The Green Bay Packers are poaching former fourth-round pick Robert Rochell off the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad and making a series of other additions to their cornerback room after losing Eric Stokes to another long-term injury.
Stokes landed on injured reserve on Wednesday after he injured his hamstring just four snaps into his 2023 season debut against the Denver Broncos. The 2021 first-rounder had just been activated off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list last Saturday but will now miss a minimum of four games before being eligible for reactivation.
The Packers also shut down another one of the first-round talents in their secondary on Wednesday, placing free safety Darnell Savage Jr. on injured reserve as well.
Savage aggravated an ongoing calf injury during Sunday’s 19-13 loss to the Broncos and, according to Demovsky, would have missed “multiple weeks” even if he had managed to avoid injured reserve. Now, neither he nor Stokes will be eligible to return to the active roster until late November with Week 12 being their earliest window for activation.
According to the NFL’s official transaction wire for October 25, the Packers also signed cornerback Corey Ballentine from the practice squad to the 53-man roster and picked up second-year cornerback Zyon Gilbert to fill Ballentine’s spot on the practice squad.
Robert Rochell Offers Moldable CB Depth for Packers
Rochell is an intriguing addition for the Packers in the wake of Stokes’ latest injury. He showed signs of developing into a capable boundary cornerback for L.A.’s Super Bowl-winning defense as a rookie in 2021, notching four pass deflections and an interception before suffering a season-ending injury and landing on injured reserve in December.
After his injury, though, Rochell played an extremely limited role for L.A.’s secondary. The Rams played him on just 27 defensive snaps in 2022 and mostly relegated him to a special teams role, one in which he struggled to make an impact for them. He fizzled out with the Rams in his third training camp, missing their initial 53-man roster cut.
Since then, Rochell has spent time on the practice squads of both the Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks, but he is getting a true opportunity to be a contributor in Green Bay. The Packers won’t need to consider him for a starting role unless Alexander is unable to return in Week 8, but he could realistically challenge rookie Carrington Valentine and Ballentine for the No. 4 cornerback role if he can pick up Joe Barry’s scheme quickly.
The Packers have plucked a cornerback off another team’s practice squad and turned him into a meaningful contributor for their defense in the past. After Alexander suffered an injury in 2021, they signed Rasul Douglas off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad and watched him play well enough to earn a three-year contract extension.
Jaire Alexander Practices After Sitting Out in Week 7
On the bright side, the Packers did have their All-Pro cornerback, Jaire Alexander, back on the practice field on Wednesday after he missed Sunday’s loss to the Broncos.
Alexander popped up on the Packers’ injury report on September 22 and has missed three of their last four games as a result. He seemed to have made progress when he returned in Week 6 to play against Davante Adams and the Las Vegas Raiders, but the Packers did not clear him for Week 7 after initially listing him as questionable.
Now, it is encouraging that Alexander returned to practice in a limited capacity on Wednesday, but he did the same thing in Week 7 before missing Friday’s final session and ultimately not playing against the Broncos. Unless he upgrades to a full participant or is removed from the injury report entirely, he could be a game-time decision again.