Green Bay Packers first-round cornerback Eric Stokes has gotten quite the rookie welcome over his first several weeks of NFL training camp, often finding himself on the losing end of matchups with wide receivers Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling — and, of course, reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
But Adams — arguably the best receiver in the NFL with a league-best 18 receiving touchdowns and 98.1 receiving yards per game in 2020 — sees the Pro Bowl potential behind Stokes’ rookie struggles and doesn’t mind making a few lofty comparisons.
“He’s the closest thing to Jaire (Alexander) as far as mentality and ability from what I’ve seen so far,” Adams told reporters after Thursday’s practice. “The kid is fast as hell. He can get beat and recover, kind of like how Sam Shields would do.”
Stokes Was the Fastest Prospect Ahead of the 2021 Draft & Told Adams, ‘Keep Getting Me Better’
Speed has been a known asset for Stokes since before the Packers drafted him at No. 29 overall, after he clocked a 4.25-second 40-yard dash at Georgia’s pro day in March 2021 with ambitions to go even faster. Whether it would help him develop into an effective NFL cornerback was part of the mystery as he came into his first camp looking to earn a spot in the Packers’ starting lineup.
Adams, however, could sense “right from the start” that Stokes had the right mentality for the job and has continued to see it from him consistently since camp opened up. Here’s one moment Adams offered up as an example on Thursday:
He actually made a really good play on me I think it was two or three days ago. We had a comeback route on the left sideline and he made a really good play (and) was really patient at the top. I like what I see from him. A lot of the same mentality of Jaire. (He) came to me after one of our practices and was like, ‘Keep getting me better, bro.’ Like, I appreciate this. I know you’re getting after me, but … it almost gave me the vibe of like he was saying like, ‘I can play now. I know I just haven’t really played with you guys like that and you are two of the best in the business.’ And Matt (LaFleur) reminds him of that, too, to keep his confidence high, but he can really go, so I’m excited to see how it looks when we really open this thing up.
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Stokes Continues to Push King for Starting Job
The Packers are still more than three weeks away from their 2021 season opener against the New Orleans Saints on September 12, but it could take nearly all of that time for them to decide on which cornerbacks will be in their starting lineup for week 1.
There are no questions about the top man in the rotation with Jaire Alexander coming off a shutdown season in which he earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro accolades. The presumption has also been that Kevin King — who tallied five interceptions and was an efficient red-zone defender two seasons ago — would retain his starting job on the opposite side after re-signing on a one-year deal for 2021. Decisions on both King and slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan, however, were rendered before the arrival of a first-round rookie.
Stokes has received first-team reps early and often in camp practice with the Packers. At least some of those opportunities were the byproduct of King spending the first two weeks on the non-football injury list with a hamstring issue, but the reps were invaluable for Stokes regardless of why he got them. The opportunity for a rookie cornerback to consistently prove himself against starting NFL wide receivers doesn’t always come along so quickly.
For now, though, the jury is still out on whether Stokes will prove indisputable before the Packers visit the Saints on September 12.