Packers' young corners want to finish preseason on a high note

Josh Jackson, Chandon Sullivan combined for six breakups in Winnipeg

CB Josh Jackson
CB Josh Jackson

GREEN BAY – The game itself was undeniably unorthodox, but none of that mattered to either Josh Jackson or Chandon Sullivan.

The circumstances surrounding last Thursday's meeting between the Packers and Oakland Raiders in Winnipeg took a back seat to what the two second-year cornerbacks wanted to get out of Green Bay's third preseason game – opportunity.

For Jackson, the game represented his chance to knock some rust off after a foot injury sidelined him for the first three weeks of training camp. Making his preseason debut, the former second-round pick broke up two passes on 24 defensive snaps.

Sullivan, signed off the street in May, has steadily made his presence felt all summer. Against the Raiders, the 5-foot-11, 189-pound cornerback added four more pass breakups to a resume that already includes an interception in the Packers' preseason opener against Houston.

The two corners are on opposite sides of the spectrum in the lead-up to Thursday's preseason finale against Kansas City – Jackson looking to sharpen his tools for Week 1, while Sullivan battles for a roster spot – but the urgency is very much the same.

"I felt a little bit rusty because those were my first reps pretty much throughout all of training camp," Jackson said. "That really helped my perspective of this next week's (game) and going into the season with what I really need to focus on."

Sullivan differs from most of the undrafted players vying for a roster spot in that he played in five games and made a start last season for the Philadelphia Eagles, recording seven tackles.

He was caught somewhat off-guard in May when the Eagles informed Sullivan of his release. There was a chance he could return, but days later, an offer came to join the Packers.

Green Bay has played Sullivan everywhere this summer – from outside cornerback to nickel to even a little bit of safety here and there, allowing Sullivan to display the natural versatility that made him a four-year starter at Georgia State.

He's also flashed his ball-hawking instincts at times in practice and games, picking off Texans quarterback Joe Webb in the preseason opener on Aug. 8 and returning it 18 yards.

Sullivan played 64 defensive snaps against the Raiders, due to a myriad of injuries at cornerback. He racked up four deflections, but it's the missed opportunities and pass interference penalty he drew in the second quarter that have been on his mind.

"Guys were like, 'Good job,' but in my mind all I could think about were the bad plays," Sullivan said. "Like, 'Man, I gave up this catch,' and of course, I want interceptions. PBUs are nice, but I want interceptions because that changes the game for teammates and myself."

The game was a sigh of relief of sorts for Jackson, who had to wait three weeks to get cleared from his foot injury and then another full week to get worked back into the corner rotation.

Jackson used the time off to focus on one of his major areas of emphasis for 2019 – locking in at all times. He was diligent about staying in his playbook and taking mental reps in practice.

The 6-foot, 196-pound cornerback played a lot for the Packers a rookie, tallying 49 tackles and 10 deflections in 16 games with 10 starts. Finally healthy again, Jackson is expected to be in the mix for snaps in Green Bay's sub-packages.

That's what made last Thursday's dry run so valuable, with presumptive starters Jaire Alexander, Kevin King and Tramon Williams all not suited up.

The Green Bay Packers practiced in preparation for the final preseason game of 2019.

"It definitely felt good, really just to get back out on the field. Thank God, for real," Jackson said. "I'm just happy to be on the gridiron and be able to wake up and feel sore the next day. It was all part of the process and just trying to take it one day at a time and keep improving, focusing on the little things."

With Alexander and Williams unlikely to play against Kansas City and King still out with a hamstring injury, this Thursday's preseason finale will be crucial for Sullivan and the young defensive backs who want to leave a positive impression on the Packers' front office.

"Just not taking anything for granted – practice hard so you can get the results you want on Thursday," Sullivan said. "I'm prepared to play however many snaps they need me to. I'm just trying to compete and hopefully make the team."

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