GREEN BAY – A rough couple of games won’t make Damarious Randall crawl into a shell.
The Packers’ second-year cornerback hasn’t played his best the past two contests. That’s been obvious. But it hasn’t made him question his abilities or suffer from any crisis of confidence.
“Our secondary is going to have some bounce-back weeks,” Randall said on Monday after Green Bay’s first post-bye practice. “I know we’ve been struggling, me in particular has been struggling.
“But the great thing about that, I am not struggling because of the receivers, I was struggling because of myself. Just knowing that, I know I’m going to bounce back.”
Coming off a standout performance in Week 1 at Jacksonville, Randall saw the technique errors on film in the ensuing games. He also knows he hasn’t been at full strength.
He told reporters he banged his thumb in the first quarter of the Week 2 game at Minnesota, which limited his ability to jam receivers with press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs proceeded to have a career night with nine catches for 182 yards and a TD, much of the damage coming against Randall.
He appeared on his way to recovering in Week 3 vs. Detroit, even after allowing a contested 38-yard catch by Marvin Jones Jr. on an early go route. Two plays later, Randall ripped the ball away from tight end Eric Ebron for an interception, returning it 44 yards to set up a field goal.
The Detroit game ended, though, with Randall falling down in the middle of the field as Jones caught a 35-yard TD. That play, plus a 73-yard TD allowed by rookie corner Josh Hawkins, who had replaced an ill Randall briefly in the second quarter, accounted for more than half of Jones’ 205-yard afternoon.
Randall wasn’t going to make excuses, but that last play doesn’t really bother him. It’s actually a lot easier to shake that one off than some others where he let himself get out of position.
“It was very fluky,” Randall said of the late TD that gave Detroit comeback hopes. “We just both happened to get tangled up, and if it was the other way around and the receiver fell and I end up catching the ball, they probably would have threw a flag. That’s just a play you really can’t correct.”
He has studied the others, though, and with some healing time for his thumb over the bye week, he’s eager to get back on the field.
He’ll get a sneak preview of his adversaries Monday night as the Giants, who visit Lambeau Field this coming Sunday, are at Minnesota on prime-time television.
New York receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz are all off to strong starts, combining for 708 receiving yards through three games. Randall called them all great route-runners who appear interchangeable on film.
“That’s a three-headed monster,” Randall said. “Shepard is a rookie but he doesn’t play like a rookie. Cruz is a crafty veteran, and everybody knows about ‘OBJ.’ I’m just looking forward to that matchup.”
The spotlight likely will be Randall’s to deal with. Veteran corner Sam Shields, out since a Week 1 concussion, did not practice Monday.
Other areas of the defense are getting healthier, as linebacker Clay Matthews (ankle/hamstring), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (knee), safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring) and defensive end Datone Jones (knee) all returned to practice, but the last two games have thrown a lot of attention Randall’s way, and Sunday night probably won’t be much different.
A first-round draft pick in 2015, Randall isn’t oblivious to the criticism – “People are going to talk, I’m going to let them talk,” he said – but he’s not going to let it get to him.
He can’t, or he’ll psychologically be off his game just as he’s physically getting back on it. He knows the film is out there telling Giants QB Eli Manning to go after him, just as Minnesota’s Sam Bradford and Detroit’s Matt Stafford did, but Randall doesn’t view that film the same way.
“I see a guy that was off his technique a little bit, a guy that was banged up a little bit, but that’s part of the NFL,” he said. “That’s part of me wanting to be great. I just see a guy that’s going to bounce back, because I know myself. I’m looking forward to the challenge this Sunday.”