Seeing the Green Bay Packers line up a cornerback trio of Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, and Eric Stokes with regularity on Monday night should have come as little surprise to those who followed the team in training camp. However, it was the alignment of these three corners against the Detroit Lions in week 2 that may cause some head-scratching among the fan base.
Much of the talk around Green Bay this offseason — when Aaron Rodgers was not the subject, of course — revolved around who would play the “star” position in new defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s defense. Through camp, it appeared that Chandon Sullivan was a leading candidate for that slot corner role, while Alexander got some substantial run there in summer practices as well. That led to an expectation that an Alexander/King/Stokes unit would see Jaire in the slot with King and Stokes working the outside.
However, on Monday night the Packers used King in the slot most frequently as they got Stokes on the field for his first substantial game action, though Alexander did see a handful of snaps there as well. Per Zach Kruse of Packers Wire, King led in slot snaps with 22, while Alexander had 17 and Sullivan had nine. The approach yielded mixed results, but ultimately the Packers’ defense pitched a shutout in the second half as the offense maintained its early production to overcome a three-point halftime deficit.
Not coincidentally, the Packers brought more extra rushers in the second half, helping to stymie the Lions’ passing game. According to Tom Silverstein, that was the direct result of a halftime adjustment directed by head coach Matt LaFleur:
LaFleur said that he told defensive coordinator Joe Barry to either play coverage or get after the quarterback because playing man and sending just four in the first half wasn't creating any pressure. Barry started to bring pressure more in the second half and it helped.— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) September 21, 2021
Here’s a look at the playing time from the Packers’ 35-17 victory.
OFFENSE (65 plays)
Aaron Rodgers 62, Jordan Love 3
That was quite a bounce-back game for Rodgers, who posted one of the most efficient games of his career eight days after playing one of his worst. Rodgers completed 22 of his 27 passes — over 80 percent — for 255 yards and four touchdowns, earning a passer rating of 145.6. That goes down as the 13th-highest passer rating in a single game of Rodgers’ career and his highest ever result in that measure against the Lions.
Aaron Jones 45, AJ Dillon 19, Kylin Hill 5
What a game it was for Aaron Jones. Although his rushing average won’t blow anyone away — he picked up 67 yards on 17 carries for a 3.9 average — he was a very effective receiver and found the end zone on four occasions, three of them through the air. He caught all six of his targets for 48 yards and those three scores, adding a one-yard plunge on the ground as he claimed by far the bulk of the workload.
Dillon had a few opportunities, with five carries for 18 yards, but it’s clear that this offense runs through Jones when it’s at its best. Games like this underscore why the Packers were not willing to let him walk this offseason, instead signing him to a big new four-year contract.
Davante Adams 57, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 43, Allen Lazard 42, Randall Cobb 12, Equanimeous St. Brown 6, Malik Taylor 3
While Jones got the bulk of the work among the running backs, almost all of the targets for the Packers’ receivers went to Adams. He had nine targets compared to eight for the rest of the unit combined, and he caught eight of those nine for 121 yards. It was a great bounce-back performance from him that started quickly, with an 18-yard gain on the Packers’ fourth play, and was boosted by a 50-yard bomb on 3rd-and-12 on the Packers’ first drive of the third quarter.
MVS had a quiet day as he was unable to haul in any of his four targets. Three were deep balls, while a fourth was a goal-line play where Rodgers was pressured early and threw an off-target but harmless incomplete pass. Despite his significant snap total, Lazard did not see a single target all game long.
For the first time this season, Cobb showed up with a handful of snaps with Rodgers and helped the team convert a pair of third downs on their second touchdown drive of the third quarter. He picked up 14 yards on a 3rd-and-14 and gained 9 on a 3rd-and-9 later on the same drive as the Packers ripped off an 11-play drive to extend their lead to 28-17 and largely put the game out of reach.
Marcedes Lewis 36, Dominique Dafney 29, Robert Tonyan 28
The Packers came into this game wanting to establish the run, and their tight ends’ snap counts demonstrate that. Lewis played a major role as an in-line blocker, while Dafney earned a career high in snaps while mostly lining up as a traditional fullback. Tonyan had a bit of a light day in terms of total workload, but he had a solid receiving performance, catching all three targets for 52 yards. One of those grabs came on a 22-yard laser beam from Rodgers for the go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter.
Elgton Jenkins 65, Jon Runyan, Jr. 65, Josh Myers 65, Royce Newman 65, Billy Turner 65
The Packers’ offensive line saw a change in the starting lineup on Monday, as Runyan took over for Lucas Patrick at left guard. The starting line stayed together for the full game as the three youngsters on the interior continue to build up their experience. Rodgers was sacked three times on the day.
DEFENSE (57 plays)
Kenny Clark 48, Dean Lowry 34, Kingsley Keke 32, Tyler Lancaster 18, T.J. Slaton 6
Although the Packers’ defensive line played better than they did a week ago against the Saints, there are still some concerning signs, particularly in their ability to anchor against the run. The Lions ran at a 5.7 yards-per-carry clip, though much of that is skewed due to a 26-yard scramble by quarterback Jared Goff. The Lions’ two running backs totaled just 62 rushing yards on 15 carries, an average of 4.1.
Clark provided the only pass rush stat in the official book for the line, with a hit on Goff to go with five total tackles. Lowry was the only other player with multiple tackles, as he recorded three assists.
Preston Smith 46, Rashan Gary 44, Jonathan Garvin 13, Chauncey Rivers 11
With no Za’Darius Smith, the Packers needed their other two star pass-rushers to step up and, at times, they did get some pressure. Gary had a pair of QB hits while Preston Smith added one for his only stat of the night. Garvin also pitched in with a hit, which helped force an interception late in the game.
De’Vondre Campbell 57, Krys Barnes 25, Oren Burks 2
Campbell was the recipient of that pressure from Garvin late in the game, as he picked off Goff for the Packers’ first interception of the season. That came two series after Barnes recovered an aborted snap for the team’s first turnover of any kind in 2021, which led straight to the Packers’ final touchdown of the game to put the contest well out of reach at 35-17.
Campbell filled up the stat sheet in this game, making 13 total tackles to go with that pick. He did allow a touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson in coverage on the opening drive, though it took a perfect throw from Goff to convert it. Barnes picked up four solo tackles in his more limited action as he came off the field when the Packers went with more nickel and dime looks in the second half as Detroit had to pass to try to get back in the game.
Adrian Amos 57, Darnell Savage 57, Henry Black 2
After being questionable for the game, Savage did not miss a snap, picking up a pair of tackles. Amos made nine solo stops in his usual role as a run-stopper when the Packers put Savage back as the single high safety.
Jaire Alexander 57, Kevin King 56, Eric Stokes 44, Chandon Sullivan 18
Here’s where it got particularly interesting on defense. The Packers elected to give Eric Stokes a huge boost in playing time on Monday compared to in week one, when he only played a few snaps in dime packages when the game was out of hand. However, the team made the decision to put Kevin King in the slot with Stokes and Alexander on the boundary, a change from in training camp when Alexander often manned the slot with King and Stokes outside.
That meant that Sullivan’s playing time was cut back, as he saw the field mainly late in the game in dime.
Alexander had his usual excellent game in coverage, while King gave up his usual share of big plays. Stokes allowed the Lions’ second touchdown of the game amid some apparent confusion on defense, but he broke up a pair of passes to account for half of the team’s total.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Burks 18, Ty Summers 18, Isaac Yiadom 18, Black 16, Taylor 14, Rivers 13, Hill 12, Mason Crosby 11, Dafney 11, Stokes 11, Isaiah McDuffie 10