This is the next in a series of articles providing an in-depth analysis of each position group on the Green Bay Packersbc for 2023. Today we will analyze the secondary. The grade will be for each unit as a whole, but we will give an analysis of each player, their strengths and weaknesses and where they stand heading into the offseason. Here are the grades for the Packers secondary in 2023. The marks are based on a combination of expectations and performance.
You can see our final grade for the quarterbacks here and for the defensive line here. The running backs are here, the inside linebackers here, and tight ends here. You can find the edge rushers here and the offensive line here.
Over the course of the season, the Packers secondary ranked ninth in the NFL in passing yards per game with 206.8. However, they were next to last in the league with just seven interceptions all season.
Final Grade for the Packers Starting Secondary, Cornerbacks
Jaire Alexander struggled through a disappointing season largely due to injuries. He played only seven games this season and the quality of his play suffered as well.
The Louisville alum did not intercept a pass during the regular season. Opposing quarterbacks completed 66.7 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Alexander and had a quarterback rating of 113.4. Both were career lows for the two-time Pro Bowler. The injuries also hurt his tackling ability.
The Packers suspended Alexander for one game for conduct detrimental to the team. But after the suspension, Alexander played better, and the issues seemed to be behind him.
The Packers will need a healthy Alexander to return to form in 2024.
After the Packers traded Rasul Douglas to Buffalo, rookie Carrington Valentine stepped up and played well. The seventh round pick out of Kentucky started 12 games. He broke up nine passes and recovered one fumble while making 44 total tackles for the season.
Valentine likes to be physical and sometimes gets flagged for it. Hopefully, he will learn what he can get away with and what will cost him a penalty.
Valentine had a surprisingly strong first NFL season and the Packers hope he can build on it. He will likely fight for a starting job next season.
Keisean Nixon was the starting slot corner. He struggled in coverage, especially early in the season. Opposing quarterbacks completed 77.8 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Nixon and had a quarterback rating of 104.8.
Nixon will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. His main value is as a return specialist. Even if the former South Carolina star re-signs with the Packers, the team may look for an upgrade at slot corner.
Final Grade for the Packers Starting Secondary, Safeties
The Packers have a tough decision to make about Darnell Savage. The former first-round pick out of Maryland has outstanding athletic ability but has never been able to consistently live up to his raw talent.
This season, Savage started 10 games but missed seven due to injuries. He did not intercept a pass but had a big pick six in the playoff win over Dallas. Savage also allowed too many completions as quarterbacks completed 78.3 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Savage and had a quarterback rating of 106.9.
Savage will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He is unlikely to be back unless the Packers feel new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley can bring out the potential he clearly has but has never been able to realize.
The Packers signed Jonathan Owens as a free agent in May. The Missouri Western State product is a better run defender than he is in pass coverage. He started 11 games and played all 17 for the Packers.
Owens is a solid NFL player, but the Packers will likely look for an upgrade over the offseason. GM Brian Gutekunst is likely to bring back at least one of the team’s three free agent safeties. Owens could be back if he’s willing to accept a reasonable contract offer.
Final Grade for the Packers Primary Backups in the Secondary
Georgia alum Eric Stokes suffered through an injury-plagued season for the second straight year. Stokes started the season on the PUP list, played one game in October and suffered another injury that kept him out of the lineup until mid-December. Then he suffered a season ending injury. He played only three games all year.
The Packers need Stokes to be healthy and regain the form he showed in his rookie season. Stokes still needs to work on his ball awareness and to regain his confidence. He will fight for a starting job in 2024 if healthy.
The Packers have to decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option over the offseason. With his injury history, they may decide not to commit to him beyond 2024 just yet.
Corey Ballentine stepped up when injuries hit the secondary and started six games. He played better than expected and showed he can be a quality NFL player. He intercepted one pass and did a good job in coverage. Opposing quarterbacks completed just 56.3 percent of their passes and had a quarterback rating of 81.2 when throwing to receivers covered by Ballentine.
Ballentine is an unrestricted free agent. Gutekunst has to decide if he wants Ballentine back in 2024. If he doesn’t return to Green Bay, Ballentine will find a deal elsewhere.
Safety Rudy Ford started nine games and played in 13 before ending the season on injured reserve. Like Owens and Savage, Ford is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Ford led the Packers with two interceptions and did well in coverage, allowing a completion percentage of 60.7 and a quarterback rating of 65.0.
He will turn 30 in November. The Packers could bring him back at a reasonable cost, but they will be looking for an upgrade.
Anthony Johnson, Jr. made the team after a strong showing at training camp. He played 12 games and started four. The former Iowa State star made his first career interception in the Packers win over the Rams.
Johnson saw the field for 40 percent of the team’s defensive snaps when he played and also saw some action on special teams. The Packers are hoping he can play a bigger role on defense in his second season with the team.
Depth in the Secondary
Benny Sapp started the season on the practice squad. The Packers elevated him three times and then assigned him to the active roster. In five games, he played mostly on special teams except for three plays on defense. He will be an exclusive rights free agent this offseason.
Robert Rochell played nine games for the Packers but saw all his action on special teams. Zayne Ander son also played exclusively on special teams and was one of the team’s better players on kick and punt return coverage. He is signed for 2024.
Zyon Gilbert signed with the Packers in late October and spent the season on the practice squad. He played three games with the New York Giants in 2022. Safety Tyler Coyle signed with the Packers after spending two seasons with Dallas. He spent the season on the practice squad but did not see any game action. Cornerback Anthony Johnson (not to be confused with safety Anthony Johnson, Jr.) was signed to the practice squad on January 1, 2024. The Virginia alum signed with the Pack for 2024 and will be competing for a roster spot in camp next year.
Final Grade for the Packers 2023 Secondary
Like the rest of the defense, the secondary did well statistically but failed to produce many big plays. Seven total interceptions in 17 games are simply not good enough. The team was better at not allowing long pass plays. Injuries were certainly a factor as multiple starters missed significant time.
Hopefully, the addition of a new defensive system, some new additions in the draft and possibly free agency and a return to health can improve this unit in 2024.