Final grades: Alexander shows promise at cornerback

B

Bob McGinn

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By BOB McGINN

Ninth of an 11-part position-by-position series in which the 69 players on the Green Bay Packers’ 53-man roster, reserve/injured and reserve/did not report lists at the end of the season are graded. Playing-time percentages are for offense and defense only.

CORNERBACKS (8)

Jaire Alexander (71.4%): Alexander started 11 of the 13 games that he played and joined Denzel Ward on the all-rookie team. The only other cornerback from Green Bay to make the all-rookie squad (it was first selected in 1974) was Casey Hayward in 2012.
Until Games 14-15, when Alexander elected not to press and played soft, he attacked his assignment with gusto and played with an appealing competitive fire. He’s quick, fast and aggressive. After a slow start due in part to injury, he became the starter near mid-season when Kevin King went down and had a stretch of several games in which the Packers couldn’t have asked for more from a rookie corner. He led the position in passes defensed per snap (one every 50.7) and was second in tackles per snap (one every 10.0). He drew just two penalties. He covered tightly at times. As the season wore on Alexander became less effective. He finished with a team-high yield of 12 passes for 20 yards or more, a number exceeded only by Damarious Randall (13 in 2015) among Green Bay cornerbacks since 2010. Sometimes he peeked in the backfield and was burned by double moves. Sometimes he gambled and lost. Sometimes his height (5-10) hurt him at the ball. Injuries knocked Alexander out of three games and sidelined him for three more, which was reminiscent of Randall’s fragility. For this defense to go anywhere next season the Packers need Alexander to step forward, perform like a legitimate No. 1 corner and play 16 games. Grade: B-minus.

Bashaud Breeland (30.9%):
The Packers were able to sign Breeland off the street in late September for close to minimum wage. Based on his performance in seven games (five starts), he wouldn’t warrant a contract worth much more than that. Breeland played 79.3% of the snaps for Washington from 2014-’17 but the Redskins thought so little of him that they just let him walk away. In a lesser role for the Packers, Breeland’s current employer might take the same approach. As unfair as it might be, Breeland plays like the 4.6 40 that he ran for scouts five years ago. Lack of speed was a major reason why he allowed 4 ½ plays of 20 yards or more, the fifth-highest total in the secondary. It also contributed to why his penalty-ridden ways in Washington continued in Green Bay. He’s grabby, and his five penalties were second most for any player on defense. When asked to play outside, he was almost a penalty waiting to happen. It’s rather apparent that Breeland loves to play the game. He’s a good tackler (two misses). He’s tough. And in a year when the cornerbacks intercepted merely four passes, he led with two as well as in takeaways with three. He finished second to Alexander in passes defensed per snap (one every 54.8). There are things to like about Breeland along with the limitations that cannot be ignored. Grade: D.

Tony Brown (27%):
Three games into Brown’s career in Green Bay he had three penalties (one was for taunting, another for a late hit out of bounds) and looked like a good bet to be on the first flight out of Austin Straubel. Mike McCarthy stood by the former Alabama nickel back and by the final two games of the season Brown had become a starter, whether by default or not. Nick Saban kept the undisciplined but intelligent Brown (Wonderlic of 31) around for four years because of his speed (4.35) and potential. Brown did become more of a pro as the season went on, drawing two penalties on special teams and none on defense in the last 10 games. He also did a better job of not getting beat deep and improved his press technique on the perimeter, where he almost never had lined up for the Crimson Tide. Brown allowed just one TD pass and one play for 20-plus yards. A strong tackler, he missed four and led corners in tackles per snap (one every 9.6). His speed was much more noticeable as a gunner/holdup man on special teams than on defense. He didn’t play to his 40 as a corner. His speed is straight-line. Brown has always exuded confidence. If he can stay out of his own way, he might become a player. That, however, is a big if. Grade: C-minus.\

Davon House (2.7%):
House played two injury-free seasons in Jacksonville but his return to Green Bay in March 2017 was ruined by thigh, shoulder and back problems. In 2018, he lasted 30 snaps in three games before a shoulder injury landed him on injured reserve. House is an excellent locker-room presence. He’ll be 30 in July and undoubtedly still wants to play, but at this point it seems unlikely another team would bring him in. Grade: Incomplete.

Josh Jackson (67.5%):
Many rookies get better the more they play, at least until December. In Jackson’s case, he played his best ball in August and September before his season fell apart. The Packers drafted Jackson in the second round even though he lacked speed (4.53), started only one season at Iowa and used a side-saddle technique that would require major adjustment in the NFL. Scouts also questioned his willingness to run support and tackle reliably. Every scout loved his eight interceptions in 2017. In training camp, Jackson played well and personnel people across the league took note. As the season got going and the competition stiffened, Jackson’s many deficiencies began to crop up. By the end, the coaches were playing free agent Tony Brown ahead of Jackson after opposing quarterbacks picked on him for weeks. It was rather apparent that Jackson’s focus and effort diminished as the season progressed. He was benched at mid-season after his grabby coverage style led to an excessive number of penalties. He finished with seven, the most for any player on defense. Jackson allowed seven passes of 20 yards or more, second most behind Alexander, and three touchdown passes, the most for a corner. He did rank third among the five corners in passes defensed per snap (one every 55.2) but never intercepted a pass (he dropped one) and didn’t create a turnover. Jackson was never used as a safety, but given his size (6-0 ½, 196) there is speculation that safety might be his eventual position. However, the lack of urgency and aggressiveness in his play, at least in Year 1, makes that seem an unlikely possibility. Jackson certainly isn’t physical enough to play in the box. As a post safety he’d be involved in less rough stuff, but even centerfielders must tackle. His tackling was sketchy, at best; six of his seven misses came in the second half of the season. Jackson’s year was a disappointment, to say the least. Grade: D.

Natrell Jamerson (0.0%):
Jamerson, a one-year starter at Wisconsin, arrived off waivers from Houston on Dec. 5. He played 10 games for the Texans with 78 snaps on defense and 89 on special teams. The Texans claimed Jamerson off waivers from the Saints, who drafted him in the fifth round but let him go Sept. 2. In two games for the Packers, Jamerson made three tackles in 23 snaps, a rate of one every 7.7 that easily led their special teams. He’s another one of those workout warriors (4.42 40) that the Packers gravitate toward. Grade: Incomplete.

Kevin King (28.6%):
Another year, another wasted season. The Packers have played 32 games since drafting King atop the second round in 2017. He has played in 15 games with 11 starts. Because of injury, King has failed to finish five of those 15 games. In all, he has played merely 32.4% of the defensive snaps. GM Ted Thompson acted in conjunction with the team’s medical and training staffs in drafting these damaged goods. King reported with a bad left shoulder that hindered him for the Washington Huskies and throughout his rookie season, eventually leading to season-ending labrum surgery in December 2017. In 2018, a right shoulder injury knocked him out of the first three exhibition games. During the season, groin, chin and hamstring injuries forced him out of games, and the hamstring eventually sent him to injured reserve for Games 13-16. It should be obvious that King’s body wasn’t ready for the NFL, and if he doesn’t get a lot stronger his career will flame out fast. He needs to focus and become a pro in every way. At 6-3, King looks fabulous on the hoof. Yet, even when he has been on the field, his performance has been uneven. Despite limited playing time he allowed 2 ½ TD passes, second most among cornerbacks. He was fourth at the position in tackles per snap (one every 13.8) and last in passes defensed per snap (one every 101.3), a major decline from one every 47.8 as a rookie. At the same time, King did make perhaps the biggest play a corner made all year when he smothered the 49ers’ Marquise Goodwin on a long pass and intercepted to set up the game-winning field goal. He’s leggy, and as a result sometimes backs well off receivers and then lacks the twitch to break suitably on the ball. No one can say with any degree of certitude where King’s career is headed. Grade: D-plus.

Will Redmond (0.4%):
Played four snaps before going on injured reserve Dec. 22 with a shoulder injury. Green Bay is his third team. The 49ers took him in the third round of the 2016 draft despite the fact he probably wouldn’t be ready after a blown ACL in Game 7 of 2015 for Mississippi State. Missed half of the 2017 season with an ankle injury. Flashed cover skills and speed for the Bulldogs but certainly hasn’t been the same player since October 2015. He’s undersized at 5-11, 186. Grade: Incomplete.




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Mark87

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Most of Bobs grades were harsh this yr but not these. I know DB better then anything else and he's being nice. The lack of technique our DB play with is horrendous. Josh Jackson was a bad pick for MP scheme and really belongs at safety. Jamerson needs to stick for ST where he can excel on cover teams. Breeland and Alexander got too much love and not enough kick in the pants last season... that needs to change.

GB really needs a starting safety and a corner in this draft..... don't @ me with the ggg( stuff as we have to give the DC more to work with.
 

dannobanano

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FA?
Draft? How high?

Are we really “here” again? After all the draft capital that has been spent on this position group?
 

HowardK4

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Do we think our drafting of DB's was that bad, or does this issue show how poorly that group was coached? Because it kept happening, regardless of who we drafted and/or put back there - I lean towards poor coaching.
 

rpiotr01

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I’m sure we’re deficient at CB but I think it’s time to help the CBs out by building the pass rush.
 

Mark87

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Do we think our drafting of DB's was that bad, or does this issue show how poorly that group was coached? Because it kept happening, regardless of who we drafted and/or put back there - I lean towards poor coaching.
Combination of both. Ted didn't help much his last 3 years and MM kept the same guys back there year after year.
 

Cheesedog

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Combination of both. Ted didn't help much his last 3 years and MM kept the same guys back there year after year.
+1

A lot of people got caught up in how great TT was, and his rep outlived his performance by 4 years or so. TT was one of the worst GMs in the league over the past 3 years. No accountability, bad drafts, bad FA moves, didn't keep tabs on MM.... etc etc etc

This is the result, a position group that is vastly over rated because of the high picks. People have to forget about how much draft capital GB spent on DEF over the past three years because it was largely wasted.

The good news is that GB is starting over. This is why I keep talking about a sizable rebuild. You have to undo the damage caused by TT/MM over past three years before you move forward. Alexander is the only guy in that secondary you can see as a long term guy. And he isn't a #1 type shut down.. Especially now that know him and his weaknesses.

I'm excited to see what LaFluer does with this group and how they draft and FA going forward. This is a great chance for GB to be the proverbial phoenix and rise from the ashes as something completely new.
 

GBP4EVER

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Teds last 5 draft's total of 44 players drafted. 12 were on the active 53 man roster at end of 2018 season.
 

realitybytes

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Do we think our drafting of DB's was that bad, or does this issue show how poorly that group was coached? Because it kept happening, regardless of who we drafted and/or put back there - I lean towards poor coaching.

well, let's not forget that we let a couple of the better ones just walk away, and we also tried to force a pretty decent safety to play corner. so some of that draft capital was just plain wasted.
 
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