3 Burning Questions: Cornerbacks

Moving towards the final few elements of the Green Bay Packers defensive unit, the area of cornerbacks is under the microscope this week. Consistently plagued by injuries to their entire rotation, 2019 is a big-time year for certain players who are looking to make big impressions on defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

The depth chart looks to be a bit muddied still, yet one element is quite obvious: Jaire Alexander is the real deal, and is listed at the top of the depth chart for a reason. The second-year pro out of Louisville is looking to capitalize upon a very successful rookie campaign that saw him prove to Packer faithful why Brian Gutekunst took him in his first draft as the team’s general manager.

Can a healthy Kevin King provide enough in the corner rotation?

Heralded coming out of school as a top-notch cornerback, Kevin King’s professional career has been a very tough one for the University of Washington Huskie product. Fighting through constant injuries that have robbed him of any consistent playing time, King looks to be fighting for snaps this season with a much better grouping of corners.

When healthy, King ranks in the top five corners on the roster, which truly is not saying a ton about his potential. Labeling King as a bust is a bit too early in his career at this point, but with the trend of his career looking to be abysmal, that description is unfortunately not far off.

King is the tallest corner on the team, as the 6-foot, 3-inch player has the physical tools to be a shutdown outside corner; however, his physical traits are also the ones that are holding him back, and going into his third season on the team, the third-year pro is looking to play more than the six games he was healthy enough to suit up for in 2018.

As the corner rankings are right now, King would most likely become a sub-package guy, sliding in during any dime package plays. Not high enough on the depth chart to become the nickel guy quite yet, King can provide solid playing time for this team, if the injuries decide to subside.

Which youngsters can be counted on for big roles in 2019?

Besides Tramon Williams, the cornerbacks are all relatively young, having played three or fewer seasons in the NFL. With this youth also comes a lack of experience and room for growth, which is something that the Packers can expect, while hoping that the learning curve speeds up as the season progresses.

With injuries making this unit quite thin at points last season, Tony Brown stepped up big in certain moments and gave the team quality snaps at corner even if his style of play garnered attention for some of the wrong reasons. The Alabama product came into camp as a more polished player and looks to be ready for an uptick in snaps and responsibilities this season.

Rookie Ka’dar Hollman out of Toledo has an interception so far in the preseason and has looked like a solid late-round addition for Green Bay, so his play and his stature (6’0) makes him an intriguing back-end depth chart guy for Pettine. 

Having an outside chance to make the roster, Colorado rookie Kabion Ento has shown some promise in camp and preseason action, but he is a bit raw – a practice squad contract may be in his future.

Realistic growth for Jaire Alexander: Pro Bowl or All-Pro?

The 22-year-old Louisville Cardinal missed three games last season, but in the 13 that he did play in, he was it special. 61 tackles, one-half sack, and one interception, Alexander was routinely given the role of shadowing the opponent’s best wide receiver, matching up against Adam Thielen, Julio Jones, and Brandin Cooks, among others.

Showing his physical style of play early on in his rookie season, Alexander is destined for great things as a cheesehead – but how great? What kind of ceiling can be expected as Alexander goes into his sophomore season?

With the type of talent that the NFC boasts in the defensive backfield, garnering any type of award accolade is a huge deal, especially for someone like Alexander who is so young in his career. While a Pro Bowl bid would be a fitting result for his second season, with the hope that he will turn it down because we are still playing, being named an All-Pro as a cornerback is possible too.

Building off of his 2018 season, Alexander will need to remain healthy throughout the entirety of the season, make more big-time plays that show up on the stat sheet, like pass breakups and interceptions, and rack up those tackles. Following the opponent’s no. 1 receiver around the field is one thing, but being able to shut him down on a consistent basis is another – something that Alexander showed a bit last season but needs to get over that youthful cusp to fully show the world who he is.

Oozing with potential and skills that were put on full display in 2018, Alexander is this team’s leader, and the second-year pro needs to show that even more if he wants to build a new mantle for all of the awards that will have his name on them. 

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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

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