New Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry had a lot to say at his opening press conference. Barry of course presented a lot of the usual football coaching cliches. Phrases like “play fast” and “good tackling unit” were mentioned. But Barry also brought up the use of a “star” position. The “star” position is a hybrid of nickel back, cornerback, and safety. From everything Barry said, it sounds like the position will be a vital piece to the Packers. Because of that, we are breaking down the possible candidates to fill the “star” position on the Green Bay Packers defense.
Star Position Candidates for the Green Bay Packers Defense
Joe Barry has the luxury of having one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL already entrenched on the Packers defense. In only three seasons, Jaire Alexander has entered the conversation as the best cover corner in the NFL.
Alexander’s ability would make him a perfect fit to play the star position in Barry’s defense. However, what he brings as a boundary cornerback makes him too valuable to move to the star. If the Packers had better depth on the outside, it would be a no-brainer to play him on the inside.
With Alexander out of the picture, that leaves four possible candidates to play the star. It will be up to Barry and the defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Jerry Gray to decide who will be the best fit. Here are the options that Barry and Gray have to choose from.
In 2020, Chandon Sullivan held down the nickel back position in the Packers defense. He earned that right after a solid 2019 season. His 2019 play created a lot of expectations for 2020. Unfortunately, he didn’t live up to what he did in 2019.
Sullivan’s numbers in 2020 were close to what he did in 2019. However, the numbers don’t match his actual play. Sullivan struggled at times and his play, at best, was uneven. While he still is the favorite for the Packers star position, there are questions as to whether he is the best fit.
Darnell Savage Jr.
Safety Darnell Savage Jr. was the biggest playmaker in the back end of the Packers defense in 2020. In just his second season, and his first under Gray’s tutelage, he posted four interceptions, 12 passes defended, recovered one fumble, and had one sack. His output gives the Packers hope that he is the playmaker they had envisioned when they selected him in the first round.
His playmaking ability and speed would make him a perfect fit to fill the star position. But moving him would create a major hole at the starting safety opposite of veteran Adrian Amos. If Savage were to switch positions, it would leave veteran Will Redmond or second-year player Vernon Scott to fill Savage Jr.’s role. Scott has some promise, but he doesn’t have near the skill set Savage Jr. has. Redmond played quite a bit in 2020, but his play doesn’t give much hope that he will help the Packers defense in 2021.
Without a solid backup to Savage Jr., the Packers can’t chance to move him to the star position.
General manager Brian Gutekunst spent a first-round pick on Eric Stokes in this year’s NFL draft. Stokes hit the Packers radar because of his high-end speed and his experience playing an NFL style of defense at the University of Georgia.
While at Georgia, he lined up on the outside as well as the inside. His inside experience, along with his overall athletic ability makes him a very good fit for the star position. Along with that, the Packers didn’t select him in the first round to sit on the bench. If Barry pegs him to start at the star position, he would get on the field immediately.
However, Stokes might be needed somewhere else during the season. The Packers re-signed Kevin King this off-season. King is expected to start opposite Alexander at the other boundary cornerback position. But King brings with him a long injury history. In his four-year career, King hasn’t been able to play a full regular-season schedule.
It isn’t if King will get injured, but when he will in 2021. When King goes down, it is expected that Stokes will take his spot. When that happens, the Packers defense will be in search of a new star defensive back.
Shemar Jean-Charles is the biggest long shot to win the star position battle. However, he shouldn’t be bet against achieving it.
Jean-Charles doesn’t have the build to play on the outside, 5’10” 184 lbs, but his size seems like a good fit for the inside. During his time at Appalachian State, he displayed that he wasn’t afraid to mix things up against opposing wide receivers. While he only had two interceptions, he did have 16 passes defended.
Being a fifth-round pick, Jean-Charles will need to prove himself. Still, if he were to prove himself in training camp and preseason action, it would be a huge benefit for Barry and Gray. That would allow Stokes to focus on learning the boundary corner and also allow Sullivan to be a backup and providing depth in the Packers secondary.
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