Ryan Wood and Aaron Nagler discuss the play of Packer quarterback Brett Hundley and wide receiver Max McCaffrey against the Eagles in their first preseason game. (Aug. 11, 2017) USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY – This was Kevin King’s first chance to really show his mettle. The type of moment that shows why instant amnesia is an important skill for NFL cornerbacks.
His preseason debut was off to a nightmarish start. On his first series, the Green Bay Packers rookie cornerback coughed up a touchdown. Not only that, but after blowing coverage against Philadelphia Eagles receiver Mack Hollins, King got back in the play only to be knocked out again with a stiff arm at the 15-yard line.
To be fair, the play should’ve never happened. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews had a clean shot at Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, only to slide off his back.
King wasn’t making excuses.
“I’ve just got to stick to my guy,” King said. “I’ve got to do my job regardless of what else is going on. Until I hear the whistle, I’ve got to do my job. It’s an easy fix, but it’s something that you’ve got to work on. Because guarding the guy for that long is tough. So you’ve got to work on it.”
DOUGHERTY: Kevin King takes lumps but flashes ability
Later in the first quarter, Eagles running back Donnel Pumphrey caught a pass near the right sideline. King wasn’t missing this tackle. With close to a 5-yard running start, King delivered a vicious hit just past the line of scrimmage.
For Pumphrey, it was a painful 1-yard gain.
So went the first preseason snaps of King’s career. It was an erratic debut, plenty of mistakes mixed with the good. After each misstep, King showed the resiliency necessary for rookie cornerbacks. For a secondary that often allowed problems to compound last season, it was an encouraging sign.
Take the 38-yard catch King allowed against Eagles receiver Bryce Treggs down the right sideline. King appeared to play underneath Treggs, thinking he had safety help over the top. When Treggs caught quarterback Matt McGloin’s pass, he put the Eagles into field goal position with 1:26 left.
No, the play was not ideal. Instead of crumbling, King stopped Pumphrey in his tracks again on the next play, holding the running back to no gain on a short pass. One snap later, King had a size disadvantage against 6-foot-4, 255-pound Eagles tight end Billy Brown, but his tackle held up Brown long enough for linebacker Blake Martinez to arrive at the sideline and force a fumble.
“I knew he was trying to get around,” King said. “So I was trying to turn his legs around. I know the pursuit is coming. We work on that every day in practice, pursuit and finish. So I knew it was coming. You couldn’t draw it up any better than that.”
King made one more important play on the first half’s final defensive snap, tackling Treggs two yards short of the first-down marker on third down. If not for that tackle, the Eagles would have the football deep in Packers territory with 45 seconds left. Instead, the Eagles were forced to kick a 46-yard field goal that hit the right upright as time expired.
The rookie’s tackle likely saved points.
Not that he was patting himself on the back in the locker room. It was a humbling night, showing King there’s still plenty to work on between now and the Packers opener Sept. 10 against the Seattle Seahawks. When reporters approached, veteran corner Davon House shooed them away. House and King were deep in conversation, reflecting on the night.
Being a corner, King will need to tighten up the leaks in his coverage. His tackling, a knock on him entering the draft, was better than expected. Even more, King showed maybe the most important trait for any young corner.
He kept his composure when plays turned bad.
“I mean, I missed a tackle that led to a touchdown,” King said. “So it’s give and take. I made tackles that, it feels good getting your hat on people, but it’s the things that you missed that resonate a little more.”