He’s been labeled as a pariah. When something goes wrong on the Packers defense, who’s the first person that is usually blamed?
None other than Kevin King.
Walk into any supper club, barber shop or grocery store in the past few years after a Packers loss and it won’t take long for King’s name to pop into the conversation.
The fifth year pro is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The cornerback has started 38 games in his career — including two this season — but you have to wonder if his days as a starting cornerback are coming to an end.
Coming into this season, the Packers didn’t put a lot of faith in King by only giving the 26-year-old a one-year deal. Green Bay doubled down on that philosophy by drafting Georgia standout corner Eric Stokes 29th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
So where do the Packers go from here? King still looks lost in coverage at times, his tackling needs a once-over and his pass rushing ability has gone down since 2019.
As if King didn’t need more things going against him, he is also in concussion protocol. The weird thing about that is, nobody knows when or how King sustained a concussion. In fact, nobody would’ve known unless King told the coaches at the team hotel on Sunday.
The Packers were looking for a reason. It just so happened that an opportunity literally just fell into their lap.
The Packers drafted Stokes knowing that he would eventually be the starter alongside shutdown corner Jaire Alexander. King got the start to open the season because he had the experience and the coaches felt he could learn how fast the NFL game was by soaking it in.
But the time has come.
Stokes shouldn’t just be a starting cornerback, he needs to be. And that’s not a knee-jerk reaction because of what happened at the end of the first half of last year’s NFC title game. It’s a compilation of sloppy play that really hasn’t shown any slivers of daylight.
The obvious question is, won’t Stokes make mistakes? He sure will. And he already has. But he really held his own in a big road game against one of the top NFC teams. He showed off his SEC pedigree and he showed that he truly does belong in the NFL.
For those that were surprised that Stokes was taken first by the Packers this past spring, you can look to that 49ers game as why. He was a solid defender, despite getting ticketed for two bogus pass interference penalties. He only allowed three receptions on 10 targets. And the former Bulldog was a bulldog when it came to tackling.
“I thought he competed and did a really nice job,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur. “I know he got dinged for the two PIs. You know, I’ll let you use your own judgment and write what you want to on those. But, yeah, I thought he did an outstanding job.”
Those are big words coming from the coach that has amassed a 28-7 regular season record since arriving in Green Bay in 2019.
King was kept to be an insurance policy. But now that the insurance is no longer needed, it’s time for the Packers to cash in on their premium.
Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on “Clubhouse Live” and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn