The Green Bay Packers look to have made a hell of a first-round pick in cornerback Jaire Alexander. Possibly the best since Clay Matthews in 2009.
Yes, it’s early. Yes, Alexander is only 21, but he seemingly has the makings of a shutdown corner. Something the Packers haven’t had since the GOAT, Charles Woodson, was roaming the secondary.
Through two games, Alexander has 11 tackles and half a sack. He should have an interception, but the NFL considers textbook tackling to be roughing the passer these days. On that interception that wasn’t, Alexander turned into a receiver. He looked in an overthrown pass by Jerk Cousins over his shoulder. Davante Adams couldn’t have done it any better.
Why are we jumping to this conclusion? Cue Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
“If you didn’t know who was who and just evaluated our defense the first two weeks, you’d be hard-pressed to say that Jaire’s not potentially our top defensive player, if not one or two,” Pettine said. “Just his effort, his energy, playmaking ability, he’s been outstanding and Josh (Jackson) isn’t that far behind.”
Against the Vikings, the Packers put Alexander outside after Kevin King got injured. Alexander isn’t necessarily your ideal outside corner because of his size. He’s 5’10”, which is the same height that Terrell Buckley is. You know how he held up outside. Couldn’t do it. However, he was a nice slot corner for teams other than the Packers for a lot of years. In theory and usually in practice, short guys cover short guys — slot receivers — better.
Alexander appears to be an exception. That may be because Alexander actually has more swag than Buckley. He’s not Neon Deion, but the kid doesn’t lack in the confidence department. And like Aaron Rodgers, he’s got the old chip on the shoulder.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder always, just because a lot of people like to say I’m short,” Alexander said. “I’m not short, I’m actually average size, or whatever. Go in with my hair on fire, go in looking to show you what kind of plays a short guy can make, you know.”
For what it’s worth, PFF has Alexander rated as their No. 1 rookie cornerback at 73.7. That makes him the Packers’ top-rated cornerback and No. 25 in the league.
And okay, we’re not anointing him as the next Charles Woodson just yet. You’ll probably remember that both Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins looked like studs when they were rookies. Then they went backwards. Both guys are no longer on the team.
There’s a lot to like about Alexander, though.
Alexander has playmaking ability. He’s fast as hell. He’s not afraid to tackle. He’s got the swag. Can play inside or outside.
I don’t know what more you could want in a cornerback.