Stokes continues to rehab from foot and knee injuries that limited him to only nine games in 2022. His placement on PUP means he’ll have to sit out at least the first four games before being eligible for activation. The 2021 first-round pick has started 23 of his 25 appearances for the Packers, collecting 81 tackles, 14 passes defended, and one interception.
Meanwhile, Moore won’t be eligible to play for the Packers in 2023 after getting placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Moore joined the Packers this offseason after spending the first five seasons of his career with the 49ers. He sat out the entire 2021 campaign but otherwise appeared in 61 games across four healthy seasons with San Francisco, collecting 108 tackles.
There are some big names in Baltimore that won’t be healthy to open camp. Two offensive youngsters who can’t seem to stay on the field, Dobbins and Bateman, continue to struggle to get healthy. Bateman sat out most of the spring after receiving a cortisone shot in hopes it would help get him back in time for camp. While he didn’t report, general manager Eric DeCostaexpects him back soon, according to the team’s editorial director Ryan Mink. Dobbins has started thinking about his second contract this summer, and getting healthy will be key to gaining any leverage in negotiations. Ricard is no surprise, as head coach John Harbaughpredicted this placement a month ago. Bowser, though, experienced an unexpected flare up in his knee this spring after missing eight games last season.
In Cleveland, Goodwin experienced a medical scare recently when discomfort in his legs and shortness of breath turned out to be blood clots in his legs and lungs, according to James Palmer of NFL Network. He will miss the start of training camp as the clots are addressed.
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.
Packers plans at using their Jaire Alexander–Eric Stokes cornerback duo have run into consistent turmoil. Alexander went down early in the 2021 season, just as Stokes entered the starting lineup. As Alexander returned last year, Stokes suffered season-ending injuries in November.
As of now, the former first-rounders are on track to suit up together in Week 1. Stokes suffered foot and knee injuries last year, and he confirmed Tuesday each required surgery. The procedures occurred at the same time, per ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky, but they shut down Stokes for months (Twitter link).
Stokes suffered a Lisfranc injury, with the subsequent surgery ending with a plate inserted. Stokes said he resumed running earlier this month, roughly six months since the ailments sidelined him. This will be Stokes’ third season, though he has only played a handful of games with Alexander healthy.
The Packers will keep Stokes sidelined during OTAs, per The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman, who adds the 2021 first-rounder could not walk without crutches until mid-January. The knee surgery addressed Stokes’ meniscus (subscription required).
Should Stokes return to full strength as expected, the Packers will have a cornerback logjam. They tried Rasul Douglas in the slot alongside Alexander and Stokes last season, but the former midseason pickup is more comfortable as a boundary defender. That is also Stokes’ role, complicating matters. The Packers plan to use Keisean Nixon as their primary slot corner.
Although a team having four regular corners would be a good problem to have, the Packers have invested two first-round picks at the position and re-signed Douglas on a three-year, $21MM deal in 2022. Matt LaFleur said the team is planning a rotation between Alexander, Stokes and Douglas on the outside. Given Alexander’s contract (a corner-record $21MM per year) and value to the team, this plan would seemingly affect Stokes and Douglas more than it would Alexander. It will be interesting to see how this comes to fruition by September.
While slotting Alexander and Douglas as top-30 options at corner last season, Pro Football Focus graded Stokes outside the top 100. PFF gave Stokes a much better assessment as a rookie, ranking him inside the top 50. Nixon checked in just outside the top 60 in 2022, though the ex-Raider UDFA only played 290 defensive snaps. This will be an interesting puzzle to follow, with Stokes’ recovery being one of the most notable non-Jordan Love Packers storylines this summer.
When Packers head coach Matt LaFleurendorsed defensive coordinator Joe Barry in January, it was clear that he would allow Barry to lead Green Bay’s defense for a third season in 2023, despite the opportunity to pursue candidates like Vic Fangio, Ejiro Evero, and Steve Wilks.
In his first public comments since making that decision, LaFleur explained that in addition to continuity and staff chemistry — which he had previously cited as reasons for retaining Barry — the defense’s improved performance down the stretch of the 2022 season also played a key role.
“Our defense was getting better, it was progressing,” LaFleur said at last month’s owners meetings (via Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette). “I thought Joe was doing a good job of communicating with our players. I thought our staff was doing a great job together, putting our guys in a better situation, having just more clarity on what it is we wanted to be and our play style, and I thought it got better. I felt like that was in the best interest of us to bring all those (coaches) back.”
The Packers finished the 2022 campaign ranked 17th in both points (21.8) and yards (337) allowed per game, and for a defense that was expected to be among the league’s best, that qualified as a major disappointment. During Green Bay’s five-game losing streak in October and early November, it was reported that players were becoming frustrated with Barry’s scheme and play-calling, and LaFleur acknowledged that adjustments were not made as quickly as they should have been.
Still, after Barry simplified his play-calling, and after other tactical changes — like playing more press coverage and benching underperforming safety Darnell Savage — were made, the defense got better, and the Packers nearly snuck into the postseason. With Jordan Love set to become the club’s starting quarterback, it will be imperative for Barry & Co. to carry their momentum into 2023, and if that does not happen, then Barry could be out of a job and LaFleur will be subjected to plenty of second-guessing.
Another productive adjustment that was made in the second half of the 2022 season was moving Rasul Douglas from nickel corner to the boundaries (although that move was only made due to Eric Stokes‘ season-ending knee and ankle injuries). Per LaFleur, the team will utilize a rotation of Jaire Alexander, Stokes, and Douglas outside the numbers, and Keisean Nixon will get a chance to claim the slot corner position. Nixon has never been a full-time defensive player — his 28% defensive snap share last year was a career-high — but the coaching staff is clearly high on his ability and prefers to have one player predominantly occupying the nickel role.
Nixon did earn a First Team All-Pro nod for his work as a return man in 2022, and he was retained for the 2023 season on a one-year pact that can max out at $6MM. LaFleur said that the team will create an offensive package for Nixon in an effort to get the ball in his hands more often (Twitter link via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky).
The team’s plan for Nixon means that Savage is not, as had been suggested previously, presently under consideration to man the slot. Instead, Savage will get the chance to reclaim his job as a starting safety and to work alongside free agent acquisition Tarvarius Mooreon the back end of the defense. Savage is entering a platform year, so his 2023 performance will have a major impact on his financial future.
NOVEMBER 12: The Packers announced on Saturday that Stokes has been placed on IR. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes that the team originally hoped he had only suffered sprains in the affected areas, but that further testing revealed structural damage (Twitter link). Green Bay has used the open roster spot by signing journeyman Corey Ballentinefrom their practice squad to the active roster.
NOVEMBER 11: The Packers’ defense is expected to be without a key piece for the rest of the season. Matt LaFleur views it likely Eric Stokes will be shut down.
A 2021 first-round pick, Stokes will see ankle and knee injuries end his sophomore NFL season early. This will certainly be a big loss for a Green Bay team in unexpected territory at the nine-game mark.
Green Bay devoted considerable resources to stocking its cornerback position this offseason, re-signing Rasul Douglas and extending Jaire Alexander on a corner-record AAV ($21MM). Stokes has been a key part of this puzzle since being taken 29th overall last year. While Alexander missed most of the 2021 campaign and Douglas did not become a key factor until midway through last season, Stokes has been a constant during his career. Sunday will only be the Georgia product’s second missed game as a pro.
Week 9’s Lions matchup has ended up costing the Packers essential personnel. Rashan Garysuffered a torn ACL during the upset loss, and Stokes’ forthcoming absence will shake up Green Bay’s secondary. DC Joe Barry mentioned the prospect of moving safety Darnell Savage into the slot. The team now has an extra player that would help allow for such a transition, in recent waiver claimJohnathan Abram. Still, the Packers being without Gary and Stokes will bring difficulties during a season that has drifted well off course.
Stokes, 23, moved into the Packers’ starting lineup in Week 3 of this rookie season. By Week 5 of last year, Alexander was out of the picture with a significant shoulder injury. Stokes manned one of Green Bay’s boundary positions, joining Douglas. The latter, re-signed on a three-year deal worth $21MM, moved inside this year. Stokes’ injury would allow Douglas to move to the position at which he is more familiar, but the Packers losing two starting defenders in the same week will remind of last season.
The team lost Alexander and Za’Darius Smith early last season. David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins were also out of the mix for Green Bay’s stretch run. That team, which of course featured Davante Adams, navigated the injuries effectively and zoomed to a second straight NFC No. 1 seed. This edition, which is sitting with its worst nine-game mark (3-6) since 2005, stands to be more impacted by major injuries.
The strength of the Packers’ re-tooled defense figures to be its secondary. While depth could be a question mark, the starting unit features a number of former first-rounders and effective veterans. Which five players are in line to see the field full-time isn’t a concern heading into training camp, but how they are aligned could be.
The group will still be led, of course, by Alexander; the Pro Bowler became the league’s all-time highest-paid corner (in terms of AAV) when he signed an $84MM extension which will keep him in place through 2026. He and Stokes in particular figure to serve as a foundation on the backend for the foreseeable future, along with, in all likelihood, safety Darnell Savage Jr.
An important question Schneidman raises is the matter of who mans the slot when each of the top five defenders (the aforementioned four players, along with safety Adrian Amos) are healthy. DBs coach Jerry Gray indicated that any of the starting corners or Savage could find themselves in the role. “There’s a lot of action at the nickel,” he said. “[A]nd everybody wants to be in the action.”
As Schneidman notes, different players would be better suited to shift inside at different points, depending on individual circumstances. Ultimately, though, the health of the secondary’s top five members will be the most important factor in the defense’s success, given the distinct lack of known commodities lower on the depth chart. How the unit shakes out at camp will be worth watching in the lead-up to what the Packers hope will be another Super Bowl run.
Eric Stokesbecame the latest first-round pick to sign his rookie contract Wednesday. The Packers now have all but one member of their 2021 draft class signed.
Green Bay added Stokes with the 29th overall pick, continuing a heavy emphasis on the cornerback position in the draft. The Packers chose Jaire Alexander in the 2018 first round and have used first- or second-round picks on corners six times since 2015. Stokes will be expected to play a key role for the Packers as a rookie.
Scouts Inc. viewed the Georgia alum as a bit of a reach, ranking him 71st among this year’s prospects. The Packers were viewed by many — including the Ravens — to be eyeing Minnesota wide receiverRashod Batemanwith their first-round pick, but Baltimore swooped in at No. 27 to select him. Stokes, however, was a first-team All-SEC pick in 2020 and a second-teamer in the powerhouse conference in 2019. He intercepted four passes last season and logged 18 throws defensed from 2018-19, seeing steady action in all three of his Bulldogs seasons. The 6-foot defender declared for the draft after his junior year.
The Packers have Alexander back, with the Louisville product positioned as a possible long-term No. 1 corner, and re-signed Kevin King this offseason. Stokes will join this mix. With this contract, only third-round wideout Amari Rodgersis unsigned from this year’s Packers draft haul.
After not employing a general manager in 2020, Washington now has three ex-GMs in its front office. The team hired former Colts GM Chris Polian on Monday.
Joining Martin Mayhew and Marty Hurney in Washington’s new-look front office, Polian will serve as the team’s director of pro personnel. The former Colts GM was out of the league last season but was with the Jaguars from 2013-19.
The son of Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian, Chris served as Indianapolis’ GM from 2009-11 and has been an NFL staffer since 1994 — when the yet-to-debut Panthers, run by Bill Polian, hired him. Chris Polian has not worked with Mayhew or Hurney previously, despite Hurney’s 1998 Carolina arrival. The Polians were in Indianapolis by then. But the younger Polian was connected to the Lions’ GM search to replace Mayhew in 2015. He also was in the mix for the Titans’ GM job that went to Jon Robinson in 2016.
Chris Polian will succeed Eric Stokes as Washington’s pro personnel director, but Stokes is still with the team. The GM candidate is now serving as Washington’s senior director of player personnel. Ron Rivera and Kyle Smith served as Washington’s top personnel execs last year. Smith is now with the Falcons, while Rivera will remain a key presence on this front. In addition to Smith, Washington parted ways with assistant director of pro scouting Jeff Scott, per John Keim of ESPN.com. Scott received a promotion just last summer.
GeorgePaton was introduced as the Broncos general manager today, and the executive gave a thoughtful response when explaining how he’d help to reestablish a winning culture in Denver.
“There’ll be no shortcuts,” Paton said (via the team website). “We’re going to embrace the day-to-day [process], we’re going to embrace the grind, and we’re going to do it together. … We’re going to be progressive, we’re going to be innovative, we’re going to be forward-thinking and we’re going to use all the information at our disposal to make the best informed decisions.”
Paton also noted the importance of hitting in the draft and being innovative in their evaluation of potential acquisitions.
“Drafting and developing players will be our foundation,” Paton said. “It’s going to be the lifeblood of this football team.”
Paton joined the Broncos on a six-year deal. Under the restructured front office, Paton and head coach Vic Fangio will report to John Elway, who will have less to do with the team’s day-to-day roster decisions.
Let’s check out some more GM and coaching notes…
Washington previously interviewed EricStokes for their open general manager vacancy, reports Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). The 47-year-old has been working in NFL front offices since 2002, including stints with the Seahawks, Buccaneers, Dolphins, and Panthers. He joined Washington as their director of pro scouting this past summer. We learned yesterday that Washington is expected to ultimately hire former Panthers GM Marty Hurne for the position.
ScottLinehan and JoeCullen will interview for the Jaguars open coordinator positions this week, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). We learned of Urban Meyer‘s interest in both coaches this past weekend. Linehan, who’s candidate for the offensive coordinator gig, has had a long coaching career, including a stint as the head coach of the Rams. Cullen, a candidate for the defensive coordinator opening, has served as Baltimore’s defensive line coach since 2016. Rapoport notes that RaheemMorris was also a candidate for the defensive coordinator opening, but we’ve since learned that Morris will be taking the same role with the Rams.
The Chargers won’t be retaining offensive line coach JamesCampen, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Campen spent more than a decade with the Packers, and following a one-season stint with the Browns, Campen joined the Chargers as their offensive line coach this past offseason. However, he won’t stick around, as Schefter notes that new head coach BrandonStaley will be bringing in his own OL coach.
The Dolphins have parted ways with offensive line coach SteveMarshall and promoted LemuelJeanpierre to the role, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Marshall has spent more than a decade coaching in the NFL, and he joined Miami this past offseason. Jeanpierre has spent time on the Seahawks, Raiders, and Dolphins coaching staffs, serving as Miami’s assistant offensive line coach in 2020.