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Packers 2018 Acquisitions: Revamped cornerback unit shows promise for the future

The duo of Jaire Alexander and Bashaud Breeland made a formidable pair down the stretch.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Over a two week span, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2018 season. Here, we examine the cornerbacks who were new to the Packers last season.

The Packers’ secondary has been a train wreck since the atrocious 2015 draft that brought in Damarious Randall, who was traded to the Browns for DeShone Kizer, and Quinten Rollins, who is all but out of the league. 2017 picks Kevin King and Josh Jones have been little help for different reasons, and so in 2018, the Packers took yet another swing at the position, bringing in a host of fresh faces, old and new.

While the defense struggled overall, the cornerback position took an enormous step forward, from atrocious to solidly “meh,” anchored by a budding star and a bargain veteran in an odd situation.

Jaire Alexander

How Acquired: Drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, 18th overall
Stats: 11 passes defended, 1 interception, 66 tackles (61 solo), 3 TFL, .5 sacks

Alexander was a revelation, providing a huge upgrade as the team’s number one corner and cementing himself as one of the team’s best players. Alexander wasn’t perfect, and could occasionally get himself out of position, but the positives vastly outweighed the negatives. Some growing pains were to be expected, but the prospect of Alexander improving may be more exciting anyway. To function properly, Pettine’s defenses have generally required someone like Darrelle Revis, and while Alexander might not get to that level, he appears to be a great fit, and a great talent.

Josh Jackson

How Acquired: Drafted in the second round, 45th overall
Stats: 10 passes defended, 0 INT, 49 tackles (39 solo), 1 TFL

There were many pundits who liked Jackson better than Alexander coming out of Iowa, but while Jackson occasionally impressed and was second on the team in passes defended, he too often struggled with speed receivers. When Jackson got frustrated, he also got grabby, and he’ll need to play a more disciplined game if he is going to succeed at this level. That said, you can see his instincts out on the field, and his worst case is probably an above average safety. The Packers can work with that.

Tramon Williams

How Acquired: Signed as a free agent for 2 years, $10,000,000, of which $4,750,000 is guaranteed
Stats: 2 passes defended, 0 interceptions, 54 tackles (40 solo), 0 TFL

In Williams’ first stint as a Packer he helped lead the team to a Super Bowl championship, but his second run hasn’t been quite the same. Williams also played under Pettine in Cleveland and he was brought in to provide a solid veteran presence, and to familiarize the young players with the system. Williams is still excellent in terms of technique and reads, but his physical gifts have eroded to the point where corner is now out of the question. He showed promise with a mid-season move to safety, which may keep him in the league for another year or two, but the end is in sight.

Bashaud Breeland

How Acquired: Signed as a free agent midseason for 1 year, $880,000, with $90,000 guaranteed.
Stats: 4 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 20 tackles (16 solo), 1 TFL

Washington decided to overhaul their secondary in 2018 by eliminating the very good Bashaud Breeland (letting him go in free agency) and cutting DJ Swearinger before trading for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The Packers unquestionably got the best of this de facto swap, as Breeland came on late to pose an intimidating second corner to Alexander’s lead. Breeland struggled initially as he shook off some rust, but showed his true secondary chops towards the end of the season. Breeland has an odd injury history which has made teams wary of investing too much in him, but he is likely to be a reasonably priced free agent, he’s young, and it’s clear he can still play at a high level.

Tony Brown

How Acquired: Signed to practice squad after training camp; promoted to 53-man roster and given 2 year, $1,050,000 contract
Stats: 5 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions, 34 tackles (30 solo) 1 TFL

Many Packer fans will remember Brown for a few boneheaded plays he made early on, but underneath those mistakes Brown had a fine season. Despite only playing a fraction of total games he was third on the team with 5 passes defended, and he was a willing (sometimes too willing) tackler. Brown needs work, but he’s extremely athletic, and he has already been more productive than a lot of recent Packer waiver fodder, and even some veteran stalwarts. Brown could bust out of the league, but if developed properly, there’s a star somewhere in there.

Natrell Jamerson

How acquired: Claimed off of waivers from New Orleans, signed for 4 years, $2,725,621
Stats: 3 tackles (2 solo)

The former Badger is a little stocky for corner, but as a hybrid Mycah Hyde type heading downhill, and a special teams ace, Jamerson brings plenty of value. Jamerson was a combine superstar and he’s built like a rock and should stick around doing the little things for quite a while.