Quick thoughts on Packers position groups: Tons of talent at cornerback

Green Bay Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas (29) celebrates his interception with cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans during their football game Thursday, November 17, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Packvstitans 1117222197djp
Green Bay Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas (29) celebrates his interception with cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans during their football game Thursday, November 17, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Packvstitans 1117222197djp /

As one part of my training camp and preseason preview, I have been taking a look at each of the Green Bay Packers position groups as they currently stand on the 90-man roster.

In this series, I have been diving into each position group, sharing my thoughts on what I’ve seen and heard during the handful of open practice sessions throughout the offseason programs. I’ll also discuss my expectations for each position group, questions I still have, and just about anything else that comes to mind.

Next up is the cornerback position. If you’ve missed any of the previous articles in this series, you can find them all below.


Running back

Tight end 

Offensive tackle

Interior offensive line

Wide receiver

Interior defensive line

Edge rusher


Current roster: Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, Eric Stokes, Keisean Nixon, Carrington Valentine, Corey Ballentine, Shemar Jean-Charles, Tyrell Ford, William Hooper, and Kiondre Thomas

– Once Eric Stokes returns from injury, it is going to be really interesting to see how the Packers handle the playing time at this position. Will Stokes be the fourth cornerback option used in specific situations? I doubt we see these corners used in the same capacity as a season ago, given that Rasul Douglas has been so much better on the boundary. My thought last summer was that the handling of the slot duties would be a group effort depending on the matchup. For example, if the opponent’s top receiver was inside, we would see Jaire Alexander there. If the offense had a speedy slot presence, then we could see Stokes filling that role, and if it was a big slot presence, Douglas could line up there. Lastly, could Douglas move to safety, given the unknowns at that position? This is something Brian Gutekunst did mention earlier this offseason. Regardless, you get the idea–there are options, but how the Packers will handle this remains an unknown.

– Nixon held up well in the slot last season. Naturally, with Alexander and Douglas on the outside, he was targeted heavily, and the same will be true this season. But while he allowed a 79% completion rate, Nixon did well at limiting the pass catchers to just over 10 yards per catch, according to PFF. He also came away with an interception. The Packers and Nixon are set to face a number of the top receivers from the slot this season, including Keenan Allen, Davante Adams, Jerry Juedy, Christian Kirk, Chris Godwin, and others.

– We all know that the Packers are a zone-heavy defense under Joe Barry, and I don’t expect that to change, but could we at least see an increase in man coverage this season? I wrote about the data in a recent article, but the numbers over at PFF show just how good Alexander, Douglas, and Stokes were in man coverage last season in terms of allowing little separation. All three held up well in zone as well, but with Stokes and Alexnder in particular, they are at their best in man. Barry did make adjustments in the latter portion of the 2022 season, using more cover-2 and cover-6 looks, but Green Bay still played mostly in zone.

– Barry made it clear early on last season that Alexander wouldn’t strictly follow the opponent’s top receiver, with the main reason being Green Bay doesn’t want to mix man and zone coverages because that can lead to confusion when it comes to each player’s responsibilities during the play. But part of the adjustments that Barry made was letting Alexander, out of the huddle, travel to the side of the field that the opponent’s top pass catcher was on–from there, the Packers still spent most of their time in zone. One way offenses can still avoid Alexander in this scenario, however, is by using motion because my guess is that Alexander won’t follow.

– As I just alluded to, Stokes graded out well in regards to separation allowed in both man and zone. Hopefully, that is a sign that 2023 could be a bounce-back season for him. Prior to his injury, Stokes had a completion rate against him of 84% and gave up 13.1 yards per catch with no interceptions or pass breakups.

– It shouldn’t be surprising, but there was a noticeable difference in the Packers’ defense between OTAs and minicamp when Alexander and Douglas were on the field. Moving the ball through the air became much more challenging for the offense. Both Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs were able to come down with some impressive catches with Alexander in coverage, but for the most part, Alexander gave up very little and had a couple of interceptions.

– Without Alexander and Douglas at OTAs, it gave the young cornerbacks more valuable reps. The first practice consisted mostly of Corey Ballentine and Shemar Jean-Charles as the “starting” boundary cornerbacks, but by the end, it was Carrington Valentine lined up next to Ballentine. Matt LaFleur said after one practice that Valentine had done an “unbelievable job.” He brings good length to the position and is very comfortable playing man on an island. Valentine also had nearly 300 career special teams snaps during his time at Kentucky.

– I really feel strongly that Ballentine is going to be one of the other cornerbacks on the 53-man roster. As I just mentioned, he was the clear third outside cornerback option, and last season he proved to be a valuable special teams player. Despite not seeing snaps until Week 10, Ballentine was still able to finish sixth on the team in solo tackles. This means that I expect Jean-Charles, a former fifth-round pick, will be on the outside looking in. After coming back from injury last season, Jean-Charles was a healthy scratch on game day several times.

– If Stokes begins the season on the PUP list, then putting together the cornerback depth chart is pretty simple, with Ballentine and Valentine as the fourth and fifth members of the position group. If Stokes is healthy for Week 1, then the Packers will have to choose between keeping five or six cornerbacks. For reference, last season, they kept five. My guess right now is that they would keep six, making sure that Valentine and Ballentine are both on the roster.

– I’ve mentioned this when discussing each position group on defense, but as run game coordinator Jerry Montgomery said, being better against the run is going to take all 11 defenders. For the cornerbacks, this specifically means more reliable tackling and funneling the ball carriers back towards the middle of the field. Nixon, as a slot cornerback, will see a lot more run defense opportunities than the boundary cornerbacks.

– Perhaps it was because the defense was just trying to test Jordan Love and the young offense, but I saw Nixon blitzing on a few occasions from the slot during the open practices. He was also doing that during defense-only drills as well. I would love to see more of that this season.

– A strong final month of the season led to a number of interceptions for this Packers’ defense. But for a large portion of the year, they ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in takeaways. This season, they will have to be more consistent in that department with a young quarterback and offense. Scoring may be at a premium, which means giving the Packers’ offense as many opportunities as possible, and I’m going to guess that this won’t be a team in 2023 that will be able to overcome losing the turnover battle.

– Seeing the soft zone coverages, in particular, are frustrating, but there were also miscommunications, coverage breakdowns, specifically on crossers early on, and misplayed balls. At the end of the day, Barry is the play caller and one in charge of the defense, so he will shoulder the blame, but the players, at times, were also at fault.

– There is a lot of talent in this cornerback room and players who want to play aggressively. Barry needs to let his corners do the dictating rather than the other way around, where the offense is setting the tone and the defense is reacting.