Jerry Gray was as Advertised, Taking DBs to New Level

In one season as DBs Coach of the Green Bay Packers, Jerry Gray was as advertised as he helped take several players to a new level this past year.

The 2020 offseason was a relatively quiet one for the Green Bay Packers, at least in comparison to 2019. Coming off an NFC Championship loss to San Francisco, the Packers had little cap space, and in the draft, they addressed future needs more than immediate ones.

This meant that Green Bay was going to run back a similar team for the 2020 season, hoping that internal development and a Year 2 leap in the Matt LaFleur offense would take place--both of which did. 

And part of that internal development was getting a young but extremely talented secondary to the next level--they just needed more consistency. Enter Defensive Backs Coach, Jerry Gray. 

Gray was a former first-round pick and a four-time Pro Bowler during his playing days, which spanned nine years. As a coach, he has a reputation as being an excellent teacher.

"My job is to make sure the guys are getting better and seeing the success on the football field that they want to see, and they'll keep listening," Gray said via Packers.com. "If you don't see success, they won't come back. My job is to keep them coming back."

Gray has an extremely impressive track record, having worked with players such as Fred Smoot, Blaine Bishop, Samari Rolle, Nate Clements, DeAngelo Hall, and Antoine Winfield. More recently in Minnesota -- where he came from before joining the Packers -- Gray worked with Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes, two Pro Bowlers and first-team All-Pros.

"He’s known for filling in the blanks,” said Smoot via Packers News. “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.”

Now in just one season in Green Bay, we've already seen several members of the Packers' secondary have career years, and it's not a coincidence that it just so happened to be under Gray's tutelage. 

Jaire Alexander found that down-to-down consistency and has turned into a legitimate shutdown cornerback. This season he was named a second-team All-Pro, allowing a completion rate of just 48.7 percent on 76 targets for only 9.5 yards per catch with 14 pass breakups and three interceptions--two of which came in the NFC Championship Game.

Over the second half of the season, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage formed the best safety duo in the NFL. Savaged finished the regular season second among all safeties in total pass breakups and interceptions, and Amos was Pro Football Focus' ($) second highest-graded safety in 2020. 

On top of that, Chandon Sullivan made strides, and even Josh Jackson had shown some improvement during his limited action. While most of his playing time came when he was filling in for an injured Kevin King -- who admittedly didn't play as consistently well in 2020 -- and quarterbacks were still fairly efficient passing the ball on Jackson, he allowed only 7.9 yards per catch--although penalties were still an issue. 

There are a few other young players, including Ka'dar Hollman and Stanford Samuels, who are hopefully benefiting from Gray's knowledge and experience as well. 

"He’s been in a lot of different systems, he's been a coordinator so he sees it through that coordinator’s eye and understands how all 11 work together," LaFleur said via Packers News after hiring Gray. He does such a good job of connecting with our players in a short period of time that they’ve had a chance to sit down and talk."

Gray has only been in Green Bay for one season, but needless to say, he has been as advertised. In his short time as defensive backs coach, he's taken Alexander, Savage, and Amos all to new heights, and he did so during an extremely unusual offseason.

According to Gray, it's a pretty simple process; he knows what to do, the players just have to be willing to listen and to work:

"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.”

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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 (40)

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

February 01, 2021 at 11:44 am

Not sure I saw that much improvement from guys like King, Sullivan, Redmond or Jackson.

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Coldworld's picture

February 01, 2021 at 01:57 pm

Was going g to say the same thing. Amos was good before, Alexander was clearly ascending and Savage regressed before rebounding. All of these were within expected parameters for their performance.

King and Sullivan went in a negative direction. Possibly due to injuries. Critically, not one player emerged from the depth improved. Jackson and Hollman disappeared, suggesting regression.

Where is the player coached to exceed expectations? I see none that I think can be attributed to Gray over talent and time and that were unexpected. If anything, I see a stronger case to ask why there wax little evidence of development due to Gray and beyond expectations.

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Guam's picture

February 01, 2021 at 02:17 pm

CW: Remember Gray did not have any May/June development time, no preseason games, and minimal training camp time with his players who he was coaching for the very first time. That is a tough scenario for any coach. I thought Gray did a creditable job getting improvement from three of four starters in that situation.

I am not on the Gray for DC bandwagon, but I think he should be retained as the secondary coach. He did well enough to keep.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 01, 2021 at 06:56 pm

It was a hard start, for sure. We had pretty good health and production among our top five: Amos, Savage, Alexander, King, Sullivan. Green missed most of the year. Jackson filled in during some injuries but hasn’t thrived. And some guys.

Can Gray coach a top college CB to be a starter for us?

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 01, 2021 at 03:34 pm

I asked and said near same below, and got disliked.

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Guam's picture

February 01, 2021 at 05:41 pm

Sorry for the bias Taryn. It wasn't me down voting you.

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Guam's picture

February 01, 2021 at 02:04 pm

Gray said it himself - he can provide the knowledge, but the player has to work at it and have the desire to get better. Three of the four starters got better, one regressed and the backups (Sullivan, Redmond and Jackson) were pretty even in my opinion. That is a decent level of improvement in one year (without a training camp or preseason).

Gray is a coach, not a magician. His players have to want it. It will be interesting to see if the Packers let King walk without an offer (as I expect). That would certainly be an indictment not only of King's talent, but his work ethic too. Gray wouldn't give up on him if he thought he could get better.

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 01, 2021 at 04:40 pm

Was Gray telling Pettine and MLF who he felt wasn't working, learning or was he covering for those players to save them from being cut and his own job? A main reason I stopped listening to coach pressers is the persistence of talking players up that were often not playing to the talk weekly, and players more not walking to their own talk.

I think the loss of preseason is overused for excuse for lack of growth, and with the expectation of only having two, sooner than later, makes it even more a demand to draft players that have a faster growth mentality to get on the field quicker and contribute.

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Stroh's picture

February 01, 2021 at 09:14 pm

Only way King is back is on a one year prove it deal. Given his performance that might be a distinct possibility.

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HankScorpio's picture

February 02, 2021 at 08:28 pm

I'm not sure I saw that much from the DBs either. Guys we knew were good, played good. Everyone else seems stuck in the same place or worse.

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Bearmeat's picture

February 01, 2021 at 12:01 pm

Was going to say: Ironic that Kevin King was chosen for the photo. He has been a below average and regularly hurt CB2 this past year.

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 01, 2021 at 04:39 pm

The play of the players under a position coach is the measure of his success, and more so against the better on the schedule. The good or great play against the lesser just covers the bad against the better which creates a false average. How does Gray look without Alexander, in regard to the others? Are the others improving under Gray or is Alexander simply separating because of a higher level of ability? Has there been any real significant increase in play in all or just the one.

Pettine is responsible for scheme failure, especially in-game, but Gray is responsible for players to grow and meet the schemes basic concepts. Has he achieved such, or is he as much the reason for failure as Pettine, less Alexander, who needs to be out of the equation when coming to a conclusion about hiring him?

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CAG123's picture

February 01, 2021 at 12:36 pm

I don’t think that’s fair we see ability, athleticism, potential etc fail all the time we saw Jaire get spanked a couple times last year (Keenan Allen and Amari Cooper) this year he legit shut down some of the best in the league. If Jaire had the same metrics, drafted in the same spot and coming off a pretty good season in 2019 but fell off a cliff we’d be pointing the finger at Jerry Gray so we have to give him his due for Jaire taking that next step.

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 01, 2021 at 01:36 pm

Just asking questions, not pointing fingers.

Let's not herald Gray because of Alexander and let's not excoriate Gray because of King. Let's look at the progress or lack of progress of the entire unit starting with each individually.

Gray has a prior history of having pro bowl talent bestowed upon him, what has he done with the others. It's easy to look good with the high ability players. Again, just asking.

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Stroh's picture

February 01, 2021 at 09:21 pm

His ex players seem to all say he brought the best out of them. THAT is the expectation isnt it?! IMO Gray has done an excellent job.

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Ernesto's picture

February 01, 2021 at 12:27 pm

What about the ones he didnt take: King, Sullivan, Redmond, Amos. Ya no thanks he is part of the problem with the D, these guys looked cornfused all the time about where should I be on the field.

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Dtrsi's picture

February 01, 2021 at 07:10 pm

Amos was one of the highest rated safeties in the league.

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Dtrsi's picture

February 01, 2021 at 07:10 pm

Amos was one of the highest rated safeties in the league.

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splitpea1's picture

February 01, 2021 at 12:32 pm

The question is, are we looking at our new DC, and if not, how does he fit into our plans? MLF likes him, and the Packers are averse to rocking the boat if they can help it. I would love to be a fly on the wall during some of these discussions and interviews.

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cheesehead1's picture

February 01, 2021 at 12:35 pm

Whoever our new D coordinator is, I hope he installs a more aggressive/meaner/tougher defense and makes tackling a priority. So frustrating seeing guys not wrapping up and trying to shoulder tackle.

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Lphill's picture

February 01, 2021 at 12:39 pm

Well he failed with King.

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Alberta_Packer's picture

February 01, 2021 at 01:09 pm

King was a scouting and draft failure. The finest coaching could not reverse his lack of short area quickness and poor tackling. Add durability issues and voila - a 2021 free agent!

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Oppy's picture

February 01, 2021 at 03:52 pm

King is going to end up in a scheme that allows him to play press coverage and a good number of Packers fans will realize he is a talented CB who simply didn't fit what we've been doing here.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 01, 2021 at 06:47 pm

Wasn't he in press/man on both his whiffs?

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Stroh's picture

February 01, 2021 at 09:30 pm

Can't really press a WR in a stack or bunch formation. It was a poor call made by LaFleur , along with a miscommunication among the coaches. All of that falls directly on LaFleur.

Pettine hasn't been as advertised so it was time to move on, but they damn well better get it right or Rodgers career is gone.

But place blame where it deserves.

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Oppy's picture

February 02, 2021 at 01:07 pm

Not lined up on the LOS and no jamming the WR.. you tell me.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 03, 2021 at 03:21 pm

Call a damn timeout, that's all Lafleur had to do. Tampa had out tempo Green Bay, so calling a timeout was the smart thing to do. Lafleur controls the sideline, but he didn't give the defense any help. Stroh's right, basic football 101. Lafleur didn't help his defense and got out coached on the offensive side of the ball in the fourth. In the NFL champ game. Again.

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packerbackerjim's picture

February 01, 2021 at 01:08 pm

I like what I see with Gray. Some guys, King and Redmond, can only be coached up so much. They cannot exceed their limitations. Sullivan reminds me of early Doug Evans who played his guy tight but wasn’t able to turn around to see the ball, possibly getting a pick. When he did finally, he turned into a very good corner. Reading the receiver’s eyes, his hands raising up for the catch are clues Sullivan can be taught to recognize and react.

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Ernesto's picture

February 01, 2021 at 02:01 pm

I would be shocked to hear there is one person on this team that knows a dam thing about defense based on the crap I saw this year. If it wasnt for Rodgers to Adams, this team would have been lucky to win 5 games. And two of those were against the Lions and Bears

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justjan's picture

February 01, 2021 at 02:29 pm

yes you are.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 01, 2021 at 07:15 pm

Truly funny.

All data suggests that this was, overall, an above average defense the last two seasons. Since you can’t recognize or acknowledge that, why should anybody think you know a damn thing about defense?

Aaron Jones, Tonyan, and the rest of the offense don’t deserve that insult.

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Packer_Fan's picture

February 01, 2021 at 03:31 pm

King never had that short space quickness that is needed. And never demonstrtrated a quick burst to catch up. On that long fumble return he looked slow. And Gray wasn't able to fix any of that. If you had third and long and throw towards King where short space quickness was needed from him. Pretty much a first down every time.

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jhtobias's picture

February 01, 2021 at 05:42 pm

I have never head so many whiners and babies that comment on this site about a team .. Alot of bandwagon fans around here ... Pound sand arm chair gm's

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dblbogey's picture

February 01, 2021 at 06:08 pm

You're whining.

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BAMABADGER's picture

February 01, 2021 at 08:36 pm

CHTV lobbying for Gray???

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Stroh's picture

February 01, 2021 at 09:49 pm

I'd be more than happy to have Gray as DC. HE'S proven and successful. Plus he wouldn't require a completely new scheme for the players to learn. Just some tweaks and adjustments. Packers aren't in a position to give a new DC a year or 2 to get players acclimated like it took on offense with LaFleur on offense. They are short on time with Rodgers as it is. The DC needs to hit the ground running!

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BAMABADGER's picture

February 02, 2021 at 03:51 pm

MLF had a decent first year, 13-3 if memory serves me. No reason a quality D Coordinator couldn't make an immediate impact with a new scheme. These players are mature professionals. They don't need a year to acclimate. If they do they're not worth keeping.

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Since'61's picture

February 01, 2021 at 09:42 pm

Gray didn’t do much for Kevin King, especially on the two plays we needed him the most. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Alberta_Packer's picture

February 01, 2021 at 10:38 pm

Methinks Kevin King didn't do much for Kevin King.

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4zone's picture

February 02, 2021 at 03:50 pm

Gray as DC? No thanks. I'll take Jim Leonard hands down if you please. Someone who has excelled at beating the odds at every level and his best trait has always been a superior understanding of the game. And has proven to teach lower talent players to overachieve year after year. That's what the Packers have been missing for a long time.

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