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Countdown to Camp: Jaire Alexander's promise sparks Packers' secondary surge

Youth movement continues in Green Bay’s defensive backfield

CB Jaire Alexander
CB Jaire Alexander

Countdown to Camp is a series of stories examining the Packers' roster, position by position, leading up to training camp. The eighth installment features the defensive backs.

GREEN BAY – As anticipation builds for the 2020 season, there is perhaps no young Packers player on the radar of more NFL pundits than third-year cornerback Jaire Alexander.

Still only 23 years old, Alexander already has 27 career regular-season starts to his name. A PFWA All-Rookie Team pick in 2018, the 5-foot-10, 196-pound cornerback came back with 58 tackles, 17 passes defensed and two interceptions during his sophomore season.

While Alexander looks to turn more of his deflections into takeaways, his speed and coverage ability already have catapulted him into the national conversation of the league's top young corners, with New England head coach Bill Belichick being among Alexander's football admirers.

Alexander has led the youth movement in Green Bay's secondary over the past two years, a shift that's often resulted in the young cornerback squaring off with the league’s best receivers on a weekly basis. It's a challenge he hasn't backed down from, earning Alexander high marks from football-analysis syndicates like Pro Football Focus.

Joining Alexander in that effort has been third-year cornerback Kevin King, who started every game on the perimeter for the Packers in 2019 after injuries limited the former second-round pick to only 15 appearances through his first two seasons.

An unrestricted free agent next spring, King will look to build upon a healthy and productive campaign in which the 6-foot-3 cornerback led Green Bay with five interceptions. His 15 passes defensed trailed only Alexander.

With Tramon Williams still unsigned, the Packers will enter training camp with third-year veteran Chandon Sullivan as the presumptive slot cornerback in their nickel package – a key spot in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's defense.

Sullivan signed with Green Bay days after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles following the 2019 NFL Draft. The 23-year-old cornerback not only made the Packers' 53-man roster, but also earned spot as the fourth cornerback in the dime defense.

Sullivan had 30 tackles and six passes defensed in 16 games, highlighted by his first NFL interception in Green Bay's 34-24 win over Dallas last October.

Meanwhile, Josh Jackson, drafted one round after Alexander in 2018, remains one of the team's great unknowns entering his third NFL season.

The 6-foot, 196-pound cornerback played in all 16 games as a rookie, starting 10 of them, but saw his second season disrupted by a foot injury that landed Jackson on the non-football injury to start training camp. He returned to play in 14 regular-season games but took only 103 defensive snaps.

Green Bay didn't draft a cornerback this past April but has several developmental prospects on the roster, including 2019 sixth-round pick Ka'dar Hollman, converted receiver Kabion Ento, and undrafted free agents Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Stanford Samuels, Will Sunderland and DaShaun Amos.

Hollman (6-0, 196) was on the Packers' active roster throughout all last season but played in only four games, while Ento (6-1, 187) spent the entire year on the practice squad.

Dequoy (6-3, 198), a native of Montreal, took a unique path to the NFL. He ran a 4.35-second time in the 40 at his University of Montreal pro day, which occurred only days before a national lockdown went into effect due to COVID-19.

On the back end, the Packers have set their foundation for the foreseeable future with veteran safety Adrian Amos and 2019 first-round pick Darnell Savage, who garnered PFWA All-Rookie Team recognition.

One of four marquee free agents General Manager Brian Gutekunst acquired in March 2019, Amos came as advertised during his first season in Green Bay. A steady, instinctive and physical defender, Amos started all 16 regular-season games and led the defense with 1,036 snaps played.

He had a career-high 81 tackles with eight passes defensed and two interceptions prior to being voted a Pro Bowl alternate. When injuries struck early last year, the 6-foot, 214-pound safety also dropped into the box to play linebacker in the hybrid nickel package.

Savage, the first defensive back selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, followed in the footsteps of Nick Collins and Morgan Burnett as Packers safeties who earned starting roles their rookie season.

The 5-foot-11, 198-pound safety started all 16 games he played (including postseason), earning All-Rookie honors behind 52 tackles, five passes defensed and two interceptions.

Like Amos, Savage has the tools to play multiple spots in the secondary. Gutekunst went so far as to say the 22-year-old defensive back could probably play slot cornerback if the situation called for it.

Veterans Will Redmond and Raven Greene, seventh-round pick Vernon Scott, and undrafted rookies Henry Black and Frankie Griffin fill out Green Bay's safety depth chart.

Redmond (5-11, 186), a special-teams stalwart who re-signed with the Packers in March, made four spot starts at safety in 2019. He finished with 36 tackles and a deflection.

Greene (5-11, 197) was penciled in as the Packers' hybrid linebacker last year, putting on the required weight to play extensively in the box, but sustained an ankle injury in Week 2 and didn't play the rest of the season. He again appears to be the frontrunner for that job after Ibraheim Campbell signed with Tennessee in May.

Countdown to Camp series

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