Countdown to Camp: Packers' top nickel group in secondary stands out

Competition starts at fourth corner and third safety spots

CBs Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes & S Darnell Savage

"Countdown to Camp" is a daily look at the Packers' roster, position by position, leading up to the start of training camp. The series continues with the defensive backs.

GREEN BAY – Nickel is the new base when it comes to NFL defenses, meaning five defensive backs are on the field far more often than not these days.

The Packers enter 2022 knowing exactly who those five are going to be, barring injury – cornerbacks Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes, plus safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage.

The competition begins with determining the fourth corner and third safety, respectively, and filling out the depth chart from there.

That "starting five," though, is as formidable as the Packers have fielded in a decade or more.

Alexander (5-10, 196), a 2018 first-round pick, enters the fifth season of his NFL career as one of the top corners in the league, despite missing 13 games last season with a shoulder injury. He signed a long-term contract extension this past offseason that reflects his status.

How exactly defensive coordinator Joe Barry decides to use him – on the boundary, in the slot, or anywhere in between – will be watched closely, but the Packers will welcome getting their true No. 1 corner back at full strength this season, wherever he lines up.

If there was any positive to emerge from Alexander's lengthy absence last year, it was the discovery of Douglas (6-2, 209), who was signed off of Arizona's practice squad as an injury replacement and quickly morphed into the Packers’ biggest playmaker at the position.

In just 12 regular-season games, Douglas led the team with five interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns and two others that were late game-savers against Arizona and Cleveland. A free agent in March, he also got a new contract from the Packers when salary-cap space was freed up following the trade of receiver Davante Adams.

Alexander and Douglas were on the field together for only one game last season, the playoff contest vs. San Francisco, and only for Alexander's eight snaps at that. So the sum of their skills in Barry's defense isn't really known, nor are the strides Stokes will make with his rookie season under his belt.

Last year's first-round pick, at No. 29 overall, Stokes (6-0, 194) became a full-time starter early on due to Alexander's injury and responded impressively. He led the unit in passes defensed with 14, and this year he's hoping to convert more of those opportunities into interceptions.

The following is the seventh installment in a series of photos examining the Packers' roster position by position. This installment examines the defensive backs.

Behind those top three corners, the leading candidate for the fourth spot based on OTA reps viewed by the media this spring is veteran free agent Keisean Nixon, a special-teams standout who spent his first three seasons in the league as a reserve with the Raiders. Undrafted out of South Carolina, Nixon (5-10, 200) has played in 40 career games with two starts.

Another returnee with pro experience is Shemar Jean-Charles (5-10, 184), a fifth-round pick last year out of Appalachian State who played in 14 games, mostly on special teams, and recorded six coverage tackles.

Also in the mix at corner are Kabion Ento, Rico Gafford, Raleigh Texada and Kiondre Thomas.

Ento (6-1, 187), a converted wide receiver from Colorado, joined the Packers as an undrafted rookie in 2019 but has had previous attempts to make the roster sidetracked by injuries. He has spent two seasons ('19, '21) on the practice squad and one ('20) on injured reserve.

The speedy Gafford (5-10, 184) entered the league as an undrafted corner from Wyoming in 2018, converted to receiver, spent time with five different organizations before being signed by the Packers at the end of last season, and has now switched back to his college position.

Texada (5-10, 191) is an undrafted rookie who played in 53 games with 37 starts over five seasons at Baylor, while Thomas was signed at the end of last season following an undrafted rookie year on the Los Angeles Chargers' practice squad. In college, Thomas (6-0, 185) played four seasons at Minnesota before transferring to Kansas State, and he was elevated from the practice squad to appear in four games last year.

At safety, the starting tandem of Amos and Savage remains intact for a fourth season. Amos (6-0, 214) has never missed a game since signing with the Packers as a free agent in 2019, and he's posted at least 80 tackles, two interceptions and eight passes defensed in each of his three seasons in Green Bay. Savage (5-11, 198) also has multiple INTs each of the last three years and has missed just three games in his career thus far.

Shawn Davis appeared to end the spring as the front-runner for the No. 3 safety spot. A fifth-round pick by Indianapolis last year out of Florida, Davis (5-11, 202) joined the Packers' practice squad in September and was eventually activated, playing in one game.

Also returning are Vernon Scott, a 2020 seventh-round pick, and Innis Gaines, an undrafted rookie last year. Both are from TCU, with Scott (6-2, 202) appearing in 18 games over his two seasons and recording seven tackles on defense plus seven more on coverage units, while Gaines (6-1, 202) spent last season on the practice squad, playing in one game when elevated.

The newcomers at safety are Tariq Carpenter, a seventh-round pick from Georgia Tech whose large frame (6-3, 230) could be an attractive piece on special teams, and Tre Sterling (6-0, 205), an undrafted rookie who played in 40 games with 22 starts for Oklahoma State.

Countdown to Camp series

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