Jaire Alexander: Brian Gutekunst Reveals Why Packers CB Will Have His Best Season yet

The numbers don’t always tell the story in the NFL, and that’s certainly the case for Green Bay Packers star cornerback Jaire Alexander.

Alexander is one of the best corners in the NFL; he just doesn’t necessarily have the flashy stats to prove it.

That may finally change for Alexander in 2021, and general manager Brian Gutekunst recently explained why.

Jaire Alexander has been greatness personified for the Green Bay Packers

Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) walks up the tunnel following the NFC Divisional playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers | Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Packers drafted Alexander with the No. 18 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Louisville. There were always high expectations on him, considering his draft status. Still, he blew those all out of the water as a rookie, proving Gutekunst a worthy successor to former general manager Ted Thompson, who brought the Packers a Super Bowl win in 2010.

Alexander, who checks in at 5-foot-10, 196 pounds, immediately stamped his name onto the organization as a rookie. He played in 13 games, starting 11, and finished ranked second on the team with 76 tackles while also adding three tackles for loss, an interception, and a half-sack.

Alexander notched two interceptions in 2019 as a full-time starter and made a Pro Bowl in his third season (2020) despite only notching one interception.

The reason for that? As mentioned, it’s not all about the numbers with Alexander.

By his third season, he was already known and feared as a shut-down cornerback. Because the Packers didn’t have anyone to fear on the depth chart across from him, quarterbacks simply avoided throwing the football to his side of the field.

He barely got the opportunity to make plays on the football because his presence alone shut down one whole side of the field.

Alexander was off to another dominant start in 2021 before injuring his shoulder on a beautiful tackle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If it wasn’t for that, he seemed destined for his second-straight trip to the Pro Bowl and even more national recognition.

Brian Gutekunst predicts a more significant role for Alexander in 2021

It’s all fine and dandy to lock down one side of the field and basically cut an offense’s playbook in half, but Gutekunst is envisioning an even bigger role for Alexander in 2021.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry came from the Los Angeles Rams where he was an assistant under Brandon Staley, now head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.

Staley used superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey in what the Rams called the “star” position. While that may just mean putting the “star” player in the slot in its most simple version (because that gets the play-making defensive back closer to the football), it also features a heavy dose of shadowing on the other team’s best receiver.

That’s something the Packers have not done much of in the past, but Gutekunst revealed in a recent media availability that Alexander will likely do more of that in the future for the Packers.

“With Ja, he’s going to go where some of the receivers are going to go,” Gutekunst said, according to the team website. “He’s going to follow some of those guys in different packages. He can do everything. It’s a nice luxury for us to have.”

The Packers have incredible depth at cornerback

Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers
Jaire Alexander #23 of the Green Bay Packers intercepts the ball against Adam Thielen #19 of the Minnesota Vikings during the second quarter of the game | Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

One of the reasons Green Bay will have the ability to put Alexander on the opponent’s best receiver in 2022 is because the Packers have a ton of trust in the players around him.

They demonstrated that by giving Rasul Douglas a three-year, $21 million contract extension not even a year after they picked him up off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad.

The Packers signed Douglas to try to keep the ship afloat after Alexander’s injury, but he became much more than a stop-gap. He notched 52 tackles, five interceptions, 13 passes defended and a forced fumble in just 12 games, instantly becoming one of the most trusted play-makers on the defense. Notably, he returned two of his interceptions to the house for touchdowns.

Gutekunst believes that Douglas and his big-play ability will allow Alexander more freedom to roam within the defensive scheme.

“He’s obviously very physical in the run game, which is an important part of playing nickel,” Gutekunst said of Douglas. “He’s a taller, bigger corner, which obviously sometimes those quicker slot receivers can give those guys problems, but his instincts and his ability to anticipate make up for a little bit of that.”

The general manager also clearly has faith in soon-to-be second-year cornerback Eric Stokes, who he drafted with the 29th pick in the 2021 draft. Stokes was thrust into a starting role because of Alexander’s injury and proved to be one of the better corners in the NFC, even as a rookie.

“Quite frankly, our entire corner group that we have right now probably could play both inside and out,” Gutekunst said, which has to be an exciting thing for Packers fans to hear.

It has to be exciting to hear for Alexander as well because he has carried the burden of being the only lock-down cornerback on the defense for far too long.

Suppose he has more freedom in 2022, and the Packers are planning to let him move around with the other team’s best receivers, which it sounds like they are. In that case, it’s not hard to predict that not only will Alexander continue to be one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but he’ll have a career year statistically as well.

Stats courtesy of ESPN and Pro Football Reference. Contract information via Spotrac

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