Secondary Still Stacked for Success

While cornerback is definitely a need heading into the offseason, the secondary is still in good shape at the hands of Alexander, Amos, and Savage. 

It feels like we talk ad nauseam about the secondary every offseason, as there are always roster holes to fill or players that need to be replaced. But I’m here to tell you that this Green Bay Packers secondary has come a long way since having to rely on LaDarius Gunter in an NFC Championship Game. Despite Kevin King’s status as a free agent, the secondary is still set up for success in 2021. 

For starters, corner Jaire Alexander owns his own private island at this point, and the rest of the NFL is officially on notice. He finished the 2020 season as Pro Football Focus’ top-graded corner with a grade of 90.1, and allowed a passer rating of only 59.9 (also first). He ranked 12th overall on PFF’s Top 101 list and also became the only cornerback since 2006 to allow negative yardage in a playoff game (-3 yards vs the Rams in the Divisional Round). In Week 1 of the 2020 season, Alexander started strong with a sack, safety, and interception in the same game against the Vikings. While he didn’t have another interception in the regular season, he ended the playoffs snagging two picks off quarterback Tom Brady. 

While Alexander will have a fifth-year option as a first-round draft pick from the 2018 draft class, he is a pending free agent in 2021. Entering his fourth year with the team, it feels all but certain he’ll lock up a mega payday with the Packers, and that’s partially why the player opposite him in 2021 (who’s yet to be determined) will need to be on a relatively cheap contract, whether they’re a rookie or veteran. Still, my guess is that CB is the first pick off the board for Green Bay in this year’s draft. 

On the back end, the safety tandem of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage also packs a punch. In his second year with the Packers, Amos became PFF’s second-highest graded safety out of 93 eligible players with a grade of 89.4 and earned the top coverage grade of 91.5. He also ranked 27th on PFF’s top 101 players list. He finished the regular season with a team-leading 83 total tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions. Savage, in his second NFL season, led the Packers with four interceptions and had 12 passes defensed. To close out the regular season, Amos and Savage were PFF’s top-graded safeties from Weeks 9 to 17. They were also the top-graded safeties in coverage from Week 11 on (Savage at 88.5 and Amos at 84.7). 

That’s a lot of firepower in Green Bay’s secondary. And while it’s easy to look back at the the bevy of defensive backs that the Packers drafted within the last handful of years and get skittish thinking about their overall production for the Packers, like the 2015 class of Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, or the 2017 class of Kevin King and Josh Jones, or even 2018 with Alexander and Josh Jackson, for once, this secondary isn’t rebuilding (like it had been since 2014). Having a solidified starting three in Alexander, Amos, and Savage puts the Packers in a much better place than they were in for almost all of the aforementioned draft selections. 

And let’s not forget about the contributions defensive backs coach Jerry Gray brought to the team in 2020. Back with the Packers for his second season under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry, Gray will get whoever is going to be CB2 ready for 2021. 

Maybe Kevin King still comes back to the Packers on a prove-it deal. He is just one year removed from a five interception season in 2019 after all. and he’s the unfortunate target in the secondary with Alexander owning his own island and shutting down half the field. But regardless of who’s playing opposite Alexander as the second boundary corner for the Packers in 2021, Green Bay’s secondary is still much better off than it’s been in recent memory heading into the offseason or draft with holes. 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (39)

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splitpea1's picture

February 16, 2021 at 12:27 pm

I'm curious to see how Raven Greene (or the hybrid position) fits into the plans here. I wonder when we get to see and hear a Q &A session with the new DC? Probably have to wait a while....

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 17, 2021 at 06:53 pm

The guy's been hurt three years running. He's not built to be a SS.

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Archie's picture

February 16, 2021 at 12:30 pm

Patrick Peterson - FA CB would be ideal if price is right.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 16, 2021 at 01:01 pm

Three players doesn’t make a secondary. For a 16 game season and playoffs, you need nine and you’re only as good as your weakest link. Those top three are good, but we need the next three, too. And that’s before injuries.

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Lphill's picture

February 16, 2021 at 01:15 pm

Too bad they couldn’t stop Brady before the half.

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Lare's picture

February 16, 2021 at 01:18 pm

Having a good defensive secondary doesn't do much good if you don't stop the run or put pressure on the opposing QB.

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PhantomII's picture

February 16, 2021 at 08:32 pm

I get the point. Having the CB's lock down the WR's does usually help the pass rush succeed. Hopefully our new DC won't be so passive.

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Bearmeat's picture

February 16, 2021 at 01:22 pm

I don't think we need to go 9 guys deep, but you definitely need at least 7. You can count on a young guy (or at least hope) making the jump to CB 4. Nickel CB would be a bonus. 2nd CB needs to be a premier player. So... a high draft pick (again) or a UFA.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 16, 2021 at 03:12 pm

In the NFL teams need 9 DB. Passing league with secondary playing 5 DB out of the box and 6 and now 7 DB on some passing downs. That's why Green Bay is pushing for the hybrid types. The problem is they are hard to find, and their shelf life looks to be shorter in the league.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 16, 2021 at 06:20 pm

We always dress nine. Guys get hurt and all of a sudden your #8 is guarding Julio Jones in the playoffs.

An initial survey shows us having a crack at the #3 CB @29. There’ll still be good choices @62.

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4thandinches's picture

February 16, 2021 at 02:12 pm

Honest question, to what extent does Gray need to own King's horrible game and specifically the tragedy before the half? I find it curious that we fans damned Pettine but then seem to glorify Gray's contribution.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 16, 2021 at 03:04 pm

Good question. One I don't expect either Lafleur or Gutekunst to answer, because that failure also hangs on their heads. How much power Pettine and or Gray had from the sideline is unknown. (And before anyone asks. Gutekunst should have hammered Lafleur to make sure who had sideline responsibility, and Lafleur as HC should have called a timeout when Tampa's tempo was too fast for the defense. Pettine had to go when it became obvious that for whatever reason the two were not talking to each other. But that also reflects very badly on Lafleur as HC, as he enters his contract year)

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4thandinches's picture

February 16, 2021 at 04:07 pm

I hear what you're saying to an extent but maybe have a bit more patience for MLF, given he might have already been thinking about offensive adjustments, communicating with assistants in the booth regarding what Tampa was doing on d, etc. Theres a lot going on during a football game and I get the need to delegate duties. If MLF decided Pettine had the keys to the D, which I think he did, then it's an indictment on MLF judgement, to some extent, but not necessarily a sign there is horrid communication amongst the coaches.

What I do feel more confident in, is that a position coach should be responsible for making sure players know their assignments on different coverages and have the wherewithal to know when they CANNOT let a receiver behind them. If King was a first year player then that's a growing pain and I get it. He's not. So why were so many people hating on Pettine and King but then glorifying the work Gray did this season? A bunch of people wanted Pettine out and Gray in as DC. I just don't get it... That said, Alexander sure did seem to learn how to play off coverage this year from Gray so I'll give him credit for that!

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flackcatcher's picture

February 16, 2021 at 04:43 pm

I'm still pretty steamed about the FUBAR before halftime. But that reflects directly on Lafleur as HC. All of this crud goes back to the Colts game when there was confusion on whom controlled the sideline when the defense was on the field. Lafleur insisted that he was the final boss, and he controlled the sideline during his presser after that game. I take him at his word. If Pettine nor Gray had the authority to call for a timeout from the sideline, then the failure falls directly on Matt Lafleur as Head Coach to reset his defense for the final 8 seconds. You had players on the field wondering why a timeout wasn't call from the sideline. It never happened. It was a total team failure that started with the Head Coach and spiral on down. Someone had to take the fall, Mike Pettine was not under contract, so he was the obvious choice. But Lafleur failed in a football 101 situation. That's something that can not be swept under the rug.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 16, 2021 at 05:52 pm

Redmond makes the pick there is zero story. Jones can't fumble the game away either.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 16, 2021 at 08:57 pm

Yeah, I'm going to blame the football gods rather than a couple of players who failed to do basic ball security. (Makes me feel better)

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Coldworld's picture

February 16, 2021 at 05:35 pm

Gutekunst doesn’t have LaFleur reporting to him, so not sure how he’d do that. This is The Murphy structure not that of Wolf or TT.

I do not see Murphy turning his back on his man easily. LaFleur has a stellar win rate for a new coach. Going to take a cataclysm for Murphy to not renew him, whatever we may think.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 16, 2021 at 09:32 pm

Gutekunst reports to the executive committee, not Murphy. Murphy's been cut out of all football operations. That's the choice the executive committee made when they hired Gutekunst over Murphy's objections. It's not Murphy's call. It's the executive committee call because Murphy played fast and loose with the truth. And Gutekunst is their man, not Murphy's. Like Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson before him, the final decision on Matt Lafleur is Brian Gutekunst's. Frankly Coldworld, if Murphy was in charge, then he would have put out press releases and done pressers about how the Packer organization would be signing Lafleur to a long term contract already. Mark Murphy is never shy about claiming credit. But what do we have from 1265. Silence, complete and utter silence on Lafleur. And the only member to comment on Matt Lafleur was Brain Gutekunst, and that was on Mike Pettine leaving the organization. Matt Lafleur is getting the short end here, not fair to him, and it will set back the team if he is not rehired.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 16, 2021 at 05:49 pm

To what extent did the Packers QB coach own any of Favres playoff tragedies?

The person responsible for not defending the end zone is gone. So is King.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

February 16, 2021 at 06:44 pm

I don't think a position coach gets primary blame for a squad's failings when 3 of the 4 top starters are top tier in the entire league. I think we will find out King was playing injured. We're short in the secondary b/c Jackson didn't turn into a 2nd or 3rd CB. It happens.

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CoachDino's picture

February 17, 2021 at 07:12 pm

Truth, When you are a draft and develop and the guy doesn't develop it has an impact. Perspective: The same guy who drafted Jackson, who was a consensus late 1 early 2nd rd pick that never developed is the same GM who drafted the best CB in all of football just a few picks earlier. How does that happen? Some day maybe we can get an explanation.
Over evaluation of athletic traits and scheme are my very ill informed guesses...

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Minniman's picture

February 17, 2021 at 03:27 am

Extending on your line of thought 4th. Just how healthy was Kevin King really during that game? He had a lingering back injury in the run up. That miss at the end of the quarter was just too egregious - There had to be another factor at play for him to get burned so badly. Perhaps it was bad positional coaching and homework by King. Miller has 4.39 speed, so he had to be respected as a deep threat.

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Coldworld's picture

February 16, 2021 at 04:08 pm

We have one consensus corner. That’s a hole when the field has a middle and another side. Sullivan May bounce back but all the other corners have so far been ST only or not deemed worthy to suit up behind a dinged up King who was struggling.

On the subject of Gray, the theory that he made a big difference is at least questionable. Alexander was good and ascending, Savage had the tools and Amos was established.

I would expect progression from Alexander and Savage based on experience and snaps. That benefits Amos. So how much of their play was Gray? More concerning is that King regressed as did Sullivan. One could argue maybe injuries, but we do not know.

Then look at Hollman and Jackson. Neither of these let alone the PS corners emerged to the point of being regularly active let alone on the field on D. Jackson and Hollman appeared then vanished. Doesn’t seem a ringing endorsement of Gray.

I accepted that there could be other reasons and I may be selling him short on Savage and Alexander, but there is no proof either way. As such, thanking the stars for Gray seems at best premature and possibly false confidence.

We need an early draft corner and probably one or two later. If King wasn’t really hobbled, he isn’t good enough. If he was, that speaks volumes to the incapabilities of the depth. We also need to have competition for Sullivan beyond the holdover futures guys.

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4thandinches's picture

February 16, 2021 at 04:15 pm

Salient points! I'd add that if King was injured to the point of being a liability, isn't it generally the position coach that should pull him and put in a replacement? We had Tramon just sitting the bench...

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 16, 2021 at 05:55 pm

Need two new CBs. Sullivan is a dime at best. Jackson should have been pink-slipped before the season started and another veteran propped in his place. Two from the draft and one free agent.

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cms's picture

February 17, 2021 at 10:52 pm

So, Is the defensive staff staying completely the same minus the DC? If so, that seems weird.

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stockholder's picture

February 16, 2021 at 04:23 pm

I say King is not the problem. Is Kings upside Gone? IF not. I wouldn't sign King to any prove it deal. He has value. I'd Lock him up long term. With bonuses. He needed re assurance. He came off a good season. He sacrificed his body. And had to shut it down. Pettines scheme was the problem. And "To many" in this secondary, had problems with it. Not to mention the same problems at ILB. Greene was the guy that made up for it. Not Sullivan ,Redmond, or Kirksey. The guy that made Pettines defense work was Greene. And when your confidence is lost. Trying to be everywhere. No stunt was going to help. King was the victim here. Time out should have been called. The defense wasn't stopping Brady. King got burned. If King has lost a step. It's time to move on. But I'm not seeing that. He still has value. And you won't have to over-pay him. The solution isn't Over drafting the position. And waiting for the results. The results are already in. Pettine was let go. And the packers as a" Team", flopped. King is a valuble. Reinlistment is just a signature away. But does Gute GIVE A DAMN?

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Coldworld's picture

February 16, 2021 at 05:37 pm

I think it depends on the nature and extent of his injuries during last season. I doubt we will know that, but the team does.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 16, 2021 at 09:57 pm

Yes, King is gone.

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PatrickGB's picture

February 17, 2021 at 09:20 am

King was (as usual) playing hurt against a faster WR. It was a screw up. But football happens and on one key play the team got burned. It happens to all teams but this time it was too impactful.

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Packer_Fan's picture

February 16, 2021 at 04:39 pm

I would not call the Pack's secondary as stacked. Three good to great starters. And mid to low end for Sullivan and King respectively. And I don't see any of the other backup CB's making a big jump next year. And however you want to say it, poor def coordinator planning and execution. Other teams picked on King and Sullivan. Especially if the QB's were good veterans.

So once again the Pack will have to draft a CB high. And here is my blueprint for the defense next year. Draft a CB and a IDL high in the draft. Followed by a ILB. Hopefully you can get some backup help right away. Sign Watt. We need to go to like Tampa Bay's alignment of 4-2-5. And perhaps we can do that with Z. Smith, Watt , Clark and Gary. Then go to two linebackers and five in the secondary. I assume that P. Smith and Kirksey are gone.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 16, 2021 at 05:11 pm

What we fans think the Packer needs, and what front office thinks are, as saw last year two different things. My wild guess is the Packers will draft more OL, looking for OT more based on need and will tilt toward the offensive side at TE and RB. Forget about what the draft types are saying publicly, with most of the college football season wiped out, there is little game video out there on any player this year. Yes the Packers will draft or sign FA secondary/hybrid types. Packers can never have enough good DB period. Outside of that, flip a coin. With Cap Man coming and the Cap shrinking I don't have a clue what Gute is going to do. It will be interesting...

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stockholder's picture

February 16, 2021 at 09:25 pm

Packers will draft more OL,?????? Then why keep Wagner? Turner, Vledheer? The only way a OT will be taken this draft is for Love. The defense is loaded.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 16, 2021 at 09:51 pm

How many draft choices/FA does a team plow though to get a decent player. Both Turner and Wagner are going in contract years, and OH MY WERE IS BAHK. Fining good OT is hard, Kansas City lost both of theirs, and we all saw what Tampa did to them. The Packers will always draft OL OT CB QB, critical positions in the league. But hey, you know that already.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 17, 2021 at 01:58 am

Turner is signed for 2021 and 2022. Wagner's contract ends after the 2021 season.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

February 16, 2021 at 06:42 pm

To be fair, most teams don't have stars at every position in the secondary and Rodgers and other good QBs have made a living picking on the team's worst corner. Like when GB beat PIT for the title. Given that GB's issue this year was NOT the offense, and they picked a TE and RB last year, I would bet they go largely defense until later rounds. They found Jones in the 5th. I'm guessing they go CB somewhat early, since it is a premium position and an expensive one in free agency.

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The_Justicar's picture

February 17, 2021 at 10:40 am

To sum up the comments...it is not acceptable that Green Bay does not have 4 pro bowl starters in the secondary and 5 pro bowls on the bench for nickel, dime and back ups in case of injury. Nine pro bowlers in the secondary but don’t forget about the other defensive starters that should also be pro bowlers, and all of these players need to fit under the cap and allow for the offense to have players too. Also...Gute or Murphy or the board or all of them should consider firing the head coach because he didn’t call a timeout before the half against tampa to set the defense, doesn’t matter he made the nfc title game two years in a row. He lost both. That is inexcusable no matter any other successes.

Did I get it all right?

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Ernesto's picture

February 17, 2021 at 01:40 pm

Sure would help to have a couple of play makers and people who have the skills to do better then a basix job. There is not one star on this defense. Forget pro bowl, not even contenders.

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Ernesto's picture

February 17, 2021 at 01:38 pm

Stacked for sucess for who the other teams? The Bucs showed how vulnerable our pass d is, slow to react, slow to cover, poor tackling, mixed assignments. Hey Barry cant make these dokes faster and think smarter. They are what they are a group of misfit players in need of an influx of skill players.

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