The Green Bay Packers were forced to finish Thursday night’s game without either of their top cornerbacks on the field and could now be facing some uncertainty at the position moving forward.
Jaire Alexander, the Packers’ No. 1, dropped out in the second quarter of Week 9’s win over the San Francisco 49ers and was taken into the locker room to be evaluated. By the second half, the Packers had officially ruled him out with a concussion.
The 2018 first-round pick has been a shutdown weapon for the Packers secondary through the first eight games of the season, turning talented receivers such as Mike Evans and Calvin Ridley into non-factors for their teams. According to Pro Football Focus, Alexander also came into Week 9 as the highest-graded NFL cornerback on the year.
Injury updates: RB Dexter Williams (knee) & CB Jaire Alexander (concussion) are both out for the game. #GBvsSF
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) November 6, 2020
The Packers moved Chandon Sullivan from his regular role in the slot into Alexander’s place on the outside once he exited the game, pairing him with Josh Jackson — who was making his fourth consecutive relief star for the injured Kevin King. At that point, the only other two healthy cornerbacks available were Ka’dar Hollman and practice-squad promotion Stanford Samuels III.
Three other Packers were also knocked out of Thursday’s game before they put a bow on their 34-17 victory, losing starting right tackle Rick Wagner (knee), starting middle linebacker Krys Barnes (calf) and running back Dexter Williams (concussion). Williams will revert back to the practice squad after being a temporary promotion for Week 9.
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Long Break Should Benefit Packers With Injuries
The Packers weren’t given much of a scheduling break coming into Thursday’s game, having four days earlier played a midday game against the Minnesota Vikings and then flying halfway across the country for another contest on the West Coast. Coming away with a win, though, should put their minds at ease with nine days now to recuperate before their Week 10 home matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 15.
Such a long break could offer enough time for the Packers’ secondary to recover from their current ailments. Alexander would need to progress rather quickly through the NFL’s concussion protocol to be ready for the Jaguars with a number of criteria he must meet before returning to the field, but he shouldn’t be counted out just yet. He hasn’t missed a game since taking over as a full-time starter last season.
King, too, might be nearing his return for the Packers, but it depends on how extensive his quadriceps injury. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur confirmed King had experienced a setback leading up to Week 8’s game against the Vikings after making strides toward better health, leaving things uncertain for the No. 2 cornerback’s return timetable.
Packers Adding Depth to Active Roster Seems Likely
If one or both of the Packers’ starting cornerbacks are leaning toward missing Week 10’s game, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add some more depth to their roster. They could do it by signing Samuels, an undrafted rookie and preseason standout, to the active roster. They could move up their other practice-squad corner, KeiVarae Russell, who was a former third-round pick for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Another option the Packers might consider would be bringing back veteran Tramon Williams. The 37-year-old free agent worked out for the Baltimore Ravens last week and was a notable contributor for the Packers during their 2019 playoff run, making him an ideal fit in terms of talent and scheme should they want/need an outside piece.
There is also a chance Kabion Ento will eventually factor into the picture. The second-year cornerback impressed the Packers enough during training camp for them to keep him for their 53-man roster, but he has been on injured reserve since before the start of the season with a broken foot. While there have been no updates on his recovery, Ento’s return to practice would be a welcomed addition.