Former college receiver Kabion Ento making tough transition to cornerback
GREEN BAY – It wasn’t exactly the same thing as Jaire Alexander snuffing out a two-minute drill against Aaron Rodgers with a pair of sparkling plays Tuesday in practice, but cornerback Kabion Ento is starting to show up around the ball like his Green Bay Packers teammate.
It was a good week for the second-year pro, who is trying to make the transition from college wide receiver to NFL defensive back.
“He's done a really nice job,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “I think this is probably the healthiest he's been since he's been here. And so just to get an opportunity to go watch him in some preseason games now is what we're really excited about.
“He's got tremendous ball skills. I mean, he's a former wide receiver. So, he's got a knack for finding a way to get the ball out.”
On Tuesday, Ento broke up a Rodgers pass to Equanimeous St. Brown on second-and-10 in a two-minute drill. On Thursday, he broke up a two-point conversion attempt from Kurt Benkert to Devin Funchess. And he finished the week breaking up two third-down passes to receiver Malik Taylor in the Saturday night practice in the stadium.
It continued a trend of him being around the ball, which is one way to move up the depth chart.
“I'm trying to make the most of my reps, no matter who it is, no matter whether it’s (Rodgers) or Jordan (Love) or Davante or Malik. I just believe whoever it is, that’s who I have to guard.
“It always feels good to make a play, but I got to get over it because the next play they could throw a bomb over my head and this could be a whole different conversation, right?”
Ento was such a surprise in training camp after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado that the Packers stashed him on their practice squad and let him work on his new position. At 6-1, 187 pounds, Ento was a little light for a receiver and with 4.54-second speed in the 40-yard dash wasn’t a speedster.
But he had a 41½-inch vertical leap and showed good feet for the position and so some scouts worked him out as a corner and some as a wide receiver. The Packers offered him a chance to compete for a job at cornerback and he accepted.
From the beginning, even while wearing an unusual number on his jersey (48), he looked like someone who could run and play the ball. Ento returned in 2020 and had a legitimate shot at making the 53-man roster before suffering a Jones fracture in his foot while running a special teams drill.
He came back healthy this year and has picked up where he left off.
“It might sound a little weird, but I felt like a DB when I stepped in the building,” he said. “That's because I had to. I didn't have a choice. And I could have stepped in and said, ‘I’m a receiver covering y’all.’
“As good as that sounds, I wasn’t a wide receiver anymore. I had to realize that I am a DB now and every day I'm continuing to learn how to be a DB. So, I am a DB, I feel like a DB and I’m continuing to improve my game as a DB.”
Barry not likely to show his hand
When he was defensive coordinator, Dom Capers used to run some of his blitzes during the preseason games, figuring it was more important for his players to work on them in live action than it was hiding them from future opponents.
It doesn’t sound like new defensive coordinator Joe Barry will be doing that, despite installing a new scheme that his players have only run in practice.
“Basically, most teams, you’ve got to have a foundation, right? And so, you're going to call a lot of the stuff that you are going to call in the season. I would just say some of the – whether you want to call them exotics, or whatnot – just some of the nuances and wrinkles that you have within your scheme, I'd say typically, most teams kind of stay away from that.”
LaFleur has said he will hold select veterans out of the preseason games to protect them, but on defense the No. 1 unit is going to need some work running the scheme and so it’s possible a good number of starters will get at least a little time in the three games.
Among the group of young safeties defensive backs coach Jerry Gray is working with are 6-2, 202-pound Vernon Scott, 6-foot, 204-pound Henry Black, 6-3, 209-pound Christian Uphoff and 6-1, 202-pound Innis Gaines.
All of them are considered big safeties who can add some physicality to the defense.
Gray has told them that if they want to make the roster, the guy they need to impress first is special teams coach Maurice Drayton. He said unless they’re competing for starting jobs – and they’re not – they must solidify their standing through special teams play.
“When you find big safeties, those guys can actually go and be good on special teams for you, and then they can actually graduate to playing safety,” Gray said. “I mean, knock on wood, we’ve got two good safeties right now.
“So, the guy coming in, he has to be a good special teams player first. And if you can do that at a high level, then we'll let you play safety. We’ll put you in in certain packages, we'll give you those chances.”