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Packers Friday Musings: Is Josh Jackson the long-term answer instead of Kevin King?

Two fourth-year cornerbacks are trending in opposite directions nearly halfway through their contract seasons.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Round two of the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings will take place this Sunday afternoon as the Packers look to duplicate their offensive success from the teams’ first meeting.

Green Bay’s 43-34 win was not as close as the score would indicate, though the defense relaxed as the second half went on. This time around, the Packers will have a new secondary player in Josh Jackson at their disposal who has been showing vast improvement from previous seasons. Is his success sustainable and his contract figure perhaps a better fit for the Packers moving forward than his counterpart Kevin King? Meanwhile, offensively, Green Bay may have to find new creative ways to keep the Vikings off balance if a few of their offensive chess pieces from Week 1 are unavailable.

Today’s musings focus on those two narratives, as well as the Packers’ best trade commodity of their own as the deadline nears.

Could Tim Boyle be an under-the-radar trade deadline piece?

A lot of the attention leading up to the NFL’s trade deadline on November 3rd has centered around the Packers making a move to bring in a free agent, specifically a wide receiver. But what about the pieces Green Bay could move from its own roster?

Tim Boyle may represent one of those sneaky trade candidates across the league as a third-year quarterback sitting behind a legend. While Boyle does not have a plethora of meaningful on-field experience, he has made some splash throws in past preseasons and received some buzz in camp prior to this season for his growth despite the addition of first-rounder Jordan Love. Over the past couple of decades, the Packers have had plenty of quarterbacks with similarly minimal playing experience become trade pieces (i.e. Aaron Brooks, Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Flynn). Boyle is one of the rare backups to be developed within the Packers’ system since Flynn and could make sense for some quarterback-needy teams.

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston have been some names thrown around deadline rumors, but Boyle could be of some value as well. And don’t forget that the Dallas Cowboys, stricken by the injury bug at the position, have a head coach with direct ties to Boyle. Although it would still be somewhat of a surprise to see Boyle dealt, having Love on the roster does provide some flexibility and the latter would seemingly be the quarterback of the future.

The Packers’ two impending free agent cornerbacks are trending in opposite directions

Heading into this year, it was no secret that Green Bay was going to have big decisions to make following the season on its internal free agents. One of the most difficult of those decisions always figured to be cornerback Kevin King who, before playing 15 games in a breakout 2019 season, had played in just 15 games the prior two seasons due to injuries.

When healthy, King has displayed the level of athleticism and potential required to sign a corner to a long-term extension. But entering Week 8, King has sat out two straight games and had not practiced this week as of Thursday. His injury-riddled past has to weigh on the Packers once again at this point, and while King figures to still cash in on a second contract, the chances that it happens in Green Bay are dropping.

Aided by King’s missed time, third-year corner Josh Jackson may actually be playing his way into a second contract with the Packers after 2021. Jackson’s limited effectiveness in his first two seasons has prevented him from making a major impact to this point, but his encouraging play over the past few games suggests that paying up to bring King back for next season may not provide that much of an upgrade. Green Bay has schemed well to help Jackson’s limitations in terms of deep speed and Jackson has returned the favor with reliable third-down tackling and preventing long runs after the catch. While King’s upside may be higher than Jackson’s, the cost difference may be a serious factor as decisions on David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, and Aaron Jones loom.

This week’s matchup with Minnesota should be another good eye test opportunity for Jackson on the boundary as Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen come to town.

Can the Packers take advantage of the Vikings’ secondary struggles once again, but in a different way?

As great as Davante Adams’ performance was last week, the star receiver put on another show in Week 1 the last time the Packers and Vikings met. Adams hauled in 14 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns that day as part of a near-flawless passing day from Aaron Rodgers. There is no doubt that Adams will be targeted routinely this time against Minnesota as well, but where will the rest of the production come from?

Marquez Valdes-Scantling had an all-too-typical MVS day in the last meeting, catching four passes for 96 yards, including a highlight 45-yard score, while also dropping two critical targets. Targets have continued to drop for the South Florida product, capped by a zero-catch day against Houston on just four targets. There will also be no Allen Lazard this time around and Tyler Ervin continues to be a limited participant at practice. Those two specifically played an instrumental role in jet sweeps that helped keep the Vikings’ defense guessing all afternoon. Green Bay has been much less effective in those plays since the injuries hit.

Minnesota has been hit by the injury bug at cornerback, however, with Mike Hughes, Cameron Dantzler, Holton Hill, and Kris Boyd all dealing with missed time to some effect. Who can suit up remains a question, but the experience level of all young players has increased since Week 1, especially for rookies Dantzler and Jeff Gladney. The Vikings’ trade of Yannick Ngakoue helps the Packer offensive line in terms of pressure, but Mike Zimmer has been consistently good at disguising his defenses against the Packers with the exception of earlier this year.

One has to expect the Vikings to be more ready for Green Bay this time around, but can the Packers’ new offensive concepts involving the running backs and tight ends in the passing game help offset the absence of jet sweeps and vertical threats?

(Editor’s note: the article initially referred to Jackson as being in his fourth NFL season, instead of his third. This has been clarified.)