Return of Jaire Alexander Could Make Green Bay Packers Cornerbacks One of the Best Groups in the NFL

Heading into their game with the Baltimore Ravens, the Green Bay Packers sit at 10-3. That record gives them a sizeable lead in the NFC North. Along with that, if the playoffs started today, they would be the top seed in the NFC. What makes all of this even more impressive, is that their roster has been decimated by injuries. It seems that every position on the Packers roster has had to deal with a key player falling to injury and that includes the cornerback position. However, if star cornerback Jaire Alexander can return, the Green Bay Packers cornerbacks group could be one of the deepest in the NFL.

Return of Jaire Alexander Could Make Green Bay Packers Cornerbacks Room Very Deep

The Packers defense has been without the services of Jaire Alexander since Week 4. In the Packers 27-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Alexander suffered a shoulder injury while making a tackle. The injury was severe enough that many believed that he would be lost for the season. But luckily for the Packers, especially the defense, Jaire Alexander returned to practice earlier this month. While his return to practice has made the Packers happy, his timetable to return to playing in a game has not been set. However, at this point, they are just happy to have Jaire Alexander back, who is one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL.

The Packers have missed Jaire Alexander, which is not shocking. When healthy, he takes away half of the field. But the Packers secondary has held it together pretty well since Alexander’s injury. Coaching, good play from a rookie, and a necessary mid-season pickup has helped the Packers defense get by with Jaire Alexander out of the lineup, but they would love for him to return to game action.

Rookie Holding His Own

One of the players who has stepped up since Jaire Alexander’s injury has been the rookie Eric Stokes. Many thought that the Packers would bring along Stokes, this year’s first-round draft pick, slowly in his rookie campaign. But with Alexander’s injury, along with Kevin King once again showing he is made of glass, Stokes has had to learn on the fly. So far this season, Stokes has played in all 12 games, starting 10 of them. In that time, he has 12 passes defended, 40 combined tackles, and one interception. Those numbers are pretty solid for a rookie who is playing one of the toughest positions in the NFL.

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Stokes has had some bumps along the way which is to be expected from a rookie cornerback. He has been beaten at times and given up some touchdowns. But like they say, a good cornerback needs to have a short memory. Stokes has illustrated that ability in his rookie season. He will give up a pass or two, but he does not let that affect his overall play. When it has happened, which isn’t on a frequent basis, he moves on to the next play.

The rookie has been helped out by his coaching staff as well.  Defensive coordinator Joe Barry has put Stokes in situations where he can use his speed to make up for any deficiencies. Secondary coach/pass game coordinator Jerry Gray, one of the best at what he has done, has given Stokes a crash course in being a starting-caliber cornerback. The way that Stokes has developed, and if Jaire Alexander can return soon, the Packers cornerbacks group could be sitting in a very good situation.

The Douglas Factor

For Packers fans, it is pretty obvious by now how important the pickup of Rasul Douglas has been for the Packers secondary. The former Arizona Cardinals practice squad member has possibly been the steal of the NFL transitions world this season. Packers fans were hoping for Stephon Gilmore, but instead, they got Rasul Douglas and that has worked out really well.

The week Douglas was signed, he was immediately put into action, against the Chicago Bears. And he and the Packers defense have not looked back since. Douglas has played in eight games, starting five of them. He has registered 39 combined tackles, forced one fumble, and has 10 passes defended. Along with that, he has three interceptions and has returned two of them for touchdowns.

Douglas’ production has helped the Packers deal with missing Jaire Alexander. By no means is Douglas the same type of player as Alexander, but he has answered the bell for the Packers. He not only has contributed as a boundary cornerback, but he has also started to contribute on special teams. Having a player like Douglas chipping in on special teams is big. The Packers special teams unit has been downright awful and Douglas could help them improve.

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Douglas has helped out not only with Alexander missing time but also with King being injured once again. General manager Brian Gutekunst whiffed when he re-signed King, but he has been bailed out by the signing of Douglas. Douglas has played well in Alexander’s absence and he has also been what the Packers were hoping King would be. A reliable, available, solid boundary cornerback.

Options Could Be Endless 

It would not be an understatement to say when, and if, Jaire Alexander returns, the Green Bay Packers cornerbacks room will be as deep as any cornerbacks group in the NFL. But it does present Joe Barry with a very big question. How does he get all of his solid cornerbacks on the field at the same time?

It appears there are two options, at least on paper,  that could be effective.  The first would be to move Alexander to the slot, and keep Douglas and Stokes on the outside. Alexander has the skills to excel on the inside, but is it the best way to use his talents? If Barry does not think so, he could go with another option. He could move Stokes inside and then have Alexander and Douglas on the outside. Stokes is young enough that he isn’t used to just playing outside. Plus, he has the speed to play on the inside. The Alexander-Douglas boundary cornerback duo would provide a nice veteran presence on either outside.

Either way, it would also allow the Packers to move Chandon Sullivan back to the dime back. He has been playing nickel back for the past several seasons and he has struggled. He played in the dime early in his Packers career and did well.  It might be the best move for both Sullivan and the Packers. It would also allow King to be a backup. If any of the top four corners fall to injury, they could insert King. At this point, King is just playing out his final days as a Packer.

Jaire Alexander, even if he is not fully healthy, will upgrade an already solid Packers cornerbacks room. That group will be a fun one to watch down the stretch, especially if Alexander returns.

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