Jaire Alexander has officially staked his claim as one of the best cornerbacks currently in the NFL. But how does he stack up against legendary Packers CBs?
Alexander’s performance in week one set the tone for the entire season. He sacked Kirk Cousins in the end zone for a safety, and he had an interception that set up a touchdown before half.
After that dominating performance, opposing offenses got the hint and made a (smart) point of never throwing at Alexander.
Over the course of 18 games the Packers faced a litany of top WRs in the league: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Marvin Jones, Randall Cobb, Brandin Cooks, DJ Chark, TY Hilton, Allen Robinson (x2), Curtis Samuel, Robby Anderson, DJ Moore AJ Brown, Robert Woods, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen (x2).
How do these WRs stack up league wide?
Calvin Ridley, Justin Jefferson, Julio Jones, DJ Moore, Allen Robinson, AJ Brown, Brandin Cooks, Corey Davis, Chris Godwin and Robby Anderson finished in the top 20 in receiving yards per game.
Adam Thielen, Mike Evans, AJ Brown, Calvin Ridley, Marvin Jones all finished in the top 10 of total receiving touchdowns.
Robinson (151), Ridley (143), Anderson (136), Woods (129), Jefferson (125), Cook (119), Moore (118), M. Jones (115), Evans (109), Thielen (108) and Brown (106) were all targeted 100+ times.
However, when those players were lined up across from Alexander their numbers dropped significantly. According to PFF, QBs who targeted Alexander completed 48.7% of their passes for an average of 4.6 yard per attempt and a passer rating of 52.9. Alexander was the target of only 69 passing attempts in 18 games (3.83 targets per game).
Alexander faced the best WRs all season and rendered them non-existent. Anyone who followed Alexander’s career saw the playmaking potential from early on, but a small shift in the game plan is really what catapulted Alexander into superstardom.
What Changed for Jaire Alexander?
Through the first nine weeks of the season, Alexander spent five games shadowing reviewers and lined up on the left side 63% of the time. Alexander was holding opponents to a -.7% CPOE (completion percentage over expectation) and a -1.9 EPA (expected points added) when targeted. Those are good, if not great, numbers.
However, since week 11, Alexander lined up on the left side 91% of the time, and the results were shocking — opponents CPOE plunged to -13.2%, and opponents EPA nosedived to -30.8.
The left boundary at Lambeau Field is officially Ja Island.
Comparing Jaire Alexander to Packers Legends
Alexander has forced his way into the argument for best current CB in the league, but he still has a long way to climb to reach the legendary Packers CBs.
Until a Packers CB gets a pick-six in the Super Bowl, Herb Adderley will forever be the GOAT CB in Green Bay. Adderley, once an offense player, was the catalyst for Vince Lombardi’s defense. The 5-time All-NFL Adderley had 39 career interceptions — seven of which he returned for touchdowns –, five NFL championships rings and two Super Bowl rings. And of course, the first ever defensive touchdown in SB II.
Charles Woodson molded into a safety-esque player towards the end of his career, but he still deserves his due as one of the best Packers CBs of all time. Woodson has a Packers record nine interceptions returned for touchdown, 99 total passes defended, 15 forced fumbles, 18 QB hits and 29 tackles for loss in his nine seasons with the Packers. He also has a Super Bowl ring.
Alexander is trailing behind these legends only in rings and accolades. The talent is ever present, he just needs the stage to solidify himself.
With a third of the field covered by Alexander a defense should have no trouble shutting opponents down. Does the issue lie with Mike Pettine? Or does the issue lie with Kevin King?——————
Kirien is a big fan of the Packers, Beer, and Battlestar Galactica. You can follow him on twitter at @KirienSprecher.