The Packers defense has taken significant strides from 2020. They’re not world-beaters statistically, but they’re getting the job done more often than not. Defensive tackle Kenny Clark is returning to form after a down year last season, Preston Smith is making plays, and Rashan Gary is blossoming into a star. The one player without a home this season has been Kevin King. Chandon Sullivan and Henry Back have rotated in as the Nickel and Dime corners respectively and cornerbacks Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes have won the spots outside.
King has played solidly in spot duty through the season, but the most recent way the Packers have used him is as the Dime corner.
Kevin King as the Dime and in a double mug look
With Kevin King’s growth in his willingness to tackle, the Packers twice put him at the Dime linebacker position against Minnesota. In those looks, Green Bay took a page out of Mike Zimmer’s playbook and showed a “double mug” look with Kevin King and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell both walked up into the A-gaps. The goal of those looks is to create protection issues for the offensive line. It can give one-on-one matchups for the Packers’ pass rushers outside because of the threat of the double A-gap blitz.
Using King in that spot gives the Packers a little more versatility in being able to bail out of that look. Dropping out creates the protection stress and communication issues while still being able to cover all the needed zones. In the case of King, that gives Green Bay a defensive back that is rangier and better in coverage than a linebacker. He can more quickly spot drop after being lined up close to the line of scrimmage than guys like linebackers Krys Barnes or Oren Burks. While defensive coordinator Joe Barry didn’t ever send King on a blitz from that position, King was able to bail and interrupt passing lanes.
The Packers brought a lot of five-man pressures against the Vikings and this is one of those looks. King bails to the middle hole while Campbell engages with the center. Green Bay is trying to stunt defensive tackle Kenny Clark around Campbell to create a free rusher. The threat of the A-gap blitzes creates a one-on-one to the top for Dean Lowry, who is able to create some movement and close the pocket.
On the snap, King looks to identify any crossers and protect the quick throw. Afterward, though, he needs to find Dalvin Cook and attach to him in man coverage. King sees Cook engage to block Rashan Gary and then leaves him uncovered. The Packers are running Cover 1 with safety Adrian Amos spinning down on the tight end and Darnell Savage taking the deep middle. That means every player should be in man coverage underneath.
King is the only one that doesn’t attach to a man. If Cook had indeed stayed in pass protection, King would have been right to sit in the middle hole and wall off any crossers. However, by not recognizing Cook leaking out and with everyone else attached in man coverage, the Vikings could have had an easy dump off to their star running back for a big gain.
The Packers ran the same look earlier in the game with both King and Campbell dropping into coverage. This time, they’re running a Tampa 2 variation with Savage dropping into the middle of the field. Typically, a linebacker “runs the pole” in the middle of the field in Tampa 2. That helps protect against posts and seams. Instead of a linebacker dropping vertically, Savage is occupying that area. That leaves cornerback Chandon Sullivan to rotate back into a deep half zone. Rasul Douglas gets a little greedy on the in-breaking route from the #1 receiver, but he has help from King to wall that off. That’s the benefit of having someone smaller and faster like King in the mug position. He can get into windows more quickly than linebackers could. By jumping that route underneath, Sullivan opens the window for the corner route behind him.
The Packers are trying to find ways to get King on the field. His special teams snaps have gone up in the last month, but his defensive snaps have dropped dramatically since the Kansas City game. He has played only 27 total defensive snaps over the last three games. It seems it will largely depend on matchups whether Henry Black or Kevin King get those Dime reps. It is clear Kevin King is the odd man out with Rasul Douglas assuming the mantle of CB2 and if cornerback Jaire Alexander comes back, that may bump King off the field entirely.