Packers CB Eric Stokes Not Likely To Start

When former Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes was drafted 29th overall in 2021 by the Packers, he was immediately thrust into action as a rookie starter. He performed well as an injury replacement for Jaire Alexander and, at times, Rasul Douglas, but with both returning to form and healthy, Stokes may be coming off the bench for the first time in his career, according to Matt Schneidman of The Athletic.

Stokes started 14 games during that rookie season when Alexander and Douglas missed a combined 18 games. He graded out well in coverage, recording an interception and 14 passes defensed and did well enough as a rookie to slot himself in as a starter over Douglas on the depth chart to begin his sophomore season. Unfortunately, after struggling through a bit of a sophomore slump, the decision was made for the coaches as an ankle injury forced Stokes to miss the final eight games of the season.

Now Alexander and Douglas are fully healthy and are both coming off strong seasons. Alexander continues to be one of the NFL’s top defensive backs, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), rebounding from his major injury in 2021 to grade out as the 8th best cornerback in the league. Douglas ran with the opportunity to start in place of Stokes on the outside and delivered a performance that graded him out as the 30th best cornerback in the league, according to PFF.

Schneidman also points out that cornerback and return specialist Keisean Nixon excelled down the stretch last season in the slot for Green Bay, likely solidifying his as the starting nickelback for 2023. He started four games for the Packers, with three coming consecutively late in the year.

So, after a down second season that saw him grade out as the 105th graded cornerback by PFF, it looks like Stokes will be coming off the bench to fill in for Alexander, Douglas, and Nixon in his return from last year’s season-ending injury. He may not be starting, but he’d be smart to stay ready. Although Alexander and Douglas both appeared in nearly every game last year (Alexander missed one), neither are far removed from injuries, and with Nixon’s heavy involvement on special teams, Stokes should earn ample time rotating in.

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