GREEN BAY, Wis. — Kevin King didn’t think his NFL debut would consist of only six snaps on defense. Even after his snap count increased by 40 in Week 2, he’s still not sure what will happen next.
The Green Bay Packers’ top draft pick should expect his role in Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals — and beyond — to resemble the latter rather than the former.
The second-round cornerback put together a strong showing in Sunday’s 34-23 loss at the Atlanta Falcons. It was one of a couple of positive takeaways from an otherwise dispiriting loss for a defense that still hasn’t figured out how to slow down Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
King didn’t start against the Falcons, but it would be a shock if he didn’t have that job going forward.
“If anything, he’s earned the right to potentially play more,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Smooth, confident athlete. He’s getting healthy and he looks comfortable out there. I like the progression that Kevin’s making.”
The 6-foot-3, long-armed, speedy cover man did exactly what the Packers hoped he would when they picked him at No. 33 overall in the draft. He ran with Jones, he broke up a pass and he tackled.
“I thought I was going to play a lot last week,” King said. “And next week I could play six snaps again, who knows? I didn’t come here to sit, so …”
The Packers turned to King before the first quarter was over. He replaced Damarious Randall at right cornerback. Randall returned late in the game after left cornerback Davon House sustained a quad injury. Randall and Quinten Rollins, the slot cornerback, both struggled. King, meanwhile, allowed just one completion — a 12-yard slant to Taylor Gabriel with 5:40 left in the game. He was targeted four other times, according to Pro Football Focus, and did not allow another completion.
“I thought Kevin did a good job,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “I think he continues to grow, you know? We’re encouraged with his progress. He competes well. You saw him break up a couple balls on crossing routes. He’s not afraid to get up and challenge receivers, and I like his style of play.”
Injuries could determine some of what happens at cornerback. House said he does not believe his quad injury will be problematic; he likened it to a muscle cramp after the game. If that’s the case, then the Packers’ starting cornerback pairing likely will be House and King. McCarthy and Capers then will have to decide who to play in the slot between the struggling Randall and Rollins, or perhaps give rookie Lenzy Pipkins a shot. Pipkins, an undrafted free agent, has been inactive for the first two games.
Another second-round pick, safety Josh Jones, also saw his first extended action on defense after Kentrell Brice left Sunday’s game because of a groin injury.
“As we go along, you see these young guys [and] their reps increase based off of [them getting] more comfortable,” Capers said. “You want to be able to put them out there and have them have success. So I think Kevin, each step I think you’ll see him get more reps as we go along here. Josh Jones last night, I thought he went in and did a nice job. He played more snaps than what he’s played. Both of those guys, I think you’re going to see their reps increase.”
Said King: “I plan for a big role every week. I feel like I’m a starter whenever I step on the field.”