Davon House catching eyes of coaches in training camp
Cornerback Davon House wasn’t supposed to be involved in the cornerback rotation much, but his preseason play has earned him more time on the field.
He entered training camp as an odd man out.
And then House basically took a hatchet to conventional wisdom. He's forcing himself into the lineup.
All summer, the fourth-year cornerback has been driven by one objective.
"My mind-set is to make the decision hard upstairs," House said. "Upstairs with Joe (Whitt), upstairs with the scouting department. My thing is not to make it easy to let the final three be Casey, Tramon and Sam. I want them to think about what's going on.
"I feel like I've done a great job of doing that."
He's exclusively an outside cornerback. But at Ray Nitschke Field, House continues to start in the dime package with Williams sliding inside. At this rate, House could push for even more playing time, too. Sharp throughout Green Bay's 31-21 exhibition win over Oakland on Friday vs. the run and pass, House is effectively blending his press- and off-coverage skills.
Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt believes House has played as well as the top three corners.
"He just is," Whitt said. "He's playing well."
House has experience. The last two seasons, the 6-foot, 195-pounder had 26 pass breakups in 25 games (10 starts). At arguably the team's deepest position, he heads into a contract year with more momentum than anyone in Dom Capers' defense. Staring at a division with Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, Capers might be quicker to use the bigger, aggressive House outside.
Big picture, this is a different person from the timid introvert who didn't even play in 14 games as a rookie in 2011. A summer spent working out with three-time All-Pro Darrelle Revis is partly to thank — he's more confident. Having a son helps, too. Often, he wonders what he'll tell Lavon 10-15 years down the road when asked about his playing days.
"I feel like it's day and night from how it was then and how it is now," House said. "I'm a man now."
This is a critical season on and off the field. House thinks about Lavon in the context of a contract year, too.
"All the time," House said, "all the time."
The Oakland game was exactly what House expects out of himself when the real deal begins Sept. 4. Always a press-first corner, he played off of Raiders receivers. Stayed patient. Reading quarterback Matt Schaub, he broke up three passes and zipped upfield to cut down tight end Mychal Rivera for no gain.
One breakup on James Jones, House said he played off, tracked Jones' post-corner route and "was all over it."
Instead of locking into a receiver — mano a mano — House is seeing a whole new world.
"Then it was me stopping this guy from coming out of his breaks," House said. "Last minute, try to locate the ball. Now, I'm seeing the ball thrown, I'm seeing the route, I'm seeing his play action so I know he's going deep."
This is one misconception with "Revis Island." The veteran cornerback House worked out with in Phoenix this off-season isn't human glue on wide receivers. He's not face-guarding in some football version of a box-in-one defense — he's reacting, he's reading quarterbacks.
"That's when I learned really how patient he can be," House said. "He's not going to run a 4.3. He's not super quick like Tramon is. But he's so confident and smart and patient, he knows what the receiver's doing while he's doing it. It's amazing."
Whitt could operate week to week. His top four cornerbacks are very different. Shields, House says, is "a guy who can get to the ball." Williams is "easily the most athletic guy in the room." Hayward is "another ball magnet." House brings the bite, the physicality, a style he's adapting to the NFL's sudden obsession with defensive holding.
Arms crossed, standing next to their empty lockers, House doesn't hesitate in agreeing that he's playing as well as Williams, Shields and Hayward.
Through the preseason, he is learning he can't press as much.
"When you're pressing," he said, "there's not much you can do now with the rules on top of routes. That's another reason why, all right, now I have to play off. I don't have a problem with off. I like it more because I can get the ball a lot easier than me pressing.
"That's the only way I'm going to see the field. Get picks."
Asked if the dime package is one way the Packers will use him, House says he believes he proved himself, that he's "not a scrub."
"So far, I've been balling out," House adds. "We'll see what happens."
Whitt won't label these top four the best he's ever had in Green Bay. That 2009 trio of Charles Woodson, Al Harris and Williams still is best to him.
Yet House believes that if theses four top cornerbacks were to all split up to other teams, they'd all start...with the exception of maybe a couple of teams.
The Kansas City game will be his chance to make a lasting impression, to keep the heat on Shields and Williams. Then, it's a quick transition to the Seattle Seahawks next Thursday. You know, the team that probably wouldn't take Green Bay's top four as starters, the team with one Richard Sherman.
House sees the Packers cornerbacks matching Sherman blow for blow in Seattle.
"I believe we can and we will," he said. "Last year was last year. This is a whole new year, so everyone's 0-0. There is no best defense in the league right now. After Week 1, we'll see who's the better defense."
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