As frustrating as it must have been to lose Jaire Alexander to injury for three months in the regular season, Gutekunst and his staff made a brilliant move by signing cornerback Rasul Douglas off the Cardinals’ practice squad, putting him in Joe Barry’s defense, and watching him become a Pro Bowl-level player for the first time in his career.
Like Campbell, Douglas (No. 26) was a one-year gamble that paid off big, and thus, Douglas also secured the bag with a three-year, $21 million contract. If Douglas plays like this over the next three seasons, that’s a ridiculous bargain. In his first four NFL seasons, Douglas had five interceptions, allowed 14 touchdowns, and never had an opponent passer rating lower than 83.7. For the Packers last season, Douglas matched his career total of five picks, allowed just two touchdowns, and gave up an opponent passer rating of 46.3.
Rasul Douglas intercepts Matthew Stafford for a pick-6 and his FIRST career touchdown!
What a signing Douglas has been for GB. Now on his 6th team, Douglas appears to have found a permanent home with the Packers. pic.twitter.com/p4bIhSpWxk
— packers clips (@packers_clips) Nov 28, 2021
Also picking up the slack in Alexander’s absence was rookie cornerback Eric Stokes, selected out of Georgia with the 29th pick in 2021. Stokes had a few rough spots as most first-year NFL cornerbacks so, but he gave up just 51 catches on 100 targets for 609 yards, 169 yards after the catch, four touchdowns, one interception, and an opponent passer rating of 79.1. Among rookie cornerbacks who played at least 50% of their teams’ defensive snaps in 2021, only Denver’s Patrick Surtain II (69.7) allowed a lower opponent passer rating, and Surtain was taken with the ninth overall pick. Stokes (No. 21) is an aggressive cornerback with all the attributes you’d want, and when you watch him clamp down on this crosser against the Browns, the recovery speed in particular is quite impressive.
Now that Alexander is back, healthy, and newly rich, the hope is that he will once again be that defense-defining player who can wreck a passing game from everywhere — outside corner, the box, the slot… even some free safety looks. In 2020, Alexander allowed 37 catches on 76 targets for 353 yards, 111 yards after the catch, two touchdowns, three interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 54.3. Even in his rough 2021, there were plays like this deep post pick against the 49ers in Week 3 — made even more interesting by the idea of Alexander and Stokes rolling to the deep third to eliminate just about everything.
The Packers are relatively safety-light with Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos leading the way, but scheme can take care of that to a degree. Last season, when playing with two deep safeties, Green Bay tied for third in the league with nine interceptions, and they gave up just five touchdowns out of two-high, so you can expect more of that — especially since the strength of the front seven should mitigate most concerns about getting run off the field without a low-hole safety.