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