To get a sense of what kind of corner Shields is and the outlook for his comeback, I linked up with Evan “Tex” Western, the managing editor at Acme Packing Company, SB Nation’s community for Packers fans.
In an era where concussions and CTE and player safety are often at the forefront of the story rather than at the back, it’s probably best to start with the uncomfortable question. Should Sam Shields even be playing football? I can understand why he wants to. The Rams even went through this issue two years ago when they signed WR Wes Welker. But maybe the environment is different two years later. Has it changed so much that we could suggest that Shields should be prevented from being able to come back?
In all honesty, I’m stunned that Shields is not only trying to come back to football, but that a team’s medical staff is actually willing to clear him and give him a chance. The concussion he suffered in week one of 2016 kept him out that entire season, and he had another one in December of 2015 that had him on the sidelines for a month. It’s really the concerns about the lengthy after-effects that give me pause, and even Shields has said that if he gets one more concussion he is retiring. My question is why wasn’t his most recent concussion the one that triggered that decision?
Ok, on to football. What made him so good when he was healthy? What are his best traits?
Shields’ strengths are simple: speed and ball skills. His blazing speed (4.30 at Miami’s Pro Day in 2010) has always been the thing that made him a top-level corner. He’s been able to keep up with and close on the fastest receivers in the league; that closing speed especially is critical if he does get beaten off the line of scrimmage. His ball skills are exceptional as well, coming from his days as a wide receiver at Miami. He had multiple interceptions in each of his full seasons, and he has five career postseason picks in 11 games. He also worked primarily in press-man coverage in Green Bay, and although he’s not exactly a physical tackler, he’s willing to jam receivers at the line and get them off their initial break.
Where would you think he fits in the Rams’ rotation? With Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Kayvon Webster all in the mix, is Shields specifically an outside rotational option or could he play in the slot? How do you think he’d handle limited reps in his comeback?
Shields played almost exclusively the right outside cornerback position in Green Bay, and I would see him as a rotational boundary corner behind Peters and Talib at this point, assuming his skills have not deteriorated. I wouldn’t expect to see him in the slot much; that seems like a better place for a player like Peters or Webster. He has always been at his best when having a sideline to work with as another defender rather than working in the middle of the field, and if he has slowed down at all that would seem to be even more critical.
Thanks to my man Tex for the time.