Green Bay Packers: Eric Stokes Needs More Playing Time

Aug 21, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Eric Stokes (21) during warmups prior to the game against the New York Jets at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 21, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Eric Stokes (21) during warmups prior to the game against the New York Jets at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

This is a Green Bay Packers team that if provided with the opportunity to bring a rookie along slowly, they’ll do just that.

Over the last few drafts, while there are rookies who would see significant playing time during the season, and in some cases even early on, Darnell Savage was the only rookie who was a preferred starter right away. Even for Elgton Jenkins, it took an injury to Lane Taylor before he was the full-time guard.

And this is what we are seeing take place with Green Bay Packers first-round pick Eric Stokes.

While Stokes took some very valuable reps with the team’s starting defense during training camp and was even compared to Jaire Alexander as well as Sam Shields by Davante Adams, it was evident all along that the CB2 role belonged to Kevin King—at least initially.

At different points during the summer, defensive backs coach Jerry Gray would mention that he does not believe that a player should lose their starting spot because of an injury. Meanwhile, Matt LaFleur would talk about how highly King is valued within the building.

"“He’s a guy I have a lot of faith, a lot of confidence in,” LaFleur said via the Wisconsin State Journal. “I think when he’s healthy, he’s really tough to deal with. He was a guy I was super-excited to get back. He’s a resilient guy. He’s a smart guy. I think our value (of him) within our building is much higher maybe than public perception is out there.“"

During Sunday’s game against New Orleans, Stokes was on the field for only eight defensive snaps where he was targeted one time and logged the only pass breakup that this Green Bay defense had.

On the flip side, King was on the field for 56 defensive snaps and was targeted only two times, according to PFF ($$), but we saw the same issues pop up.

The first completion was on a comeback route for 17 yards where King was spun-around and way too slow out of his break to get anywhere near contesting the play.

Then there was the big one, the play that looked eerily similar to Scotty Miller’s touchdown in the NFC Championship game. King was in zone coverage, and Deonte Harris ran a skinny post right past him for an easy 55-yard touchdown catch. Again, King wasn’t even close to contesting the reception.

King also was unable to provide any help on the several running plays where the Packers lost contain on the edge and he ran into Chandon Sullivan on what ended up being a wide open touchdown catch for Juwan Johnson.

I understand if your frustrations are with King, but really it should be with the coaching staff at this point.

The 2019 season was King’s best, where he was healthy and recorded five interceptions along with 11 pass breakups, but unfortunately, that year was the outlier. Now in his fifth season, we know who King is as a player, yet the coaches continue to put him in the same positions.

LaFleur has talked on a few occasions about how he wants to see the cornerbacks, particularly King, playing press-man where he can be physical at the line of scrimmage. But as we saw on Sunday, even with a new defensive coordinator, the Green Bay Packers continued to run a lot of soft zone.

What’s the definition of insanity again? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Now having said all of that, King isn’t going anywhere this season. He will likely see a reduced role at some point, but he is going to be a part of this defense. And cutting him isn’t an option.

For one, the Packers don’t have enough depth at this position to lose an experienced player like King. Not to mention that Green Bay would suffer a dead cap hit of $1.8 million if they were to cut him, according to Over the Cap. From a salary cap standpoint, it’s cheaper to have King on the roster than off.

When it comes to Stokes, he is of course still a rookie and undoubtedly will take some lumps this season. But to put it simply, it’s time for a change—something different. Stokes needs more snaps moving forward, and King needs his snap count reduced.