Kevin King isn’t exactly known for tackling. In his past three seasons, King has a missed tackle rate of 16.6%. Which, let’s just say, is… not good. Since Joe Barry has come along, the Packers have become one of the best tackling teams in the NFL. The improvement in tackling has reached even as long and as far as Kevin King. This year, his missed tackle rate has dropped to just 5.6%. He still has his moments in coverage, like playing eight yards off on third and short, but overall, Kevin King is playing much better this season. He’s not busting coverages as often, is contributing in the run game, and is generally where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there.
There were numerous times against Kansas City when King was isolated against Tyreek Hill. He was up to the task. Early on in the game, the Chiefs ran one of their favorite Stick/Flat RPOs to Tyreek outside. Mahomes sees the space outside and takes Tyreek in the open field. However, King does a great job of getting under control and breaking down. He uses the sideline to pin Tyreek and wait for help. He isn’t overaggressive and lets Hill eat up time until reinforcements come to clean up the tackle.
Kevin King is showing more physicality and desire to tackle than what we’ve seen in the past. If he can be a solid tackler and a guy that doesn’t get beat deep, you can live with everything else. He’s going to get beat on some stuff underneath or be late to turn his hips, but as long as it’s not the back-breaker of a play, he can be a really valuable depth corner for the Packers this year.
While he’s not perfect in coverage, he has used his length well this year. He’s always been better when he can get his hands on guys at the line of scrimmage and has great athleticism for his size. When he plays off-coverage, though, he struggles with horizontal routes and changing direction. When he has reps like this against Tyreek Hill against the Chiefs, though, it’s easy to imagine what he could be.
The Packers are in match Cover 4 look here with Adrian Amos keying the #3 receiver for a vertical route. As that receiver goes above ten yards, Amos triggers on it. That means Kevin King is isolated on Tyreek Hill. Darnell Savage is spinning off of his #2 receiver since that receiver is running short, but he won’t be there in time to help.
Just like with his tackling, Kevin King is patient and understands that the sideline is his friend. He mirrors and slides without turning his hips too early. He then out-reaches Tyreek when he closes space. That helps him widen Tyreek into the sideline and get him off of his route stem. There’s about a yard of space where Mahomes can throw this ball on the back-shoulder attempt. He’s unable to do that, and the ball falls incomplete.
Of course, there are still glimpses of the Kevin King we’ve come to know all too well. In the same RPO look where he defended Tyreek so well earlier in the game, he doesn’t transfer with motion at the goal line. Since King is the outside-most player, he has to defend that motion. He has both Savage and Campbell there to force and plug inside on the run. His job isn’t to have his eyes in the backfield. He has to carry the motion outside. If Mahomes made the correct read, it would have been a walk-in touchdown for Mecole Hardman.
Kevin King is playing better. He’s not suddenly an All-Pro guy, but he’s coming up to make tackles, has become more aggressive using his hands through the route, and has been a solid depth corner when the Packers have needed him. As a 3rd or 4th boundary corner, you could do much, much worse. King doesn’t need to make the play, but as long as he doesn’t give up the play, the Packers defense can continue to improve and lock down opposing offenses.