GREEN BAY, Wis. – Jaire Alexander likes the potential of the Green Bay Packers’ cornerbacks.
What’s not to like?
Alexander, an All-Pro in 2020, is back after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury. In one of the great practice-squad raidings in NFL history, general manager Brian Gutekunst responded to Alexander’s injury by signing Rasul Douglas. And Gutekunst’s first-round choice last year, Eric Stokes, had a tremendous rookie season.
“I tell them all the time, Eric Stokes and Rasul, they play as good as any All-Pro corners or any Pro Bowl corner that I’ve see,” Alexander said during minicamp. “That was good to see, being able to pick up where I left off. The sky’s the limit at this point because you know who’s back. The general’s back. So, the sky’s the limit.”
At NFL.com, Bucky Brooks picked the top tandem at every position group. No Packers were picked but he did list three as runners-up.
One was the cornerback tandem of Alexander and Douglas, which he ranked third. Miami’s Xavien Howard and Byron Jones got top billing and Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters were second. Are those duos better than Green Bay’s starting pair? Perhaps, but every team in the NFL lines up with three cornerbacks for the majority of its defensive snaps. Brooks’ picks don’t have a No. 3 anywhere near as good as Stokes.
At running back, Brooks selected Cleveland’s Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt as the top tandem, with Denver’s Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams second and Green Bay’s Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon third.
Last season, 24 running backs rushed for at least 750 yards. Dillon and Jones and Gordon and Williams were the only set of teammates. Jones and Dillon were one of three tandems to top 1,000 total yards.
“It’s kind of a luxury,” running backs coach Ben Sirmans said, “because you can keep them both fresh throughout the game and then, toward the end, you can either throw A.J. in there to pound and wear the defense down, or put Aaron in, and all of a sudden, the defense is worn down and it’s an explosive play. Having a blend of both those guys, that will continue throughout this upcoming season.”
The third duo mentioned by Brooks were David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins as the bookend offensive tackles. There’s some projection there with Bakhtiari missing almost all of last season with a torn ACL and Jenkins missing the second half of the season with a torn ACL, unlikely to be on the field for Week 1 and having not played right tackle in his first three seasons.
Philadelphia’s Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata topped Brooks’ list, Tampa Bay’s Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Jones were second and Bakhtiari-Jenkins were third.
Top Running Back Tandems
No. 10: Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, Cincinnati Bengals
Mixon finished fourth in the NFL with 1,519 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns. He’s topped 1,100 rushing yards three of the past four seasons. Combined, Mixon and Perine finished with 1,961 total yards, 69 receptions and 18 total touchdowns. Mixon’s brilliance and their combined pass-catching ability gives them the edge over the other consideration here, New England’s Damien Harris (1,061 scrimmage yards) and Rhamondre Stevenson (729 scrimmage yards).
No. 9: Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic, Washington Commanders
Gibson rushed for 1,037 yards and added 42 receptions. McKissic isn’t much of a runner but he had 80 receptions in 2020 and 43 more in just 11 games last season. In 2021, they combined for 1,940 total yards, 85 receptions and 14 touchdowns. Gibson is dinged by his league-worst six fumbles.
No. 8: James Conner and Darrel Williams, Arizona Cardinals
Conner has gone from feel-good story as cancer survivor to an established standout. Last season, he tallied 1,127 scrimmage yards and 18 total touchdowns. With the Chiefs, Williams added 1,010 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns. That’s 2,237 total yards, 86 receptions and 26 touchdowns. Of note, Conner caught 37-of-39 targets and finished second among backs with 10.1 yards per reception. Williams finished third with 9.6 yards per reception.
No. 7: Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
Elliott might not the dominant back of yesteryear but he still had 1,006 rushing yards and 1,289 yards from scrimmage. Explosive Tony Pollard, who finished fifth in yards after contact per carry, according to Pro Football Focus, added 1,056 yards from scrimmage to give them a total of 2,345 total yards, 86 receptions and 15 touchdowns.
No. 6: Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts
With Taylor leading the NFL with 1,811 rushing yards and 2,171 total yards and Hines chipping in 40 receptions, Taylor and Hines combined for 2,757 scrimmage yards and 23 touchdowns. Taylor won the rushing title by an astounding 552 yards. With an impressive 40 receptions, he beat the runner-up, Harris, by 504 total yards while getting nine fewer touches. Taylor had 1,272 rushing yards after contact, according to PFF. That figure alone would have led the NFL in rushing.
No. 5: Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Kamara missed four games but finished with 898 rushing yards, 1,366 total yards and nine touchdowns. An elite receiver, he started his career with four consecutive seasons of 81 to 83 receptions before grabbing “only” 47 balls last year. With seven games apiece with Houston and New Orleans, the 32-year-old Ingram contributed 716 total yards and a pair of scores. That’s 2,082 total yards, 82 receptions and nine touchdowns.
No. 4: Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
Even while missing four games, Cook finished fifth in rushing and sixth in total yards. He’s topped 1,100 rushing yards each of the last three seasons but had a career-worst 4.9 yards per touch last year. His 1,383 total yards and six touchdowns in 2021, combined with Mattison’s 719 total yards and four touchdowns, gave them 2,102 total yards, 66 receptions and 10 scores.
No. 3: Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos
Williams, a rookie last season, and Gordon, a veteran from Wisconsin, powered the offense. With both players topping 900 rushing yards, Williams had 1,219 yards from scrimmage and Gordon added 1,131. They combined 2,350 total yards, 71 receptions and 17 touchdowns but also five fumbles. Williams ranked No. 1 in broken tackles per rushing attempt, according to PFF The addition of quarterback Russell Wilson might mean fewer opportunities but fewer defensive eyes.
No. 2: Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, Green Bay Packers
With 799 rushing yards, Jones fell short of his third consecutive 1,000-yard campaign but finished sixth among backs with 52 receptions. In Year 2, Dillon emerged with a team-leading 803 rushing yards and an impressive season as a receiver. Jones (1,190) and Dillon (1,116) combined for 2,306 total yards, 86 receptions and 17 touchdowns.
No. 1: Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns
Chubb is one of the great backs in the NFL. He rushed for 996 yards as a rookie, then topped 1,000 yards the past three seasons. His career average of 5.3 yards per carry ranks sixth in NFL history. Last season, he finished fifth with 1,433 total yards and was No. 2 among backs in yards after contact per carry. Former Pro Bowler Kareem Hunt added 560 total yards. Throw in D’Ernest Johnson’s 671 yards, this trio piled up a whopping 2,664 scrimmage yards, 61 receptions and 17 touchdowns.
NFC North Insiders
Get ready for the 2022 NFL season with our 12-part NFC North Insiders series, with stories running every Saturday and Sunday until training camp.
Part 3: Most overrated player for each team.
Part 4: Most underrated player for each team.
Part 5: Best-case scenarios
Part 6: Worst-case scenarios
Countdown to Packers Training Camp
Get ready for July 27, the first practice of training camp, with this unique series of features.
Part 1 (30 days): All Matt LaFleur does is win (in the regular season)
Part 2 (29 days): Dominant Rasul Douglas
Part 3 (28 days): Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon
Part 4 (27 days): 27 is the magic number
Part 5 (26 days): Rich Bisaccia’s brilliance on special teams
Part 6 (25 days): Aaron Rodgers vs. the NFC North
Part 7 (24 days): Can defensive live up to hype?
Part 8 (23 days; July 4): These players will provide the touchdown-scoring fireworks
Part 9 (22 days): Homefield dominance