‘Potential Breakout Player’ Would Be Great Development for Packers

If Carrington Valentine takes the next step after a solid rookie season, it would provide a major lift to the Green Bay Packers’ defense.
Carrington Valentine (37) goes through drills during Green Bay Packers OTAs.
Carrington Valentine (37) goes through drills during Green Bay Packers OTAs. / Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Without the surprise contributions of cornerback Carrington Valentine as a seventh-round draft pick last year, the Green Bay Packers almost certainly would not have qualified for the NFL playoffs.

Valentine was selected as the Packers’ potential breakout candidate for the 2024 season by Pro Football Network. If that happens, the Packers will be in position to take the next step.

“Valentine is becoming an increasingly tougher secret to keep,” PFN’s Tony Catalina wrote. “The Packers love his development, and if the early reports around him this offseason are any indication, it won’t take very long this year for the optimism to be understood around the league.”

At this point last year, the Packers had good reason to be optimistic about their cornerbacks. With Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes, how would then-defensive coordinator Joe Barry deploy his three high-profile cornerbacks?

That question never had to be answered. With injuries to Alexander and Stokes and the midseason trade of Douglas, those three cornerbacks combined to play 1,043 snaps. Twelve cornerbacks league-wide played more snaps.

Thrust into a much larger role, Valentine delivered mostly solid play.

Last year, according to Pro Football Focus, 69 cornerbacks played at least 420 coverage snaps. From that group, Valentine ranked 17th in completion percentage allowed (57.4), 23rd in passer rating allowed (84.1) and 31st in snaps per reception (11.3). He was tied for fifth with just two penalties – though there would have been three had he been flagged for pass interference for tackling the Chiefs’ Marquez Valdes-Scantling late in the game at Lambeau Field.

Overall, the up-and-down season should serve him well.

“I learned a lot,” Valentine said recently. “From the start to the middle to the end, I learned who I was as a player. I learned what worked, what didn’t work. So now I know my identity of who I am and what I’ve got to do to take that next step.”

Part of that next step was getting stronger. Coach Matt LaFleur and his staff “challenged him” to come back bigger and stronger.

So, as he’s done since high school, he drove about two hours from Cincinnati to Louisville to train with Chris Vaughn of Aspirations Fitness Institution. He went from 189 pounds last year to more than 200 for this year.

“I’m a hard worker, honestly,” Valentine said. “I’m in the gym every day. You get your days when you don’t want to do it, but you know you have a goal you want to meet. You’re trying to reach that end goal, so that’s the plan, to be honest.”

The added strength should make him a more physical player during training camp, though he noticed a difference even during the shorts-and-helmets practices of the spring.

“Just out in practice, when I put my hands on receivers,” he said. “I don’t know if they feel me, but I feel the difference in contact, honestly. I’m a guy who loves contact. Even when I was a lighter guy, I loved contact. So, when I put my hands on receivers and I feel the difference in power and strength, it’s really motivating and keeps my confidence going.”

Valentine’s play and work ethic gave the Packers so much confidence that the only significant cornerback addition this offseason was Kalen King with the fourth-to-last pick of the draft.

“The guy loves football. He loves to compete and I’m excited for him. I think he’s got a really bright future,” LaFleur said.

Valentine called himself a “dog.”

“That’s who I am,” he continued. “Hard-worker. I’m a competitor. I’m always going to strain. I’m always going to talk a little, as well. Just my personality. I don’t really care who you are. I don’t care if you’re All-Pro, Hall of Famer. At the end of the day, you’ve beat me. That’s who I am.”

When the defense was at full strength for the offseason practices, Alexander and Stokes were the No. 1 cornerbacks, with Valentine working with the second unit. However, Stokes and Valentine will battle throughout training camp to be a starter.

For what it’s worth, Valentine was better in 2023 than Stokes was before a foot injury prematurely ended his 2022 season.

“I’m ready for it,” Valentine said of the competition. “I’ve never been handed anything in my life. I didn’t want it handed to me now. I’m just going to keep going, keep grinding and wherever the chips may lie.”

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Bill Huber


Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: packwriter2002@yahoo.com History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: https://twitter.com/BillHuberNFL Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and PackerReport.com. In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.