A bright spot? Packers put Jaire Alexander in position to make plays

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: Jaire Alexander #23 of the Green Bay Packers in action during the NFL match between New York Giants and Green Bay Packers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 09, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: Jaire Alexander #23 of the Green Bay Packers in action during the NFL match between New York Giants and Green Bay Packers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 09, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) /

A bright spot? A glimmer of hope for the Packers? Something to hold on to after another discouraging performance, perhaps?

Something had to change with the Green Bay Packers’ defense, specifically their coverage unit, following their performance against the New York Giants last week.

They had been picked apart by crossing routes all season long, giving up the most yards in the NFL on that specific play, according to PFF ($$).

Green Bay was also playing very conservative, entering Sunday’s contest against the New York Jets, allowing a completion rate of 73%, the worst in football while lining up in off coverage 74% of the time, which was the second highest rate. On top of that, the 7.5 average yards of cushion they provided was the third-most, per Next Gen Stats.

As a result of their passive play, the Packers entered Week 6 with only one interception and four pass breakups. Despite having a number of playmakers in the secondary, we saw little of that.

On Thursday, defensive coordinator Joe Barry discussed some potential solutions to these issues. This included being better about varying coverages to combat the crossing route. Barry mentioned that a few specific coverages had been the main culprit behind some of those bigger completions.

Barry also said that the secondary had to be more aggressive, which, of course, can be helped by the plays and coverages he calls. The other big thing was giving Jarie Alexander or Darnell Savage more slot snaps so that Rasul Douglas could go back to the boundary, where he made five interceptions last season.

All of that sounded great, but ultimately, we needed to see it take place on the field, and to his credit, Barry made several adjustments.

Right away, we saw a more aggressive secondary that was more often playing closer to the line of scrimmage and challenging these Jets receivers. On third downs, specifically or obvious passing situations, we also saw Jaire Alexander taking snaps in the slot, and following around Garrett Wilson for much of the game. Wilson finished with only one reception for eight yards, including zero catches with Alexander in coverage.

Not surprisingly, when you give your playmaking cornerback the opportunity to make plays, that’s exactly what he does. This was easily Alexander’s most impactful performance of the season as he logged three pass breakups.

"”He just went out there and he competed every play. He was challenging, contesting, and I was super proud of his performance,” said Matt LaFleur via Packers.com."

Another significant change was the overall third-down personnel. Green Bay has rarely played in their dime package this season, which includes three safeties, but utilized it frequently on third and longs.

This included Quay Walker coming off the field, as he has struggled in coverage, along with Adrian Amos moving into the box next to De’Vondre Campbell and Rudy Ford — who Barry specifically mentioned as someone this defense trusts — taking over deep next to Darnell Savage.

The results of these changes ended with a fairly impressive performance by the Green Bay secondary–outside of a 41-yard completion allowed by Eric Stokes on a scramble drill from Zach Wilson.

Despite the Packers losing by 17 and Breece Hall running all over this defense in the fourth quarter, with tackling still being an issue, the pass defense held thier own for the most part, with Alexander, in particular, shining in a more prominent role.

New York averaged just 5.0 yards per pass attempt, and for some context, Arizona currently ranks last in this category averaging 5.7 yards per pass on the season.

Wilson completed just 10 of 18 passes for 110 yards, with 41 coming on that one downfield play. The next leading pass catcher for New York was tight end CJ Uzomah with 17 yards. As a team, Green Bay totaled four pass breakups, according to PFF, matching their aforementioned season total entering the game.

The Packers’ secondary also helped create a few pressure opportunities for the Green Bay defensive front.

This defense will be tested against more robust passing attacks than the Jets, but for a unit that needed to do something different, what we saw Sunday was refreshing.

Although the outcome of the game will likely wash away any sort of positivity that we may be able to hold on to, Joe Barry and the Packers’ secondary found what should be their formula moving forward.