Lost in the big-name injuries on the Green Bay Packers defense is the fact that cornerback Sam Shields has not played in over a month. Shields, who won the competitive position battle in training camp, suffered a shin/ankle injury in a Week 6 victory over the Houston Texans.
Last week, Shields declared himself 90% and looked primed to return to the field, but suffered a “setback” this week, according to coach Mike McCarthy. Both the coach and the player denied that Shields had reinjured his ankle, choosing only to say there was a “setback.” McCarthy said he suspected the setback would keep Shields out “a couple of weeks” more.
Shields, in his third year, came into the season vastly improved. In the past two seasons, Shields showed flashes of speed and athleticism, but was prone to penalties and mentally sloppy play. With no clear starter opposite Tramon Williams since Charles Woodson was moved to safety in the offseason, Shields beat out Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward, and Davon House for the job.
Through the first six weeks, I was very impressed and pleased with Shields’ coverage as compared to last season. It didn’t look promising that the Packers had an offseason vacancy in a secondary that was the league’s worst last year, but Shields has developed into a solid, dependable defender.
Hayward – leading Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate – has played extremely well in Shields’ place, as has House, which has minimized the effect of Shields’ injury. Even Bush has seen some playing time on defense (No! No! Dear God, no! Not Jarrett Bush!). Though the backups have been great, I’d still really like to see Shields back on the field and continue his improvement.
Hayward and House have played so well, in fact, that how to reintegrate Shields back into the lineup when he is healthy may become an issue. Despite the players’ youth (Hayward is a rookie and House is in his second year), both have shown that they have starter-level talent. McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers are lucky to have such a problem at a key position.