The Packers need to make Eric Stokes a full-time starter over Kevin King.
From the moment the Green Bay Packers used a first-round pick on Eric Stokes, the pressure was on Kevin King to improve.
King signed a one-year ‘prove it’ deal in the offseason, which came as a surprise to many after a disappointing 2020 season, capped off by one of his worst career performances in January’s NFC title game.
Despite that, King won a starting job ahead of Stokes to begin the season.
Unfortunately, in two games, King was unable to get back to his 2019 form, and again got beaten in coverage far too easily, just like we saw last year.
According to Pro Football Reference, in the two games King has played this season, he has allowed a perfect passer rating in his coverage. Quarterbacks have targeted him seven times, with six completions for 153 yards and a touchdown. One was a 55-yard touchdown from Jameis Winston to Deonte Harris in the season opener.
Stokes only played eight snaps in that game. With King struggling, the rookie needed to be given more opportunities.
Stokes’ snap count increased to 44 in Week 2, and he impressed with a couple of pass defenses while only giving up one reception for five yards.
On Sunday ahead the Packers’ game against the 49ers, it was announced King would miss the game due to illness. This meant Stokes was promoted into a starting job on the outside with Chandon Sullivan playing a full-time role in the slot.
The 49ers went after Stokes, which is to be expected as a he’s a rookie and All-Pro Jaire Alexander is on the other side of the field. While he did have some mistakes along the way, including two pass interference penalties (one was harshly called), the Packers should be pleased with his performance.
Even when Stokes did get beat — all cornerbacks allow completions — he was quick to tackle the receiver and didn’t allow big gains like we’ve seen all too often from King.
Stokes finished the game with five tackles and a pass defense. It was a major test in his first career start. He stepped up and showed he deserved the opportunity, much like Alexander did in his rookie year.
When King returns, he shouldn’t be ahead of Stokes on the outside. It would also be a surprising decision to put him in the slot ahead of Sullivan, who came up with a key stop on third down, finishing the game with a pass defense. Sullivan put in a solid performance.
At this stage, King should be a backup. He’s an experienced player and has played some good football in the past, but until he can improve his consistency, it should be Alexander starting with Stokes and Sullivan.