After the horrendous but improvement of a year the 2018 NFL season produced for the Green Bay Packers, few bright spots came from last year. For defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, his unit just happened to have the vast majority of those pieces.
From Jaire Alexander to Kenny Clark to Kyler Fackrell, certain players earned their wage and then some last season. With that in mind, here are three potential high risk, high reward players who could see their stock skyrocket in 2019.
Josh Jackson – CB
The second of two consecutive cornerbacks taken by general manager Brian Gutekunst in the 2018 draft, Josh Jackson came out of Iowa with the pedigree of being a ballhawk, not afraid to stick his nose into the play and come out of it with the ball. While his 2018 season left a lot to be desired, his 2019 season has the makings of being a big-time improvement.
By having players such as Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage at safety, Pettine is then able to position his linebackers and corners as such due to the strong over the top presence that both safeties bring. Where Jackson fits into this conversation is interesting, especially with how many people called for his position to be changed to safety.
Both Amos and Savage have the pedigree to play down in the box, which could give Jackson the opportunity to earn some safety snaps. However, Jackson’s role is best suited as a corner, more specifically one of the slot guys due to his awareness and ability to read the quarterback.
While maybe not expecting a ton from Jackson this season, he has all the tools to be the breakout guy the team had in mind when they drafted him.
Kyler Fackrell – OLB
While Kyler Fackrell did lead the team in sacks with 10.5 last season, his role only increased as the season progressed. With both Nick Perry and Clay Matthews out of the picture, Fackrell has a golden opportunity to become more than a one-season wonder.
Even with both of the Smith, Preston and Za’Darius, being brought in as end signees, Fackrell slots in well to the rotation and seems to have earned the trust of Pettine to go out and at least force the issue in the pocket.
Not really known as a top-flight pass rusher before last year, Fackrell’s role in Pettine’s defense has the ability to differ, even though his pass coverage skills are non-existent. For Pettine and his staff of assistants, getting Fackrell on the field may be one of the season’s no-brainers.
Tony Brown – CB
When injuries set the cornerback ranks back a few rungs last season, practice squad player Tony Brown was called up to the active roster and proceeded to make his NFL debut last year. Across 11 games, Brown made three starts, forcing two fumbles and making 34 combined tackles, not bad for someone who just made his debut.
Similar to Jackson, Brown has the skill set to make more of a name for himself in 2019, provided his demeanor does not get in the way. The University of Alabama football product is more known for his swagger and his ability to be called for a ton of penalties instead of his play, so there are definitely areas to work on.
While not challenging Alexander or anyone for snap counts, Brown should be a good depth piece that could slot in if needed and not be a huge issue out on the boundary.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23