Often lost in the offseason haze, especially following a wallop by the San Fransisco 49ers rushing dominance over the team, was just how good the Green Bay Packers’ pass defense was in 2019. The team had been trying to right its last line of defense for years, spending high draft picks to no avail, but things finally gelled well in 2019.
Adding Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage fixed the safety position, while Jaire Alexander and Kevin King were able to man the cornerback position along with the valuable assistance of veteran Tramon Williams.
The team hired Jerry Gray, a former four-time Pro Bowler, away from the Minnesota Vikings to be their defensive backs coach in 2020. In his media availability via Zoom, Gray mentioned being especially excited to work with Jaire Alexander. His comments, along with Alexander’s upward trajectory, show that Alexander could be poised for a big year in 2020.
Gray praised Alexander, comparing him to Samari Rolle, who he coached in Tennessee, saying, “You have a young, very energetic guy who made a lot of plays last year on a really good defense. When I look at Jai, he reminds a lot of Samari Rolle, when I had Samari in Tennessee. They aren’t really big guys but they were physical, they have really great cover skills and excellent ability to see. A lot of times, guys don’t have that vision, to see the quarterback and the receiver at the same time. DeAngelo Hall had that. When you got guys who have that type of skill, that’s a big plus.”
Alexander being drafted was a surprise to many Packers’ followers, noting he fell below their traditional size preferences for cornerback. Yet Alexander plays much bigger than his size indicates. He’s hungry and filled with vibrant energy and is especially gifted at breaking up plays. He played very well as a rookie, something not many rookie CBs can say, and grew in his second season.
Alexander had 17 pass breakups, good for fourth-highest in the NFL, as well as two interceptions. Per PFF, he was tied in the league for most dropped interceptions, with four. If he can take the next step in that area, he can become one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.
Gray said he asked Jaire, “Where do you want to go?” The experienced coach can use his plethora of experience as a player and coach to help Alexander get to whatever he wants to go. As of this writing, Tramon Williams has yet to be signed by the team, allowing Alexander to be a true leader of this defense. He has the skills to succeed, and in 2020 he can take the next steps and become a Pro Bowler and beyond.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.