The 2018 season was not kind to the Green Bay Packers. The team vastly underperformed; however, there were still some bright spots, which include rookie cornerback sensation Jaire Alexander. If it were not for an all-time great rookie class, the Louisville product could have won the Defensive Rookie of the Year Honors.
Jaire Alexander the Green Bay Packers Cornerback of the Future
Following the 2015 NFL campaign, the Green Bay Packers let promising young cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. test free agency. Unfortunately, for the Pack, the then-San Diego Chargers made him an offer, and he bolted to Southern California.
Ever since his departure to SoCal, Green Bay has been looking for a number one cornerback. Management spent their past two first draft picks on cornerbacks. In the 2017 NFL Draft, they selected Kevin King from the University of Washington, and this year, they drafted Jaire Alexander out of Louisville University.
Alexander had an impressive rookie season, which saw him finish with 66 tackles, including 61 solo tackles. He also had 11 passes defended, and one interception, which he returned for 27 yards. He was also robbed of a 12thinterception when the refs threw a flag on a game-winning sack by Clay Matthews III against Kirk Cousins in week two.
The young stud led the way in a revamping of Green Bay’s secondary. According to Pro Football Focus, “Packers’ secondary that had the 31stoverall coverage grade in 2017 at 54.9, Alexander has provided a needed spark. In 2018, the revamped Green Bay secondary is sixth in coverage grade at 80.5,” wrote Ben Cooper, following the week eight game at the Los Angeles Rams.
Jaire Alexander vs. Top Receivers
The Green Bay Packers had a plethora of games against amazing offensive players and receivers. The Pack played five of the top ten highest scoring offenses, which includes the division-rival Chicago Bears. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was confident enough in letting the young player play man-coverage against the best receivers on the schedule. And, Alexander made Pettine look like a genius with his stellar play.
Alexander’s coming out party was the week eight trip to the Los Angeles Rams. The rookie sensation played man-coverage against speedster Brandin Cooks. In that battle, Alexander broke five passes, a feat which PFF’s Ben Cooper wrote, had not been done in two years. Pushing his performance even further, Alexander recorded his five passes breakup on nine targets.
Alexander’s Mental Toughness
Confidence is critical in professional sports. It is usually the first aspect of an athlete to go, and unfortunately, it is perhaps the most essential to the athlete’s success. In Cooper’s article, he explains how in the first two weeks of the season, Alexander got torched by Mitchell Trubisky and Kirk Cousins. However, the rookie cornerback was able to bounce back and not let this early season yips affect him the rest of the way.
We judge our athletes based on how they perform in big moments. Alexander responded with stellar performances in his biggest tests.
He played so well that despite the losses and premature playoff elimination, Packers legendary quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he believes the franchise had a star cornerback in the young man. Even legendary New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick sent praise to the young man.
Former Packers cornerback, Heyward Jr. also praised the young Alexander basically saying if health is not an issue, he will have a long, prosperous career.
The Green Bay Packers may have found the shutdown cornerback they have been looking for years in Jaire Alexander. The phenomenal athlete dotted with speed to play on special teams as a returner is reviving a dormant unit. Alexander has all the tools, both physical and mental, to be the next great cornerback in the NFL.
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