Cory's Corner: Eric Stokes Has A Lot To Prove

Entering his fourth season, the cornerback is just looking to squash the injury bug. 

Without a doubt, the guy with the most to prove this upcoming season is Eric Stokes. After playing in 16 games in his rookie season a couple years ago, he has only played a combined 12 the last two. He played less than 10 percent of the snaps last season. 

“It was a lot of different little mindsets that I had to go through different little trials,” said Stokes. “Even when I thought I was back in Denver — boom, hamstring again. Then, come back (against) Carolina on Christmas Eve, my family watching me and then a hamstring again. Just a lot of little trials and tribulations but I took the good with the bad.”

Stokes, 25, was drafted 29th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. He came to Green Bay with lofty expectations after being a leader in a hard-nosed Georgia secondary. He was No. 8 in the nation with four picks his junior season. 

The frustrating thing is that the injury is a hamstring. That might be one of the most pesky soft tissue injuries around. Christian Watson’s hamstring was an issue last year as well as Romeo Doubs, Dontayvion Wicks and even Bo Melton have been stung by the hamstring bug. 

And if we go back a little further, Clay Matthews had a huge problem with his hamstrings. 

This is a pivot point for Stokes. The Packers declined his fifth-year option, which would’ve meant a guaranteed salary of $12.4 million in 2025. But now the pressure is on as he will enter free agency after 2024 with plenty of question marks. 

Can Stokes be counted on to lead a defensive secondary given his massive health concerns? This season will give us the answer. Can he still be a solid cover corner and be aggressive enough in the run game to be a presence? 

Those are all valid questions, but what it comes down to is availability. The NFL expression has always been that you cannot make the team or get paid if you’re in the recovery tub. Stokes knows that he has to play if he wants to see a solid contract next year.

But at what point does he push himself too much, which ultimately comes back to bite him? The Packers can afford to be cautious with him, but Stokes cannot.

A hamstring injury is arguably one of the more fickle injuries in football. You cannot see the injury and there has be a level of trust between the player and team that both parties are doing the right thing.

“He’s had a chance to really develop his body,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur. “He looks in great shape. I think the play says the same.”

If the Packers can get a fully healthy Stokes back for the first time since his rookie season, the Green Bay defense is going to look pretty amazing. 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (35)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
NickPerry's picture

June 11, 2024 at 06:29 am

Stokes not only needs to stay healthy but he needs to play at LEAST as well as he did his rookie season and much better than his 2nd season when he was pretty bad. Clearly Gute and the Packers front office are still high on Stokes.

What I'm just as curious about is what Carrington Valentine will have to say about this competition. It almost seems as though Stokes just needs to stay healthy and the job will be his... Valentine is a player I'm really watching for a year 2 jump from.

Now, wouldn't it be awesome if Stokes is back and looking good AND Valentine is looking better than last year. THIS is exactly the kind of problem I'd like to read about this summer. Too many starting caliber CBs...

Quality Problems...

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Guam's picture

June 11, 2024 at 07:07 am

Valentine seemed to be a pretty intense competitor last year so I think Stokes will be in for a serious battle even if he remains healthy. Either one could win the starting role and you are right - love that depth at CB!

I just hope Stokes' hammys permit the competition to take place. The new defense should be better suited to Stokes' skill sets and give him a chance to shine, but he needs to stay healthy.

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LambeauPlain's picture

June 11, 2024 at 09:01 am

I would never count out Valentine. His style of play should endear him to Hafley and Ansley, sans the pass interference flags. He is an aggressive, press CB with the skills to match. He got dinged in the draft last year due to his laundry at Kentucky. I do think he overcame that grabbiness somewhat last year...still needs to sharpen that part of his game.

My view, and I hope it is Hafley's too, is that Alexander has been told he's in a competition to be one of the starting boundary CBs too. If Stokes and Valentine outperform Alexander in camp, he should sit.

But, like ML always stating he will play the best 5 on the OL (he doesn't...he and Steno play their "favorite" 5), I expect Alexander will start even if he coasts during Camp. That would be unfortunate.

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dekan31's picture

June 11, 2024 at 10:25 am

Not sure if I agree that MLF doesn't start the 'best' 5. He and Steno's def of best and yours, when concerning what is best for the team, are probably different. Alexander, when healthy, is one of the best corners in the NFL. Wouldn't you want MLF not to push Alexander too hard in preseason so he's as healthy as possible when the season starts? I think we both want the same as MLF and his staff want, the best players playing. They know and see way more than us....

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LambeauPlain's picture

June 11, 2024 at 11:26 am

Newman and Hanson...really?

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MainePackFan's picture

June 11, 2024 at 06:53 pm

LP. Are you putting Jaire in the same category as Newman and Hanson?

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 11, 2024 at 10:42 am

I mean really? You've got Jaire Alexander who has been named all-pro twice in his 6 seasons in the league? All rookie team? He got the biggest deal for a CB and then went and balled-out in 2022, before dealing with injuries in 2023. After the 2022 season the players named him #26 of the top 100 players in the league and Sauce Gardner was the only CB ranked above him. He's now healthy, got a great attitude based on his attendance and interviews this spring, and has a chance to shine again under Hafley after being reined in by Joe Barry's passive defense. Hey, I like Valentine, too and he played okay for a 7th round rookie, but to think he would outplay Alexander? I guess we'll wait and see. But if you're wanting the best CBs out there, you would want Alexander as he has already proven himself to be one of the best corners in the league and not just as a one-year wonder. It all depends on his health. With Stokes, it's health and consistency. With Alexander, when he's healthy, he's played lights out.

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Johnblood27's picture

June 11, 2024 at 06:59 am

In terms of proving some things, Stokes is near the head of the line.

Also in line is the defense as a whole including the new coaches with Hafley being the lightening rod for the defenses overall performance.

The talent seems to be in place, yet in the past the performance, especially in clutch situations, just hasn't measured up.

Stokes actually playing like a 1st round talent would certainly help.

Quay Walker needs to take the next step as well as his Dawg mate Wyatt, as does Rashan Gary-who has been good, but not 12th overall pick great. All of these players have room to improve.

With the complete rebuild of the Safety position, a consistent improvement across the board is needed for this defense to be SB caliber. I am looking forward to watching the defense grow together this coming season!

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LambeauPlain's picture

June 11, 2024 at 09:12 am

Always look forward to top draft picks continuing to improve. However, given they had to play Barry Ball for during their Packer tenures, Walker (asked to cover WR's running thru his zone) and Wyatt (who was mostly ignored his rookie season) have shown to be impact players entering just their 3rd year.

And Gary had definitely become a good 12th overall pick, even playing Barry Ball, until he hurt his knee. That he came back so quickly after working tirelessly to rehab, surprised everybody. And he played fairly well coming back. He's a warrior.

Let's see what Hafley can do with these 3 former #1 picks, finally deploying them to play with their strengths, not out of position playing Barry Ball Prevent (the win) D.

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Johnblood27's picture

June 12, 2024 at 07:30 am

1st round picks?

How about LVN as a hand in the dirt or standing force? Time for the second year leap from him as well!

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stockholder's picture

June 11, 2024 at 07:11 am

I expect him to be no different than Savage.
He'll do just enough, to get his next contract
someplace else.
Casey Hayward ? Nope-

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 11, 2024 at 09:46 am

Why put a comma, there?

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Bitternotsour's picture

June 11, 2024 at 10:40 am

poetic flow?

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 11, 2024 at 10:44 am

Sewage flow.

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MainePackFan's picture

June 11, 2024 at 07:07 pm

what's, a comma?

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porupack's picture

June 11, 2024 at 08:29 pm

Consult Boy-George. He wrote a whole song about commas. Comma comma comma comma comma comma comma melilan.....

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Johnblood27's picture

June 12, 2024 at 07:31 am

why respond to random rantings?

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TKWorldWide's picture

June 11, 2024 at 07:39 am

If 23 plays up to his ability, the other corner will see plenty of action. So whether it’s 21or 37, the D needs that guy to play at a high level as well.
As for 21’s hamstring, I hope the experts in Madison discovered the cause and the solution. I read somewhere they had Watson’s pretty well figured out. I don’t recall the findings with Stokes.

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LeotisHarris's picture

June 11, 2024 at 08:50 am

Can you please tell me how to get to the recovery tub?

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TKWorldWide's picture

June 11, 2024 at 09:01 am

I don’t have all the info, but I believe it includes a left turn at Albuquerque.

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 11, 2024 at 09:35 am

I'm not saying this is the answer for Stokes but I had a couple hamstring cramps last summer and switched out beer for margaritas. Problem solved! Have to use real limes though, not that sugary crap.

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Bitternotsour's picture

June 11, 2024 at 10:39 am

an improved diet as we age can certainly improve our overall health and recovery times

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Johnblood27's picture

June 12, 2024 at 07:35 am

Stokes problem was his foot, yeah - the dreaded Lisfranc broken foot. UW said his repaired foot was weaker than his other and that was the root cause of his foot/calf/hammy issues.

I have said in the past that Stokes was damaged beyond NFL caliber play.

He is trying to come back, but I am very skeptical that he will hold up once true competition kicks in.

I expect to see him on the sidelines with a trainer much more than on the field.

Its just a fact that the Lisfranc break is very, very difficult to come back from - especially for a speed\skill player.

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Oppy's picture

June 11, 2024 at 07:51 am

Stokes' hamstring is not the injury anyone should be worrying about, and every time his name comes up, it's the thing I nearly always hear Packers fans talk about- his hamstring injury.

His foot injury was the biggest issue and the one to keep an eye on. Had something similar to a Lisfranc. It stuck him in a wheelchair for a while. It's been re aggravated at least once previously. It's probably something that had contributed to other injuries due to over-compensation.

If his foot isn't right and he can't keep from re-aggravating it, his career is done.

Rooting for him.

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LeotisHarris's picture

June 11, 2024 at 08:52 am

Yep, the interconnectedness of all things makes for slippery slope.

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 11, 2024 at 09:45 am

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The_Baloney_Stops_Here's picture

June 11, 2024 at 11:36 pm

Playing through a sprained ankle in high school contributed to me getting a herniated disc and permanent sciatic nerve damage. Overcompensation comes with a price.

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T7Steve's picture

June 11, 2024 at 07:53 am

Stokes needs to play but I'd like to see about 16 or 17 games out of Alexander this season too. All DBs are going to give up one every now and then to these QBs and receivers in the NFL. Let's just make a tackle when they do.

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PatrickGB's picture

June 11, 2024 at 08:22 am

I still have hope for Eric. Barry and injury has limited him. And I bet that there was some inner turmoil going on as well. He has a fresh start now.

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CanPackFan's picture

June 11, 2024 at 09:58 am

It's too bad when a promising young player can't recover from an injury(s) over multiple seasons. His confidence goes, as well as the confidence of his coaches and fans. It's not fair, but it is what it is.

The pre-season hype train has already pronounced him ready to go and better than ever. I hope they're right. But I like what I see in Valentine so, from a team perspective, we are not in desperate shape.

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Packers0808's picture

June 11, 2024 at 10:50 am

Best world scenario they both effectively improve.

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Duneslick's picture

June 11, 2024 at 11:57 am

Keep hearing about the 4.25 speed. I just dont see it. Never have. He gets beat deep and does not catch up. Anyone else see this ?

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NFLfan's picture

June 11, 2024 at 02:29 pm

We met Stokes-he was friendly and approachable. Nixon is one of my favorites as well-he plays hard and has heart.
With that said-our CB room is not what is should be. Nixon is not fast enough to play CB and Stokes is high-risk-(particularly his reconstructed foot)I don't see plan B- Valentine should not be plan B.

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GregC's picture

June 11, 2024 at 04:03 pm

What's wrong with Valentine? Passer rating against him was 84.1 last year, and that was no fluke. He started 12 games.

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barutanseijin's picture

June 11, 2024 at 09:28 pm

Never mind how he played, he wasn’t listed in someone’s draft guide, so he can’t be good or even a plan B.

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