A week after playing just eight defensive snaps in his NFL regular-season debut, first-round pick Eric Stokes (above) found himself in an expanded role against the Lions, playing 44 of the Packers’ 57 defensive snaps and contributing a pair of crucial pass break-ups.
“I’m not going to lie, coming into Monday I was very nervous, even though I’d played on big stages (in college),” the rookie cornerback admitted Friday. “It wasn’t like the moment was too big or anything. It was just like, ‘This is Monday night. I grew up watching Monday night. Everybody watches Monday night. So let me make the best of my opportunities.'”
While Stokes was far from perfect, the role he played — lining up at outside corner opposite Jaire Alexander while Kevin King moved inside to the slot position — appears to be his ticket to an expanded role early in his rookie season. His defense on a fourth-down play to end one of the Lions’ offensive threats was just the beginning.
“One thing I would say, I think he’s learning from his mistakes. He’s really receptive to what we tell him,” said third-year safety Darnell Savage, who started as a rookie first-round pick himself. “It’s tough coming in as a rookie because the college game and the NFL game are so different, just how offenses try to set you up and do different things. The fact that he’s as open to asking questions and learning from us as he is, it’s going to do nothing but help him. That’s what I’m most impressed by is just the fact that how receptive he is and how many questions he asks. He really takes it out there to the field with him.”
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry indicated that Stokes will have a similar role against the 49ers, as he believes Alexander, King and Stokes need to be on the field at the same time.
“We feel like we’ve got three really good corners in Eric, Jaire and Kevin. As many times as we can get all three of them on the field, (the better),” Barry said. “A lot of things (the 49ers) do, especially in the passing game and the protection game, (are predicated on) the identification of who is that nickel. So if you can keep them guessing a little bit, it’s always going to be beneficial. But again, the main reason we do it is we feel we’ve got three really good corners (we want) on the field at the same time.”