Packers secondary is versatile and full of stars for the slot

The Green Bay Packers could have one of the most versatile secondaries in the NFL next season. It’s allowed defensive coordinator Jerry Gray to play with different lineups in the classroom this offseason.

“Guys learn more than one position,” Gray told reporters on Wednesday.

The Packers have plenty of guys they know that can play outside, but they have a crucial opening to fill at their slot or “star” position. That spot previously belonged to Chandon Sullivan, who was allowed to walk in free agency and sign with the Minnesota Vikings.

Over the last three seasons, Sullivan has played 1,331 snaps in the slot, according to Pro Football Focus. In 2021, Sullivan lined up a career-high 665 times inside and finished with a new personal best of three interceptions. However, Gray isn’t concerned about who will take Sullivan’s place.

“We got a lot of good guys that can play in the slot,” he said while specifically naming Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas, and Darnell Savage. “That’s the best part. We don’t have just one guy. ”

It could be a collective effort, but don’t be surprised if Alexander ends up doing more than he was asked to do in previous years for Green Bay’s defense. The pressure to perform will be even higher after signing a deal that made him the highest-paid player at his position in league history.

“With Ja, he’s going to go where some of the receivers are going to go and he’s going to follow those guys in different packages. He can do everything, ” GM Brian Gutekunst said in March. “That’s a nice luxury for us to have.”

Alexander has grown into one of the best outside corners in the league, but he may be the guy lining up inside the most next season if the team wants to keep their top three corners on the field at the same time. Between him, Stokes, and Douglas, he is the smallest and the most versatile.

Stokes could also play the slot after a successful rookie season in which he was relied upon for 16 games, including 14 starts. Stokes is one of the fastest players on the team with 4.2 speed and might have to follow the fastest receiver on the field if they line up inside. Douglas earned a three-year, $ 21 million extension following a Cinderella season that resulted in five interceptions and two defensive touchdowns despite coming on as a mid-season signing. Douglas also has experience in the slot and plays with a physical demeanor defensive coordinator Joe Barry looks for in his “star” position.

Savage was the last guy Gray mentioned, and despite some consistency issues, the hope is that he can still live up to his first-round selection from a few years ago. Savage has been used interchangeably with fellow safety Adrian Amos at different spots all over the field. Savage proved to be reliable in the slot last season, logging 152 snaps. He will continue to get looks there, according to Gray.

Naturally, Gray will keep his options open in the secondary, which is a nice luxury if you are Green Bay and possess multiple guys capable of doing so many different things.

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