GREEN BAY - Training camp ought to be pretty entertaining when the Packers’ top two draft picks are running with the first-team defense.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers mentioned a couple of times during OTAs, and again last week, that he’ll be testing rookie cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson in camp.
There might be no better way for a pair of young cover corners, who could be counted on to play significant roles in coordinator Mike Pettine’s new defense, to prepare than to be challenged by Rodgers for a month before the real games start.
“Yeah, they’re talking a lot, so I’m going to have to dice them up a little bit when we get down to it,” Rodgers said, not being entirely serious, though not totally joking, either.
“But no, I like to see the confidence, I really do. That’s how you want your corners to play, with that swagger, that confidence.”
Alexander carries it outwardly while Jackson keeps it more to himself, but both players believe they belong. At the same time, they recognize they don’t have it all figured out.
In the OTAs open to the public, Alexander made the bigger splash play, staying on receiver Geronimo Allison’s hip on a back-shoulder throw from Rodgers and snagging the interception.
The play elicited all kinds of hoots and hollers from the defense, and Alexander was visibly fired up, but the last thing he’s going to do is rest on one play in late May.
“That was a little confidence booster, but I’m taking that with a grain of salt, because at the same time it’s still practice,” Alexander said. “I know that we both have things we have to work on. I look forward to making more plays when it counts.”
Last week, with Randall Cobb’s return to practice, Jackson was seen getting some reps at slot corner against him.
Given that Cobb is one of the hardest-working players on the practice field, even heading into his eighth season, Jackson can appreciate the introduction to the pro game he’s getting.
“It’s good. It’ll make it a lot easier in games to go against somebody like him,” Jackson said. “He’s smart, he knows how to maneuver throughout the slot. It’s fun going against him and all the veteran receivers.”
The key to it, though, could be Rodgers, who has a knack for picking the right moments to go after guys. After good plays or bad, he’ll find out how young players respond.
Training camp is often full of no-huddle and two-minute periods, too, when the action is non-stop and Rodgers is seemingly always a step or two ahead.
“The game speed has changed a little bit from college,” Alexander said. “You have to be able to diagnose plays and recognize them faster, because you’ve got 12 at quarterback, and he’s going, so you have to get in that process of thinking faster.”
While he likes what he’s seen so far, Rodgers pointed out that pads are “the great equalizer,” so he’s reserving some judgment for when more physical contact enters the equation.
But whether it’s the “louder” Alexander, to use Rodgers’ word, or quieter Jackson, the approach matters less than the goal of proving their readiness. They’re just likely to go about it in different ways.
“The swagger I play with, that’s kind of my thing that helps me,” Alexander said. “Everybody can’t do that. A lot of people are quiet and make plays, but I kind of have to show it a little bit more.
“I’m still the same player. That’s how I got here, being me. I’m not going to change that up.”
Added Jackson: “We’re just trying to keep getting better every day, and keep the foot on the gas.”