Is Jaire Alexander Elite? Just Ask Him

Cornerback's rankings are all over the map.

Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander was doing his Zoom meeting with the media when a reporter asked him directly: "Do you consider yourself elite?"

"What?" Jaire replied, appearing to be stunned that the question even had to be asked. "Yeah". The reporter quickly followed up by inquiring "How so?"   "It's just that unwavering belief that I have in myself" Alexander answered.

I suppose we all have our own definition of what an NFL player must achieve in order to be considered "elite", and whether the third year corner has reached that plateau is very much open to opinion. Alexander's claim is seconded by his head coach. "I think he's a premier corner in this league", states Matt LaFleur. Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst is a bit more restrained. "Jaire has established himself as one of the better corners in the National Football League", Gutey said this past week. "He's kind of just getting started and he has so much in front of him."

Alexander finished the 2019 regular season with 50 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. According to Pro Football Reference, opposing quarterbacks threw at Jaire's man 110 times. Alexander allowed that pass to be completed 53.6 percent of the time for 831 yards and 5 touchdowns. Opposing receivers gained an average of 14.1 yards per reception against him. By comparison, the Patriots Stephon Gilmore, considered by many to be the best corner in the NFL, had a completion rate of 50.5 percent against him for an average gain of 11.7 yards. Across the board, Gilmore's stats are better than Jaire's, but not tremendously better. So if you judge by numbers, it's logical to conclude that the Green Bay corner is good, perhaps very good, but elite?

That's probably a stretch at this point. Alexander has recovery speed,  good ability to turn his hips, he's physical and feisty. All desirable qualities in a cornerback.   He loves to take chances at the line of scrimmage by knocking receivers off their routes at the snap, but he often gets burned when the receiver eludes the contact and runs past him.   It's also hard to ignore his struggles against the top receivers in the league. As a rookie Jaire was toasted by the likes of Robby Anderson and Julio Jones. In 2019 against Dallas he got lit up by Amari Cooper to the tune of 11 catches for 226 yards and a touchdown. Against the Vikings in Minneapolis he was beaten badly off the line of scrimmage by Stefon Diggs for a touchdown.

Certainly, every corner in the league is going to give up a big play now and then.   Quarterbacks and receivers in the NFL are too good not to get the better of you occasionally.    But "Ja", as his teammates call him, had far more good plays than bad.   It is much easier to compile a highlight reel of number 23 breaking up a pass, or making an aggressive tackle, or having tight coverage on his man making it impossible for the receiver to reach the ball,   Further, Jaire claims he got better as the season went on in 2019.   "Through those last couple games, and in the playoffs, my defense and my coverage was the best its been all year", he said.   "You know, I like that I was able to turn that focus over when the games really mattered and really lock in my coverage, just proving that I am elite in this league."

Not everyone is convinced.   In it's 2020 NFL cornerback rankings, Pro Football Network ranked Alexander a very respectable 7th, just behind former Packer Casey Hayward, and ahead of notable corners like Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson.   Pro Football Focus put Jaire at number 11.   Interestingly, PFF ranked the unsigned Tramon Williams as number six.   Others are not so kind.   Alexander was left out of the top ten by CBSsports.com, who then added insult by acknowledging Jaire's teammate, Kevin King, in its Honorable Mention category.   And if that surprises you, check this out.....Athlon ranked its top 30 corners.   No sign of Alexander, while Kevin King was rated 29th.

It's a good bet that the main reason Jaire isn't getting more respect in those charts is because of his lack of interceptions.   Fair or not, if linebackers are judged by sacks, corners are judged by picks.   Alexander got just two in 2019, and one of those was a gift on a ball that deflected off the hands of a wide open Amari Cooper right into Jaire's arms..   The former University of Louisville star knows he needs to change that number to get the accolades he craves, but when asked what he was going to do about it, his answer was typically short and understated:   "Just catch the ball." 

Simple enough, right?   Differing opinions notwithstanding, Jaire Alexander seems destined to take his place on the list of great Packers defensive backs such as Herb Adderley, Charles Woodson and Al Harris.   Asked if he was ready for that challenge, Jaire simply replied "I've been born ready." 

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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Comments (12)

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PhantomII's picture

August 16, 2020 at 07:21 pm

Is he elite now? No. Will he be? Time will tell. He got burned by a few top level WR's and I think it got in his head a bit and he started thinking instead of anticipating and reacting. That mental slow down and learning process although humbling will help get him to the next level. He is good, but he has the desire to be great. More film study on his quarry will pay dividends during games. Going up against Adams in practice every day should help build confidence and proof of an "Elite" step forward when it happens.

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arthurl's picture

August 16, 2020 at 07:41 pm

I just don’t feel he has the size and strength to become a shutdown. I like his mindset though, but when you look at a guy like Richard Sherman, now there’s a shutdown cornerback. You basically didn’t throw to his coverage area. Alexander should work to cleanup his weak areas; right now he’s been a good cover, not great.

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BAMABADGER's picture

August 16, 2020 at 07:49 pm

Confident in himself, but has still much to prove for a first round draft choice. He needs to improve his Roberto Durán "Hands of Stone" and stop dropping potential picks.

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Rick1's picture

August 16, 2020 at 07:49 pm

In pettines scheme the secondary is given a lot of room to be a playmaker. The dropped interceptions is what they are knocking him for plain and simple. His game is elite and King gets over looked also. The defense has gotten better players that can make big impact plays. I think by the end of the year the packers are in the top 10 in interceptions. The secondary of King ,Alexander, Amos, Savage, Greene and Sullivan is a good group to start with.

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Bure9620's picture

August 16, 2020 at 08:27 pm

Yes Jaire is becoming elite, he is not on the Gilmore level yet but you see the passes broken up, he comes up in the running game and teams start to stop throwing his way as the game goes on.....he will be elite this year I believe

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MrFitz66's picture

August 17, 2020 at 12:03 am

Alexander is super talented and super cocky, which is just what I want. Our #1 against their #1. Both of them running their mouths and pumping their chests out. Pump it up you crazy elite and shut everyone down this year. What bothers me is his borderline taunting penalties, standing over people, after applying a big hit, looking for a tea bag. Its a surprise he hasn't been flagged more often, he certainly could have been. Sam Shields and Charles Woodson were elite athletes with all pro instincts, Alexander is not there yet.

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egbertsouse's picture

August 17, 2020 at 07:48 am

Biggest chest thumper since Mike Daniels. Just shut up and play.

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Stroh's picture

August 18, 2020 at 12:02 am

Big difference between them. Daniels was all braggadocios. His play was very good, but his mouth was always much bigger. Jaire is extremely confident and will tell you so when or if you ask, but he doesn't chase the camera or talk nearly as much. I Love Jaire's confidence but hated Daniels. They were much different!

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gkarl's picture

August 17, 2020 at 09:05 am

Most elite players have an ego which helped make them elite IMO. JA has that part covered but needs to do more on the field to have others view him as elite.

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Stroh's picture

August 17, 2020 at 11:57 pm

Jaire is on the cusp of being Elite. Not quite there yet. But I have very little doubt that he will get there. Take his game against Dallas and Amari Cooper and he might be much close to Gilmore. Just improve completion % against a bit and get some of the INT's he dropped last year and he has made it. He's right on the cusp, but just a bit more improvement is needed!

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bizz888's picture

September 14, 2020 at 02:50 pm

There's definitely a fine line between ego and confidence...
https://www.columbusconcretecrew.com

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johnanderton's picture

November 18, 2020 at 05:08 am

It's difficult to know when someone becomes elite. It's even more difficult to decide that about yourself.

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