COR­NER­BACK

Jaire Alexan­der proved to be a star in L.A.

Packer Plus - - News - Zach Kruse

It must have been ex­hil­a­rat­ing for Green Bay Pack­ers GM Brian Gutekunst to look down at the field at Los An­ge­les Memo­rial Coli­seum on Sun­day and see Jaire Alexan­der – his first-ever firstround pick – trans­form into a play-mak­ing ma­chine.

The Pack­ers rookie cor­ner­back re­turned from miss­ing two games with a groin in­jury to pro­duce five pass breakups in Green Bay’s 29-27 loss to the Rams.

Fit­tingly, a new star may have been born right in Hol­ly­wood.

Alexan­der har­rassed Rams re­ceivers Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods all af­ter­noon long, con­test­ing passes ev­ery­where on the field with a fear­less­ness and ag­gres­sion only the best at the cor­ner­back po­si­tion truly pos­sess.

In the first quar­ter, Alexan­der ran stride-for-stride with Cooks on a deep post and broke up Jared Goff ’s heave into the back of the end zone at its high­est point.

A quar­ter later, he hung with Cooks on an in-break­ing route in man-to-man cov­er­age and stuck a hand in at the catch point at ex­actly the right time to dis­rupt the pass and force the in­com­ple­tion. On the same drive, Alexan­der vi­o­lently pressed Woods at the line of scrim­mage, re­treated back into his zone and in­stinc­tively broke up Goff ’s pass at­tempt to Woods, forc­ing a punt.

In the third quar­ter, he pro­duced a div­ing breakup of a pass to the mid­dle of the field. The slot re­ceiver at­tempted a stic­knod route but Alexan­der hung tough the en­tire way and was in po­si­tion to make the play.

Late in the fourth quar­ter, the Rams at­tempted to run Cooks on a deep over route from the slot. Once again, Alexan­der ran stride-for-stride with the Rams’ speedy re­ceiver and leaped to make the play on the ball in front of Cooks.

Alexan­der did a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing, show­ing his abil­ity to cover the deep and in­ter­me­di­ate ar­eas in man cov­er­age while also press­ing at the line of scrim­mage and han­dling the short stuff in both zone cov­er­age and man-to-man from the slot.

The only thing miss­ing from the per-

for­mance was an in­ter­cep­tion.

Even with­out one, Alexan­der be­came the first Pack­ers de­fen­sive back to record five passes de­fended in one game since Ah­mad Car­roll in Nov. 2005.

Even when Goff and Cooks con­nected on a big play, Alexan­der had good cov­er­age. Late in the first half, Goff es­caped pres­sure and fired a back-shoul­der throw low and to­ward the side­line to Cooks. Alexan­der had smoth­ered the ini­tial route and it took an in­cred­i­ble throw and catch

to beat him.

The Pack­ers se­condary played at a dif­fer­ent speed and with a dif­fer­ent en­ergy with Alexan­der back in the lineup. De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Pet­tine was able to mix and match how he lined up the cor­ner­backs, of­ten us­ing Alexan­der out­side and blitz­ing vet­eran Tra­mon Wil­liams from the slot. In­tan­gi­bly, Alexan­der’s team­mates con­tinue to feed off his in­fec­tious playstyle and ever­last­ing ex­u­ber­ance.

More im­por­tantly, how­ever, Alexan­der stepped up on the big­gest stage against the NFL’s best of­fense and proved he has what it takes – in terms of ath­leti­cism, ball skills and cov­er­age abil­ity – to han­dle routes of all kinds from one of the league’s quick­est and most danger­ous deep threats.

The Pack­ers lost Sun­day but the fu­ture at cor­ner­back couldn’t look any brighter. In a city of stars, Alexan­der fit right in.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pack­ers cor­ner­back Jaire Alexan­der breaks up a pass in­tended for Rams re­ceiver Brandin Cooks. Alexan­der cov­ered the speedy Cooks ef­fec­tively for the ma­jor­ity of the game.

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