Each winter, Acme Packing Company breaks down the Green Bay Packers’ roster from the previous year by position to examine the team’s performance and needs in the offseason. We continue with a look at the cornerbacks.
Every Green Bay Packers fan — and at this point, every NFL fan — knows that the Green Bay Packers have been struggling on the defensive side of the ball for the better part of the last decade. The defense has been blamed for a majority of the team’s shortcomings in recent years, particularly in playoff games where they have notoriously given up 30 and 40 point games.
However, over the last couple of years the Packers’ front office has made the conscious decision that it is time to go out and build a solid defense, especially in the secondary. They did this mostly through the draft, and by bringing back a veteran DB to help glue the team together.
The modern NFL is all about passing, passing, passing. As the passes per game and season go up, the need for good cornerbacks has also gone up. The wide receiver position has gotten significantly better across the board, and so have defensive backs. Lets take a look at the defensive backs from the 2019 Packers season.
Starters: Jaire Alexander & Kevin King
Alexander: 16 games played, 16 starts; 58 total tackles; 2 interceptions, 17 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
King: 15 games played, 14 starts; 66 total tackles, 1.0 sack; 5 interceptions, 15 passes defended, 1 forced fumble
Kevin King was drafted by the Packers with the 33rd overall pick in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft. He was the start of the Packers rebuild for the defensive backs. King struggled early in his career to remain on the field due to injuries. When he was playing good football, he was a real good cornerback.
This last season with the Packers saw Kevin King take a real leap forward. He made some great plays all year, whether it was a timely interception against the Vikings in week two to seal the game, or being in the right place at the right time to stop a great wide receiver. The biggest leap he took was going from one interception in his first two seasons to five total in the 2019 season. His continued development will be essential to the future of the defense.
Jaire Alexander was drafted by the Packers with the 18th overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft and was a clear sign that the Packers are all in on creating a solid duo in the secondary. When he was drafted, he made an immediate impact on the team and it was clear Alexander was exactly what was needed to bolster this Packers secondary. Alexander is a ball-hawk, whether he is making plays deflecting passes, creating interceptions or straight up ripping the ball out of a runners hand, he seems to be where the action is, and makes a play.
Both of these corner backs are young, and make up a solid foundation for the Packers to build upon in the future.
Backups: Tramon Williams, Chandon Sullivan, Josh Jackson, Ka’Dar Hollman
Tramon Williams is a veteran player who made his return to the Packers in the 2018 season. He was part of the Packers Super Bowl winning team in 2010, and his leadership is essential to the development of the younger players. During the 2019 season, his veteran leadership helped out on defense tremendously, and he made plays.
With the defense using six defensive backs often and during the brief periods when King or Alexander were banged up, Williams and Sullivan both stepped up and played their role in the defense well. Both struggled at times, and were part of the problem with giving up big plays, but with the development under Mike Pettine, Sullivan should see improvement.
Sullivan played in every game this season and recorded one interception, and showed some real potential on the defense as he was on the field for 34 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. It is expected the Packers will bring him back next season in free agency.
Jackson was taken in the same draft as Alexander, and his struggles last season led to a reduction in playing time on defense. He was a key part of the special teams units, but another offseason and training camp of practice will do him good.
Ka’Dar Hollman is a rookie who was taken in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL draft. He only suited up for four games this season, and barely saw the field. He will continue to develop under the other cornerbacks and should see some play time next season.
Overall Grade: B
This defense, like most defenses in the NFL still faces certain challenges. For this group, they struggled to get up and stop the run when needed, as well as giving up big plays over the top. With another offseason together to work on chemistry and scheme, this defense should be even better and on its way to another solid season.