Jerry Gray Could Be the Boost that Young Packers Secondary Needs

The new defensive backs coach, Jerry Gray, could provide the boost that this young Green Bay Packers' secondary needs. 

It wasn't long ago that the Green Bay Packers' secondary was, to put it simply, a mess. Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall just didn't pan out at the cornerback position, injuries were a common occurrence, and the play from the entire safety group in 2018 was downright ugly. 

However, the 2019 season was different as collectively the secondary unit took a huge step forward. Kevin King was healthy and had the second-most interceptions in the NFL. We saw the emergence of Chandon Sullivan, and of course, Jaire Alexander has All-Pro potential. Not to mention that there is plenty to love about Ka'dar Hollman as well. 

Meanwhile, the safety position was revitalized and solidified with the offseason additions of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. 

This is a young group with plenty of talent and lots of potential, but despite their success, consistency was still an issue - which is to be expected with a young group - and development is still needed. Enter new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, whose addition may have flown under the radar this offseason, like most position coach hires would, but he could be what takes this unit to the next level in 2020.

Before becoming a coach, Gray was a successful player in his own right, as a former first-round pick and a four-time Pro Bowl selection over his nine-year career. He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

As far as coaching goes, Gray has been around since 1997, including two stints as a defensive coordinator with Buffalo and Tennessee, but he has primarily been a DBs coach. Most recently of which, with the Minnesota Vikings. 

Gray is well respected within the NFL community and he is known as being an excellent teacher of the game. Shortly after the hire, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine had this to say about the addition of Gray:

"I had never worked with Jerry directly before but it was a lot of one and two degrees of separation, guys that had worked with him and just raved about him, about his work ethic, his demeanor with the players. That he can maintain that professional distance, that he can give them some tough love but not at the same time where it’s a real adversarial relationship. But he has such a positive reputation as a teacher, it’s great to have his experience in the room."

Additionally, Fred Smoot - a nine-year NFL veteran and former player of Gray's - had this to say about what he will add to this Green Bay Packers' secondary:

"He’s known for filling in the blanks,” said Smoot. “Every time you get a cornerback in this league, it’s always going to be ‘he does this well, does this well, but..’ He’s going to find out whatever that ‘but’ is and he’s going to work on that. He’s never going to work on the things you already do great. He’s going to try to complete the pizza, if you know what I mean.”

In addition to Smoot, a few other notable players that Gray has mentored include Blaine Bishop, Samari Rolle, Nate Clements, DeAngelo Hall, along with Antoine Winfield. And most recently with the Vikings, he worked with Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes, both of which made multiple Pro Bowls and were first-team All-Pros under Gray. 

While his first season in Green Bay is off to an unusual start as all offseason programs up to this point have been done virtually, Gray has already reviewed the film of each of his players and has held one-on-one meetings to discuss what he sees.

This has been an opportunity for Gray to give an honest first impression because as he told Green Bay media members a few weeks back, "my job is to make sure the guys are getting better and seeing the success on the football field that they want to see."

Yet even through Zoom calls, Gray's candor and teaching ability shines through and that already has Amos excited about where he can take this group moving forward:

"He's played in the league, he's had a lot of experience, has had a lot of success in the league. Already I'm learning a lot from him just from meetings that we've had,” Amos said. “His viewpoint on playing in the secondary, playing in the league, I just feel like he has a lot of knowledge. He's seen a lot. He has a lot to give to this young secondary.”

As any defensive backs coach would be, Gray is thrilled to be working with this young, talented group of players - especially Alexander and Savage - that Green Bay has and he has already let them know that whatever level they want to get to in their respective careers, he will take them there:

"Because like I tell all the young guys, I got the knowledge to get you where you have to go. Now, it’s up to you to want to work to get there. Every guy who has basically taken that knowledge I’ve tried to give them, I’m not going to force it on you, but I’m going to try to give (it to) you and let you be the best corner in the league. If you want to be the Pro Bowl guy, I can help you get there. If you want to be an All-Pro, I can try to help you get there. But you’ve got to put your work in. I’ll give you the knowledge, but you got to put the work in.”

With Jerry Gray's track record it's easy to understand why he was at the top of Matt LaFleur and Mike Pettine's list of candidates to replace Jason Simmons. And with what was a quiet offseason for this Green Bay Packers team, it could be the low-key addition of Gray that provides one of the bigger boosts to this already stout secondary. 

As Gray said, "those guys are still young, so it gives me a chance to come over and put a little stamp on what they can do." Which given his past and his ability as a teacher, there's really no reason to think that he won't find the same success here in Green Bay. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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Comments (19)

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gkarl's picture

June 26, 2020 at 01:41 pm

I think this was a good hire. Experience as a player and coach, hopefully he a good communicator as well. We have a young secondary group with lots of potential, here's hoping he can bring it out. Personally if he can just get them to catch the "right at em's" I would be happy, anything for me is a bonus.

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Handsback's picture

June 26, 2020 at 01:50 pm

Top to bottom, I think the Packer's secondary is very talented. With young players like Alexander, Savage, Sullivan, and King; Gray could look like a hero if he gets them to play up to their potential. It's been a long time since I've seen as strong a secondary in Green Bay.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 26, 2020 at 04:05 pm

We had a very good secondary in 2010. Woodson, Collins, Tramon, Shields...but in 2011 it set a league record for yards surrendered.

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murf7777's picture

June 26, 2020 at 05:03 pm

Could it have been because we had the top offense and went 15-1? So, with big leads at times the opposing offense passed a lot. I would think we would’ve been playing a lot of prevent D as well. Stats don’t always tell the story and don’t think these guys abilities declined like the stat would suggest.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 26, 2020 at 05:30 pm

I thought it was a good secondary last year. If Jaire doesn't drop five balls they would have pushed some karma.
See if Greene can return as a blitzer.

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NickPerry's picture

June 28, 2020 at 05:47 am

In 2011 Nick Collins was injured week 2 game against Carolina. THAT was the game that changed the Packers secondary for years, not just 2011. Like someone else mentioned LH, that offense was so explosive teams had to pass just to TRY to keep up. IMO had Nick Collins played that entire year the Packers would have won back to back SB titles in 2010 & 2011.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 26, 2020 at 02:33 pm

Grey was a good college player and pro. He has a top notch collection of guys to work with.....this was one of the better secondaries in the league last year.

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LeotisHarris's picture

June 26, 2020 at 05:57 pm

If there's one guy on the planet who can identify someone who's going to try to complete the pizza, it's Fred Smoot, if you know what I mean.

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wildbill's picture

June 26, 2020 at 06:52 pm

Liking the Gray hire but if he is so good why did the Vikings let him go? I’ve read that he will be great for our young defensive backs but the Vikings are gonna have some very young backs who he could have helped. Anyone have any info on why he left?

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Jonathan Spader's picture

June 27, 2020 at 11:24 am

George Edwards the Vikings DC left for Cleveland. Gray was under him and had worked with him for years. The Vikings didn't appreciate the coaching staff for the defense they had. We'll see how that defense looks in 2020.

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flackcatcher's picture

June 27, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Personal conflicts between Gray and certain veteran players on the team. HC wanted to keep Gray, but their GM (a weird dude) had vets he was in contract talks with... We all know how that goes. In any case, a good pickup for the Packers, closes a major hole in their defensive coaching staff.

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PhantomII's picture

June 26, 2020 at 08:35 pm

Really like the hire. Exactly what our secondary needs. I also like that he was a DC himself. Good hire Gute.

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Stroh's picture

June 27, 2020 at 09:01 pm

Gute hires the staff in the personnel dept. LaFleur hires the assistant coaches, in this case probably in concert with Pettine. This is a HC diing the hiring.

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ricky's picture

June 27, 2020 at 05:59 am

Gray could also be helped with the return of Tramon Williams. A veteran presence who could be a stabilizing force in the locker room, and another mentor/role model in how to succeed in the NFL at a high level.

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mnbadger's picture

June 27, 2020 at 09:50 am

Love the hire. He has the knowledge, discipline, experience at all levels. Some of the staff have the promise of youth, with high energy, but they lack this level of credibility.
Hopefully he can improve the tackling and catching the ball along with everything else. GPG

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 27, 2020 at 11:41 am

I like the hire. The experience, past success, and reputation are all there.

I always discount how hard-working a coach is.

Fans thought Whitt was hot stuff, and maybe he was and still is, with the problem being the players. Not everyone is coachable. It seems tough to coach via zoom. It seems tough to establish muscle memory with no or an abbreviated TC but it might still be possible.

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Stroh's picture

June 27, 2020 at 09:11 pm

The offseason is about learning the playbook and scheme to the nth degree. This is almost all mental with a small amout of physical to ingrain the thought / decision making. Muscle memory is for repetitive activities that don't require thought. That being the case, I think virtual coaching can be really productive. For some maybe more so, depending on what type of learning they do best with. That said, I get where your coming from.

I agree, its a great hire by LaFleur.

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NickPerry's picture

June 27, 2020 at 12:27 pm

Last season it was Mike Smith and Kirk Oliviadotti. This year it's Jerry Gray. There's a common theme going on in GB on the defensive coaching staff. The Packers are bringing in PROVEN NFL coaches who have coached up many All-Pros and Pro Bowlers.

The Packers are putting together one of the better defensive coaching staffs they've had in years. Gray is GOING to make a difference in that secondary.

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Nate-1980's picture

June 27, 2020 at 01:33 pm

I like the hire as well, I don’t know why we don’t bring in more coaches that played and coached the position.. Itd seem if they played the position at a high level they’d be able to teach better techniques and secrets to the players.. Hopefully he can get something out of Jackson, that’d be awesome..

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