Steelers vs Packers, Jaire Alexander wanted to play last Thursday when the Packers took on the Tennessee Titans in the first preseason game of the year. But the coaches decided to hold him out as well as 17 other players because they wanted to play it safe.
Now that the Packers are entering the second week of preseason play, there’s a good chance the first-round pick makes his NFL debut on Thursday vs. the Steelers as he returned to practice on Sunday. Alexander talked to reporters after the practice and he said he’s ready to go.
“I’m fine,” Alexander said. “We’re going to take it day-by-day with the training staff. Their word is always a good word and it felt good to be out there today.”
When Alexander practiced on Sunday he was able to get some work in during team drills which is a good sign he will see action on Thursday.
“I got out there and got some team reps,” Alexander said. “[They’re] working me back in slowly but surely.”
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The Packers will be happy to have Alexander on the field on Thursday if he’s cleared and fans are anxious to see if he can be an impact cornerback in the NFL. Alexander was able to do that while at Louisville as he had a tendency to play his best when the team had a big game. The best example is when the Cardinals were taking on Clemson in 2016. They lost the game, but Alexander put on a show.
“He was at his best in the big games,” Jody Demling said who is the publisher of the Cardinal Authority which is part of the 247Sports network. “He had two picks against Clemson as a sophomore and just seem to do it at the highest level against the best teams. It’s not to say he plays down to the level of the not-so-good teams, but he was his best against the best.”
Alexander ended the year with five interceptions and he was named to the All-ACC team. He only had one interception last year, but he was in and out of the lineup due to injuries.
During camp, Alexander has intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass and he was able to also do it during the offseason workouts. And while Alexander has been able to get a few picks off Rodgers, he also intends to talk to him and the Packers receivers to learn how they approach cornerbacks during games.
“I need to get with the offensive vets and be able to pick their brain on how they see things and what they look for in a corner,” Alexander said per Rob Demovsky of ESPN. “I didn’t come in Day 1 asking them. I’ll let it happen.”
After watching last week’s preseason game from the sideline, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will start Thursday’s exhibition against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Rodgers on Monday said he expected to start; coach Mike McCarthy confirmed that on Tuesday morning.
How much Rodgers will play against the Steelers and, if he plays next week at Oakland, will depend largely on the health of those surrounding him.
“It’s more about the coordination of who he’s playing with, what we’re trying to accomplish in that period of time,” McCarthy said. “Our practice structure and what we’ve been able to accomplish in practice is a bit different. Every rep we achieve on the practice field, whether it’s an individual drill, combination drill, group – you factor all those things in the training of your football team. Obviously, at the forefront of your decision is obviously being smart with Aaron. But the combination of who he plays with, too, is part of that. There’s a lot of things you talk about. That’s why you wait until you get all the information to make those final decisions on play time.”
One of the key factors will be the availability of left tackle David Bakhtiari. Bakhtiari, who was carted off the field on Family Night 10 days ago because of an ankle injury, returned to practice on Sunday and worked with the first-team offense on Monday. Left guard Lane Taylor was limited to individual reps the past two days because of an injured quad and right tackle Bryan Bulaga is working his way back from last year’s torn ACL, so Rodgers would be working behind something of a makeshift offensive line.
Otherwise, the offense will be mostly at full strength. At the skill positions, only running back Aaron Jones (hamstring) is unlikely to play among the players at the top of the depth chart.
Regardless, Rodgers probably won’t play much. As ESPN Wisconsin’s Jason Wilde pointed out, Rodgers played three series and 26 plays last preseason and two series and 26 plays in the 2016 preseason. That’s down from five series and 45 plays in 2015, eight series and 69 plays in 2014 and 16 series and 93 plays in Rodgers’ first season as the starter in 2008.