Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander relishes guidance of assistant Jerry Gray

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GREEN BAY - When Jerry Gray was hired as the new Green Bay Packers’ secondary coach, several of his former players spoke about the intensity and knowledge of the game he was going to bring to a talented defensive backfield – especially starting cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Kevin King.

“He’s very honest with you,” said former Washington cornerback Fred Smoot, whom Gray coached from 2007-09. “He’s a teacher. He’s going to let you know what your flaws are. He’s going to let you know what your ceiling can be. He’s going to let you know you are what you put into the game. He’s a great teacher when it comes to that. And he’s comfortable with the defensive back position. That’s his position. He loves to communicate.”

And despite not having any in-person meetings or on-field work with his new position coach until this month, Alexander said Gray has already made an impact in that way.

Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander felt he was at the top of his game at the end of the 2019 season.

“Coach Gray has a great deal of knowledge,” the 23-year-old corner said Monday on a Zoom call with media. “I mean, it’s endless. I could listen to coach Gray talk the whole time about ball because there’s things he’s opened my eyes up to that I’ve never even realized or noticed. Just my mental approach is night and day from last year. So, he’s been a great deal of help.”

Alexander said he meditated more and watched less television to go with the physical work he put in this offseason, which could be an indication of how differently he is approaching the game as he enters his third year in the league. But it’s also the standard Gray and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine set for Alexander and the defense in the virtual offseason.

“I want every starter on that defense, especially in the secondary, to be a leader,” Gray said. “I don’t want Jai to have to rely on someone else to give him a call. I tell him all the time, you should be able to make that call from the corner spot. You should be able to look at (Darnell) Savage and say hey, we’re doing this, and not wait on the safeties. That’s a good thing I thought Pettine and all the rest of the guys have been doing, that I was catching up on, they tested guys with a program that’s really good, and you can see who’s actually making those fast decisions. We’ve never done that, so this is a plus for me.”

What that translates to on the field remains to be seen, as Alexander looks to build off a two-interception, 17-pass-defense season. He believes he is one of the best cornerbacks in the game and the pickoffs will come as long as he just catches the ball and says his confidence is at a career-high.

“I think through those last couple games, especially in the playoffs my defense and my coverage was the best it’s been all year,” Alexander said. “I like that I was able to turn that focus over when the games really mattered and really lock in on my coverage and just proving that I am elite in this league. So I think that was the biggest takeaway, that I can do those things and when I lock in and when I master my craft, the sky is the limit.”

Malik Turner coming aboard

Third-year wide receiver Malik Turner said Tuesday on social media that he's joining the Packers, confirming an ESPN report late last week. Turner, an undrafted free agent out of the University of Illinois, caught 17 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown in two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

Running out of time

The physical ability has rarely been doubted for Montravius Adams. He was drafted in the third round because of that physical ability. His athleticism pops even compared to other professional athletes.

Still, Adams has yet to establish himself as he enters his fourth season, something that can be particularly frustrating given the Packers' "high expectations" for him on their defensive line.

"He's a very talented guy," coach Matt LaFleur said Tuesday. "He always gives great effort, it's just we have to make sure he knows what to do. We have to be able to trust him to put him out there."

Building that trust will be essential when the Packers open the practice portion of their training camp this weekend. There's a big hole on the defensive line, with the Packers looking to fill depth behind Kenny Clark. Dean Lowry is a veteran, but he had no sacks after signing a three-year extension last year. Adams has the athletic traits to be a pass rusher, but he played fewer than 200 snaps last fall after Pettine said he had an impressive 2019 offseason.

So the Packers hope Adams can put together a solid season as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.

"I think he has grown," LaFleur said, "there's no doubt about it. He knows it as well as all our coaches. It's a big year for Mon. We're excited to see him get out here, because we need more depth on the defensive line."

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