Is Sam Shields an elite corner? Packers want Pro Bowl DB to evolve

Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields, who signed a four-year, $39 million contract last offseason, made his first Pro Bowl in 2014. (He was chosen as an alternate to replace the Super Bowl bound Darrelle Revis). To hear cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt tell it, Shields was indeed one of the NFL's top corners, but not quite elite.

“Last year, I thought the top four corners in the league were, not in any order, (Richard) Sherman, (Darrelle) Revis, Brent Grimes and Vontae (Davis). I think, if he does the things that we were working on, he (Shields) can be in that conversation," Whitt said, per

“Those four were clearly better and then there was a group of around 12 — he's in that group of 12 to 14, in my opinion. How do you get in that top four with Brent Grimes, Revis and Sherman and Vontae Davis? How do you do that? That's the question.”

The answer to that question, apparently, is having Shields occasionally shadow No. 1 receivers all over the field rather than strictly sticking to the right side, which the Packers plan on experimenting with next season. “I'm going to give him an opportunity over there. I just know he's made most of his impact from the right. He's going to have to match, so he's going to have to play left and right this year, anyway," Whitt said. "We're going to put him where he need him … and where I feel he's going to be most productive.”

With Shields as the primary defender there, the Packers led the NFL in defensive DVOA on passes to the right side of the field last season, according to Football Outsiders. Given that they were 23rd on passes to the left side and 29th on passes to the middle of the field, it does make some degree of sense to give Shields a chance at shadowing.

The Packers lost Tramon Williams and Davon House from last year's team and Casey Hayward is coming off an injury, so Shields is the only healthy cornerback on the roster with much experience. Green Bay took Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins in the draft and hopes are obviously high for the pair, but it's not often that rookie corners make a huge, immediate impact. Shields, then, is going to have a whole lot of responsibility in Dom Capers' defense. We'll see if he's up for it.

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