GREEN BAY — Had Bill Belichick had his way — and the Green Bay Packers not been picking so much earlier than Belichick’s New England Patriots in the 2018 NFL draft — rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander might not have been lining up with the visiting team in Sunday night’s game at Gillette Stadium.
He might’ve been wearing a Patriots uniform and matching up with Packers No. 1 receiver Davante Adams instead.
Belichick was so impressed by the early entry from Louisville that he had Alexander high on his draft board when the Packers took him with the 18th overall pick. The Patriots were picking 31st after reaching the Super Bowl and took Georgia running back Sony Michel, who’s looked like a smart pick so far as well.
But Belichick liked Alexander, who impressed him again this week as he watched film of the Packers’ loss against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, when Alexander tied for the team lead in tackles (seven) and broke up a team-high five passes while spending most of the game covering the Rams’ No. 1 receiver, Brandin Cooks.
“He’s a great player. He’s going to have a great career in this league. We thought that in the draft,” Belichick said. “I thought that was an excellent pick. It was a little bit ahead of where we were picking, (but) he was certainly one of the top players on the board.
“He’s a great kid. He’s got great energy. He loves football and has great football skills — fast, athletic, good hands, good ball skills, can tackle, can play inside in the slot, can play outside on the perimeter, good zone vision, breaks on the ball, good man to man coverage, has good quickness, can match up with fast receivers, can match up with quick receivers. The guy’s a really good football player and I think he’s got a great future in this league. I think he’ll be one of the top corners in the game for a quite a while here.”
That’s high praise from Belichick — not only because of his defensive acumen but because he’s often a man of few words, and he had plenty for Alexander.
He wasn’t the only one.
Alexander’s performance also drew praise from Adams, who has had three consecutive 100-yard games against other teams’ cornerbacks and was impressed by him even before his performance Sunday. And when asked about how good Alexander was against the Rams, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine invoked the name of Darrelle Revis — one of the NFL’s all-time great cover men who played for Pettine when he was the New York Jets’ defensive coordinator.
“I was in New York when Revis was in his formative years and really took off and that whole ‘Revis Island’ thing became a thing,” Pettine said. “I wouldn’t put Jaire in that category yet. But you just look at the game, it was outstanding. I know the one play he would like to have back (that) he got beat on … and ended up giving up a long completion. But that was (impressive). For a rookie to do that, that was a special day for him.”
All these accolades might go to a young player’s head, but that doesn’t appear to be a concern with Alexander. For one, he came in with ample confidence already. But he also realizes his own potential — and knows he hasn’t come close to reaching it yet.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling. Especially coming from a coach as accomplished as Belichick, one of the greatest coaches (ever),” Alexander said. “It’s pretty cool getting that recognition and praise, but I take it with a grain of salt because I am my biggest critic. Every week is different, and I don’t want to be the guy to harp on my accomplishment from last week. That was cool, but we didn’t win. We didn’t win. When we win, maybe I’ll sit on it a little bit more. I probably would have, honestly. But we didn’t. So, on to the next. Got to do it again.”
Alexander said that despite his natural confidence, he knows poor games come with the territory of the cornerback position, and he’s bound to have one. And that’s where a game like he had against the Rams — and the kind words of one of the best coaches ever — will come in handy.
“I realize that this game will definitely humble you. Especially if you allow it. It’ll definitely humble you,” Alexander said. “I’m my biggest critic, so sometimes I’ll think about something (negative) that I probably shouldn’t. I probably should think more about the positives I’ve done. (But) I focus on the things I didn’t do too well more often. Just being able to refer back to a game like that, that gives me the confidence I need not to hang my head on any downfall (in the future).”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy confirmed wide receiver Geronimo Allison sustained a groin injury during Thursday’s practice, putting his availability for Sunday night’s game in doubt. … Center Corey Linsley, who was limited in practice Thursday because of knee soreness, should be good to go against the Patriots, McCarthy said. “I feel good about Corey,” he said. … McCarthy said the trades that sent running back/kick returner Ty Montgomery to Baltimore and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington on Tuesday made for “a little longer evening of game planning for the coaches because you’ve got to go a little deeper into the scheme and the matchups and the potential personnel groups and all those different substitutions that can occur in the game.”
Source: The Associated Press