In this Oct.
11, 2015, file photo, Green Bay Packers' Sam Shields breaks up a
pass intended for St. Louis Rams' Tavon Austin during the first
half an NFL football game, in Green Bay, Wis. Cardinals
quarterback Carson Palmer thinks he's got the fastest receiving
corps in the NFL. The Packers’ young cornerbacks will try to
help keep up with them in an NFC divisional round playoff game
GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers
secondary is getting ready for another track meet in the desert.
For the second time in four games, the
defense must try to keep up with the Arizona Cardinals and their
speedy receiving group.
"Well top to bottom, it's got to
be the fastest group in the game right now," Cardinals
quarterback Carson Palmer said this week.
Good thing for the Packers that they
appear to be inching closer to having a full complement of healthy
defensive backs again.
Cornerback Sam Shields practiced for a
second straight day on Thursday. Coach Mike McCarthy said that the
six-year veteran is close to completing the concussion protocol after
missing the last four games with the injury.
In this Nov.
8, 2015, file photo, Green Bay Packers' Damarious Randall (23)
intercepts a Carolina Panthers pass in the second half of an NFL
football game in Charlotte, N.C. Cardinals quarterback Carson
Palmer thinks he's got the fastest receiving corps in the NFL.
The Packers’ young cornerbacks will try to help keep up with
them in an NFC divisional round playoff game on Saturday.
Rookie cornerback Quentin Rollins
returned to practice on Thursday after getting knocked out of last
week's wild-card game win over Washington with a quadriceps injury.
It's unclear yet whether Shields or
Rollins will be available on Saturday night in Arizona. The Packers
didn't have Shields in Week 16 for the 38-8 loss to the Cardinals.
"I mean it's obviously going to be
a big deal," Rollins said. "We haven't been at full strength
for a while now."
But they have found capable
replacements to join Casey Hayward while they wait to get back up to
Rollins, a second-round pick, has
helped fill the void left behind by Shields' absence. When Rollins got
hurt last week, undrafted rookie free agent Ladarius Gunter stepped in
and played well.
Another rookie, Damarious Randall, has
perhaps exceeded expectations, even for a first-round draft pick. When
Shields went down against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 13, Randall took
over the assignment of covering star wideout Dez Bryant, who finished
with one catch for 9 yards.
Palmer has been impressed.
"You know, there's so many
different numbers that have been switched in and out, and I know two
rookies ... you wouldn't know they were rookies unless you looked at
the stat sheet and saw years of experience next to their name,"
The Cardinals' stats have been even
more impressive. Arizona has the league's top offense (408.3 yards per
game) and the eighth-best rushing attack (119.8 yards). The passing
game (288.5 yards) is second in the NFL.
Larry Fitzgerald leads the receiving
group. Michael Floyd had 111 yards on six catches against the Packers.
John Brown can run even faster than Floyd and beat the Packers deep.
"They've got three guys that are
distinctly different and that's always a challenge," McCarthy
Shields would give the secondary a huge
boost if he returns. But even then, the Packers have played relatively
well in the defensive backfield on the league's sixth-ranked pass
defense (227.6 yards per game).
Another big day rushing the passer
would help ease the pressure on the rest of the defense. Green Bay had
six sacks last week, and pressuring Palmer just as much would help
Still, the secondary might be one of
the most consistent units on the field on a defense that has played
fairly well this season. The lopsided score of the first Arizona game
masks the effectiveness of the defense because two Cardinals
touchdowns came on fumble returns following sacks.
A third Arizona touchdown came on a
short field after Packers running back James Starks fumbled at his 26.
The Cardinals scored two plays later.
For Randall, the familiarity of having
just kept up with the Cardinals playmakers three weeks ago will help
— to a point.
"This is to play for a berth in
the NFC championship game," Randall said. "It doesn't matter
what happened a couple weeks ago."
NOTES: LT David Bakhtiari (ankle) was
limited in practice for a second straight day. He has missed the last
three games. ... Only WR Davante Adams (right knee) sat out practice.
He appears to be a longshot at best to play on Saturday. "If he
doesn't practice by tomorrow, then he won't make it," McCarthy