LAKE FOREST — Tyrique Stevenson knows what to expect come Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
The rookie cornerback out of Miami was targeted 17 times and gave up 14 receptions throughout the three preseason games — which were both tied for the most out of all cornerbacks. He also committed the most penalities among corners with four.
Against Jordan Love and the Packers, Stevenson anticipates to be tested a lot in his first regular season NFL game.
“I don’t think just this game, but I just think over the season I’m going to get my knowledge and everything tested,” Stevenson said. “I feel like their game plan is personally around going against me, but I just feel like with me being a rookie, me going out there and actually starting I’m going to be challenged. There is going to be a couple of teams that’s going to question whether or not I know what I’m out there doing. ”
Stevenson isn’t naive. He can look back to this summer in how even the Bears challenged him consistently. There were plenty of times throughout camp when the rookie was lined up against a three-time 1,000-yard receiver in DJ Moore, and Moore won a lot of those individual matchups.
Stevenson was even tested by his fellow rookie teammate, Terell Smith, when the two were splitting first-team reps early in camp. But as the practices and preseason continued, the good plays started to outweigh the bad and he separated from Smith and distinguished himself as the starting outside corner opposite of Jaylon Johnson.
“He just wants to be coached hard you know,” cornerbacks coach Jon Hoke said. “He does not want anything, he wants to earn everything. He wants to be criticized or critiqued. However you want to look at it. And he wants to play at a high level, but, you know, he knows it’s not going to be perfect. He doesn’t want you to give him a pass that’s for sure.”
Hoke has been around a lot of cornerbacks with his 18 years of NFL coaching experience, and the veteran coach admitted that Stevenson is different than a lot of the guys he has been around because of how much the rookie likes to talk — which in Hoke’s eyes makes Stevenson unique.
But on Sunday he will be like every other rookie on the field, and Hoke expects the Green Bay Packers’ offense to test and see what Stevenson is all about.
“They always test them,” Hoke said. “Kyle Fuller got tested. They all get tested. A.J. Terrell got tested. All those young guys that I have had got tested. This is the National Football League, and they’re always going to just, they’re going to do their due diligence and they’re going to check what a new player is. No different if it was a rookie quarterback. We all know how that goes. All positions the same.”
Stevenson will have to rely on his familiarity with the defense and the overall playbook to put him in advantageous situations. He also mentioned he understands the “H.I.T.S” principle and knows what is being asked of him in defensive coordinator Alan Williams’ scheme.
“Make the plays that’s coming to me,” Stevenson said. “I feel like my preparation, my film study is going to allow me to play fast, so when those opportunities present themself, I want to make sure that I’m 100% going to make every opportunity.”
When watching the Packers’ offense, Stevenson sees receivers that have a variety of different skillsets, and he said each of those guys plays hard every play. So reading his individual keys will be a huge focus going into this Week 1 matchup.
Williams also anticipates the Green Bay offense to not only attack Stevenson but the entire defense. And if the Packers decide to just go after the rookie, they may just have to live with what comes afterwards.
“I think when at the end of the day, they’re going to do what they do and they’ll test the left side, test the right side, they’ll test him,” Williams said. “They’re going to test the whole defense. So I don’t give a whole bunch of credence into, ‘Hey, it’s a rookie.’ If you play well, they stay away from ya. If you don’t, they don’t. And Tyrique has been playing. I think you’ll like what you see when the lights come on.”