Packers Rule Out Another Starter Ahead of 49ers Matchup

Kevin King Out Week 3

Getty Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers looks on against the Detroit Lions during the first half at Lambeau Field on September 20, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The Green Bay Packers will be missing another starter when they take the field for Sunday Night Football in Week 3.

Several hours before their road matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, the Packers added starting cornerback Kevin King to their injury report and ruled him out with an illness that is not COVID-related (as they would be required to report it as such). It will be the fifth consecutive season in which King has missed at least one start for Green Bay.

Fortunately, the Packers have first-round rookie Eric Stokes primed and ready to fill as the starter opposite Jaire Alexander on the outside. Stokes played a good amount of his 44 snaps at the outside spot in Week 2’s win over the Detroit Lions, finishing with two pass deflections while King primarily played in the slot. If Stokes does start, it is likely that Chandon Sullivan will resume his role as the team’s slot cornerback.

King is one of three Packers ruled out for Sunday night’s game in San Francisco, including left tackle and Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins with an ankle injury. The Packers will also be without tight end Dominique Dafney for the next several weeks after they put him on the injured reserve list with a hip injury on September 25.

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Packers Could Divide Slot Responsibilities

There is a solid chance Stokes would have been a starter either way for the Packers on Sunday night. The coaching staff was pleased with what their prized rookie accomplished in Week 2 with an increase in reps and also felt like they had success when using King on the inside as their slot cornerback.

“By in large, when (King) was inside, I thought he did a really good job,” LaFleur said earlier in Week 3. “I thought Stokes coming in on the outside, he competed and had multiple pass breakups, so I thought it was overall just everything that went on there, including Kevin inside, was good for us.”

With King out in Week 3, though, the challenge now becomes finding the right piece or pieces that can be deployed on the inside for their defense. Sullivan manned the slot role for the majority of the 2020 season and seems like the obvious candidate to step in, but they could be tempted to move Alexander around based on matchups, especially if the Niners put Deebo Samuel in the slot frequently.

The Packers also have a versatile safety in Darnell Savage Jr. who can handle slot responsibilities. Moving Savage would hinge on the Packers’ confidence in Henry Black being able to pick up his safety reps, but it is something they have already thought about while adapting their personnel to fit Joe Barry’s defensive scheme. After all, Savage is a natural fit for the “star” position in Barry’s system.

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