GREEN BAY – J’Mon Moore heard the chatter.
The Green Bay Packers' fourth-round draft pick out of Missouri was just as disappointed as anyone with his struggles catching the ball through the start of camp, and he admitted his two catches for 19 yards Friday against the Oakland Raiders mattered just as much to him.
“Me having a slow start, not having the start that I wanted or people wanted to see, being able to go out there and make some plays, it’s a stair-step,” he said. “It’s a confidence booster.”
He carried that through to a solid practice Monday in the Don Hutson Center. To Moore, stacking performances meant just as much as finally coming up with just one.
“You can’t sit and just be in a funk if stuff hasn’t been going your way,” he said. “That’s what it’s about. Players that can bounce back and move forward and not worry about what’s going on and take it day by day are the ones that are usually great. You’ve got to be able to do that.”
Proof in the playing
Based on his comments Tuesday, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is going to have no problem playing rookie corners Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson come the regular season.
One could argue that they’ve been playing games against inferior players who are running basic schemes, but Pettine said that’s not entirely true. And what is true doesn’t mean he will be afraid to use them on opening night against Chicago.
“These guys have shown they can make plays against some of the better players in the league,” Pettine said. “It's not like they're making plays in the fourth quarter.
“I understand preseason you're not going to get much scheme and you're not going to get the top-tier players for the bulk of the game. But these guys do it at practice, as well. That's where I'm confident.”
The pair have two of the unit’s three interceptions and Jackson would have a pair returned for a touchdown were it not for a penalty on the other side of the field that wiped one out against Oakland.
Pettine said they have a long way to go, but their trajectory is good.
“The nice thing about these guys is that they are passionate about football, they ask a lot of questions, they watch a lot of film,” he said. “They don't just sit back in the meeting room and think they know all the answers. They know they have a long way to go, which is why we're so encouraged about them.”
Alexander might be groomed as a punt returner down the line, but his debut might have given the Packers enough pause to stick with veteran Trevor Davis.
Alexander got five opportunities to field a punt Friday in Oakland, and he caught only one. Special teams coordinator Ron Zook said the rookie should have caught three of the punts. One punt Alexander didn’t catch ended up as a touchback, but it could’ve been a fumble. The punt bounced at the 13-yard line, close to Alexander’s legs.
“We’ve got to catch all the balls,” Zook said.
Alexander fair caught the only punt he fielded Friday, so he didn’t get a return in his debut. Zook said he was impressed with his first opportunity. Alexander let a punt bounce at the 6-yard line and roll into the end zone for touchback.
Instead of signaling for fair catch, Alexander remained a viable returner, allowing him to block a gunner and allow the punt to cross the goal line.
“I thought that was a pretty cagey, for a rookie,” Zook said. A good, cagey play there that he knows he can’t fair catch and block, and then you can block if you don’t fair catch, and that allowed the ball to go in the end zone. I think that’s a good move.”
The Packers drafted Alexander with their 18th overall pick in the first round to play cornerback, but they also considered his ability as a returner. Alexander was a talented returner in college, returning one for a touchdown as a junior.
Alexander said he wants to return punts for the Packers, but he’s behind Davis at the moment. Before he can return punts, Alexander will first have to catch them.
“He’ll learn,” Zook said. “He can’t let the ball hit the ground. All kind of the growing pains that Trevor went through. Those are things that you’ve got to go through with inexperience.”