The Green Bay Packers did more than bring in coordinator Mike Pettine to improve a heretofore toothless defense, the team also imported two early-round rookies.
Thus far in the preseason, first-round pick Jaire Alexander and second-rounder Josh Jackson look like the real deal.
With the Packers resting most their starters during Friday's preseason tilt in Oakland, it gave the youngsters needed reps as they transition to the pro level. Both flashed playmaking ability.
After playing sparingly in previous preseason tilts due to a lingering groin issue, Alexander started opposite Tramon Williams. The rookie allowed a big play to Amari Cooper off the bat but rebounded with an interception. Alexander did a good job making up ground on Dwayne Harris on the play and cut in front of the pass for the leaping INT.
"That's what you want. You want the pick, especially early to build your confidence up," Alexander said, via the team's official website. "I couldn't even see the ball. It got lost in the light. Somehow it ended up in my hands. I don't know how."
Jackson also continues to flash impressive ball skills. A week after a pick-six against Pittsburgh, the rookie should have earned another. Jackson drove on a Connor Cook pass, stepping in front of the receiver and taking it to the house. The INT was wiped out by a Packers holding penalty away from the play. Despite the pick not going on the official preseason stat sheet, it displayed the rookie's ability to read the route and drive on the ball in the air.
"It's really about getting into my groove," Jackson said. "I'd say the first couple weeks it's trying to get back into the way things operate. I'm feeling comfortable, I'm feeling confident. I'm feeling like I have a good understanding."
The duo continues to battle for playing time behind Williams, Devon House, and 2017 second-round pick Kevin King. After struggling the past several seasons to build depth and playmakers in the secondary -- despite throwing multiple draft picks at the project -- Green Bay might finally have found their future corners. A defensive back unit that was a liability last season could be a deep advantage in a pass-happy league.
"Both of these guys, they respect the game as much as possible, but they fear nothing about it," Williams said of the rookies. "That's the approach you have to take to this game because you're going to face some tough battles week-in and week-out. If you fear those battles, you're always going to come up on the short side of it, but if you embrace those battles, you have a chance."