Year 2 leap for Carrington Valentine key to adding stability at CB for Packers

By: Paul Bretl 5/9/24

That Year 2 leap, which so many successful NFL players make, is going to be crucial for Carrington Valentine in helping to provide stability at the cornerback position for the Green Bay Packers. 

“Biggest jump in my opinion in my years and time of being in the NFL is from your rookie to sophomore year,” said defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich. “Every guy that you see that luckily I’ve been around, I say I, we, us, organization, coaches, from Year 1 to Year 2 that is when that light, that is when it clicks. 

“At this level as you guys have heard me say, it’s knowing about you’re matchup. It’s knowing about protections. It’s knowing about the scheme. You’ve got to know where the fit is. You’re not looking over at the sideline and looking at a card to tell you where you’re alignment is like college football is right now. And it’s different and these guys have got to take the time to learn it.”

On the one hand, you can look at the cornerback position for the Packers and see a room with Jaire Alexander on one side, along with Eric Stokes and Valentine competing for playing time on the other, Keisean Nixon in the slot, and Corey Ballentine as experienced depth.

On the other end of that spectrum, a jump for Valentine isn’t a given. Stokes, at this point in his career, is an unknown after missing most of 2023 and struggling in 2022 prior to his injury, while Nixon had his ups and downs at the nickel.

In order to prevent the latter scenario from taking place, Valentine will play a key role in doing so.

As a seventh-round rookie in 2023, injuries forced the Packers to rely heavily on Valentine, who rose to the occasion. Valentine played 846 snaps, allowing a completion rate of 56 percent on 72 targets, with five pass breakups and a passer rating of 80.2 when targeted.

“When you just watch his POA tape throughout the season,” said new passing game coordinator Derek Ansley, “you don’t really see a rookie. At least I didn’t. Obviously, he has some things he has to clean up and he knows that and we’ve been working hard attacking those things, but Carrington’s wired the right way.

“He fits right in with that group very well, with Ja and Stokes and Keisean, and Corey Ballentine, Robert Rochelle. All those guys are all wired the right way. Credit to Gute and his staff for identifying those guys and they all have unique skillsets. They’re long and they’re fast. With that skillset, we have a lot to work with.”

Contributing to what hopefully becomes a Year 2 leap for Valentine will be playing in a defensive system under Jeff Hafley that utilizes more man coverage, which suits Valentine’s skill set well.

Hafley’s coaching background is also rooted in working with defensive backs, and he has been praised by former players for his ability as a teacher, and to simplify the game-plan, so defenders are playing fast rather than overthinking.

If this Packers’ defense as a whole is going to take a step forward in 2024, they have to be better on the back-end. This was a unit that generated only seven interceptions last season, the second-fewest in football, and ranked 23rd in pass breakups. A more aggressive play-style should help in this regard, but at the end of the day, players have to make plays.

At this stage of the offseason, Hafley’s focus for the cornerbacks, and the defense as a whole, is on fundamentals and technique, because without those elements, the scheme doesn’t much matter. 

As Hafley said on Monday when meeting with reporters, the vibes are high right now in the cornerback room, where it’s going to be a competitive environment. When it comes to Valentine, he has attacked the offseason and as we progress towards training camp, the next step is seeing those strides on the field, something this Packers’ secondary would benefit greatly from.

“Carrington Valentine looks so much better, physically in terms of – it’s hard for these guys,” said Matt LaFleur. “They go through the draft process, go on all these visits and training for the combine. When they get a real offseason to just focus on their bodies, it’s amazing how much growth they can have. I think we’ve seen that from C.V. It’s a very competitive defensive backfield, one that we’re really excited about.”