A quick overview of three storylines that could help determine the outcome of Sunday's showdown between the Green Bay Packers and the Cleveland Browns.
GREEN BAY – Even though Kevin King has been in and out of games due to a shoulder injury, the Green Bay Packers’ decision Wednesday to put the rookie cornerback on injured reserve will be felt in the secondary the rest of the season.
King, the Packers’ first pick in the second round, has played the most snaps of any of the team’s draft choices except safety Josh Jones, and his ability to man one of the outside corner positions helped settle the often-used nickel lineup.
But the Packers apparently felt it was best to shut him down for the rest of the season rather than risk the injury getting worse. King aggravated his left shoulder against Pittsburgh and played only 40 snaps, then sat out the Tampa Bay game Sunday.
“I mean, it just sucks for a guy who was playing so, so well,” cornerback Damarious Randall said. “You see a lot of potential in him. I just can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next year.”
To replace him on the 53-man roster, the Packers activated Demetri Goodson from the physically unable to perform list. Goodson did not practice Wednesday because he was nursing a hamstring injury. It’s not clear if he’ll be active Sunday at Cleveland.
The Packers were also missing starting cornerback Davon House, who injured his left shoulder against Tampa Bay. Though he finished the game, House indicated afterward that the injury might be something to be concerned about.
House declined to talk about the injury Wednesday, saying he needed to go get treatment.
If House can’t play, the Packers have a problem. Randall would be one of their starting corners and Josh Hawkins probably would be the other. They probably would have to play safety Morgan Burnett in the slot because Burnett can’t play outside.
Last Sunday, Randall and House matched up against the Bucs' DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans and defensive coordinator Dom Capers may decide to match Randall against Josh Gordon, Cleveland’s standout receiver who returned Sunday from a three-year absence due to multiple violations of the substance abuse policy.
The Browns targeted Gordon 11 times in his debut and he caught four passes for 85 yards. But that would mean the Browns might be able to create some favorable match-ups against Burnett.
Asked if it was going to be difficult to prepare this week not necessarily knowing where he would be playing Sunday, Randall said no.
“I know exactly where I’m going to be, but y’all don’t know where I’m going to be,” Randall told a group of reporters.
Goodson probably isn’t in a position to help much on defense after missing an entire year due a catastrophic knee injury he suffered last season. He began practicing three weeks ago and Wednesday was the deadline for the Packers to decide whether to activate him.
More than likely, he’ll just play special teams, which means either safety Jermaine Whitehead or undrafted rookies Lenzy Pipkins or Donatello Brown may have to play snaps when the team goes to its dime package.
“It’s all about playing together,” Burnett said. “As long as we work together, as long as we communicate, I think we’ll be fine. I mean, I’ve got a lot of trust in the guys in this locker room, just the way that they carry themselves, the way that they prepare.”
King suffered a torn labrum his freshman year at Washington and said he started having trouble with the shoulder off and on his senior year. He started wearing a brace to restrict movement, and it didn’t affect his performance in training camp or early in the season when he worked his way into the starting lineup ahead of Randall.
King started five games, missing the Week 6 contest against Minnesota after suffering a concussion the week before against Dallas. He returned to the starting lineup in Week 7 and stayed there until Randall won the position back.
In nine games, King was responsible for two touchdowns and 2½ completions of 20 or more yards. He missed at least seven tackles, but also had one tackle for loss and showed a willingness to attack ball carriers. He did not have an interception.
King wasn’t able to play his favored bump-and-run coverage much as the season wore on because of his shoulder. He tried to push through, but just wasn’t as effective as he was earlier in the season.
“It’s a double-edged sword because you want to be out there with your guys, but you don’t want to be a liability for the team as well,” Randall said.
King hinted earlier in the season that he might need to have surgery on the shoulder in the offseason, but he never said for sure it was necessary. If he does need surgery, the Packers might have put him on injured reserve now so that they could repair the shoulder and give him a chance to be healthy at the start of training camp next season.