Packers: Eric Stokes & Amari Rodgers Learning from 2 of the Best

Green Bay Packers cornerback Eric Stokes (21) is shown during a mandatory minicamp Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7g52wmyz3j517rma9hjf Original
Green Bay Packers cornerback Eric Stokes (21) is shown during a mandatory minicamp Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7g52wmyz3j517rma9hjf Original /

It goes without saying, but it’s tough being an NFL rookie. Adjusting to life as a professional, the elevated competition, oftentimes greater on-field responsibilities, a steep learning curve, and so much more. But for two members of the Green Bay Packers rookie class, in particular, Eric Stokes and Amari Rodgers, they have the opportunity to learn from and work with two of the absolute best at their respective positions.

With rookie camp, OTAs, and mini-camp all now in the rearview mirror, this past month has been a crash course for the rookies. Although Rodgers and Stokes only spent a few days in person with Davante Adams and Jaire Alexander during the mandatory mini-camp, the impact that each of those veterans had on the rookies can’t be overstated.

Adams is considered by many the best wide receiver in the NFL with a release at the line of scrimmage that is unmatched. He’s coming off an All-Pro 2020 season where he led the league in touchdown receptions with 18 and yards per game with 98.1, despite missing two games. Adams would also tally 1,374 total receiving yards at 11.9 yards per catch with a catch rate of 77.2 percent.

In a recent interview with reporters, Rodgers called Adams a “player-coach” and someone that he can go to when he has a question:

"“You know, he’s one of those player-coaches, so if you don’t know something, you can go to him and he knows it,” said Rodgers via “He’s probably the best receiver in the game in my opinion right now, with how smart he is, how quick he is with his feet, and how physical he is at the line of scrimmage, and of course, after that, his route running is amazing.”"

On the other side of the ball, first-round pick Eric Stokes is getting a “higher education of his own,” as Larry McCarren put it, with the opportunity to learn from and pick the brain of Jaire Alexander. During his first three NFL seasons, Alexander has developed into one of the better cornerbacks in the game and is coming off a second-team All-Pro performance in 2020.

On 76 targets, he allowed a completion rate of only 48.7 percent and just 9.5 yards per catch. Alexander also came away with three interceptions, including two in the NFC Championship Game and 14 pass breakups. His opponent’s passer rating when targeting Alexander was 54.3, according to PFF ($$). As Stokes said, Jaire is a “freak.”

"“My first impression was like, that dude is a freak. Especially the first day, he had a PBU on the sideline where the wide receiver clearly caught it and he came through and punched it out, and I was like, he is different. So just trying to pick his brain apart, watching him, and learning from the best.”"

Learning from the best, indeed, and while not every rookie may be learning or working alongside an All-Pro, it’s been quite clear during Brian Gutekunst’s tenure as GM that he wants experienced veterans not only for his coaching staff to lean on but for the younger players to do so as well.

Before drafting Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, Gutey signed Tramon Williams and Davon House. The following year he would add The Smiths, Billy Turner, and Adrian Amos in free agency and then spend his first three draft picks on Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage, and Elgton Jenkins. He drafted Jordan Love while Aaron Rodgers was QB1, added AJ Dillon to a running back room with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, and then in this year’s draft, there are more examples of this.

Now, I’ll add the all-important caveat that it’s not any veteran’s “job” to prepare the rookie, but going through the same drills, being in the same film room, and asking questions to players like Davante Adams and Jaire Alexander certainly doesn’t hurt the rookie’s development.

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Both Rodgers and Stokes should be able to make immediate impacts on this Green Bay Packers team, and when working with players of Adams’ and Alexander’s caliber, that learning curve and adjustment time that I referenced above could very well be shortened.