The Green Bay Packers are calling upon a former New York Giants draft pick to fortify their cornerback room with starter Eric Stokes now on injured reserve.
The Packers announced a series of roster moves on November 12 ahead of their Week 10 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, including signing up cornerback Corey Ballentine from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. They also officially placed Stokes on injured reserve after he sustained ankle and knee injuries in Week 9’s loss in Detroit.
As far as temporary moves, the Packers also elevated kicker Ramiz Ahmed and outside linebacker La’Darius Hamilton to the game-day roster against the Cowboys. Veteran kicker Mason Crosby was limited for the entire week of practice due to a back issue, but he was not given an injury designation in the final injury report; however, Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated has reported that Ahmed will handle kickoff duties as a precaution.
The Packers will also have a few injuries to monitor heading into Sunday’s game against the Cowboys. While rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs (ankle) and cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles (ankle) were already ruled out, they also have three players with injury designations for the game, including David Bakhtiari (questionable, knee), Amari Rodgers (questionable, hamstring) and Krys Barnes (doubtful, concussion).
Update: (3:20 p.m. ET, 11/13): Bakhtiari and Rodgers are both active against Dallas.
Ballentine Signing Could Have Multiple Purposes
After Packers head coach Matt LaFleur suggested earlier in the week that it is “unlikely” that Stokes — a 2021 first-round pick — will play again in 2022, it had been expected the Packers would make some sort of move to compensate for his loss in the lineup. Ballentine, however, gives them a dual opportunity to potentially test out a new cornerback and a new return specialist.
Ballentine, a 2019 sixth-round pick for the Giants, didn’t play a ton of defensive snaps prior to arriving in Green Bay. He played just under 300 defensive snaps over 13 games with two starts for the Giants as a rookie, but the majority of his career production has come on special teams. Across stints with the Giants, New York Jets and Detroit Lions, Ballentine has averaged 24.4 yards per return and shown some good downfield vision as a return specialist, which could be of value to the Packers moving forward.
While Rodgers was cleared from his hamstring injury and will play against the Cowboys, the Packers pulled him from kickoff return duties back in Week 5 and have been pulling back on his punt return reps as well. Part of that is likely tied to them needing to use him more often as a wide receiver, but Rodgers has also been underwhelming as a return man with concentration issues on securing the ball.
How Will Packers Secondary Adjust Without Stokes?
Without Stokes, the Packers will have some decisions to make about who plays what position for the secondary against the Cowboys. They had moved Rasul Douglas to the outside and slid Keisean Nixon into the slot after losing Stokes against the Lions and could stick with that combination once again, but there is another option that could involve them changing things up at the safety spot as well.
Darnell Savage Jr. has been disappointing at the free safety spot throughout the first nine games of the 2022 season, which has prompted some to wonder if the former first-round pick could be more useful as their nickel corner. Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry added more fuel to that speculative fire in Week 9 when he told reporters that he believes Savage would make an “unbelievable” nickel.
The problem, of course, is finding a suitable replacement for Savage at free safety. The Packers don’t have a plethora of options at safety, but they do have veteran Rudy Ford exceeding expectations as their rotational piece. According to Pro Football Focus, Ford has been one of the Packers’ highest-graded defenders (81.0) this season with 12 tackles and three defensive stops. He also hasn’t allowed a reception on two targets.