Packers CB Jaire Alexander carrying late-season momentum into 2024 offseason

By: Paul Bretl 5/10/24

As the defensive coordinator, it’ll be Jeff Hafley’s job to get improved play from the entire defensive unit. However, a key factor in that happening at a macro level will be helping cornerback Jaire Alexander return to his All-Pro form.

Injuries limited Alexander to only nine games last season, including the playoffs. He was also suspended for the Packers Week 17 game against Minnesota for going on the field the week prior during the coin toss when he wasn’t one of the elected captains.

Matt LaFleur discussed how difficult the decision to suspend Alexander was, but added that it provided a good learning opportunity for both sides. And upon Alexander’s return in Week 18, his play improved as well.

In the six games prior to the suspension, Alexander allowed 24 completions on 31 targets at almost 13.0 yards per catch with five pass breakups. However, in the three games following the suspension, two of which were playoff games, Alexander held pass-catchers to four receptions on eight targets at 6.8 yards per catch with an interception and a pass breakup.

After finishing the 2023 season on a high note, Alexander has continued to ride that momentum into the 2024 offseason. Alexander did not participate in the voluntary offseason activities last year, but this offseason, he has been present and helping to lead a relatively young defensive backs room.

“I can’t really speak on what happened last year, and in the past,” said passing game coordinator Derek Ansley, “but when I’ve gotten here and Haf’s gotten here, we’ve seen nothing but his best. He’s been in here two or three weeks before we started Phase 1, working with the strength coaches, getting ahead. Phenomenal attitude. 

“He’s been here every day for Phase 2. He’s leading that group the right way. He’s breaking down the groups. A lot of energy every morning. He’s been the same guy, so he’s been a joy to work with that way. We’re proud of that. We don’t take that for granted and we expect a lot out of him because he’s got a lot to give.”

During training camp last summer, the cornerback position was considered one of the strongest position groups on this Packers team–if not the strongest. But as we saw throughout last season, things can change quickly in the NFL. Now, entering the 2024 season, this is a group with some unknowns.

The starting boundary spot opposite of Alexander will be up for grabs this summer, with Carrington Valentine and Eric Stokes competing for that role. The Packers need a Year 2 leap from Valentine, but that’s never guaranteed. And I’m not sure anyone knows what to expect from Stokes, who missed most of 2023 and was having a down 2022 season prior to his injury.

At the nickel, the Packers have Keisean Nixon back, who had some ups and downs last season, and we could see rookie safety Javon Bullard taking some snaps there as well.

If the Packers defense as a whole is going to improve, then more ball production on the back end is going to be required. Last season, the Packers’ seven interceptions were the second-fewest in football and they also ranked 23rd in pass breakups.

Hafley’s vision-based, more man-heavy defensive approach should help put the Packers’ cornerbacks in better positions to make plays on the football. Hafley has also been praised by former players – including Richard Sherman – for his ability as a teacher and to build game-plans that allow the defenders to play fast and physical, another aspect that can contribute to improved play from this unit as a whole.

“I think Jaire Alexander can play in any system,” said Ansley. “He’s a football player; very instinctive, very talented, got cat-like reactionary quickness. He’s tough. He’s got really good power that can shut it down with those big guys out on the red line. 

“We always talk about being out on the red line, there’s no help out there. There’s no Wi-Fi service. There’s no phone a friend. You gotta be able to hold up out there on Doubs, Justin Jefferson, some of those guys and he has that skillset to do it.”

At this stage of the offseason, Hafley’s focus for the cornerbacks, and the entire defense, is on fundamentals and technique, because without those elements, the scheme doesn’t much matter. 

As Hafley said on Monday when meeting with reporters, the vibes are high right now in the cornerback room, where it’s going to be a competitive environment–and a key contributor to those vibes is Alexander’s presence within the building.

“I think Jaire’s been outstanding. He looks great, he looks like he’s in great shape. He’s really been busting his butt. He’s been the leader we expect him to be, so it’s been a great start to the offseason for him.”