Packers Camp Insider: Young corners flash playmaking skills

Pete Dougherty
Green Bay Press-Gazette
View Comments
Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) celebrates with cornerback Josh Jackson (37) after Alexander intercepted an Oakland Raiders pass during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Aug. 24, 2018.

Friday’s takeaways

» The Packers’ top two draft picks, cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, flashed playmaking ability the Packers’ defense didn’t have on the back end last season and look like they could be getting plenty of playing time as rookies. Each intercepted Raiders backup quarterback Connor Cook in the first half, though Jackson’s was called back because of a holding penalty on teammate Herb Waters. Alexander showed his acceleration by catching up with receiver Dwayne Harris on a route down the middle of the field, then turning and immediately picking up the ball in flight for the interception inside the Packers’ 10. One thing to note: On the return, Alexander slipped while making a cut, and though a couple Raiders players were near, nobody touched him down. Yet the rookie seemed to forget he’s playing in the NFL now, not college, and thinking he was down because his knee hit the ground, he dropped the ball and celebrated the interception. Officials ruled he was down, but replays appeared to show that he wasn’t, and two players even went for the loose ball. Alexander was lucky it wasn’t ruled a fumble. Jackson would have had his second pick-six of the preseason if not for the penalty on Waters. Jackson showed the awareness and ball skills that convinced the Packers to draft him in the second round when he intercepted an out route to receiver Seth Roberts and returned it 38 yards for the score that was nullified by the penalty. Alexander appears to be a good bet for one of the three starting cornerback jobs in the Packers’ nickel defense with Kevin King and Tramon Williams. Jackson’s recent play gives him a real shot to be the No. 4 cornerback ahead of Davon House. That would leave him only one injury away from regular playing time.

RELATEDProtection problems plague Packers in exhibition loss

BOX SCORERaiders 13, Packers 6

» The shoulder injury third-round pick Oren Burks sustained in warm-ups is troubling for the Packers in a couple ways. First, he’s going to be a starter if healthy and has shown the speed to stay with backs and tight ends as a cover man in the middle of the field, which is something the Packers haven’t had at that position. But he needs all the game snaps he can get to be ready for extensive playing time as a rookie. Second, the Packers are thin at inside linebacker and don’t have a clear-cut backup for him. Undrafted rookie Greer Martini started in Burks’ place Friday night, and another undrafted rookie, Ahmad Thomas, took some snaps in Martini’s place in nickel. It’s unclear how serious Burks' injury is — coach Mike McCarthy had no update on him after the game, and Burks just said that his shoulder "popped out." Burks was on the sidelines for the game but wore a jacket that covered whether he was wearing a sling or brace. If this were a regular-season game, you wonder whether defensive coordinator Mike Pettine might have gone with the undrafted rookies in Burks’ place, or if he instead might play safety Josh Jones at that position — Jones has been working as much as a linebacker/slot as a safety in camp. There was no indication that Burks’ injury is serious, but if so the Packers could face a big decision, because another option would be playing Clay Matthews regularly at inside linebacker, though that would only accentuate their lack of quality depth at outside linebacker.

QB watch

Starter Aaron Rodgers didn’t suit up, and fourth-stringer Tim Boyle didn’t play. The Packers surely wanted to take an extended look at Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer in the final two preseason games in their battle for the backup job behind Rodgers, and each played a half. You also have to wonder if McCarthy sat undrafted rookie Boyle, who has shown promise in training camp, so other teams won’t have much to go on if the Packers try to get him to their practice squad. Last year New Orleans picked up Taysom Hill in that same circumstance. It was hard to judge Hundley and Kizer on Friday because of the struggles of the Packers’ offensive line, especially right tackle Kyle Murphy. Neither did much. Hundley put up only three points and a 72.9 rating in the first half, though tight end Lance Kendricks dropped what should have been a touchdown pass. Kizer also put up only a field goal and a 63.7 rating.

Bits and pieces

» Alexander showed some promise as a decision maker handling punt returning for the first time this preseason. On one punt deep in his own territory he didn’t signal a fair catch, which made it legal for him to block the first cover man downfield and allowed the ball to bounce into the end zone for a touchback. He also nearly drew an interference penalty while trying to field a punt, though officials rightly determined he caused the contact. The question is whether McCarthy wants him in that role while also playing as a starter in the nickel.

» With the starting offensive line getting the night off, the starters Friday were, from left tackle to right, Jason Spriggs, Adam Pankey, Lucas Patrick, Byron Bell and Murphy.

» The Packers are looking to replace Jeff Janis as their top gunner in punt coverage, and Jones made an eye-catching play when he dropped return man Ryan Switzer for a three-yard loss after a 49-yard punt by JK Scott.

Injury report

Eighteen players didn’t suit up, including the following because of injuries: WR Trevor Davis (hamstring), WR Jake Kumerow (shoulder), CB House (hamstring), RB Devante Mays (hamstring), LB Burks (shoulder in pregame), G Justin McCray (calf).

Others who weren’t in uniform: QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Davante Adams, WR Randall Cobb, CB Kevin King, RB Jamal Williams, OLB Nick Perry, C Corey Linsley, G Lane Taylor, T David Bakhtiari, T Bryan Bulaga, DL Mike Daniels, TE Jimmy Graham.

Quote of the day

“The obvious (thing) is penalties were kind of the theme for the evening. It was a sloppy football game.” — McCarthy on the Packers' 13 penalties for 110 yards in their 13-6 loss at Oakland.

Practice schedule

The Packers’ final practice open to the public starts at 12:15 p.m. Monday.

View Comments