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Have Last Season’s Leaks Been Plugged?

It’s pretty well accepted that the biggest reason for the Packers falling to the Bucs in the NFC Championship game was a failing at cornerback. While Jaire Alexander was playing shutdown style on one side of the field, both Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan made Tom Brady look better than he was, or is, so late in his career

Pro Football Focus computed that Brady threw for eight completions, 123 yards, two touchdowns and five first downs when targeting King or Sullivan. Even with the Packers lacking competency on the left side of the field, Brady’s cumulative passer rating was only 73.8, while Rodgers registered a 101.6 rating. This was the leak that doomed the Packers’ push for the Lombardi Trophy last season.

Exploring things further, PFF shows King as giving up five catches for 66 yards, including a 15-yard third down TD pass to Mike Evans and that 39-yard gimme TD to Scotty Miller on the final play of the first half. He also was in coverage on a 9-yard toss to Evans to start the final drive, and he was called for pass interference on third down a few plays later, preventing the Green Bay offense from launching a final offensive drive. Here’s all you need to know about Green Bay’s season-ending loss: Brady’s passer rating when targeting King was 140.2.

In limited action, Sullivan surrendered three catches for 57 yards. Each catch converted a third down, and two of them kept the Bucs opening drive alive. Almost all of Brady’s success occurred on the left side or down the middle of the field. He completed 15 passes for 241 yards, three TDs, and one interception when throwing to the left or middle.

Even with King and Sullivan struggling, the Packers never called on veteran Tramon Williams, who was active but did not play in this big game.

May 25, 2020; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King (20) during the second day of organized team activities. Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

After that game, I noted that any viewer could see that King lacked the speed, quickness, and shiftiness to keep within three or four yards of the player he was defending. Yet I’ve never heard any explanation why this was so. Have injuries resulted in permanent diminishment of his skills? Has lack of confidence caused him to play far off receivers? Was it just one bad game on King’s part?

When drafted in 2017, King had superb NFL Combine scores. His percentiles were: 97th in the 20 yard shuttle, 95th in the three-cone drill, 87th in the vertical jump, and 73rd in the 40-yard dash. He was also 97th as to his 6’3” height. These percentages are right up there with how Jaire Alexander performed a year later: 88th, 89th, 37th, and 89th respectively – and Jaire’s height of 5’10 ¼” was only 32nd percentile at the position. In other words, King was at least as athletic as Alexander when each entered the NFL.

Since King was a superb athlete when the Packers drafted him, I’m perplexed as to what happened to those physical abilities. It stunned me that the Packers re-signed him for 2021 – I can only hope that means he was affected by an injury against the Bucs, and that he’s since fully recovered. Going into that game he was listed on the injury report as having a non-specific back problem. I don’t place much stock in King’s health anyway, as the guy has missed a boatload of games in four years due to all kinds of ailments – and he once again has yet to participate in training camp to start this season.

The trouble with the back problem explanation, as several of you have pointed out, according to Pro Football Focus player grades, King has never had better than an average season in four tries – and he’s getting worse. Last season, King was graded at number 99, out of 121.

Chandon Sullivan, on the other hand, has always lacked the athleticism to be a successful pro player. His percentiles at the 2018 Combine included: 14th percentile for the 40-yard dash (4.6 seconds), and 11th percentile for the 20 yard shuttle. This constitutes a very low ceiling for Chandon – and yet the coaches are talking about him manning the “star” position -in Joe Barry’s defense. Savage, yes, Sullivan, no!

Going into this make-or-break season, until King provides evidence that his athletic skills are much the same as they were coming out of college, I suspect we’ll see a repeat performance by the Pack’s top draft pick in 2017.

Josh Jackson and Eric Stokes

Green Bay Packers cornerback Josh Jackson (37) and cornerback Eric Stokes (21) are shown during the second day of organized team activities Tuesday, May 25, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.

Enter Eric Stokes

For once, Green Bay actually addressed its most glaring need in this year’s draft, choosing Georgia’s Eric Stokes with the 29th pick. Unless the original Kevin King shows up, I feel that Stokes will be under a world of pressure to perform well – and right away. I believe that Stokes will one day be a pro bowler, but that could take a few years. Outside of quarterback, cornerback might be the hardest pro position for a newcomer to master.

After Stokes, all Green Bay has is Josh Jackson, Ka’dar Hollman, Kabion Ento, Stanford Samuels, and rookie Shemar Jean-Charles. You can see why I’m worried that the leak at left cornerback has not been plugged. If injuries occur, I presently have more faith in Ento and Jean-Charles than in the other subs – but inserting either into the defensive backfield of a team in pursuit of the Super Bowl is a scary proposition. Making matters worse, with Jaire shutting down one side of the field, opponents will be turning their attention to the other starting CB all season long.

Other Leaks

The inside linebacker spots have been leaky for years, and things got even worse for Green Bay against the Bucs. The snap counts were: Krys Barnes 37, Christian Kirksey 29, Ty Summers 28, and Kamal Martin 14. By the playoffs, Kirksey looked depleted, and then Barnes went down with an injury, forcing the Packers to bring on Ty Summers, who like Sullivan lacks athleticism. However, the early returns on new acquisition De’Vondre Campbell have been terrific. He’s a veteran who stays healthy and plays aggressively and with physicality. Kamal Martin has moved ahead of Ty Summers on various depth charts. This is a much-improved group.

The loss of David Bakhtiari for last season’s playoffs was some miserable bad luck. Even if Bakhtiari misses several early season games, however, Green Bay now has greater depth and versatility in its O-line group, and the drafting of center Josh Myers should soften the loss of All Pro center Corey Linsley. Any number of guys should be able to capably fill in until the All Pro tackle returns. The O-line will be solid.

So, have the leaks of last season been plugged? In most cases, yes, though I’m cautiously pessimistic about that second starting cornerback spot. Eric Stokes will be under enormous pressure to adapt very quickly to the NFL. I’m confident that over time he’ll have great success, but can he get the job done as a rookie?

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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19 Comments

  1. Mitch Anthony August 10, 2021

    Although I never memorialized these words on this forum I do have witnesses, several witnesses, who will back up this statement.

    When Kevin King stunk up the show in the NFCCG several of my friends said, “He’s gone.” I agreed that I wanted him gone – since I never wanted him – but I told more than one person, “He’ll be back. We’re stuck with him. They’ll let him shop the market but who the hell will want him? He’s coming back on the cheap.”

    His body of work was out there for all to see, he wasn’t going anywhere for a better deal. Hell, he wasn’t going anywhere for any deal. His entire time with Green Bay has been what, a somewhat less than 75% availability rate? Always some injury or aches and pains follow him like a cloud and when he does play, we can blame the injuries and aches and pains when he plays poorly. Some things I’ve read or heard about King is that he is pretty big in SJW angle of things. Can’t have enough of them now.

    Here’s hoping Stokes will pan out to be what is greatly needed.

    1. PF4L August 11, 2021

      ” They’ll let him shop the market but who the hell will want him? ”
      .
      I couldn’t agree more Mitch. Good starting corners in the NFL are gold. Everyone wants one
      The very fact that King signed a one year deal, tells us that no other team offered him a multi year deal.
      Don’t these other teams watch his combine tape, or look at his RAS score?…Cough
      .
      Rob makes the point that King needs to show the athleticism he showed in college.
      I have to disagree.
      His athleticism isn’t holding him back. his ability to be a quality NFL defender is holding him back.
      I GNF what your 40 is, or what your vertical, shuttle and cone drills are.
      Can you cover a receiver? Can you do the job?
      .
      When are we going to realize that a great day at the combine, or a high RAS score doesn’t automatically make you a good football player.
      .
      Basketball and baseball players can have a very high RAS score, does that mean they are good football players?
      ****************
      What could King have to say after giving up 2 TD’s using the worst pass technique i’ve ever seen?
      “Well…ummm, i had a awesome combine dude and i banged out a really high RAS score.”
      Great….here’s a cookie.

  2. Tom M August 10, 2021

    King certainly deserves his share of blame. But last I checked, King wasn’t on the field when it was first and goal at the 8 yard line in the 4th and the self proclaimed goat couldn’t punch it in. Stokes will no doubt help but I would have liked to have signed Kyle Fuller. Gutekunst certainly wanted to but Rodgers would rather play drama Queen than restructure his contract. He can do it for his buddy Randall Cobb but not for the good of the team. Jaire Alexander, Kyle Fuller, and Eric Stokes would have made a formidable secondary. The way it stands now, we’re screwed if Alexander goes down.

  3. Mick August 10, 2021

    Good article Rob. I also was stunned when King was retained. After all the injuries and inconsistent play over his career, most would have expected better from a top pick. Even more baffling is the fact he was retained considering the teams salary cap situation. The guy is an enigma. What’s even more baffling is the fact we didn’t get an explanation of what was up with his back. The injury report says he had a non-specific back problem,,,,,,,,,,, what ever that is! Being this early in training camp, to announce that Sullivan has taken the early lead to man the star position, has to be unsettling. Maybe it’s because he’s more familiar with that position and the players behind him have little to no experience. But, I’d be shocked if he holds that spot later on towards the end of the season.

    1. PF4L August 11, 2021

      Gute could have used Kings money to try and acquire Fuller if he wanted him.
      .
      Obviously he passed and stuck with King.
      .
      The Packers made an offer sheet to Fuller back in early 2018.
      Gute admitted they had little chance of signing him.
      ““I thought Russ [Ball] did a good job putting that together. But we knew the whole time, especially being within the division, that there was probably a small chance that we’d actually acquire the player.”.
      .
      It was believed it forced the Bears to match the Packers four year offer which they did, making the Bears commit more money to Fuller than they wanted to after the Bears previously tagged Fuller for only one year.
      .
      Which, as it turned out, makes perfect sense since the Bears released him in 2020 because his cap cost of 20 million was too high for the Bears..

      1. Tom M August 12, 2021

        Gutekunst did try to sign Fuller and was out bid by the Broncos. As I recall Kyle Fuller signed with Denver for 8.5 million. King 4.75 million with only 2 million against the cap. King’s contract is essentially a one year deal. The other years are voidable. King cost half as much. And when your up against the cap. That’s significant.

        1. PF4L August 13, 2021

          What was the Packers offer?
          I’d ask for a link where you got this “offer” information, but i don’t want you breaking down again and having a panic attack, acting like a child, telling me to find it myself.
          .
          I don’t recall any of this. Seems a bit strange we could afford to be a player for Fuller.
          Considering the Packers had to restructure 6 or 7 of our own players contract to get our own financial house in order.
          I’m not so sure chasing free agents with contract offers was a priority last spring.
          .
          “The Packers lack cap space and probably wouldn’t be able to craft a competitive offer if his price tag is exceedingly high on the open market.
          Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated reported the Packers weren’t expected to be a player for Fuller.” – Zach Kruse
          .
          “The Packers have been exploring the crop of free-agent cornerbacks, sources have said, but have found the price to be too high for anyone who would be a significant upgrade.” – Bill Huber
          .
          [Just an hour after Fuller’s release became official on the transaction wire, the Denver Broncos swooped in to sign Fuller to a one-year deal worth $9.5 million, including $9 million fully guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.]
          .
          But then again, i don’t have first hand knowledge as i’m not involved in the Packers F O. So you probably know better than i.
          .
          Or…..we can just ignore the issue and you can just keep pretending you’re not full of shit…again.

          1. PF4L August 15, 2021

            Again…about what i figured.
            .
            When people called you a blowhard, i didn’t know by which definition.
            .
            Clearly…both

  4. Mick August 10, 2021

    Good article Rob. I was also stunned that King was retained, especially given the salary cap woes. His career is littered with injuries and inconsistent play. For being a top pick, we all expected more. We never did get an explanation of the type of injury to his back was. They stated a non-specific back injury,,,,,,,,, what ever the hell that is. To state that Sullivan is the leading candidate to man the “star” position this early in camp, is bothersome. Lack of depth, or talent at that spot has to be concerning in addition to lack of experience. I’d be shocked if Sullivan holds that spot towards the end of the regular season.

  5. Mick August 10, 2021

    The site is acting up again

  6. PF4L August 11, 2021

    Great article, even if i don’t agree point by point.
    Rob has always been more optimistic than i am.
    .
    The first thing that stands out to me is how long King has actually been a problem?
    Was it in the NFCCG that it was newly discovered?
    If anyone reads my post, i’ve been talking about his substandard play for years.
    Gute did draft Josh Jackson after Alexander, but was that to replace King, or for depth?
    My guess is for depth as King was just one year in.
    .
    To say King had one average season is a gift, but i can go along with it i suppose.
    PFF graded King in the 50’s, 3 of 4 seasons. Low 60’s in one season.
    Besides watching him play, that’s a pretty big flag that you need to address that position before it’s too late.
    We painfully discovered that position was neglected, far to long.
    .
    In the 2021 draft, instead of picking a player for the future, Gute HAD to make a move at that position and drafted Stokes.
    Maybe picking a corner in the first round of the 2019 and 2020 draft would have made more sense before it cost the team a heavy price.
    I don’t know how Gute viewed King during those years, but indications are he was happy with King as our starting right corner.
    .
    King was a serious problem before the Tampa Bay game, the NFCCG game itself…just exposed it.
    Exposed it, to the point where Gute had no choice but to finally address it.
    It cost us, to the point where Gute finally realized, Kings a liability.
    .
    NOTE: For all we know, King was Gutes pick in 2017, or at the very least, had major influence in the pick citing Ted’s condition.

  7. Deepsky August 11, 2021

    Good article, everything you say here is spot on. But the reason why the Packers didn’t go to the Super Bowl was because Rodgers and Jones turned the ball over and once again, in crunch time, in the playoffs, Rodgers didn’t get it done. I mean the GOAT Tom Brady threw three picks in the second half, how many more chances did the offense need? Instead the Packers fire their defensive coordinator and hire a guy with no NFL success.

    1. PF4L August 11, 2021

      The reason they lost isn’t because of Rodgers or Jones.
      It isn’t even because of Kevin King.
      It isn’t even because of Adrian Amos.
      It isn’t even because the O line got wiped out by Tampa Bay
      It isn’t even the defenses fault.
      It isn’t even the fault of all the top paid guns for shooting blanks.
      It isn’t even because of Mike Pettine.
      .
      You could make the argument that all those factors and more, contributed to the loss, that’s fair
      The reason they lost, is the same reason the Chiefs lost…. because, they failed as a team.
      .
      In 2014 the Packers lost, because they failed as a team.
      In 2014 the Seahawks lost, because they failed as a team.
      In 2015 the Panthers lost, because they failed as a team.
      In 2016 the Packers lost, because they failed as a team.
      In 2016 the Falcons lost, because they failed as a team.
      .
      If you can’t win, it’s because you’re not good enough to win for whatever reason.
      Not even a victory over the Tennessee Titans will ever change that.
      .
      No team in sports, professional or amateur has a bigger roster, or more players involved in the outcome of a game as in NFL football.
      You can talk about what factors contributed to a loss (i do). But at the end of the day. It’s a team loss
      Most every player, coach, owner in the NFL will tell you the exact same thing.
      .
      The question now is….
      Are the Packers good enough to get to the Super Bowl this year?
      I think that answer might depend on a rookie draft class.
      Not ideal.
      .
      V.O.R.

  8. Mick August 11, 2021

    Ya, for King to have posted PFF scores 3 of 4 times in the 50s’ and the other in the 60s’; is under-whelming. Considering he was a top pick, I think we all expected bigger things. Maybe he is just injury prone. Which brings me to the selection of J. Jackson, and before that to J. Jones; and quite a few before him that haven’t panned out. They found gems with Alexander and Savage, but have failed miserably drafting at that position, especially in the last 8 years. Over those last 8 years or so; they have spent quite a bit of draft capitol at that position. Here’s hoping that Stokes eventually solidifies that spot.

    1. Mick August 11, 2021

      All during the OTA’s and mini camp, we have heard that R. Gary was ripping up camp. Yet, as reported yesterday in Packers Wire, the early, (unofficial) depth chart lists Gary behind P. Smith. ???????? The Packer way is still alive and well!

      1. PF4L August 11, 2021

        Interesting…i don’t go to packerwire, maybe i’ll give it a peek.
        .
        I’m sure you’re correct, but my training camp info only comes from packersdaily, and extracheese, and to be honest, i haven’t heard much about Gary or Preston from either.

        1. PF4L August 11, 2021

          Yea, that’s the Packers depth chart, it was updated yesterday, the day before it had last been updated back in January.
          .
          I think (my guess) it says “unofficial” is because obviously it’s still subject to change.
          ,
          I’m not surprised seeing Preston as a starter still, but i’m hoping that changes.
          Why should the 12th pick of the draft be given an opportunity to start in his 3rd year?
          Maybe…because he’s earned it?
          Or the Packers see something i don’t. Very possible.
          We’ll see how that plays out.
          .
          People bitched all the time about AJ Hawk underachieving being the 5th pick, but fuck, at least he started and produced in year one.
          Matter of fact, he was a starter in week 1 and didn’t miss a start in his 1st 3 seasons. He produced 121 combo tackles, 84 solo tackles, 3.5 sacks, 7 QB hits, 7 passes defended, 1 FF, 2 interceptions his first season.
          Not fucking bad i say.
          But that was under different leadership.
          Ted in his glory years..
          .
          Although i’m still not wild about MVS’s catch rate, he is listed as a starter.
          I have no problem with that for one huge reason…..
          He showed up in a big game and balled out like he gave a fuck.
          Much more productive than the invisible high priced FA talent.
          One of a few difference makers in that game.
          I haven’t given him his due credit…my bad

  9. Tom M August 12, 2021

    Kevin King isn’t a bad corner when healthy. He’s just never healthy. Or at least half the time he’s not. Paying 4.75 million and getting a starting corner out of deal is reasonable. Especially if you get him to start the season and you get Stokes up to speed by about week 8. King gives you the flexibility not to have to throw Stokes into the fire week one if he’s not ready. But without Fuller, you have to hit on Stokes and he’s got to be ready sooner than later. I see King as more a transition player and better served as a back up.

    1. rebelgb August 12, 2021

      Exactly. Watch, King will start out kicking ass and all the Packer fans will be asking to hear another sound bite on WNFL asking him what “changed” and everyone will love him. Same old shit. He;s an inexpensive place holder for Stokes. Now lets pray to God Stokes is a hit.