Packers: Shemar Jean-Charles has “Really Good Chance” to Contribute in Slot

With Joe Barry emphasizing the importance of having a good slot cornerback in today’s NFL, many have wondered who was going to assume that role for the Green Bay Packers this season.

During mini-camp, defensive backs coach Jerry Gray told reporters that there were four or five particular players who they would be looking at to fill that nickel role with the hope to narrow that group down to one or two by the time Week 1 rolls around.

This group of players includes Chandon Sullivan, Darnell Savage, Jaire Alexander, and rookie Shemar John-Charles—all of which have impressed Gray with their slot capabilities.

“I talked to Savage and he’s begging to get in,” said Gray via Packers.com. “We did Ja a little bit early in the week when he got a chance to get in there. And of course, we still got Sully, who’s doing a great job and then you look at Shemar Jean-Charles. I think Shemar has a really good chance to be in that position, too. So you look at it, we’ve got four guys that I think can really, really play at that level, depending on who’s in the slot.“

Over the first two weeks of practices, the incumbent Sullivan has still been the primary ‘star’ cornerback with the starting defense—which really should have been expected.

Gray would go on to say that depending on how the offense is aligned; it could impact who is in the slot. He noted Savage being an option in two tight end sets or Alexander moving inside when the opponent’s top receiver is lined up there.

It’s really not surprising that Sullivan, Savage, and Alexander will likely handle a majority of the slot snaps this season. However, fifth-round rookie Jean-Charles, who was primarily a boundary corner in college, was the wildcard. With a young Day 3 draft pick in a new role, you never truly know what to expect.

Coming out of Appalachian State, Jean-Charles was a starter during his final two seasons, with his final year in 2020 being his most impressive. When targeted, he allowed a completion rate of just 33 percent, and his 16 pass breakups were the most in college football, according to PFF ($$).

Over his college career, Jean-Charles had only 32 snaps from the slot while taking over 1,600 on the boundaries. But in that small sample size, he was able to impress Gray and other Green Bay Packers’ scouts:

”When we evaluated Shemar coming out of Appalachian State, I thought he did a great job in the slot,” said Gray. “He’s really, really knowledgeable about the game and wasn’t afraid to make tackles.

”When you’re a slot corner, most guys think that ‘I am just a cover guy,’ but when you watch Shemar coming out of college, the guy is tough, he makes plays, he does a really good job there. So hopefully, we got a big number of guys outside, so we want to see can he compete against guys inside and u like what he’s doing.

“Game time is going to be different, but can he do what he did at App State? I think that’s going to help us a lot.”

As Gray notes, there’s more to playing in the slot than just coverage ability—tackling and run support are crucial as well. Last season according to PFF’s grading system, Jean-Charles ranked 18th out of 200 eligible cornerbacks in tackling grade and 15th in run defense—helping to illustrate what Gray was referring to.

So far through training camp, we’ve often seen Jean-Charles often working in the slot with the second-team defense, and as practices and eventual preseason games continue, it’s important that he sees as many reps as possible.

”It’s about giving guys chances, so when we get in there, it’s not the first time that they’ve been in that position,” said Gray.

As I alluded to above, my expectations are that Sullivan, Savage, and Alexander will still take a bulk of the slot snaps this season, but Jean-Charles’ early success will provide added depth at an important position and someone that the Green Bay Packers can lean more heavily on in future years.