GREEN BAY, Wis. – It’s true: The NFL is driven by quarterbacks. That also makes this true: To win a Super Bowl, defenses need an answer against those quarterbacks.
Last year, the Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl by finishing fourth in opponent passer rating. In 2020, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tied for 10th but dominated the postseason. In 2019, the Kansas City Chiefs tied for fifth. In 2018, the New England Patriots finished seventh. In 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles tied for ninth. In 2016, the Patriots finished eighth. In 2015, the Denver Broncos finished third. In 2014, the Patriots finished seventh. In 2013, the Seattle Seahawks finished first. In 2012, the Baltimore Ravens finished fifth. In 2010, the Green Bay Packers finished first.
The lone outlier from the last 12 years of Super Bowl winners? The 2011 New York Giants, who finished 16th.
Without Davante Adams, the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers passing attack might not be as prolific as past seasons. The potentially elite play from their cornerbacks could make up for it.
In 2020, Jaire Alexander earned All-Pro honors. In 2021, veteran Rasul Douglas was a breakout star and first-round pick Eric Stokes was worthy of All-Rookie accolades. According to Sports Info Solutions, Alexander has allowed completion rates of 48.5, 42.3 and 46.7 percent the past three seasons. Among corners who started at least nine games last season, Douglas ranked third with a catch rate of 44.6 percent and Stokes ranked seventh at 46.2 percent.
Combined with a potentially strong pass rush powered by Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Kenny Clark and rookie Devonte Wyatt, Green Bay could have the answers for every test presented by top quarterbacks.
Pro Football Focus recently published a list of the top perimeter cornerbacks in the NFL. The Packers had three of the top 32, with Alexander at No. 2, Stokes at No. 29 and Douglas at No. 32.
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If quarterbacks and stopping quarterbacks is the key to winning a championship, let’s look at the top cornerbacks for the top Super Bowl contenders. Here are the NFL championship odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, which features nine teams with odds shorter than +2000, and the number of cornerbacks in PFF’s 32-man list.
Buffalo (+650): Tre’Davious White, No. 8.
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Tampa Bay (+750): Carlton Davis, no. 13; Jamel Dean, no. 14.
Kansas City (+950): Rashad Fenton, No. 31.
LA Rams (+1100): Jalen Ramsey, No. 1.
Green Bay (+1200): Jaire Alexander, No. 2; Eric Stokes, no. 29; Rasul Douglas, no. 32.
Wrote Anthony Treash of Douglas: “Douglas was a pleasant surprise for the Packers in 2021. With injuries mounting in the cornerback room, Green Bay signed him midyear off Arizona’s practice squad out of necessity. He proceeded to post a career-high 77.2 coverage grade – a top-10 mark among qualifying cornerbacks. Douglas racked up five interceptions (two pick-sixes) and seven pass breakups in 13 outings en route to a three-year, $ 21 million extension with the Packers. All that being said, it’s important not to put too much stock into a small-sample Year 5 breakout. While Douglas made some incredible reads from off-zone coverage that led to big plays in 2021, he’ll need to stay productive to climb up this list given how he fared in his first four NFL seasons. ”
LA Chargers (+1600): JC Jackson. No. 4.
San Francisco (+1600): None.
Denver (+1700): Patrick Surtain, No. 11.
Dallas (+1800): Trevon Diggs, No. 21.
It is perhaps worth nothing that five of the Super Bowl favorites reside in the NFC. Green Bay has three top cornerbacks; the other four teams have a total of four. That potentially is a huge advantage.
Treash is right about Douglas. He’s got to do it again. So does Stokes. And there are questions in the slot – presumably Alexander’s domain – and beyond the top three on the depth chart. Still, Green Bay’s cornerback corps should give it a chance every week, no matter the quarterback on the other side of the line of scrimmage.