The Green Bay Packers entered the 2023 NFL season feeling they were deep at the cornerback position. The team’s top cover cornerback is Jaire Alexander, the two-time Pro Bowler out of Louisville. But thus far this season, Alexander has struggled with injuries and has not played up to his usual standards in coverage.
Jaire Alexander Had an Immediate Impact on the Packers Defense
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst selected Alexander in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The rookie made an immediate impact on the defense both on and off the field. On the field, his speed allowed him to catch up to receivers who gained an early advantage on him when running pass patterns. Off the field, his confidence and enthusiasm for the game were infectious and were felt throughout the locker room.
As a rookie, Ja’Money played in 13 games and started 11. He made his first career interception and quickly established himself as a starter with immense potential.
Career Growth to an Elite Level
Alexander continued to improve in his next few seasons. He quickly developed into an elite cover corner. By 2020, Alexander earned his first Pro Bowl berth. He only intercepted one pass that season, so it was obviously his coverage abilities that helped land him in the Pro Bowl.
Opposing quarterbacks only completed 51.3 percent of their passes that season when throwing to receivers covered by Alexander according to pro-football-reference.com.
Alexander continued to play well in 2021 but his season was cut short by a shoulder injury. He tried to make a tackle against the Steelers and separated his shoulder. That ended his regular season after just four games.
In 2022, Alexander returned from the shoulder injury and enjoyed a solid season. He had a career-high five interceptions, matching his career total in his first four seasons. Alexander earned Pro Bowl honors for the second time in his career. He remained an elite cover corner and an emotional leader of the Packers defense.
Alexander Signs a Record Setting Contract
Before the 2022 season started, the Packers signed Alexander to a contract extension that kept him from playing on his fifth-year option.
The contract was a four-year deal for $84 million and it made Alexander the highest paid cornerback in the league.
This was a well-deserved contract, and it helped the Packers lock down their best cover corner through the prime of his career.
Jaire Alexander Struggles Early This Season
Alexander has struggled early in the 2023 season. A back injury has cost him two complete games and slowed him down in at least one other.
Thus far, the former Louisville star has struggled in pass coverage which is usually his strong suit. In the three games he’s played, opposing quarterbacks have completed 77.8 percent of their passes and have a quarterback rating of 146.8. These are by far the worst numbers of Alexander’s six-year NFL career.
He was beaten badly in Week 2 by Atlanta’s Drake London who made six catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. So many of the catches were key third down conversions that helped the Falcons complete their comeback.
He has also struggled to make tackles. His missed tackle percentage is the highest it’s been in his career. This season, it’s at 15.4 percent, more than double his 2022 percentage of 6.7.
The Long-Term Outlook for Jaire Alexander
Clearly, the back injury hinders Alexander’s ability to tackle. It also is likely making it tougher for him to change direction and cover receivers closely. Hopefully, the bye week helped his back heal his back and he can return to form.
Alexander remains a confident player who should be among the better cover corners in the league when he’s healthy.
The Packers will need Alexander to play at a high level to keep their pass defense effective. As Alexander himself said, the Packers defense needs to play well while Jordan Love and the inexperienced offense gain experience.
The return of Eric Stokes from the PUP list should further bolster the Green Bay secondary. But without strong play by Alexander, the pass defense will not reach its full level of effectiveness.
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