How secure is the Packers defense over the next few years?
With Jaire Alexander now signed to a long-term deal, have the Packers secured their future on defense or do major concerns await them?
The Green Bay Packers crossed off a huge item on their to-do list this past week by extending superstar cornerback Jaire Alexander. With one of their top players secured, how bright does the future look on defense?
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With Jaire Alexander's extension complete, how do you feel about the future of the Packers defense?
Jason B. Hirschhorn: Purely in terms of personnel, the Packers have the first two levels of the defense locked down for the foreseeable future. In addition to Jaire Alexander's new contract, Kenny Clark and De'Vondre Campbell have deals that keep them in Green Bay through at least the next two seasons, and Rashan Gary appears likely to receive an extension of his own in the not-too-distant future. Around them, a host of recent draft picks — Eric Stokes, Quay Walker, and Devonte Wyatt — have either demonstrated impressive play or possess a high ceiling. Those players form the crux of what defensive coordinator Joe Barry needs to run his system.
Safety remains a question beyond 2022, however. Adrian Amos' contract voids next offseason, and while the Packers picked up the fifth-year option on Darnell Savage, his play this year could well determine whether the front office pursues a long-term deal. Given the list of young contributors in need of contracts — Gary and Elgton Jenkins chief among them — Green Bay will have a difficult time retaining both Amos and Savage. That will make safety perhaps the biggest concern next March.
Still, all things considered, the Packers face far fewer roster challenges on defense than most of their competition. Injuries could always change the chessboard, but the situation looks secure otherwise.
Do you feel better about the Packers' Week 4 matchup with the Patriots following a report that New England players have a "high level of concern" about their offense?
JBH: Most reported issues within the New England Patriots organizations often go dismissed, and not without good reason. Bill Belichick's résumé lends credence to the team's ability to work through problems that would typically sink lesser franchises, and his ability to identify coaching talent has helped the Patriots overcome a near-annual pillaging of the staff.
However, New England had to address a change they hadn't dealt with in a meaningful way in a decade: replacing an offensive play-caller. Josh McDaniels spent the past decade as the OC, his second stint with the team. Now departed for the Las Vegas Raiders head-coaching gig, McDaniels leaves a void with no obvious successor. Mick Lombardi, a candidate to fill the position, left to join McDaniels in Nevada. Bill O'Brien, the Alabama offensive coordinator who replaced McDaniels once already, didn't leave Nick Saban's staff to return to New England. Now, nobody on the outside exactly knows how Belichick will handle the role.
Does this necessarily mean the Patriots will have a sloppy offense? Of course not, but they could endure some growing pains along the way. The Packers catch them early in the season which raises the chances that the offensive coaching staff still has issues to work through. That, combined with the on-paper roster advantage, should benefit Green Bay in a meaningful way.
How much stock do you put in wide-receivers coach Jason Vrable saying Amari Rodgers is "in the best shape of his life"?
JBH: As it pertains to Amari Rodgers' ability to impact the Packers offense? None. This type of narrative has grown into a football trope over the past decade. While it hardly seems impossible that Rodgers has worked on himself during the offseason, we hear this every year about myriad players. Inevitably, most of the hype doesn't translate.
That doesn't mean the Packers should dismiss Rodgers' chances of becoming a contributor on offense, but this type of narrative tends to set expectations too high. If the second-year receiver finishes 2022 with, say, 350 yards and a touchdown, that would mark a tremendous increase over his rookie output (four catches on eight targets for 45 yards and zero scores). Keep that starting point in mind when considering any claims of Player X arriving in the "best shape of his life," not just Rodgers.
JBH: The door seems wide open for anyone to take the control of the third and possibly final spot at running back behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. When speaking to the media this past week, position coach Ben Sirmans left the impression that neither Kylin Hill nor Patrick Taylor has the inside track for the role.
"Well I think first starting off with 'PT,' I mean he's looked like he's moving around a lot better so far in OTAs and in the phase-two part of things," Sirmans said. "I think that, for him, just getting his feet wet last year, coming off the injuries from that first year, I think he's got a better feel for what's going on which I think is going to help him. And then with Kylin, it's too bad with the injury, but he's been working his tail off," Sirmans said of Hill. "He looks good physically. From what I understand, he's moving in the right direction. So I guess it's one of those deals you really won't learn anything until we get into training camp in terms of battling for that and seeing what everybody has."
The last part of that response should read like a huge green light to Tyler Goodson, the undrafted rookie the Packers signed last month. As highlighted in the UDFA Prospectus, Goodson has a strong chance of edging out Hill and Taylor for a roster spot or securing a job on the practice squad. Sirman's comments reinforce that notion.