There is no doubt that Eric Stokes, who picked the first round of the 2021 Green Bay Packers, had a successful junior season. The former Georgia star earned the All-Rookie Team titles after being pushed into a key role early in the season after injuries to Kevin King and Jair Alexander. He came and played well. But Stokes hopes to take his game to another level in year two.
Stokes was notable at training camp last year. His speed and determination to learn made him stand out instantly.
Both Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams “caught” him in camp, making passes in his direction on a regular basis. Stokes took it step by step, realizing that Rodgers and Adams, two of the best players in the game in their respective positions, were trying to improve him.
When the season started, Stokes wasn’t expected to see much action right away in defense. In the season opener against the Saints, he was on the field for only eight defensive shots.
But when King was injured in Week 2 and then lost to Jair Alexander for the season in Week 4, Stokes was pushed into the starting lineup. He replaced King midway through the second game of the season and started every match starting in Week 3.
Stokes has had a solid rookie year. According to pro-football-reference.com, opposing quarterbacks completed only 49.5 percent of their passes when thrown to receivers covered by Stokes and had a mean rating of only 71.3. He also broke 14 passes. These are great numbers for any corner, not to mention the novice.
Stokes made a huge impression on his coach in his first season with the team. “He’s a guy who’s connected the right way,” Matt LaFleur told reporters last season. “He comes to work with the right attitude, with the right mindset, and I think he’s going to keep getting better and better as we get on with this thing. I just love what it’s about as a person. I think he has a really great skill to compliment that and we’re lucky to have this guy on the football team. we’ve got “.
The only thing Stokes needs to improve is his ability to play the ball in the air. His outstanding speed allows him to recover when he is hit momentarily and passes disintegration. But despite his impressive numbers on coverage, he only intercepted one pass all season in 97 goals. He dropped five potential interceptions last season.
Just like last year, Stokes didn’t hesitate to acknowledge the areas he needed to work in and told reporters at OTAs he intended to improve his ability to end interceptions.
“I’m trying to grow that aspect of my game,” Stokes explained. “[I’m] I just started looking for the ball more. I should feel comfortable with that. I don’t make any excuses or anything, but I grew up all I know face to face and a guard. just play [the receiver’s] hands. Like, brother, in everything, just play my hand. and now [I’m] Just retraining myself to find the ball. I know you are in your position, find the ball. Do all these little things and get out of your head.”
Stokes has some experienced players on the list to learn this skill from. Douglas Messenger doesn’t have the speed of Stokes or Jayer Alexander, but Stokes knows how to play the ball and make the interception. He had five games last year despite playing only 12 games and brought back two of them for relegation.
If Stokes can improve his ability to play the ball in the air and make interceptions, he could potentially become an outstanding full-back.
Even better, the Packers likely have the strongest starting linebacker three in the league in former Pro Bowler Jaire Alexander, Stokes and Douglas. When you add starting safety Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage to the mix, the secondary Packers have the potential to be an elite.
Stokes knows the potential is there. “I feel like we could be a really good secondary,” he said. “I know how we all work, I know how we all compete day in and day out, and how we want the best for all of us. We can be one of the best DB (groups) in this entire league. We just have to go out there and do it.”