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Packer Defenders King and Jones Must Avoid the Sophomore Slump

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Packer Defenders King and Jones Must Avoid the Sophomore Slump

In all four major sports, the dreaded sophomore slump is often discussed by the many talking heads among the respective media in each sport.  Each year, rookies step up to the plate and perform well.  Expectations then rise for the next season and then "Bam"", the player completely regresses back to rookie form in season number two.  There are plenty of arguments regarding whether or not the sophomore slump is real or if it is just an anomaly, but the numbers are there to prove that it does happen to even the best of them.   Heading into the 2018 season, the Packers top two picks in last year’s draft, Kevin King and Josh Jones, cannot allow that to happen for the defense to be successful.

After trading back from their first-round pick, the Packers selected Kevin King with the first pick in the second round and then later in the same round selected Josh Jones.  Knowing that the secondary needed obvious help, Ted Thompson spent his first two picks on guys that could be able to step in and contribute right away.

As training camp started in July of last year, the hype surrounding both players seemed to be real.  From the beginning of camp, King began working with the number one unit.  While struggling at times, which was to be expected from a rookie corner that missed spring mini-camps, King came on strong through the end of camp and into the preseason.

The same training camp hype came with Josh Jones beginning during mini-camps.  Jones was turning heads with his physical play and ball-hawking skills and Packer Nation was reeling to see what #27 could do on the field in action.

As the regular season came, King stepped in and played right from week one, showing his ability to keep up with some of the league’s best receivers with his tall frame and good speed.  As well, King displayed a knack for being physical in making open field tackles.  But, his season was cut short with a long, lingering shoulder injury that stemmed back from his days at the University of Washington.  After playing through the injury for much of the year, King was shut-down and put on injured reserve in December.

Josh Jones also saw playing time from week one and on during the 2017 season, logging almost 70% of the team’s defensive snaps during the season along with extensive special teams snaps as well.  Jones showed some flashes of brilliance during the 2017 season while playing at both safety and linebacker in the “Nitro” package.  But, with the flashes of brilliance came some serious mental errors on the part of Jones in the form of both penalties and blown assignments.

As the Packers defense moves into the 2018 season with new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine calling the shots, there is no doubt that the top two picks from last year need to avoid the sophomore slump if there is one.  The defensive backfield for the Packers has left a lot to be desired in recent years and both King and Jones were selected to help change the identity of that backfield.  Coach McCarthy often speaks of a second-year jump in players, and that is what Packer fans and the coaching staff will be expecting out of the pair for the coming season.


Ryan Brunner is an avid Packers fan hailing from Chippewa Falls, WI.  He is a firm believer that punters are NFL players too!  Follow him on Twitter @brunwardo

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (21) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

A "Sophomore Slump"? Interesting, I would think King and Jones would had had to show a whole lot more in their rookie seasons to avoid a slump.

King gave me some reason for hope and Jones play in week 3 against the Bengals was very encouraging but IMO it wouldn't take a whole lot to improve from their rookie seasons.

I'll take 16 games from each with a very limited number of blown assignments at this point!

RCPackerFan's picture

Funny. I started typing mine a long time ago, and your's wasn't on here yet. Basically we are saying the same thing.

Bearmeat's picture

Exactly NP. They didn't do enough in their rookie years to call a bad 2nd campaign a "slump." If they have a bad second campaign, they will be trending towards "bust" territory. And the Packers defense will be in big trouble once again.

Mojo's picture

Thought the same thing when I read the story headline.

Don't you have to do something before you can slump from it?

gr7070's picture

Agreed to all. When they both were graded in the low 40s! by PFF there is no such thing as a slump.

Christopher Gennaro's picture

No need add anything, well said.

Turophile's picture

We were riding along on the crest of a slump (King)
and trailing along at the rump of a slump (J.jones).

What we need from them next year are:
athletic freaks at the crest of a peak.

RCPackerFan's picture

IMO, to have a sophomore slump you have to have a great rookie year. IMO, neither player had great rookie years.

Both had good rookie years overall, and showed a lot of potential. But neither was great.

King played really well, but played injured which affected his game. And he ended up missing a lot of time.
Jones flashed a ton of ability and made some huge plays, but was forced to play different positions and never really settled in.

What I want is both players to take a step. I want to see a healthy King being able to play to his full ability.

Jones I want to see what Pettine does with. I just want Jones to be able to settle into a role that fits him. Will he play ILB, S or a specialized role made specifically for him?

If both players could take a Clark/Martinez 2nd year jump I think our defense becomes really, really good.

stockholder's picture

I think we'll see them both be good. Forget the slump. They need to stay injury free. I hope they play well. But I still would draft more here. Signing House still wouldn't hurt.

Handsback's picture

Yeah, it seems that Green Bay players don't have slumps, but injuries that knocks them out for half the season. I will say after suffering from the same thing that King had.....getting his shoulder fixed will make a huge difference in what he can do.

John Kirk's picture

I'm more hoping for them taking a sophomore jump. Neither was very good.

King while a good and willing tackler leaves a lot to be desired in coverage especially running vertically. If I had to bet, I would bet he doesn't give us much more than Davon House gave us overall. Might be a little unfair of me to be so harsh on him considering he was a rookie on a team with little pass rush, but at CB, you can usually tell right away whether a guy can play or can't.

Josh Jones looked good in one game vs. Cincy who had arguably the worst OL in the NFL. That game was the first for their new OC and that team was TD less in it's first two contests. Context is everything. He has all the measurables that many of our guys are missing but he doesn't seem to be all that instinctive or a well rounded football player. Hoping he's not another Taylor Mays, but if Jones was a great football player, and not just a testing freak, he would've gone Round 1. A small school guy might've slipped to Round 2 like Nick Collins, but a guy from the ACC with those testing numbers isn't dropping to the Packers slot in Round 2, if he was a player. His bust potential is worrisome. Hoping Pettine's scheme and some great position coaching elevates this guy.

Colin_C's picture

I think it's way to earlier to pronounce final judgement on these guys. A LOT of great players took 2-3 years to really put it together. Not saying they'll both be HOF's, but let's wait and see a bit. Most of the mistakes Jones made was a result of being out of position (i.e. didn't understand the scheme). And it's sounds like King was essentially playing with one arm because of injury the whole season. I agree that they had underwhelming seasons, but as you said, context is everything.

John Kirk's picture

You're right, CC. This wasn't meant to be a final judgment, rather, my reaction to what I saw based on the only available evidence. It was less than encouraging on those two, while it was very encouraging on our other Jones (33).

Perhaps, things "slow down" for both and they play and not overthink but changing DC's isn't going to do them any favors moving from rookies to 2nd year players. They have another learning curve and have to start all over.

There are a lot more players who bust as opposed to become great players with what we saw in Year 1. I try very hard not to skew toward optimism just because they're Packers. I try hard to form an opinion on our players as if they weren't Packers so as much of my Packers bias stays out of it. As of today, I feel more likely King and Josh Jones aren't going to be players moreso than they will be. I want to be wrong.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Josh Jones was the 9th safety taken. [Yes, that argument cuts both ways.] It was simply a fantastic year for safety talent. In other years, Jones is probably a low first rounder or very high second rounder. His athleticism pops on tape. The only question is whether he is a football player who is a great athlete or just a great athlete.

John Kirk's picture

That's a great point on being the 9th S taken. I was oblivious to that fact. We didn't draft him to be a S, though. He's another dreaded hybrid conversion project prospect.

Your final sentence is my concern. I like his attitude and things I've read about his passion for the game. Hoping they find a role he can play but I wonder if he'll ever be a good traditional safety for us.

worztik's picture

I hope that they can find their way back to GB!!!

Finwiz's picture

Can't you say the same thing every year, about any staring previous years draft pick, that's playing significant snaps? What the big revelation here that generated it's own article....I don't get it.

Ferrari Driver's picture

NP beat us all to the punch and summed up what most every Packer fan feels regarding those two rookies.

Ryan could have stated the worry about Dix in the backfield. He was my greatest disappointment of the season, but I do think our new DC will right that ship if anyone can.

Savage57's picture

"Ha Ha Chicken Dix"

Packer Fan's picture

You can expect one to get better, but not both. And considering what Randall and Rollins did, you just don't know. I expect King to be limited for this first year after shoulder surgery. Dislocated shoulders like to keep popping out after surgery. I know, I had 13 of them. Eight after surgery.

So my point, the Pack better be looking hard at getting a good CB in free agency.

cheesehead1's picture

Don’t see how you can have a sophomore slump when your first season was basically a slump. Hope they both improve greatly under Pettine in year two.

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