GREEN BAY – The differences are subtle. A few new name plates are scattered around Davon House’s locker. A few new faces surround him in the cornerbacks room.
Yet, the overall landscape remains unchanged from the last time House stood inside the Packers’ locker room two years ago. The No. 31 on his jersey is the same. The guiding principle behind Dom Capers’ defense has been preserved.
House has only been back in Green Bay for a little more than a month, but the seventh-year cornerback already feels back in his element. After a two-year hiatus, House is finally home.
“I kind of feel like I never left,” said House, who re-signed with Green Bay in March following a two-year stint with Jacksonville. “It’s the same locker and same lockermates with Ha Ha (Clinton-Dix). There’s a few guys in the room who have changed, but it’s still the same.”
A fourth-round pick in 2011, House flashed potential throughout his four seasons in Green Bay, but also dealt with a few setbacks that curtailed his chances at earning a full-time starting job in the Packers’ secondary.
The 6-foot, 200-pound cornerback got the opportunity to be a starter when he signed with Jacksonville as an unrestricted free agent in 2015. House enjoyed a career year during his first season in Jacksonville, registering career-highs in tackles (60), interceptions (four) and pass deflections (23) in 16 regular-season games with 15 starts.
As promising as his first season with the Jaguars was, a defensive scheme change cost House his starting role in 2016. After being released in March, he immediately told his agent about his interest in returning to Green Bay.
Within a week, House re-signed with the Packers, who were in the market for an established veteran to pair with their young nucleus of cornerbacks.
House brings a unique perspective to a room that returns a trio of third-year players – LaDarius Gunter, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins – and added Washington’s Kevin King in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft.
“He’s been around some great teams and great secondaries throughout his years here,” Rollins said. “He left and got some experience elsewhere, so just continuing to pick his brain about things he knows and things he sees in the game is always beneficial.”
After settling back in, House is looking forward to sharing his experiences with the younger cornerbacks the same way Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Jarrett Bush guided him during his first few NFL seasons.
Even after he left, House kept close tabs on the team from afar. He kept all of his Packers apparel and watched every game on tape delay. He remained a Packer at heart other than the one time Green Bay played Jacksonville in the 2016 opener.
The veteran cornerback has been impressed with what he’s seen in Gunter, Randall and Rollins. He knows where the Packers finished in passing defense last season but views 2016 as more of an injury-driven anomaly than a reflection of the unit.
Shields sustained a season-ending concussion in Week 1, while Randall and Rollins sustained groin injuries that forced them to miss six games and eventually required surgery. Reserve Demetri Goodson started three games before a torn ACL landed him on injured reserve in November.
Knowing what Morgan Burnett and Clinton-Dix are capable of on the back end, House doesn’t believe it should be hard for the secondary to get back to playing like it did in 2015 when the Packers finished sixth in the NFL in pass defense.
“I think the reason why people were saying some bad things about our secondary is because they don’t realize Damarious was hurt and missed a few games,” House said. “Quinten was hurt and missed a few games. Sam was hurt and missed the whole year. We had three starters coming out. People don’t realize that. Last year, we were 30-something and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be top 10 in pass defense this year.”
One of the other reasons factoring into his decision to return to Green Bay was Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, who oversaw House’s development during his first four seasons.
In his first conversation with Whitt after re-signing, House jokingly told his position coach, “I might need you guys more than you need me” because of how well he fit into Capers’ defensive scheme.
Winning also came naturally in Green Bay with the Packers making the playoffs in each of House’s first four seasons.
“I need to be here because this is my style of play. I’m a bump-man corner, press-man,” House said. “In this defense, you’re going to get the ball. I’m able to make plays on the ball, pass-breakups, blitz here and there. This is like a DB’s dream to come here and play football.”
House feels like the Packers are getting a more confident, fundamentally sound version of the cornerback who left in free agency two years ago.
He’s excited about the future and showing everyone he’s still the same cornerback who shattered Jacksonville’s franchise record for pass breakups two years ago.
“This is where I wanted to be,” House said. “This is where I needed to be for me to show the world what I can do. I feel like I can help this team out – I will. I’m just happy to be back.”