"They're talking a lot so I'm going to have to dice them up once we get down to it. No, I like to see the confidence, I really do. That's how you want your corners -- to play with that swagger, that confidence. [No.] 23 [Jaire Alexander]'s a little louder than 37 [Josh Jackson] is, but it's fun to look on the other side of the ball and see those guys making plays. Now, pads are a great equalizer, so you never want to make too big of a judgment." -- Aaron Rodgers during Packers' organized team activities on June 4
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Jaire Alexander almost stopped himself in mid-sentence when he realized what he was saying.
Yes, Alexander used the words "confidence booster" to describe what it meant to intercept his first pass of training camp off the hand of Aaron Rodgers on Monday.
Then the Green Bay Packers' first-round draft pick was reminded that he never seemed like someone who lacked confidence.
"Nah, nah, nah, I have plenty of that," he said after Monday's practice. "But it's fine. Good play. Just ready to do it in a real game, you know."
Yes, Rodgers has, to use his phrase, "diced them up" plenty during the early days of training camp, but Alexander has begun to make his mark, too. In the first 11-on-11 drill of Monday's practice, Alexander jumped in front of an in-breaking route by Randall Cobb and picked off Rodgers. It was the start of a big day by the defense, which recorded three interceptions of Rodgers to run its camp-long total to seven in four practices.
But it was the first by one of the rookie cornerbacks GM Brian Gutekunst picked with his first two selections in the draft. While second-rounder Josh Jackson has yet to make an eye-catching play, Alexander's interception showed the kind of athleticism that made Gutekunst believe his relative lack of height (Alexander stands just 5-foot-10¼, dangerously close to the Packers' Mendoza line for cornerback height).
By Saturday's third practice of camp, Alexander moved into the No. 1 defense as the nickel (slot) cornerback with veteran Tramon Williams on one side and last year's top draft pick Kevin King on the other.
By Monday's fourth practice, he was celebrating a big play.
"I've been there before. I mean, it's not my first rodeo," he said. "I'll be more excited when I do it in a game. I'll leave at that. It feels good though. I'm not going to lie. It does feel good."
But there's something behind his confident -- borderline cocky -- exterior that makes it believable that he'll end up better than Damarious Randall, the Packers' 2015 first-round draft pick who came in with the same kind of attitude but couldn't back it up on a consistent basis. Cockiness without consistency got Randall traded to the Browns this offseason.
Alexander doesn't appear blind to his weaknesses. In fact, he has showed a willingness to take them on. He admitted that his conditioning could be better and that he needs to work on a certain technique that if he doesn't fix could end up leading to a big play.
"The coaches normally get on me about my eyes -- keeping my eyes to my man," he said, noting that he has a tendency to peek at the quarterback. "That's normally their point of emphasis, but I can fix that easily. That's about it."
He also said he plans to pick the brains of veterans on offense. He specifically mentioned receivers such as Davante Adams and Cobb plus Rodgers.
"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. "I didn't come in Day 1 asking them. I'll let it happen."
There's no expected date for when a highly drafted rookie cornerback can be trusted to play on a down-in, down-out basis. With veterans like Williams and Davon House re-signed this offseason, perhaps coach Mike McCarthy and new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will decide to ease in Alexander.
But if Alexander shows more of what he did on Monday, then his impact could be immediate.
"It's the level of understanding; every corner could pass the written test," McCarthy said. "Then you have the video, and it's the application on the field and not only doing what you're supposed to do, but being tied to the guy next to you. So I think the rookies have done some good things [but] we have a long way to go."