With OTAs kicking off, the Green Bay Packers are still waiting on several starters to get fully healthy, but one of those starters shared some concerning details about what he’s been dealing with since last season.
Several starters were seen working off to the side at OTAs on Tuesday, May 23, including star pass rusher Rashan Gary, who is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered against the Detroit Lions. Former first-round pick Eric Stokes also suffered a season-ending injury in that game, but little had been known about his injury until now.
Following practice, Stokes spoke with reporters and revealed the injuries that kept him out for the rest of the 2022 season. ESPN’s Rob Demovsky tweeted that the 24-year-old had required surgery on both his knee and foot to deal with a lisfranc injury that required a plate to be inserted into his foot.
While Stokes is confident he will get his speed back, any loss of speed will severely hurt him based off of his play style in his first two NFL seasons. The former first-round pick has relied on his recovery speed to avoid allowing explosive plays, but this injury could force him to change the way he plays in 2023 and beyond.
A Strong Start for Eric Stokes
While Stokes is still trying to get back onto the football field, the 24-year-old has looked like a very reliable cornerback opposite of Jaire Alexander when healthy.
The 29th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft out of Georgia, Stokes was thrust into a starting role almost immediately as a rookie. He played in 16 games with 14 starts in his first season, coming away with 14 pass breakups and an interception.
While those appear to be modest numbers on the surface, the advanced metrics show Stokes had an extremely productive season in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, Stokes allowed a reception on just 51 percent of his targets, tied for the fifth-best rate in the NFL, with a passer rating allowed of only 79.1.
Unfortunately, Stokes took a bit of a step back in 2022 prior to his injury. He allowed a catch on 84 percent of his targets with a passer rating of 125.8 allowed with a missed tackle rate of 16.1 percent, up from 9.2 percent the previous season.
If the 24-year-old is able to recover his speed and keep working on his technique, Packers fans are hoping he can return to his rookie form in 2023 and beyond.
How Is Rashan Gary Progressing?
With Gary also getting hurt during the same game as Stokes in November, expectations were that the Packers pass rusher wouldn’t make a return until at least halfway through the 2023 season. However, the team is getting some encouraging news from one of their top defensive playmakers.
Back in February, general manager Brian Gutekunst suggested that Gary could be eased back into football activities during training camp, saying that the team was very optimistic about his rehab progress.
While the Packers haven’t provided another update since, the former first-round pick was present at OTAs rehabbing and working off to the side with the team. If he can somehow be ready by Week 1, then the Packers could have an imposing pass-rushing group with Gary, Preston Smith, and first-round pick Lukas Van Ness.