Packers’ youngsters: A King & his court

By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA

Second-year cornerback Kevin King holds key to defensive secondary’s success in ‘18

GREEN BAY, Wis. –     The Packers’ defense is on the hot seat. It’s time to be more than a bottom-tier unit. It’s time to be something other than the weak link.

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It’s time to shine.
There’s plenty of room for improvement, which means being better than the 2017 defense isn’t nearly enough. The Packers’ defense better show marked improvement. If not it’s an indictment of the entire operation, from the president on down.
The great unknown is how much better will the defense be?
Will it be good enough to stop the run, force the pass and get after the quarterback? Will it hold up against the NFC’s array of offensive weaponry? Will it hold its ground when the Packers’ offense – even with the great Aaron Rodgers – struggles a bit?
Yes, the defense is on the hot seat.
That means Kevin King is in the midst of the fire. The second-year cornerback showed enough promise as a rookie to suggest he can be a very good NFL starting cornerback.
King, a lean 6-3, 200-pound athlete, got a taste of the league’s best wide receivers. He battled as best he could, even though a shoulder injury hampered his playing time and subsequently his development as a rookie.
But even in limited time, King flashed the talent that made him the Packers’ first pick (second round) of the 2017 draft.
The Packers’ secondary is going to be better. King’s presence gives it a chance to be something special.
That “it” factor? I believe King has it.
More good news is that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy declared King ready for the start of training camp. The shoulder should be fine. King’s psyche also is intact.
“One thing about me, I’m never going to surprise myself in things I do or how I react to things,” King told reporters at the Packers’ mandatory minicamp last week.
“I’m my biggest critic,” he said. “But at the same time I’m my biggest supporter and I know what I’m capable of as well. In that aspect I will never surprise myself.”
Naturally, the Packers’ rookie cornerbacks – Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson – will garner much attention early in camp. So will Tramon Williams and Davon House.
King is the lynchpin though.
He’s the tallest of the corners. He’s also the second-fastest behind Alexander. Furthermore, he’s got the greatest chance to be the No. 1 corner because he’s been here for a season.
It’s likely he’ll be seeing a lot of the Julio Joneses and Antonio Browns of the NFL.
“Yeah, that’s what I’m here to do and I hope that’s what everybody’s here to do,” King said of shutting down the game’s top receivers. “When you’re out there on that island, and you’ve got the best guy in the world potentially coming up, you’re going to see what you’re made of for sure – mentally and physically. But it starts mentally. If you go up and you’re defeated at the jump, then he’s already got you. It was definitely great for me to judge the best in the world versus myself.
“It was definitely a confidence boost.”
King is expecting great competition, and not just from receivers. He views himself as the No. 1 cornerback, but he knows he’s got to earn the title. No one is going to hand it to him.
“It’s going to be extremely competitive,” he said. “Competition, it brings out the best of everyone, or it should. It’s either going to bring the dog out of you or the little poodle out of you, the little puppy, you know what I’m saying? You either rise to the challenge or you’re going to get left behind.”
King has no intention of falling behind.
He intends to join the other defensive leaders to help build a rugged, gritty unit that can do some damage.
“We all came here for a reason,” King said of his teammates. “Of course the Packers, that’s what’s on our logo, but we came here to play, we came here to produce, we came here to be great, collectively, and everybody wants to be a piece of that.”