Green Bay Packers first-round pick Eric Stokes has gotten some meaningful reps with the first-team defense over the first few weeks of training camp, but it sounds as though No. 2 starting cornerback job is still Kevin King’s to lose.
Packers defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Jerry Gray spent a good portion of his press conference this past Sunday talking about how valuable it has been for Stokes to get experience against the team’s starting offense so early in his first NFL training camp. The former Georgia standout has been filling in for King, who has been on the non-football injury list since the first day of practice on July 28 and has not yet participated in a single session.
Gray was also clear, though, that he doesn’t believe King — or any of his players, for that matter — should be worried about losing their job while spending time on the injury list. Here’s what Gray said about King vs. Stokes on Sunday:
To me, and I think that’s a decision with (defensive coordinator) Joe (Barry) and with (head coach) Matt (LaFleur) as far as whose job it is, but my perspective (is) I don’t think a guy can lose his job when he’s injured. I don’t think that’s fair. I think you lose your job on the football field, and if a guy takes your job, hey, you got your job taking, but it’s not off of an injury. I expect for Kevin, when he does come back … I think that’s going to be a plus. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a position like this where you have three premier corners. And you know what? We have a decision where you can only play two, but guess what? That don’t mean we can’t play one every other series and then save the other guy.
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Gray Appreciative for Stokes’ Early Reps
Stokes, the No. 29 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, has been asked a number of times to compete against the dynamic duo of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams since camp began, which is a pretty steep learning curve for a rookie cornerback. Rodgers is coming off a season in which he threw 48 touchdown passes and won his third league MVP, while Adams is widely considered one of the best wide receivers currently playing in the NFL. And so far, they’ve taken their fair share of opportunities to remind Stokes of that fact in camp.
To Gray, though, those types of challenges are an important “plus” to a coach trying to evaluate a premier first-round talent.
“When you draft a young kid, you come in (and) he really doesn’t get a lot of chances to go against the first group unless it’s scout team,” Gray said. “Well, you’re not going against scout team, you’re out there with the first unit. The good thing is you’re going against one of the premier receivers in the league and probably one of the top quarterbacks in the league.
So on Sunday, your job should be a lot easier. Every receiver is not going to be like Davante, every quarterback is not going to be like Aaron, and if you don’t get frustrated in practice, that’s only making you better. You’re going to get better. Guess what? You’re going to get beat, but you know what, you’re going to make your fair share of plays.”