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Packers Defense Needs a Step Forward From Jaire Alexander in Year Two

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Packers Defense Needs a Step Forward From Jaire Alexander in Year Two

The Packers could really have something special in corner Jaire Alexander. He’s arguably the best cover man on the roster after just one season and is earning respect from teammates, opposing players, and coaches around the league. Leading up to the team’s week nine matchup against the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick had some kinds words for the budding star. 

“This guy is a really good football player, and I think he’s got a great future in the league,” Belichick said via a conference call back in October. “I think he’ll be one of the top corners in the game for quite a while here.”

It gets better seeing that the former 18th overall pick just turned 22-years-old a couple weeks ago and he’s already receiving praise from future Hall of Fame coaches. Green Bay can expect a bright future ahead with Alexander and a second-year jump will put Green Bay’s defense in a good spot next season. The pass rush is still a big concern, however, at least the Packers do not have to worry about using a high draft pick on a corner for the first time in years.

In 2018, the defense was noticeably better when Alexander was lined up opposite of second-year corner Kevin King. Unfortunately, it rarely happened as both players dealt with injuries. King eventually ended up on injured reserve to end the season with a hamstring injury. The two only appeared in four games together resulting in less than 200 snaps. 

Alexander missed three games battling a groin injury he was first diagnosed with during training camp. There’s probably something to say about Alexander’s impact as a rookie even though he wasn’t at a 100 percent for most of the season. His first career interception came against the Buffalo Bills in week four on a pass from rookie quarterback Josh Allen. Alexander recorded what was believed to be the put-away interception in week two facing the Minnesota Vikings but the play was called back for a questionable roughing the passer penalty on linebacker Clay Matthews. 

When the season ended, Alexander finished first on the team with 11 pass break-ups. According to Pro Football Reference, this number was tied for second in the league among all rookies. He also added 66 tackles, three for a loss, which had him in consideration for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award that ended up going to Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard.

Still, Alexander has plenty of time to fill his trophy case which will likely consist of multiple Pro Bowls and hopefully a few Super Bowl rings. 

Packers fans should see improvement from a secondary that lacked production in 2018. Besides Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s three interceptions, the rest of the defensive backs only combined for four interceptions. Hopefully, Alexander can start turning some of his pass deflections into interceptions in 2019. He will certainly be carrying over a lot of momentum into year two as one of the top playmakers on Green Bay’s defense. 

 

 

Brandon Carwile is a Packers writer who also enjoys watching and breaking down film. Follow him on Twitter @PackerScribe.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (39) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Coach JV's picture

Alexander, Breeland, King... Shutting down receivers since 2019!

I'm looking forward to it!

JonR005's picture

Breeland won't be back! He's a corner - not injured like he was last offseason - and will command a bigger deal than GB should be willing to give him.

I'd love for him to come back as our 4th CB, but 4th CBs shouldn't make more than 2mil/year

CAG123's picture

Lol what? 4th corner to who the guy that can’t play a full season or the guy who isn’t a scheme fit? He played a handful of games for the Pack he doesn’t have that much leverage calm down.

JonR005's picture

I'm not disagreeing that 1) he's a solid player, 2) king needs to stay healthy or 3) jackson has to improve. But money would be spent more wisely elsewhere and they don't want to block 2nd round picks.

Dzehren's picture

Breeland is expected to get a 3 year deal worth 18M. Top corners average 14M per year, second tier average 10M per year. So 6M per year should do it.
Bryce Callahan, Adrian Amos & Aaron Lynch should also be seriously vetted. All Free agents with 3-4 experience from a solid defense.

JonR005's picture

lol @ bryce callahan. He's a journeyman who played well in a perfect scheme for him (one that the packers don't run) and he was aided by a great pass rush and fast ILBs who gave him help inside that the Packers ILBs won't be able to do. Look past the PFF grade.

Dzehren's picture

What?? Callahan was the third highest pure slot corner in the league last year per Pro Football Focus.
Callahan was a UDFA signed by the Bears in 2015.
The “journeyman “ as you say has played in a 3-4 defense with the Bears since 2015.

JonR005's picture

did you not read my comment? I told you to look past the PFF grade. Yes, he didn't have many negative graded plays because he wasn't asked to do as much as the 31 other starting slot corners in the league. WIth solid safety help over the top, fast ilbs, and a good pass rush, he had minimal responsibility.

The bears are a 3-4 team but primarily play cover 2. The packers are more cover 1 robber. If you don't know what the differences are, then theres no point arguing with you

Dzehren's picture

Yeah- I read ur comment. Why did you say Callahan was a journeyman when he has played for 1 team and is 27 years old? Why did u say PFF gave him a low ranking when they ranked him 3rd best?

JonR005's picture

journeyman was the incorrect term. does just a guy work better for you? And i never said PFF gave him a low ranking. i simply said that you need to "look past PFFs grade"... because he's ranked highly and isn't anything special outside of that specific system.

holmesmd's picture

An old presence with a new name! Is that you John?!;)

Minniman's picture

Towards the end Ha Ha was more Keystone Cop than Robbers dog.

Dzehren's picture

JonR get ur facts straight about Callahan source PFF

https://www.profootballfocus.com/news/pro-projecting-landing-spots-for-t...

holmesmd's picture

That’s a ridiculous statement and totally disagree

Old School's picture

He's the best cover and tackle guy in the secondary.....if only we had six or seven more like him.

Alexander and King will be our starters, and they're a pretty good pair. If we can fix safety, then Tramon can join Jackson as our 3rd and 4th corners.

TGR has speculated that it might take around $6 million/year to keep Breeland. I'd rather spend FA money fixing the safety spot.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I think $6M AAV is Breeland's floor. Robert Alford signed (2-7-19) for $7.75M AAV (3-yr, $22.5M). At age 30, Alford had to give a team friendly structure (1-year out at $9M with $3M dead) and just a $4.5M signing bonus. Breeland is likely to get a neutral structure. Alford was nothing to write home about, and had no INTs, sacks, QB hits, or FFs. He does have 11 PDs, and has been durable for the last few years. Breeland's per snap stats are better, and he was durable until 2018.

Breeland missed time last year, so that might nick him. He wasn't particularly good as he knocked the rust off, but seemed to improve later. I also look at Breeland as CB3. My crystal ball is imperfect, but I'd be guessing Breeland commands as much and probably more than Alford.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Not going to happen. Once other teams see Alexander continually deflecting or intercepting passes they just won't target him. Instead they'll target the backup CB that's filling in for King when he gets injured. We need Jackson to stop getting penalties for holding and show the instincts he displayed in college. We need King to stay healthy.

CAG123's picture

He can’t display those instincts as a press corner which he lacks the speed and hip fluidity to play he’s at his best with his eyes on the QB playing zone.

Old School's picture

Obviously, offenses are going to work where they think they can get more done. If you had 10 HOFers on defense, I guarantee you most of the plays are going to try to take advantage of the 11th guy. Defense is a team effort and you're only as good as your weakest link.

If we could fix the safety spot so Tramon could play corner, we'd have a pretty good pair of starters and pretty good #3 and #4.

We have about $30 million in free agent money. IMO, we could get a top safety like Landon Collins and a mid-range safety for about $15 million. Two new starters. Then draft a safety, too. All of a sudden we're not depending on Brice or Campbell or Jones.

IMO, that's the best way to fix our secondary, and I actually think it could be pretty good for the next couple of years.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Where do you think the weakest link in 2018 was Old School? Brice got exposed in the Vikings game and his biggest hit was against Wilkerson.

JonR005's picture

I hope/believe that Jaire is the #1 CB that'll be able to carry receivers where ever they go (like Patrick Peterson).

But let's not sleep on Josh Jackson. Yes, year 1 was very frustrating at times. The knock on him in the draft process was that he didn't have the pure athleticism that you look for in a shutdown corner. You could see this on tape by the way about 80% of the catches he allowed were just out of his reach.

So you could take the glass half empty approach that he just will never have what it takes to close that gap.

However, I'll choose the half full option:

He's an iowa product who puts the work in to improve - and was a stud in college. Last year was the first year that he was asked to play man coverage consistently. Give this kid an offseason with an NFL strength and conditioning program, paired with another season to hone his technique in man coverage and you might see the game changing corner that we saw a glimpse of in preseason last year.

dobber's picture

Agreed: CBs are too valuable and you need too many of them over the course of a season to move Jackson to S too early. People are writing him off too soon based on his rookie year. He needs at least one more year at CB to find out whether he can be a player there at this level.

MarkinMadison's picture

We've also seen the Packers give up on corners without ever trying them at safety, and then watch as they blossomed elsewhere. I'm worried that Jackson is heading down that path. I'd rather see Breeland signed as injury insurance and give Jackson a shot at slot or safety. The Packers have very little cap space devoted to the secondary right now. They can afford to give Breeland a three year deal and still look at a quality safety in FA.

holmesmd's picture

Jackson is not quick enough to play slot CB. If he’s “slow” on the boundary, he’s not going to fair better in the slot. Slot CB’s usually play press coverage, right?! So you want a guy like that converted to slot CB instead of safety?! Huh?!

MarkinMadison's picture

Slot speed is a different kind of speed. Hyde played slot for the Packers with slightly worse 40-times than Jackson. Not being good on the outside doesn't mean he can't play slot.

Old School's picture

Who are these corners that we gave up on who thrived as safeties elsewhere?

You're correct that we spend very little on the secondary. I'd use it to get two safeties and go with King-Alexander-Jackson-Tramon and some rookie at corner.

Nick Perry's picture

Hyde and Randall come to mind.

Perhaps if Capers had been fired when he SHOULD have, the Packers would have had a DC who could have seen Hyde's best position was Safety and the contract offer Hyde received wouldn't have been an issue.

I understand Randall developed into a locker room problem but the question was who the Packers gave up on.... So that's two.

sam1's picture

I for one hope Breeland will be back!

Packer Fan's picture

If Dzehren is right, $6 mil for Breeland is reasonable. And like some of the comments say, Breeland is not the 4th CB. Jackson is. Jackson needs to hone his technique a lot to be an effective CB to make up for his lack of speed/quickness. And as long as he doesn't, opposing QB's will be picking on Jackson. I am looking at best year three or four for Jackson. And until someone figures out how to avoid hamstring and groin issues (Pack WR and CB's seem to have problems here), a good solid third CB is needed. I like Tony Brown. He corrected his temper and has the physical tools. As far as I am concerned, he has more upside than Jackson. And BG should consider drafting a 6 or 7th round CB. Other than that, I am hoping Alexander becomes the All Pro.

holmesmd's picture

Brown should be the safety project IMO

ILPackerBacker's picture

If GUTE had pulled the trigger on K MACK then the PFF numbers would be completely different on the DB and OL fronts.

Look past the PFF numbers includes looking that the other players in the defense and the way the defense is structured.

The entire bear secondary is over rated thanks the outstanding strength of the front 7 and in particular the way the bears generate pressure and force throws with 4 or fewer rushers.

This is a huge deal.

Nick Perry's picture

BUT again the Bears had unbelievable luck on the injury front last season. I'd like to see how great that defense would be had they had to deal with the injuries on the D-Line alone the Packers did last season. Lets see, take Hicks, Goodman, and one other starter off the D-Line and see how that front 7 is.

The Bears also are going to be depending on 3rd and 4th round draft picks for the next 2 years to upgrade the roster thanks to trades for Mack and a draft day trade to move up to take Anthony Miller. Not to mention they only have about $5 million in cap space this year.

Gute did the right thing not trading for Mack. The Packers have FAR to many needs. Spending $22 million this season and an average of $24 plus million for the 2020 through 2022 IMO was insane. I guess I just don't see the Bears as a team who will sustain the success they had last season. A new DC, a full offseason for teams to scheme for Nagy's offense, it will be different in Chicago. It will be different in GB this year too.

Since '61's picture

I expect that Alexander will play at least as well as his rookie season and hope fully not regress. But the reality is that the rest of the Packers defense needs to take a step forward in 2019. If the rest of the defense plays as well as Alexander we won’t have anything to worry about defensively.

Let’s get a legitimate pass rush and an actual NFL safety. If the defense can accomplish that in 2019 that will be a step forward.

I hope that Alexander does improve this season but if the rest of the defense doesn’t join him in improving his impact will be minimized.
Thanks, Since ‘61

Tundraboy's picture

Yes I'll be happy if he's just as solid with no regression and the other guys step up. They must because as of now we are not deep. Must get a vet safety and a draft prospect as well.

Madfan's picture

I read and re-read the headline and thought, as Since '61 stated, that the defense needs others to step up more than Alexander. I'm glad that the story did not match the headline.

Next season, I expect Alexander's technical skills to be refined, but I also expect other teams to study his play even more. Covering the other team's #1 WR will always be a challenge.

Nick Perry's picture

I definitely think Alexander takes a step forward next year. For starters I fully expect the Packers to be better on the Edge, much better which will only help our young secondary. I also expect for Gutekunst to keep Breeland, I mean he almost has to with Kevin King's injury history doesn't he? Signing Breeland is pretty big IMO since he's now versed in Pettines system.

Sign Breeland and a Safety or 2 in free agency and this defense takes another huge step forward.

DD's picture

Jaire is fine. King is the porcelain kid who needs to stay healthy. I think King, if not ready to play this year if nicked, should be released immediately. May well be another Perry! Don't hope too long!

dobber's picture

Why would you release that kid, who has shown he can play, while he's on a rookie contract?

DD's picture

Pur corners will be just fine if we get number one, a serious pass rush, better linebacker speed, and a VETERAN safety, yes veteran. No rookie safety training on the job! Get a quality FA safety. There, problem solved. So easy.

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