollins or Randall. This article really puts the most positive light on Gunter's performance.

Dorsett ran a 4.33 forty at the combine (and a 4.28 at his pro day -that is about a normal differential btw pro day and combine). Hilton ran a 4.34 * (pro day - so figure him at about 4.39 combine time). Hilton and Dorsett about both about 5'9" tall and 183 and 185 pounds. Moncrief ran a 4.40, but is big and strong (6'2: and 220 - full disclosure - Moncrief was my draft crush and was still available when TT took Adams over Moncrief. [Julio Jones ran a 4.42, but that is very good speed at 6'3" and 220 pounds. He is quick too, with a 6.66 3-cone.] Hilton may not play. Dorsett, despite his speed, is allergic to the middle of the field and isn't really all that good of a receiver. That doesn't mean he can't burn us. Both are little.

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EdsLaces's picture

November 03, 2016 at 06:53 am

5 picks all year .....wow that's so low for a team that used to take so many balls away the last few years.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:01 am

They have dropped way to many interceptions. They should probably have about 15 or so by now.
The good news is that the players have gotten their hands on balls. The bad news is they haven't completed the play.

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Finwiz's picture

November 03, 2016 at 12:59 pm

RCPacker - exactly, they have dropped quite a few, especially in the last couple games. The diff between those players that can just cover and knock down a pass, vs. those that can cover, play the ball, and intercept is 4th-5th round talent vs. mid 1st round talent. It's all about talent, and the Pack has nobody in the secondary that can anticipate in pass coverage like Charles Woodson could. He has never been replaced, nor has Nick Collins. Ha-Ha is good, but he doesn't have the talent or experience yet to "see the play" and get to where the ball is going, like Nick could.

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NickPerry's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:28 am

This might make you feel a little better Ed... The Colts only have 2 interceptions all season AND have the worst Offensive Line in Football, even worse than the Vikings!!

Luck has been sacked 31 times already, the Packers should have plenty of chances to not only sack Luck, but hit him as he releases the ball for some possible easy interceptions. Nothing like a Bad O-Line to get a defense going. To bad Lacy isn't healthy, he'd have run for 200 yards against that run Defense.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:37 am

This maybe a good week to try and get Jackson going. We need a rushing threat. Jackson has ran hard, just hasn't had a lot of attempts. 6 attempts in 2 games is not very much to determine how good a player is.
With Davis being cut, and Montgomery/Cobb hurt, this could be the week we see a lot more of Jackson.

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TarynsEyes's picture

November 03, 2016 at 09:40 am

I guess your namesake should be able to pad his stats and look like a Pro Bowl and Hall OF Fame this game....no offensive line, little offense if any...right up Perry's alley....with or without Matthews.

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NMPF's picture

November 03, 2016 at 11:19 am

Damn, would be nice if he does.

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Oppy's picture

November 04, 2016 at 10:03 am

#tearsfortaryn

I'm actually impressed with how insecure you are because you were incorrect about your loud assertions nick perry was a complete failure at OLB.

It's like you can't help yourself.

Just say it.. "I was mistaken about nick perry". It's okay, you're not a pro personnel scout. You won't lose your job over it. You'll feel better.

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croatpackfan's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:08 am

When you look at the 2015 draft, there was several very valuable players drafted - to remind you 1st and 2nd pick 2 Randall and Rollins, 3rd was Ty Montgomery, 4th Jake Ryan, 5th Brett Hundley, 6th Rip and Ringo, UDFA Gunter and Thomas - what a draft - all of them are now valuable players for the Packers...

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Tundraboy's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:57 am

Good to see Gunter playing,and playing well. Too bad it takes injuries to get young players some reps and game experience. With a young developmental team, giving them playing time in the early part of season pays down the road. Hoping to see more of Davis, Rip and of course Janis. Talent needs game experience to improve. Its not like we ever trade for anyone to help out. Brice should be next.

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Razer's picture

November 03, 2016 at 08:45 am

Tells you a lot about Joe Whitt.

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Tundraboy's picture

November 03, 2016 at 10:45 am

Sure does. Our best coach imo. Always gets the most out of what we have, even Goodson.

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NickPerry's picture

November 03, 2016 at 04:50 pm

He IS our best coach eh Tundra? Joe Whitt, it shocks me every season another team doesn't try and snatch him up. I hope he never leaves us!!

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Christopher Gennaro's picture

November 03, 2016 at 03:18 pm

all i hope is that with calls for capers head, we dont let this man go if there is purge in off season.

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stockholder's picture

November 03, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Why do I get the feeling TT is going to draft another CB/s in rd.1 this year. Must be he doesn't like RB's, doesn't like Lbs until rd. 3. No DE= great game changer will be around at the 20-32 picks. The offensive line is complete.

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Tundraboy's picture

November 03, 2016 at 01:14 pm

All normal. Add TEs to list. Like waiting so long to replace Collins, Woodson, Finley.....

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Finwiz's picture

November 03, 2016 at 01:16 pm

I think they will go after a CB early, but only IF they can find someone that has above average ability - somebody that can make plays. They don't need adequate or average, they have plenty of those, and a few that don't even belong. Drafting 25 or below in the 1st round, I'm not confident they're going to find one of these instinctive type CB's.

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al bundy's picture

November 03, 2016 at 01:28 pm

My take has always been, players that can play play. Mathews didnt need three years of part time play to suit up.
If Gunther was any good he would have been out there long ago. It aint when your picked, or shouldnt be, but can you show us something when you get a chance in practice, etc.
I say he is playing because we have no choice otherwise he would be fill in.

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Tundraboy's picture

November 03, 2016 at 05:36 pm

Not always so cut and dry. Some need time to adjust Depends on position etc. Lots and Lots of factors. Matthews stepped into a perfect situation.

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stockholder's picture

November 03, 2016 at 06:55 pm

Mathews was a need. TT also traded up. TT does his best with NEED. I feel he should have kept trading up during those years after Mathews.

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4thand1's picture

November 03, 2016 at 07:53 pm

Maybe Joe Whitt could suit up.

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