It’s always great to see how rookies in the NFL approach their first practice with their new team. In the case of Green Bay Packers first round pick Eric Stokes, the Georgia product seems excited and eager to take the field for the Green and Gold.
The 6’1”, 185-pound cornerback was enthused about this past weekend’s rookie minicamp which was his first time getting instruction from the Packers coaching staff and the first time he put on an NFL jersey.
“I just put a Packers jersey on,” Stokes said with a smile during a video conference with reporters during minicamp. “I’m coming from Georgia and now I’m in Green Bay so I’m just switching the ‘Gs’, switching from the red and black to the green and yellow so it’s a whole different ‘G’ but it’s just still amazing and there’s still a history behind here that I keep learning about every day.”
Stokes was also impressed with his first look at Lambeau Field, the Packers iconic home field. “I just can’t wait to see how it is when it holds about 80,000,” Stokes said. “I just can’t wait to walk out there on game day…It just gives me chills just thinking about it. Of course, we’ve got the best fans in the whole nation. I just can’t wait to go out there. It puts a big smile on my face to just think about it so I just can’t wait.”
While the opening minicamp is non-contact, Stokes made a positive first impression on his new head coach, Matt LaFleur. “He certainly looks impressive,” LaFleur told reporters. “He’s got great size and length and the speed, you can really see that and you can tell he’s not too threatened by guys running by him, which is a huge advantage for defensive backs. It allows you to play really sticky coverage.”
One of Stokes’ biggest assets is his speed. He was timed at 4.25 at Georgia’s pro day before the draft. But while speed is important to Stokes, he realizes he has a lot to learn about the game and how to play his position if he wants to take his game to the next level.
“Having speed is truly tremendous,” Stokes explained. “I’m trying to find a way with my technique now because then down the road when my speed starts declining, I’ll already know how to play with technique so I’m not losing anything, I’m just being the best player that I can be.”
Stokes was also excited to meet Jaire Alexander, the Packers Pro Bowl cornerback who has now become one of the top cover corners in the NFL. “That’s one person I can’t wait to meet,” he told reporters when asked about Alexander. “Just watching him brings out the little kid in me. Watching him over the past few seasons and watching how he dominated, especially this past season. Throughout the playoffs, no team tried to throw to him period, so he was that dominant. I’m just trying to learn everything from him and just trying to be like him and or even be better than him because that man is just like unbelievable.”
As for his first practice with the Packers, Stokes was mostly pleased with the way things went. “There were some little growing pains out there, just some things I’ve got to get used to but overall, it was a good day,” he told reporters. “I’m loving it. Maybe it’s wrong to say I’m coachable but I believe I’m very coachable with a lot of stuff. I’m just taking any little knowledge that I can. You’re trying to be a leader out here on and off the field to where I’m just like being there first one, taking it in.”
Clearly, the Packers first round pick is eager to get his NFL career started. He has the pure speed and size scouts look for in a cornerback, now he needs to work on his technique and make the adjustment from the SEC to the NFL.
The faster Stokes picks up Joe Barry’s defense, the more playing time he’s likely to see as a rookie. He has a lot of work to do, but so far, Stokes has shown a positive attitude and a willingness to work on being the best player he can be. The Packers can’t ask for too much more from their first-round pick after his first minicamp.
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