Kevin King is the forgotten man in Green Bay.
Initially, the focus of the offseason spotlight due to his performance in the NFC Championship Game, King has quickly regressed to old news. It is easy to understand why.
Nobody wants to think about the horrors of that performance:
I maintain that this loss was more of a total team meltdown than one that could be pinned on any singular player such as King –although the video thumbnail above is pretty funny.
However, his performance did not ease any concerns about the cornerback position going into the offseason. This prompted general manager Brian Gutekunst to draft King’s prospective replacement, Eric Stokes, in the first round.
Using that high of a pick on a player generally comes with the expectation that that player will make an immediate impact on the team. This notion leaves King as the odd man out of the starting cornerback rotation for the Green Bay Packers’ secondary.
King signed a 1-year, $5 million deal with Green Bay this offseason that essentially has “Prove It” written all over it. It would appear that he has this one final year in the green and gold to show that he is worthy of meaningful playing time moving forward.
What does King’s new situation, where he is no longer a de facto starter for Joe Barry’s defense, mean for his upcoming role? Will he have a short leash as Stokes gets acclimated to the NFL game?
King’s public demise as a quality starter in the NFL happened rapidly. Amidst a slew of injuries and some lackluster play, the days of King looking like a cornerback of the future are long gone. The days ahead are murky, but his past achievements show a slight glimpse of the player that could have been.
Injury upon injury
The story of King invariably comes back to his extensive injury history. The guy just can’t stay on the field for an extended period of time. These absences have unfortunately led to dips in the effectiveness of King’s play over the years.
Stemming back to his days at Washington State, King has dealt with injuries to the following areas:
This laundry list of ailments has led to King only playing in a combined 41 regular-season games over his four-year career. He still has not played a full season.
His 2020 campaign was also marred by injuries, as an early-season quad injury and some late-season Achilles and groin nicks kept King from ever finding a rhythm. This inability to stay on the field is one of the likely reasons that led to King’s poor performance in the NFC Championship game.
King’s propensity for missing time is a key contributor to Green Bay’s decision to give him a one-year contract. With an already dire cap situation, the Packers cannot afford to gamble on a player with his injury history. This small of a contract is a low-risk move, with a potentially high reward if King can recapture his better form.
the talent is there
King is a starting cornerback when healthy.
His 2019 season with Green Bay was certainly his best year. He played in 15 games and had five interceptions to lead the team, surpassing Jaire Alexander. He also broke up 15 passes. King’s ability to stay on the field that year had a positive correlation with his performance, which is something that cannot be said about every other season he has played in the NFL.
The 2021 NFL season will be King’s fifth in the league. If he can stay on the field consistently, he should perform at a high level. He’s continually shown glimpses of that potential throughout his career. It is now up to him to capitalize on what could be his last opportunity with the Packers.
The reduced snap count this year should help him stay healthy and play at a high level. It is no question that Alexander will play almost every snap on defense, with King and Stokes prospectively splitting the reps at the opposite CB position to start the season. Stokes has the 4.24 speed to run with any WR he is matched up against, and as he will inevitably have some growing pains as a rookie, King will be there to fill in the gaps.
As the team’s third cornerback, King looks poised to have a bounce-back year. He’s on a team-friendly deal and will not have nearly the same amount of pressure on him as he has had in the past. This should allow him to let the game come to him, and that readjustment will allow him to thrive in a positional group that now looks like one of the deepest in the NFL.
King has nothing to lose and everything to prove. Look for him to put last year’s mishaps behind him and have a solid season for the Packers.