After several months of film study, grading, scouting reports, and mock drafts the draft is finally over and the Packers have their new guys. I, like many Packer fans, was impressed with how well first year Packer GM Brian Gutekunst did in the draft. Trades were made strategically and I really felt like each round he got the best player on the board. We was all curious about who he would grab in round 1. A lot of writers and fans had predicted it would be Marcus Davenport. Others thought Harold Landry. Some, like myself, thought it would be Derwin James. A lot of our mock drafts were wrong, but I feel we got the player who would best help the Packers defense and defensive back unit as a whole with Jaire Alexander. I know that first year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will be thrilled to have him as will many others. Lets go to the tape and see what you might expect this coming season out of the new Packer cornerback.
The first thing that stood out to me when watching Alexander was how well he played the run, particularly sweeps and stretch plays. Watch Alexander at the bottom of the screen here. This is everything you want to see out of a corner when he plays the run. The first thing is the hands. Notice how he gets a punch on the X receiver and creates separation. With that separation he can control where the receiver goes. The edge player on this particular play gets reached by the running back. The edge defender is always, always, the man who turns the runs back inside. That is his job on each running play. If he is reached than a secondary player becomes the force man, known as the secondary force player. The edge is the primary force player. If he is reached, Alexander knows he is now responsible to set force. This is known as cloud force. If it was a safety then it would be sky force. This is all known. It is also known usually against certain sets. In this clip he does a textbook job of keeping his ground and fighting to the outside.
Alexander is at the top of the screen here and does a fantastic job with a quick change of direction and finds the ball. He’s quick here to pass off the #1 receiver and come up to help make a play. Alexander’s vision and play recognition is one thing that stood out to me when I watched tape over him. During most plays he would be reading the number 2 receiver. Here the number 3 receiver runs a bubble with the number 1 receiver pushing vertically. It would be easy for a corner to run with #1 so that they don’t give up the big play. It’s an easy set up play for offenses who want to fake the bubble and throw the ball downfield. Alexander gets just enough depth here so that he is in good position to make a play either way. As soon as he sees the number 2 receiver get hands on the strong safety and block him up he can anticipate the bubble coming his way. Louisville played Alexander to the field side of the formation rather than the boundary. That really tells me that they trusted him to make plays in space.
This might be my favorite play when reviewing tape over Alexander. He’s at the bottom of the screen on this play and absolutely blows up the swing pass. This comes back to great vision. The receiver he’s lined up over, the X, gets an inside release and Alexander rides him down, passing him off to the linebacker. He quickly gets his eyes on #2 and redirects. This tells me that Louisville was running a cover 2 look. (One thing about reviewing draft tape is no all-22 film) The cover 2 can be recognized because he forced the receiver inside rather than out, like on a cover 3. He does exactly what a corner should do in a cover 2 look by not allowing the receiver to get an outside release. The redirection is what is really impressive to me. He can stop on a dime here and get to where he needs to be. He finishes really good here and gets a tackle for loss on a first down play. Plays like that can be drive killers for an offense. It sets the tone for the entire drive. This is what we need in Green Bay. Too many times the offense would reel off a huge play on 1st down and the defense was backed up to the red zone. What I want to see is the defense set the tone on first down. It’s a down that must be won.
Lets take a look now at how Alexander looks in a press man trail technique. This is a look that Pettine will be running at times. One thing that I like about Pettine is that I believe he is going to turn the corners loose at times and let them play aggressively. The secret to a good press man trail look all starts at the line of scrimmage. Watch Alexander get a good two hand jam on the receiver. The next step is the transition phase. The corner wants to almost be hip to hip with the receiver. This is done to ensure that the receiver doesn’t get a look to go inside. The corner wants to force the receiver to go towards the boundary and use it as and extra defender. Alexander plays it solid here. All those things are in check. Once the ball is in the air he does a good job of sticking close to the receiver and getting a hand up. Notice the distance that the receiver has between him and the boundary. Alexander does a great job of squeezing him down to where he has no room. Textbook stuff.
I think I speak for all of Packer nation when I say how excited I am to have Jaire in Green Bay. He is a player who can make a difference day 1. With the loss of Randall and an aging Devon House we were sure that the Packers would grab a corner in the draft, thankfully we got one of the best. I am beyond excited to see how he will perform in Green Bay for years to come.
Go Pack Go!
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