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Taller, faster: Packers hope draft picks fix defense that often wilted

The Packers hope Kevin King's length will help their secondary fare better against big receivers like Julio Jones. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With two draft picks, the look of the Green Bay Packers' secondary changed in two important ways.

"Taller, definitely taller," Packers director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst said. "Taller and maybe a little faster."

That was the assessment of one of general manager Ted Thompson's top lieutenants after his boss picked Washington cornerback Kevin King and N.C. State safety Josh Jones with his first two picks -- both second-round selections -- in the NFL draft. After Thompson sat out of Thursday's action by trading out of the first round, he went to work on his deficient defense that was run out of the Georgia Dome in the NFC Championship Game last season.

It was almost as if the highlights -- or lowlights in the Packers' case -- of the 44-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons were playing on a loop in Thompson's draft room.

"One of our goals this year was to try and get faster," Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf said after the Packers picked the 6-foot-3 King at No. 33 overall. "I think we got the tallest corner in the draft and a guy that runs really fast and a guy that can make plays on the ball. We’re really excited about it."

Perhaps if King had been on the field in Atlanta back on Jan. 22, the Packers might have had a glimmer of hope against Julio Jones. The Falcons receiver embarrassed Green Bay's secondary with nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns. One of the touchdowns -- a 73-yard catch and run in the third quarter -- encapsulated the problems the 31st-ranked pass defense battled throughout the season. Jones beat cornerback LaDarius Gunter off the line with and then ran away from him on a crossing route before he stiff-armed a chasing Damarious Randall.

"I watched that [game]," King said choosing his words carefully in a conference call with reporters at Lambeau Field. "That was a ... I mean, that was interesting one."

When asked whether he could cover Jones, King laughed and said: "I'm definitely up to it. And I'm definitely ready to get with the coaches and learn the scheme and go out there and make plays for the Packers. I'm ready."

It wasn't just King's size that stood out to the Packers, but also his speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds at the combine.

"We've never had a guy here that's been a 6-3 corner, so we're really excited to get to work with him and see what he can do," Wolf said.

Jones, a 6-1, 200-pound safety, beat that time. He ran it in 4.41 seconds.

The Packers' other pick Day 2, Auburn’s Montravius Adams, also was known for his speed. He ran a 4.87 40 at the combine, an impressive time for a 6-foot-4, 304-pound defensive tackle.

"I think you're always trying to get faster," Thompson said. "I don't think it's a negative thing. Football is about explosiveness, speed, athletic ability. This is not our grandfather's football that we're playing in this day and age. Everybody's fast, everybody's explosive and I think that's what we're trying to get at."