The Green Bay Packers will be relying on their defense even more in 2023 following the quarterback change to Jordan Love. However, they might have to take the field without cornerback Eric Stokes early in the season.
Stokes, the 29th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, suffered an ankle injury on Nov. 6 against the Detroit Lions. While scarce details on the injury were provided, it was made clear that Stokes would miss the remainder of the 2022 season.
- Eric Stokes contract: $3.252M cap hit (’23), $3.794M cap hit (’24), 2025 team option
It was a disappointing ending to a sophomore campaign that delivered significant regression for the second-year cornerback. After impressing as a rookie – 78.6 passer rating allowed when targeted, 11.6 yards per reception – Stokes regression in 2022 (125.8 passer rating allowed, 13.1 ypr) but Green Bay hoped he would be healthy for training camp.
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Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Packers’ coach Matt LaFleur said the team hopes Stokes returns “as soon as possible” but he might miss the start of the 2023 season.
LaFleur also provided clarity on Green Bay’s plans at cornerback for next season. Whether Stokes is available in Week 1 or not, Rasul Douglas will play outside corner instead of moving to safety. Meanwhile, All-Pro return specialist Keisean Nixon is expected to see snaps in the slot.
Despite being tight against the NFL salary cap, the Packers have maintained continuity on defense. While Green Bay is poised to lose veteran safety Adrian Amos in NFL free agency, edge rusher Rashan Gary (torn ACL) is expected to return early next season.
There is still a possibility Stokes returns to the field before the regular-season opener. Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated reported on March 1 that the third-year cornerback is ‘ahead of schedule’ and he plans to be in Green Bay to continue training during the offseason program.
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If Stokes is cleared to play before Week 1, Green Bay projects to have an above-average defense in 2023, which should help provide more balance in the first season without Aaron Rodgers.