Former Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields has had a long and arduous journey in his return to the NFL. Shields is one of the more recent examples of team’s exercising caution when it comes to concussions. Green Bay released the former Pro Bowl corner three years into a four-year contract after he struggled in dealing with those concussions.
When the former Miami Hurricane was on the field, he was one of the top corners in the NFL. Shields combined his elite speed and excellent ball skills to accumulate 18 interceptions in his first six seasons.
As was mentioned above, Shields struggled with concussions which began in the 2014 season. He missed two games during that season and would sustain another concussion in the 2015 campaign. It was at this point that Shields’ career took the downturn. He missed the final three games and the team’s playoff run in that 2015 season. He would only play in one game the following season. Green Bay released Shields the following offseason, in 2017.
The talent was never a question with Shields. And according to Shields, he has been healthy for a while. But, the Green Bay Packers could not bring themselves to potentially put Shields into another situation where a concussion could be sustained. Hence, the amicable divorce between Shields and the Packers. This is where the Los Angeles Rams come in.
After taking a year away from football in 2017, the Rams decided to bring Shields in to add their already incredibly talented secondary. For a secondary unit that boasts the likes of Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and up and comer John Johnson, Shields is going to have to earn his snaps. The team’s third corner, Nickell Robey-Coleman, is in line to start the season as the teams’ slot corner.
Shields’ best route to playing time on this team is going to be on the perimeter. That is where he played his entire career in Green Bay. This is also where his skill set suits him best.
While I have my concerns about his ability to mentally be ready for a return to the NFL, Shields is coming into one of the best situations possible. He is slated behind both Peters and Talib on this team’s depth chart. Therefore, there won’t be an immediate request for significant snaps from Shields to begin the season.
If, and this is a big if, Shields can remain healthy, this secondary instantly becomes the most talented and maybe even the deepest in the entire NFL.
The other question for Shields is a simple one. Can he return after a one-year hiatus from football and re-gain his “cat” like abilities as a corner?
At 30 years old, there is also the question of age. Corners can combat the age barrier with natural instincts and film study. Shields has these qualities, however, his athletic ability is what made him a top corner.
The fact remains, however, that if Shields can return to his past form then the entire league is in for a world of trouble. This defense will be elite because of the secondary alone. He provides a complement of skill sets to both Peters and Talib that will allow wily defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to match up his defenders however he pleases.
Shields can be solely responsible for the speed threat. Talib excels at press man coverage. And, finally, but most certainly not least, Peters can lock down the opposing team’s number one receiver. The complement of these skill sets is fantastically intriguing.
Look for Los Angeles to ease Shields along in his return. He even has a two-game suspension to handle before he can actually return to the field. But, once they feel as though he is ready, expect the Rams to let him loose. And when that happens, the Rams secondary truly could become a “no fly zone.”