Packers' Jaire Alexander contested passes at league-high rate in 2018

Brian Gutekunst's mastery from last spring is continuing to look more and more masterful, and that could be something that's constantly revisited in the coming years.

When the Green Bay Packers general manager swapped a first-round, No. 14 overall pick to the New Orleans Saints to fall 13 spots to No. 27 and net an extra first-round pick in the process, slight dismay fell upon fans of a team who watched the Packers trade out of the first round a year prior before selecting cornerback Kevin King with the first pick of the second round.

There wasn't anything of the sort last year. Instead, Gutekunst flipped multiple picks to the Seattle Seahawks and moved back down to No. 18 to take Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander. 

To this point, the mixing and matching instigated by Gutekunst couldn't have gone better.

Alexander played in 13 games for the Packers in his rookie season, registering 11 starts. While his lone interception came off of a questionable throw from Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen, he finished the season with 10 defended passes under his belt as well.

The Packers' new standout cornerback was a lot better in 2018 than his numbers suggested. According to Pro Football Focus, nobody contested more of their respective targets than Alexander.

Even despite the potency of his statistics, Alexander flashed at various points throughout the season, more so in its early stages. He showed superstar potential as the Packers began slowly rotating him into a more solidified role, demonstrating the ability to withstand in both the slot and on the perimeter against some of the league's top receiving threats.

While putting on a coverage showcase as a rookie, Alexander brought to Green Bay what seemed like a lost art: The fearlessness in taking on a defender and rushing downhill to make a tackle. His stellar play even earned him Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie Team honors.

Alexander showed multiple times during the season -- en route to 66 tackles -- that he wasn't scared to play aggressively. He's shown to be all that the Packers have bargained for and more.

The Packers' second-round pick -- another cornerback -- Josh Jackson tied with Alexander for the most passes defended by a rookie defensive back in the NFL this past season.

The only real discrepancy between 2018 and 2019 for Alexander will be the change in position coaches. It's unclear whether or not new head coach Matt LaFleur will hire a cornerbacks coach, but at the moment, Jason Simmons is expected to be retained as the team's secondary coach.

Alexander will at least get one familiar face as an advisor with Joe Whitt Jr. now on the Cleveland Browns' staff. 

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (19)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Rak47's picture

January 25, 2019 at 09:17 pm

After the Mike Smith hire it's become obvious that Pettine has a say in his preferred defensive coaches. If Simmons is kept it's most likely that Pettine wants him and that's good enough for me. Can't wait to see how they use Alexander and King this year.

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CoachJV's picture

January 26, 2019 at 09:08 pm

I'm not a fan of King... he is never on the field. I'm worried he will be the Justin Harrell of CB picks.

I can't wait to see what Alexander and Breeland can do. Maybe if Brown comes along well we will have 3 good CB Starters that can play both outside and slot... both press and zone...

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nostradanus's picture

January 25, 2019 at 09:53 pm

Love Alexander, the kid has Star Power written all over him.

Now go get a bunch more Stars Gute!

That is all...

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TheVOR's picture

January 26, 2019 at 07:36 am

Ya, now that was a Mike McKensie like Rookie season. Ron Wolf once said about McKenisie (paraphrase), he walked on the practice field as a rookie, and just dominated it and belonged, then started and just crushed it. Alexander is a total stud, best draft pick this organization has made in a while. Only stands to reason that after Ted Thompson was swinging and missing like a Jack Hole that Gutz would crush it out of the blocks on his very first first - 1st rounder. He not only gather another #1 for this season, but got this guy! Nice Player, we should enjoy this 5 year run.

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Since'61's picture

January 26, 2019 at 08:38 am

Alexander is one of the best draft picks we've had in a long time. But remember he was also the earliest pick we've had since the 2009 draft after the Packers went 6-10 in 2008.

I'm glad that TT is done but to be fair, as far as the draft was concerned, he was a victim of the team's 8 consecutive playoff seasons. Thanks, Since '61

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ILPackerBacker's picture

January 26, 2019 at 07:05 pm

That is just the continuing excuse.

How does that BS pay off in NE?

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Skip greenBayless's picture

January 26, 2019 at 07:49 pm

Since 61, thank you for not chucking Ted Thompson like so many others love to do. How soon people forget just how great Ted was at the draft.
Much harder to draft at the bottom when all your drafted players come to fruition.

Dash

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

January 25, 2019 at 10:42 pm

What a nice pickup! How many DB draft choices did we have to under take before striking gold? Unbelievable!

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

January 25, 2019 at 10:42 pm

What a nice pickup! How many DB draft choices did we have to under take before striking gold? Unbelievable!

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Jonathan Spader's picture

January 26, 2019 at 03:31 am

Love the swagger that Alexander plays with. He's a fun player to watch and was one of the Packer's bright spots in 2018.

6 points
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rstain99's picture

January 26, 2019 at 08:49 am

me too, hopefully they can build on this. Breeland if not too rich for packers to bring back would help. Think Williams would be fine at safety again maybe take a run at seasoned safety. D line man and LB since Clay probably not coming back. Just kills me to watch this SB just a neutral zone penalty away from NE sitting at home. I would say luck but it seems to happen every year.

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The TKstinator's picture

January 28, 2019 at 08:55 am

#23 is #1 in the TKstination.

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Lphill's picture

January 26, 2019 at 07:46 am

Welcome to Alexander Island !

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Gman1976's picture

January 26, 2019 at 10:35 am

Jet's safety Jamal Adams had this to say about his roster in December, "It has to change. You got to bring players in here, man. It's as simple as that. It's not rocket science. I'm not going to sit here and say we have talent. We have a lot of talent on the team, but we don't have a lot of dogs on the team. We just don't."
Jaire Alexander is a player, talented, and one of the "dogs" that plays football with fearlessness and a ferocious attitude. If our GM gets a few more dogs, the ferocious attitude may rub on the talented and the Packers will win more games and be feared once again.

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Bedrock's picture

January 26, 2019 at 10:40 am

As much as his pass defense gets credit, I really appreciate what he brings to the run defense. He sticks his nose in there and is violent. As he gains some veteran savvy, some Peanut Tillman type plays will emerge. Fumbles and picks will be contagious from this kid. His attitude is infectious.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

January 26, 2019 at 07:03 pm

Now think about when CM3 said the packers already had a # 52....

If we had K MACK and the bear were somehow stupid enough to come away with CM3 what would this kid have looked like?

DROY!

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J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

January 26, 2019 at 08:55 pm

?

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CoachJV's picture

January 26, 2019 at 08:59 pm

This kid is going to be a superstar. I bet he's a top 3 CB in another two years.

This kid has such a quick twitch that he mirrors receivers like nobody I have seen in a long time. Once he learns to adjust for his size, I think he will be a ball hawk. Many of those Passes Defended will be INT and Pick 6's.

Have Breeland on the other side and nobody will want to throw against us.

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PAPackerbacker's picture

January 28, 2019 at 03:46 am

Alexander has proven he was worth the #1 pick and then some. He can defend against the best receivers in the game. He can get to the ball with blazing speed. It will be fun to watch him as he gains more experience and gets even better. If he can remain healthy he will be one of the best CB in the NFL. An amazingly talented player.

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