7th-Round Rookie Giving the Packers More to Contemplate at Cornerback

Getty Carrington Valentine of the Green Bay Packers.

The first padded practice of training camp is usually when you can tell whose hype is legitimate and who is just a summer darling.

For Carrington Valentine, he may have solidified himself as the former.

The first of the Green Bay Packers’ four seventh-round picks in April, Valentine joined a dance floor at cornerback that doesn’t have much room for an extra participant. However, if he can replicate his practice performance during the Packers’ three-game exhibition slate, he may wiggle his way into the mix.

“I love how he competes,” head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters before the team’s August 1 practice. “He’s going to go out there, challenge it — you can coach him hard and he’s receptive to the coaching. I think we have a good young player there.”

The rewards of Valentine’s ascension were reaped on Monday. During a team period, Valentine jumped a route in the flat and intercepted a Danny Etling pass intended for Malik Heath, running it back for what would’ve been a touchdown.

It’s the kind of splash play that’s helped Valentine leap up the depth chart. When the Packers took the field for organized team activities earlier in the offseason, Valentine was running with the third-team defense. By the end of mandatory minicamp in June, he was promoted to the second-team defense.

So far in training camp, Valentine has periodically operated with Packers starters.

“The game got a little faster, not like physically, but from a mental aspect of it,” Valentine said July 31 in a video posted on the Packers’ YouTube channel. “Just coming in from OTAs and having that, really grasping that, the game’s starting to slow down more and more. It’s just reps.”

‘Great Attitude’ & ‘Talent’ Paved the Way for Carrington Valentine’s Ascent

Valentine, 21, was a standout for Kentucky, having secured a starting spot in the secondary by his sophomore season. Although he had a year of eligibility remaining, he declared for the NFL draft after his junior year.

Last season, while leading the team in pass breakups, Valentine allowed a 55.4 completion percentage, according to Pro Football Focus, and made one interception.

More than anything, the Packers are getting a raw cornerback whose skill set may need some refinement at the pro level. They’ll be able to get a better glimpse of his raw skills when the Packers welcome the Cincinnati Bengals into town for joint practices ahead of their first preseason game on August 11.

“I think he’s got a great attitude,” said LaFleur, citing his past relationship with Steve Clinkscale, who coached the defensive backs at Kentucky for Valentine’s freshman season. “I think this kid — he’s very, very talented and he’s got to continue to build on his early success.”

Opportunities for Carrington Valentine Won’t Come Easy

There’s not much of a battle at cornerback for the Packers; their starters are solidified. It’s just a matter of when Eric Stokes will be back in the lineup that could force some shuffling.

Stokes is a former first-round pick of the Packers who sustained significant knee and ankle injuries last season in a November 6 loss to the Detroit Lions. He told the Associated Press on May 23 that he had a plate and two screws inserted into his foot for the sake of stability. He has yet to leave the rehab portion of practice as the Packers ease him back into full functionality and it’s certainly not a guarantee that he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season.

That very uncertainty could help Valentine not only crack the roster but potentially even see snaps to begin the season. Sans Stokes, Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas spearhead the depth chart with renowned special-teamer Keisean Nixon following closely behind. Nixon currently leads the charge as the team’s primary nickelback — barring some unforeseen movement between Alexander and Douglas, that’s where Valentine will have the best chance at cracking a starting job.

“I don’t really get much of the nickel work,” admitted Valentine. “But when I do end up in the slot, just being around [Rasul] and stuff like that, trying to tell me the route tree — I like that.”

It also helps that there isn’t much to write home about behind Valentine. The rest of the room is made up of Corey Ballentine, Shemar Jean-Charles, William Hooper, Tyrell Ford and Kiondre Thomas. Assuming the Packers carry five to six names at the position, Valentine could find himself ahead of the pack.

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