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What You Might've Missed: No rookie wall

Packers CB Eric Stokes might be playing his best ball yet


GREEN BAY – The end of last week’s WYMM featured two bonus plays that showcased rookie cornerback Eric Stokes' recovery speed in coverage vs. the Browns.

This week it's worth taking a more extensive look at the stickiness of Stokes' coverage in general, because based on how he played Sunday night against the Vikings, there doesn't appear to be a rookie wall in sight for the Packers' 2021 first-round draft pick.

He might be playing his best ball at just the right time.

Here's a sampling.

Play No. 1: Third-and-9 from the Minnesota 47, first quarter, 10:03 left

Result: 6-yard completion to TE Tyler Conklin

On the first third down for the Packers' defense, a good tackle in space by CB Kevin King (20) stops Conklin short of the first down. But on the other side, Stokes has Vikings WR Justin Jefferson (18), who burned Green Bay for eight catches, 169 yards and two TDs back in November. Playing to the safety help behind him from S Adrian Amos (31), Stokes stays right in front of Jefferson and doesn't give QB Sean Mannion an opportunity to even look his way.

Play No. 2: Fourth-and-3 from the Green Bay 47, first quarter, 9:12 left

Result: Incomplete pass

On the next snap, it's LB Preston Smith (91) making the play in coverage on FB C.J. Ham (30) along the Green Bay sideline for the turnover on downs. But watch how the Packers' secondary smoothly adjusts in zone on the two downfield routes, particularly Stokes' timing to peel off WR K.J. Osborn (17) and maneuver into position on the crossing Jefferson. The pressure on Mannion from DL Dean Lowry (94) doesn't allow him to hold the ball any longer, but even if he could have, Jefferson wasn't an option.

Play No. 3: Second-and-5 from the Minnesota 36, second quarter, 15:00 left

Result: Completion to RB Dalvin Cook for no gain

Stokes shows sound instincts and a swift reaction here. With no coverage assignment on his side, he's blitzing Mannion. But he sees the screen pass to Cook (33) developing, pulls back and begins a controlled pursuit. When the effort from DL Kenny Clark (97) redirects Cook, Stokes is right there to make the tackle at the line of scrimmage and get a congratulatory pat on the head from LB Krys Barnes (51).

Play No. 4: Third-and-10 from the Minnesota 25, second quarter, 2:56 left

Result: 5-yard sack by Smith

No complaints about catching a break when Jefferson slips trying to start his route, but even when he does get going, Stokes gives him no breathing room in one-on-one coverage.

Play No. 5: First-and-10 from the Minnesota 38, second quarter, :34 left

Result: 2-yard completion to Conklin

Back to having safety help behind on Jefferson, Stokes plays aggressively and keeps his wits about him as Jefferson tries a couple of juke moves. Again, Stokes knows he has help and plays to it.

Play No. 6: Fourth-and-3 from the Green Bay 49, third quarter, 7:16 left

Result: Incomplete pass

No help this time, as Stokes is one-on-one vs. Osborn on a go route down the sideline, and he's literally step-for-step with his man as the Packers get another turnover on downs when a poor throw into the crowded shallow middle falls incomplete.

Play No. 7: First-and-10 from the Minnesota 20, fourth quarter, 1:49 left

Result: Defensive holding penalty on CB Isaac Yiadom

The Vikings get a free 5 yards and first down here, but it's worth showing one last play of Stokes in coverage as he deftly handles the double move by WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette in another one-on-one situation.