The Green Bay Packers traded wide receiver Davante Adams last week but GM Brian Gutekunst wasted little time in using some of the $20.1 million in cap space that the deal cleared up to keep some key players in Green Bay next season. One of the first moves he made was to re-sign cornerback Rasul Douglas to a three-year deal worth $21 million.
Douglas was one of the great stories of 2021. The Packers signed him off the Cardinals practice squad in October when injuries to Jaire Alexander and Kevin King left the Packers thin at corner.
Douglas had a huge impact on the Green Bay secondary. In 12 games, he led the team with five interceptions. His first pick of the year clinched the Packers win over the Cardinals when he intercepted Kyler Murray in the end zone in the closing seconds of the game. He finished the season with a team-high five interceptions and returned two of them for touchdowns.
But it wasn’t just the big plays that Douglas made. Throughout the season, Douglas played extremely well in coverage. According to pro-football-reference.com, opposing quarterbacks completed just 50 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Douglas and their quarterback rating was just 44.5. Both of those numbers were career bests by a wide margin for Douglas.
Now, the Packers have three quality cornerbacks on their roster. The other two are former first round picks Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes.
Alexander only played in four games in 2021 before suffering a shoulder injury while tackling Najee Harris of the Steelers. The previous season, Alexander earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career and became an elite, shut-down corner. He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl despite intercepting just one pass all season which indicates how good his coverage skills are.
Alexander has great speed and uses it to stay with the game’s best receivers. He has a lot of confidence and doesn’t let the rare mistake that he makes get him down. In 2020, Alexander allowed quarterbacks to complete just 51.3 percent of their passes and they had a quarterback rating of only 67.4 when targeting receivers covered by the former Louisville star.
The 2022 season will be Alexander’s fifth in the NFL and he is still just 25 and should be entering the prime of his NFL career. If he could do a better job of holding on to potential interceptions, Alexander could become one of the best corners the Packers have had in a long time.
Opposite Alexander is Eric Stokes. The 2021 first-round pick earned All-Rookie honors after starting 14 games for the Packers in his first season in the league. Opposing quarterbacks only completed 49.5 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Stokes and their quarterback rating was just 71.3.
Stokes also has elite speed which he can use to catch up to receivers if they get an early break on him. If the former Georgia star can learn to adjust to the ball better when it’s in the air, he can also become an elite corner. Stokes has a positive attitude, great work ethic and football intelligence.
The Packers still need more depth at cornerback. We are still not sure if free agent Chandon Sullivan will be back and King is unlikely to return. Last year’s fifth-round pick, Shemar Jean-Charles will return for his second NFL season but Jean-Charles only played 37 snaps on defense all season as a rookie.
The Pack also have two quality starting safeties in Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. Amos is smart, consistent and rarely out of position. He returns for his fourth season with the Packers after signing as a free agent in 2019. Amos is a leader in the locker room and player who helps make the players around him better.
Savage is another former first-round pick who is entering his fourth season in the NFL. The former Maryland star was at his best in the second half of the 2020 campaign when he made several big plays and seemed to be elevating his game to a new level. Unfortunately, his play grew less consistent in 2021 and he made fewer impact plays last season than he did in 2020. If Savage can return to form, the Packers could potentially have one of the best starting secondaries in the league.
Depth at safety is also a concern and something Gutekunst needs to address in the draft and with a low-cost free agent.
The modern NFL is a pass-first league. If you can slow down the opposing team’s pass offense, you stand a good chance of winning each week. The Packers secondary has five strong players at the top of the depth chart. That gives them the chance to have an elite secondary in 2022.
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