Packers will weigh how much to play Kevin King down the stretch
GREEN BAY – Kevin King suffered a shoulder injury two weeks ago against the New York Giants and though he practiced all of last week, it was determined before kickoff that the Green Bay Packers cornerback would miss his first game of the year against Washington.
King practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report. Tight end Jimmy Graham (wrist/groin) also is questionable.
“He did a nice job,” head coach Matt LaFleur said Friday of King’s practice week. “I think we’ll have him; I don’t want to speak out of turn but I’m optimistic that he’ll be ready to go. But there’s still 48 hours or whatever before game time.”
King, who missed 17 of 32 potential games his first two seasons, has set career highs in interceptions (4), passes defensed (13) and tackles (55) and recorded his first career sack through the first 12 games. With the Packers on the verge of solidifying a playoff spot, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will weigh how best to use the third-year corner down the stretch.
Against Washington, Tramon Williams started opposite Jaire Alexander but would still move to the slot position at times. Chandon Sullivan and Josh Jackson also saw time at corner.
“We’ve talked through all the possible scenarios, and that’s where a guy like Tramon, his flexibility allows you to do that where he can play in a variety of spots,” Pettine said. “He’s just logged so many – had just so much experience that you can put him in a certain spot, similar to what happened last weekend, that he was able to step in and do some good things for us without really getting that many practice reps. We’ll see how it plays with Kevin, and that’s something ultimately by either late (Friday) or some point on Saturday we’ll have a pretty good idea, pretty firm plan on how we want the rotation to work out.”
Packers switch it up
The Packers remain one of the healthiest teams in football as all 53 players on the active roster participated in Friday’s practice to some degree.
And, the defense had some fun on Friday the 13th, as Za’Darius Smith initiated a jersey swap among the outside linebackers and defensive linemen just before they headed over to the Don Hutson Center from the locker room.
Montravius Adams and Za’Darius Smith swapped, as did Kenny Clark and Preston Smith and Tyler Lancaster and Kyler Fackrell. Due to the mismatched number of outside linebackers (4) and linemen (5), Dean Lowry wore Kingsley Keke’s jersey, Keke wore Rashan Gary’s and Gary wore Lowry’s.
“I swapped with Kyler and first of all, he’s the thinnest in the group,” the 313-pound Lancaster said of his 245-pound teammate. “My upper body is arguably the biggest. That was an interesting fit. I kind of channeled my inner Kyler and got an interception today. ‘51,’ you know? It was a lot of fun.”
Bears may present new look
Perhaps one reason for the Packers’ inconsistency on offense is that their opponents have been just as inconsistent on defense – meaning they are presenting coverages that they have not run in previous games. On several occasions, including Washington last week, opposing defensive coordinators have not just broken tendencies from the previous week, but installed completely new calls.
That has often left the Packers' offensive coaches remixing their game plans on the fly once the ball has been put in play.
“We just have to continue to be ready for that and not be surprised by it,” Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “I think kind of earlier you get a plan and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, they are doing something completely different.’ But now, hey, that’s almost the norm.”
Special teams duel
Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga worked under Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor in Cleveland from 2011-17, and that familiarity with scheme and thought process may be tested Sunday.
“Yeah, we’ve got the playbooks from the past and those kind of things,” Mennenga said. “We know each other well. You guys know our history. I’m sure he’s come up with some more things. He’s a great coach, does a great job. So far, I know what we’ve done in the past and things and how it’s blocked up.”
The Bears are in a must-win situation, which means Bears head coach Matt Nagy may give Tabor the green light to pressure Mennenga’s group. The Packers have had one punt blocked this year (against the Los Angeles Chargers), but kicker Mason Crosby has not been pressured. The Packers have also eliminated the big returns on kickoffs and have markedly cut down on penalties and the big, game-breaking mistakes made a year ago.
On the flip side, Nagy and Tabor have proved in their short time together that they are willing to push the envelope, as the Packers saw first-hand with a fake punt attempt in Chicago last December that the Packers stopped.
“Yeah, I know Chris is aggressive and we’ve run fakes in the past,” Mennenga said. “We’ve looked at all those fakes with our punt-return team and our defense-stay and all those things. We’ve watched all those and talked about that. Our guys are well aware of what’s at stake in those kind of situations, so we’ll continue to prep on that and make them aware of everything that they’ve done and those kind of things.”