Coming in from the Northwest last season with high expectations, second-round cornerback Kevin King did the norm for Green Bay Packers’ cornerbacks – he spent much of the year injured. King managed to get into nine games, making 28 tackles and defending five passes. He was low-rated by Pro Football Focus and made few if any impact plays.
In those nine games, King only occasionally displayed physicality. What I mostly remember is he was always shadowing receivers from behind – there to make the immediate tackle, but seldom disrupting or challenging the catch. That’s not going to cut it with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
In selecting two defensive backs, again, in this draft, the team sent a clear message to King and to safety Josh Jones: that they need to step up quickly this year or they’ll be backing up the new guys.
As I noted in my post about how the scouts viewed Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, these newcomers seem to possess the qualities that Pettine has insisted on throughout his 15 years as a pro coach. Pettine isn’t open-minded and adaptable when it comes to the kind of defense and defenders he wants. He is a press-man coverage guy. He wants receivers jammed at the line, then blanketed downfield. He wants passes contested, routes jumped, lots of aggression. No soft coverages on third downs or in the red zone. He wants turnovers caused.
The NCAA Statistical King
Enter Iowa’s Josh Jackson. He’s had only one quality college season, but oh what a season it was. The NCAA has him atop the heap among the over 129 FBS (Div. 1-A) schools, with eight interceptions. The NCAA also (logically) counts an interception as a pass defended, so Jackson also led the NCAA in total passes defended, with 26, three more than his closest competitor.
And this guy wasn’t even the Packer’s top cornerback draftee! Jaire Alexander is another Pettine-style talent.
Lots of fans were at least mildly disappointed with King’s rookie season, though his injuries certainly affected his performance. He needs to transform his game and become more Pettine-style if he is to stay on top of the team’s depth chart.
It’s a new season and there are new coaches, coordinators and first-year players. Kevin King is just the most notable of several starters from last year who will have to compete for their job all over again. Unless King responds to the challenge, he’ll be overtaken in short order by the former Hawkeye ballhawk.
And I suggest he start by adding five pounds of muscle to his lanky frame.