Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander not letting mistakes bother him despite higher frequency this season
GREEN BAY – Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander is not one to dwell on his mistakes.
But learning from them is something he's supposed to do. So, when he was asked whether he learned anything from his mixed performance before the bye against Chicago and he said no, it seemed curious.
Alexander got beat twice for 40-yard-plus receptions in the Packers’ 28-19 victory over the Bears, but he also came up with a fourth-quarter interception that snuffed an opportunity for the Bears take the lead with less than 3 minutes to go.
The two long passes came on drives in which the Bears scored a touchdown and had a field goal blocked.
“What I took from that game was I got an interception and we got the win,” he said. “That’s all that mattered.”
Asked if those other two plays mattered, he said, “No.” Asked why, he said, “Because we won.”
Alexander has never liked to talk much about negative plays, although there are times he has been analytical in discussing plays he’s given up and forthright when asked about ways he has been used. But Saturday, two days before the Packers play the Rams on Monday Night Football, he wasn’t in the mood to explain whether he learned anything between getting beat twice and making an important play in the game.
“In our life, we don't have control,” Alexander said after being asked if there was anything he would change. “It's all about what God has for us, you know? So, it ain't up to me. You got to ask God about that one.”
Whatever the reason, Alexander has given up a lot of big plays this season and quarterbacks don’t seem to be afraid of throwing his way as they have the past two seasons. During the offseason, he was given a contract that made him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL ($21 million per year), in part, because he gave up so few big plays.
But it hasn’t been that way this year.
He’s responsible for 3½ plays of 40 or more yards, four of 20 or more yards and 3½ touchdowns in 13 games. His worst showing was against Washington when he matched up with receiver Terry McLauren, who roasted him for a 37-yard touchdown and two crucial catches on a drive that ate up most of the remaining clock late in the game.
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In his last full season, 2020, he matched up with the other team’s best receiver on a weekly basis and shut down the likes of Mike Evans, Justin Jefferson, A.J. Brown, Allen Robinson and Calvin Ridley. He gave up just two touchdowns and had 16 passes defensed in 17 games (including playoffs).
He was off to a good start in ’21 with one touchdown allowed and one pass of 40 or more yards allowed but injured his shoulder and missed 13 games.
Alexander hasn’t been matched against the other team’s best receiver much under defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who plays a lot of zone coverage. Alexander spoke out earlier in the season about wanting to match up with the other team’s top receiver and playing more man coverage.
Barry has let him play more press coverage since but not much match. His play has been nowhere near as impactful as it was the past two years. He leads the team with four interceptions and 12 passes broken up, but he’s been more generous in giving up plays.
The two long plays against the Bears, a 56-yard completion to former teammate Equanimeous St. Brown and a 49-yard yard reception to N’Keal Harry, were examples of Alexander failing to do his job against receivers who are far from being among the best in the league.
Passing game coordinator Jerry Gray said Alexander got caught peeking in the backfield and lost coverage because the Bears were doing something different than they had showed. He said the two talked about it when they returned from the bye.
“Now he gets a chance to see, ‘Hey, this is how I'm getting beat,’ not because I'm not doing my job," Gray said. "They're just doing something that I'm not used to dealing with when I'm in off-technique. And so, we just corrected those things. Hopefully, we can keep working on them and they don't keep showing up.”
Alexander didn’t mention any of the discussions he had with Gray and said only that his focus is on the rest of the season as the Packers try to salvage something out of a 5-8 start. He said whatever emotions he’s had over how things have gone, they are in the past.
“I think as a competitor, it's natural for those emotions, especially when you care about the game and performance,” he said. “At this point of the season, I've done reflecting, had some time off, just learned not to get upset with these things.
“It’s just like, you got to keep going.”