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Confidence playing big role in Packers' defensive success 

Surging unit got off to a fast start against the Saints on Tuesday

CBs Rasul Douglas & Jaire Alexander
CBs Rasul Douglas & Jaire Alexander

GREEN BAY – Wearing his trademark white sunglasses, Jaire Alexander told the media last week this Packers defense is the one he'd been waiting for since being drafted in 2018.

Not because of its overabundance of talent or the fact the unit is coming off a top 10 season – because of the swagger.

During a competitive 135-minute joint practice with New Orleans on Tuesday, Green Bay's defense didn't just set the tone against the Saints' offense – it let the opposition hear about it.

A flurry of quarterback pressures, pass breakups and chatter filled the south end of Ray Nitschke Field, as Alexander and the Packers' No. 1 defense controlled 11-on-11 periods.

When Alexander felt there was a lull on Green Bay's side of things, the All-Pro cornerback let his teammates hear about it and the D-Train quickly got back on the tracks.

"Ja was yelling at us. He don't really yell at nobody," cornerback Rasul Douglas said. "If you know Ja, he rarely (does that), so for him to yell at everybody, it was like, 'All right, come on, step it up.'"

Douglas took Alexander's words to heart. When he wasn't covering All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry, Douglas was verbally jousting with any Saint within earshot.

The Packers backed up their bravado, and with Jameis Winston not practicing, the defense made the pocket as uncomfortable as possible for backup quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Ian Book.

Rashan Gary, Preston Smith and the defensive front were frequently in the backfield, while Green Bay's secondary gave little room for receivers to work with.

Team periods began with Gary recording a "sack" before Douglas broke up a pass for Landry. Kenny Clark and Jarran Reed pressed the pocket from the interior, while Douglas defended another target to stymie New Orleans' initial charge.

While Douglas and Landry are cool away from the football field – the two share the same agency – the cornerback made sure to let the receiver know of the defense's win-rate.

"Domination. That's our key," Douglas said. "Everybody gets dominated no matter who you are.

"We always got something to prove, especially as a defense. We say we wanna be the best, we get another team to come in here and practice with us, we gotta showcase that."

Later in practice, rookie fifth-round pick Kingsley Enagbare applied pressure at the line of scrimmage and reserve safety Shawn Davis recorded a likely pick-six off Book to get his defense howling.

Closing practice with a two-minute period, the Dalton-led New Orleans offense was unable to move the chains with Alexander breaking up a pass intended for Thomas on fourth-and-8, causing the rest of the defense to mob him.

Addressing the media last week, Alexander admitted that the matchup with Thomas was one the 25-year-old cornerback was salivating over.

"I always feel like I got something to prove," Alexander said. "I don't ever feel like I've got nothing to prove, because I don't get complacent like that. … I'm going to take that challenge to show them I'm the best on the field."

Book and the No. 2 offense didn't fare much better, with defensive lineman T.J. Slaton sacking the second-year quarterback to end practice.

As competitive as practice was on Tuesday, both teams kept things professional. A few words were exchanged, but no fists flew.

"You can talk as much as you want to talk, but at the end of the day, it's about winning and losing, it's about what you're doing in between those lines," defensive lineman Kenny Clark said.

"We're just trying to play our brand of football and play hard."

With nearly a month until the start of the regular season, Douglas feels the defense still has room to grow. For a unit with high hopes for the 2022 season, it's appreciative of the opportunity to work against an opponent in a different uniform.

The best part? Round 2 against the Saints is set for Wednesday morning.

"It was different today. I feel like they walked into our crib," Douglas said. "They walked into our house and it was just like instant pressure. It's definitely different. We've got to show them this is our house."

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