Pre-draft picture: Packers see boundless potential in deep secondary 

Rasul Douglas’ return creates flexible options for defense

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CB Rasul Douglas

"Pre-draft picture" is a position-by-position look at the Packers' roster heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. The series continues with the defensive backs.

GREEN BAY – The Packers lost an All-Pro cornerback last season but gained something so much more in the big picture.

The only silver lining to the shoulder injury Jaire Alexander suffered in Week 4 against Pittsburgh was it led to the Packers signing Rasul Douglas off the Cardinals' practice squad on Oct. 6.

On his sixth NFL team in 14 months, Douglas thrived in Green Bay's secondary. Thrown into action due to injuries, the 6-foot-2, 209-pound cornerback caught the first of his team-high five interceptions during a game-ending sequence at Arizona, which came just 22 days after his departure from there.

The seventh-year veteran parlayed his breakthrough season into a new contract with the Packers, who are now return one of the league's top secondaries in 2022.

By retaining Douglas, there are several different directions the Packers can go with Alexander, who's widely regarded as one of the league's top cornerbacks at just 25 years old.

In addition to the team having no long-term concern with Alexander's shoulder, General Manager Brian Gutekunst told reporters at last month's NFL Annual Meetings the 5-foot-10, 196-pound cornerback could move around more this season.

Green Bay has a vacancy in the slot of its nickel and dime defenses after the departure of Chandon Sullivan, which could free Alexander to travel inside with the league's top receivers.

The Packers can feel comfortable in doing that considering how well Douglas and 2021 first-round pick Eric Stokes performed on the perimeter without Alexander for most of last season.

While a 4.29-second time in the 40 established Stokes as a first-round talent, the 6-foot, 194-pound cornerback demonstrated uncommon poise for a rookie while defending against some of the league's top wideouts.

Stokes led Green Bay's cornerbacks in both passes defensed (14) and defensive snaps played (935) last season, while catching his first NFL interception off Ben Roethlisberger to seal a 27-17 win over the Steelers in that same Week 4 contest Alexander was injured.

Take a look at the top prospects at cornerback heading into the 2022 NFL Draft.

Beyond its starting trio, Green Bay returns 2021 fifth-round pick Shemar Jean-Charles (eight tackles in 14 games) and Kabion Ento, a converted college receiver who has spent two seasons on the Packers' practice squad.

The Packers also signed fourth-year veteran Keisean Nixon, a special-teams stalwart who has experience playing both inside and outside on defense. He has 38 tackles and a pass deflection, with 273 career defensive snaps.

The Packers' situation on the back end remains stable with safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage returning for a fourth season together.

Amos has been regarded as one of the league's more underrated defenders during his seven NFL seasons. The 6-foot, 214-pound safety has tallied 274 tackles, 18 passes defensed and six interceptions in 49 starts in Green Bay. He's personified durability, having not missed a game since 2017.

The 24-year-old Savage's ceiling remains as high as anybody's on the roster, with his eight interceptions leading all Green Bay defenders since 2019.

The Packers did not tender a contract to safety Henry Black, the top reserve and dime cornerback for much of last season, but bring back 2020 seventh-round pick Vernon Scott, Shawn Davis and practice-squad holdover Innis Gaines.

After seeing action in 15 games as a rookie, Scott missed the early portion of last season with a hamstring injury and played just three games all season. Davis, a fifth-round pick by Indianapolis last season, signed to the practice squad on Sept. 21 before receiving a promotion to the active roster on Dec. 18.

The secondary has been a perennial focus for the Packers during Gutekunst's four drafts as GM. Since 2018, Green Bay has selected seven defensive backs. Four (Alexander, Savage, Stokes and Josh Jackson) were drafted in the first two rounds.

The Packers have drafted at least one defensive back in 26 of their last 27 drafts, with the outlier coming in 2016.

Take a look at the top prospects at safety heading into the 2022 NFL Draft.

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