Gray Likes Alexander’s Physicality, Ball Skills

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – New Green Bay Packers defensive backs coach Jerry Gray knows what quality cornerback play looks like.

As a player with the Los Angeles Rams, he was a four-time Pro Bowl corner from 1986 through 1989. As an assistant coach, he’s mentored several Pro Bowlers, including Xavier Rhodes in Minnesota, Nate Clements in Buffalo and Samari Rolle and Alterraun Verner in separate stints with Tennessee.

With the Packers, Gray inherited Jaire Alexander, a first-round pick in 2018 with Pro Bowl potential.

“You got a very young, energetic guy who made a lot of plays last year on a really good defense,” Gray said in a Zoom call with Packers beat reporters on Thursday. “When I look at Jai, he reminds me a lot of Samari Rolle when I had Samari in Tennessee. They weren’t really big guys but they were physical. They got really great cover skills and excellent ability to see. A lot of time, guys don’t have that vision to see the quarterback and the receiver at the same time. DeAngelo Hall had that. When you got guys who have that type of skill, that’s a big plus.”

While Alexander only went from one interception to two, he made big second-year strides last season. Opponents completed 64.8 percent of targeted passes against him as a rookie but only 53.6 percent in 2019, according to Pro Football Reference.

The 57-year-old Gray, who had 28 interceptions in nine NFL seasons, has the resume to help Alexander to take the next step in becoming an elite corner. It’s up to Alexander to make it happen.

“Like I tell all the young guys, I got the knowledge to get you where you have to go. Now, it’s up to you to want to work to get there,” Gray said. “That knowledge … I’m not going to force it on you but I’m going to try to give (it to) you and let you be the best corner in the league. I’m fortunate enough to have guys like Xavier and Antoine Winfield and Nate Clemens and Samari and DeAngelo. I could just name about another five guys that have actually made it to the Pro Bowl because they took the knowledge. They went out there and played and they played at a high level, and then they become one of the highest-paid guys in the league. If that’s their goal, I can help you get there. If you want to be the Pro Bowl guy, I can help you get there. If you want to be an All-Pro, I can try to help you get there. But you’ve got to put your work in. I’ll give you the knowledge but you’ve got to put the work in.”

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