The Green Bay Packers look destined to compete for a Super Bowl berth this season. With less than four months until the start of the season, Mike McCarthy’s men are well-positioned to surpass the rival Minnesota Vikings to the NFC North crown. The likes of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams will be pivotal to Green Bay’s offensive aspirations in 2018. Rookie first-round pick Jaire Alexander could be key to their defensive aspirations. The former Louisville Cardinals cornerback surely has the potential to blossom into an elite player.
At just 21 years old, Alexander has a lot to learn, but most pundits expect him to go on to enjoy a successful professional career. Alexander spent two years with the Cardinals before opting to declare for the NFL Draft at the end of the 2017 campaign. He actually opted not to play in the TaxSlayer Bowl after persistent injury issues last year. That will be the one negative surrounding his chances of making it at the top level. The Packers don’t seem to have a lot of concerns, however.
Alexander Can Be Green Bay’s Defensive Playmaker
Given an A-grade by NFL.com ahead of this year’s draft, Alexander showed enough ability in college to warrant a first-round pick and Packers fans should be overjoyed at the selection. He earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2016, intercepting five passes and breaking up nine others in 13 starts. Sadly, Alexander missed half of the 2017 campaign with various injuries, but did notch 19 tackles, one interception and four pass breakups in six starts.
The Green Bay’s secondary is still relatively young and the faithful will be quietly confident that Alexander and Co. can develop into a playmaking group in 2018. Alexander will be looking to form a close partnership with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and the rest of the secondary – a “Legion of Boom” volume two could be on the cards. The Vikings have had a solid defensive unit for years and the Packers have obviously taken note. Alexander could be the face of this Packers defense for many years to come.
Versatility a Huge Plus in Alexander’s Favor
Another huge factor in taking Alexander was his impact on special teams. He shone as a returner at college level, racking up 418 yards on 48 returns during his two-year stint with Louisville. Is he going to be the next Devin Hester? Making a statement like that would be foolish, but Alexander has the talent and speed to make a positive impact for the Packers on both defense and special teams. He was prolific at times in college and he can continue to develop in the professional game.
The Packers finished 23rd in the league against the pass in 2017 – averaging 236.8 yards per game. Alexander, second-round pick Josh Jackson and 2017 second-round selection Kevin King look well placed to feature prominently in the defensive backfield for the foreseeable future. All three should see plenty of playing time in 2018, especially with Damarious Randall now in Cleveland.
Green Bay struggled in 2017 when quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone. But things are obviously looking up. Oddsmakers have the Packers sitting at 10/1 to win the Super Bowl this season. No surprise there.
Defense Wins Championships
Ah, the old cliche. Pass defense has been a real problem for the Packers in recent years, but this current crop of cornerbacks can make the difference. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Alexander follow a similar path to Marcus Peters, minus the baggage, as an instant impact player. During his early NFL career, Peters was a shutdown corner and Alexander can blossom into Green Bay’s most dangerous option in the secondary. The Packers need a standout player away from the defensive front and Alexander fits that mould perfectly.
It would be foolish to look past the Green Bay Packers this year. As always, injuries could severely hinder the team, but this team is young, hungry and determined to improve. Defensively, they are far from the finished article but Alexander and Jackson can take the Packers secondary to new heights. Becoming a top tier unit will take time but a considerable improvement on their 23rd ranked effort in 2017 looks likely. From there, a deep playoff run is not out of the question.