Will the Bleeding Finally Stop in Pack’s Defensive Backfield?
Well, this makes it seven defensive backs chosen in rounds one or two of Green Bay’s last five drafts. Plus the Packers brought two others back after they were shipped off to other teams. The buzz over the two new picks, cornerbacks Jaire Alexander, chosen 18h overall, and Josh Jackson, taken 45th, is highly encouraging. Have the Packers finally sealed the holes in its porous defensive backfield?
Scouts’ Take on Jaire Alexander
Athleticism: “very quick, very twitch”; “one of the most agile CBs in this draft”; “fluid, loose-hipped, silky smooth”; “fast to break on the ball”; “the kid can run”; “intriguing ball skills of a former wide receiver”
Coverage: “route recognition, throw anticipation and ball awareness are elite”; “exceptional mirroring skills”; “instinctive and competitive”; “blankets receivers”; “excellent recoverability” “gets hands on players in press-man coverage”
Aggressiveness: “re-routes opponents with a quick two-hand jam”; “aggressive at the catch point”; willing tackler; “attacks the ball”
Attitude: “plays with a little swagger”; “plays bigger than his stature”
Scouts’ Take on Josh Jackson
Athleticism: “(at 6’1” and 192) one of the bigger cornerbacks in this draft”; “total package of size, length, instincts, technique, and awareness”; “best ball skills of any CB in the class”; “a great athlete, with machine gun feet”
Coverage: “has route anticipation, ball skills, and NFL length that teams covet in a press-man corner”; “has the body to match up in man situations at line of scrimmage or in off coverage”; “long-armed ball-hawk”; “can mirror receivers and use his body to shield them from the ball”; “27 passes defended in a single season isn’t random”; “has the length and vertical jump to challenge on 50/50 balls”
Aggressiveness: “very competitive”; “high-point winner with ability to pull down the one-hand grab”; “ridiculous ball skills to get interceptions”; “excellent at finding the football in the air, which helped him lead the nation in interceptions and passes defended”; “a game-changing corner”
Attitude: “a very focused and humble guy, doesn’t like to talk about himself at all, let’s his play do the talking”
Who made these picks, general manager Brian Gutekunst or defensive coordinator Mike Pettine? Pettine has the enormous respect of the Packers front office and coaches, and his influence is sweeping over this team and the town, like a tidal wave.
Consider this: when you hear repeated praise of a defensive back’s ball skills, blanket coverage, ball-hawking, challenging balls in the air, jamming at the line of scrimmage, and general competitiveness, who do you think of from the Packers’ 2017 backfield? Maybe the other Josh, Jones, a little bit, though more by reputation than what we’ve yet to see on the field. Davon House, once in a while? Kentrell Brice when healthy?
These qualities sure don’t describe Morgan Burnett, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins or even Kevin King (so far, but give him time). They don’t describe Tramon Williams either, though he was brought in, short term, to provide experience, leadership and depth.
The Packers are using a new model for their defensive backs. These two picks are proof positive of the sea change that has occurred: out are GM Ted Thompson and DC Dom Capers; in are Gutekunst and Pettine. It feels right.