Don’t Forget About Carrington Valentine in the Battle for the Packers Starting Cornerback Job

While Eric Stokes has looked fast at Green Bay Packers OTAs, fans should not forget that Stokes doesn’t have the starting corner spot opposite Jaire Alexander wrapped up just yet. He is in a battle with Carrington Valentine who surprised a lot of people with his strong play as a rookie a year ago.

GM Brian Gutekunst selected Valentine in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft with the 232nd overall pick. Valentine got himself noticed right away.

During training camp, head coach Matt LaFleur spoke highly of his rookie cornerback. “He’s extremely athletic, has made those splash plays,” LaFleur told reporters. “I love how he competes. He goes out there and challenges it. You can coach him hard [and] he’s receptive to the coaching. I think we have a good young player right there…I think he’s got a great attitude…I think this kid is very, very talented, and he has to continue to build on his early success.

Valentine did just that. The early success continued into the preseason. In his first preseason contest, Valentine made four tackles and intercepted a pass. It was a big moment for the former Kentucky star as the game was being played in Cincinnati, the closest NFL stadium to his college campus.

Once the regular season started, Valentine continued to exceed expectations. Not only did Valentine make the team, but he was also starting by Week 3 due in part to injuries to Stokes and Alexander.

For the season, Valentine played in all 17 games for the Pack and started 12 of them. He made 44 total tackles and broke up nine passes. He also recovered one fumble against the Giants and returned it for 50 yards. Valentine also started both playoff games for the Packers.

For his rookie season, Valentine showed promise. According to pro-football-reference.com, opposing quarterbacks completed 57.6 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Valentine and had a quarterback rating of 84.8.

Valentine’s strengths included his physicality. At times, he was a little too physical and took some penalties as a result. To get to the next level, he will have to learn exactly where he can draw the line when making contact with opposing receivers.

Heading into this year’s NFL Draft, many experts thought the Packers would add a cornerback, possibly even in the early rounds. But before the draft, Gutekunst spoke about how he felt about the cornerbacks already on the roster and mentioned Valentine in particular.

“I think he showed last year that he was [capable of starting],” Gutekunst said. “He played very consistent football for us, and I think his best football is ahead of him, like a lot of our guys. He needs to get a little bit stronger, and I think he will. But I think the positions we put him in this past season, he answered the bell quite a bit throughout. Some of those were on short notice. And to come in and compete like he did, you don't see that a lot out of seventh-round players. He had a lot of belief in himself and when the opportunities came, he certainly capitalized on them.”

Gutekunst surprised many people when he didn’t select a cornerback until the seventh round of this year’s draft.

After the draft, Gutekunst again expressed his confidence in the talent at cornerback and Valentine’s potential. “Obviously, Valentine played exceptionally well last year for us, and Eric [Stokes] looks very good right now,” Gutekunst said. “We brought back Corey Ballentine, who played some really good football for us. So, I like our depth there. I feel pretty good about it. We wouldn’t have shied away from adding if it would’ve felt that way, but it just didn’t. At the same time, I didn’t feel an overwhelming need to be aggressive toward that position because I really like the guys in that room.”

That means that Stokes and Valentine will be battling for the starting position on the perimeter opposite Alexander. Don’t bet against Valentine putting up a good fight for the starting job or even winning it. All he’s done so far since joining the Packers has been going out and proving skeptics wrong.

 

PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO OUR CHEESEHEAD NATION WEEKLY NEWSLETTER HERE.

__________________________

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

__________________________

NFL Categories: 
4 points
 

Comments (16)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
splitpea1's picture

June 08, 2024 at 12:53 pm

I think Valentine is in the driver's seat for that starting spot, and "what have you done for me lately?" is the primary reason. After being a non-factor for half a season and largely unavailable for the next season and a half, Stokes has a lot to prove; that's not to rag on him, but just to say that it's been a while since we've seen the availability and consistent play we need out of him. Hopefully Stokes will be highly motivated to prove the doubters wrong and be an attractive option for whomever in the next market.

6 points
6
0
WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 09, 2024 at 11:21 am

Packer fans wanna give up on guys so early, particularly when injury hits. Like Adams, who many wanted to dump after year two. Or even Kenny Clark and Rashan Gary who weren’t stars out of the gate. You want whomever has the highest ceiling out there, and Gutey believes competition will raise the level of everyone’s play. Given a 17 game season, they’ll likely need everyone at that spot on the roster, with guys either getting banged up or seriously hurt. It’s nice to feel they have some depth when injury hits. And after years of finding un drafted gems like Tramon and Sam Shields, it’s great to see Valentine look the part as a 7th rounder. Maybe King will have a similar trajectory.

I think the whole point of the competition is nobody is in the driver’s seat this early in the off season. They have seen Stokes play well and want to see if he can get to that level now that he’s healed up. I’m all for that. You gotta get the most out of your 1st round picks, even if you have to let them go in free agency for a comp pick.

1 points
1
0
splitpea1's picture

June 09, 2024 at 09:50 pm

Good points.

0 points
0
0
Leatherhead's picture

June 08, 2024 at 01:36 pm

I think he played well enough last year that the team was comfortable trading away Rasul Douglas.

On paper, with everybody healthy, we can put good DBs on the field. I wonder if we'll see it. How many games did Savage-Alexander-Stokes all start together over the last 3 years?

-2 points
0
2
LambeauPlain's picture

June 08, 2024 at 04:03 pm

Competition! Makes you and everyone on your team better. Gute talks often about wanting competition on the team.

That's what he gave Hafley and Ansley for the DB room.

If I were Hafley, I would make sure Alexander knew he is also in the competition with Stokes and Valentine to start at CB in the New Pack Attack D.

Valentine was a talented scrapper at Kentucky. Did drop in the draft because his aggressive play earned some PI's. I think he improved on the penalty front last year. Don't you think Hafley is going to like his aggressive play? He's going to be hard to keep on the bench.

Packers DB room suddenly has some good prospects to compete with Nixon for Slot too. Who knows...maybe Nixon competes some at the boundary CB with the new D. Nixon's coverage skills first took off last season. He's only 26, has speed, quickness and is tough.

I also wonder how Hafley and Ansley view the skillsets of Johnson, Jr and Oladapo. Johnson has played a lot of CB and S...Oladapo has great size and decent speed for slot.

McKinney, Alexander, Valentine, Stokes, Nixon, Johnson, Jr, Bullard, Williams, Oladapo. Lots of talent for multiple combinations on the field.

2 points
3
1
dobber's picture

June 08, 2024 at 05:31 pm

CBs get hurt, it's jut the way it is. Teams need a room full to get through a season. Even if Stokes wins the job out of camp, Valentine will get a share of snaps.

7 points
7
0
Coldworld's picture

June 09, 2024 at 10:07 am

Precisely. If you don’t have at least 3 competent perimeter CBs that is a problem. It’s a position where attrition is normal. I don’t care who starts, I do care that at least 3 legitimately demonstrate an argument to.

Ideally we have 5 that we would not panic if they had to start a game. Thats why Ballentine is back. Rochell and King seem the best prospects to provide the 5th option, though King may project better as slot depth, now and in the longer term

Slot is a different question. Under Hafley it looks to be almost a small safety role that will be very active in the run game. That suggests different options in sub packages depending on the opponent and game position. We could see Bullard in there or a true corner at times. It also suggests that injuries may mean we need alternative starters.

If Valentine can move in there competently in game, that’s a win. It may mean we don’t have to have a back up slot corner active or mess up our safety rotation plans/options. I suspect that Hafley will use Nixon significantly but that we see safeties and perhaps other CBs in sub packages even if Nixon is healthy.

It remains to be seen how well many of the less heralded DBs, rookies and returning players, show over the summer and what attributes those that do have. That will likely have a role in shaping our options come September.

1 points
1
0
NFLfan's picture

June 08, 2024 at 07:34 pm

CB room is my biggest concern. I don't think Valentine, Nixon and Stokes are comparable to those on the strongest teams.
The Safety position looks strong, though.

0 points
3
3
bossofallbosses's picture

June 08, 2024 at 11:41 pm

Here's the CB room:
1.) JA best CB in the NFL (when healthy).
2.) Ballentine #2 in the NFL in completion percentage allowed last season. He locked up Justin Jefferson last year.
3.) Valentine #4 in the NFL in completion percentage allowed last season.
4.) Stokes: Only had one healthy season in his rookie year in which he had a PFF rating of 84 in man coverage.
5.) Nixon: Although he's had great highs and lows he finished the season strong and dominated Debo and CD Lamb in the postseason.
6.) Kalen King: First round talent for a CB but had a bad final season so he dropped to the 7th round.

Overall the team was 4th in PFF rating last season in man to man press coverage. Thankfully they'll be playing more of this than any team in the league next year.

As for the safety group you have probably the best FS in the NFL in Mckinney but after that it's mainly unproven rookies. I like Bullard but we just don't now how he'll be this season.

2 points
3
1
vin0770's picture

June 09, 2024 at 04:02 pm

I’m with you, I know there’s lots of love out there for Nixon but I thought he was a wildcard out there last year. You couldn’t count on him being in the right place and it jumped off the screen. Incredible athlete just needs to learn where to be, angles and leverage and be reliable in his role.

0 points
0
0
TKWorldWide's picture

June 08, 2024 at 07:53 pm

Cover guys and pass rushers: can’t have too many of either.
GPG!

4 points
4
0
LeotisHarris's picture

June 08, 2024 at 09:21 pm

Alliterations almost write themselves with the versatile Valentine vying for a starting cornerback position.

4 points
4
0
CheeseEdWest2's picture

June 09, 2024 at 10:21 am

Valentine's efforts will not in be in Vain, for the Value and Veracity of such shall one day Vindicate the Vigilant and the Virtuous.

3 points
3
0
Ferrari-Driver's picture

June 09, 2024 at 09:45 am

I think Alexander, Valentine, and Stokes are all players who will thrive with press coverage and I think Hafley has that in his plans. I hope I never see our Packers corner backs playing 10 yards off the line on third and three again. I think we have three corner backs who are going to be quality starters on the outside this season and that is a good thing...a very good thing.

3 points
3
0
bossofallbosses's picture

June 09, 2024 at 02:17 pm

Packers were 4th in the NFL last year in press man coverage. That's without the top 2 most talented man to man cover corners in JA and Stokes as neither were close to full health and Stokes missed like 95% of the season. JA is the best man to man CB in the NFL. Stokes in his rookie season had a 84 PFF score in man to man coverage.

Valentine and Ballentine were top 5 in the NFL (all CB's) in completion percentage against them (50%-51%).

Nixon is by far the qeakest link in terms of the stats (PFF, completion percentage, etc). However as a man covering the slot he had more snaps, more targets than any DB. Also, the routes are mostly easier underneath routes that he's covering. Lastly, I thought he did a fantastic job on Debo and CD Lamb in the postseason.

Overall this might be the best CB group in the NFL under this man to man press coverage system. I'd love to see King make the team this season.

2 points
2
0
LLCHESTY's picture

June 09, 2024 at 07:45 pm

Bullard played some slot defender the last couple of OTA practices and I'd expect to see him there way before Valentine. Gutey said ideally they'd like to see the safeties be interchangeable between strong, free and nickel. It seems like Packer fans don't believe him.

https://x.com/RossUglem/status/1799499022899831214?t=CpqnaA9lorOD5Y_tsju...

0 points
0
0