GREEN BAY — Joe Whitt doesn’t say things for effect.
The Green Bay Packers veteran assistant coach may get a little carried away when he’s excited about a player’s potential — and maybe that was the case this week — but he’s as straight a shooter as there is on the staff.
So when Whitt, who serves as the team’s defensive passing game coordinator after nearly a decade as the team’s cornerbacks coach, said this week that rookie Jaire Alexander and second-year man Kevin King have the potential to be as good of a cornerback tandem as the great Charles Woodson and Al Harris were in the late 2000s for the Packers, every ear in the room perked up.
“I think Kevin, if he’s fully healthy, I think he can be a really, really good player,” Whitt said. “I think he has the skill set, he’s smart, he can bend, he’s long, he’s a willing tackler. Him and Jaire together, I think, can be a special combination, an Al/Wood type of combination. That’s what those two kids have in their bodies. Now, can they stay healthy like Al and Wood did over that period? We’ll see.”
So far, King has not. He arrived as a second-round pick last year with a shoulder injury that dated back to early in his college career at Washington, was in-and-out of the lineup because of the shoulder and eventually required season-ending surgery, landing him on injured reserve. This year, he missed two games earlier this season with a groin injury and has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. He’s listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field.
Alexander, the team’s first-round pick this season, has made a very good first impression, showing the ability to shadow opponents’ No. 1 receivers when need be. But he missed two games earlier this season with a groin injury, and as a result, he and King have only been on the field together for four of the Packers’ 11 games.
To put them in Harris’ and Woodson’s class — with their 11 combined Pro Bowl selections, nine combined All-Pro selections and Woodson’s likely first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame status — might be a bit of hyperbole. But cornerback-turned-safety Tramon Williams, who played with Harris and Woodson and remains good friends with both of them, said it’s not as far-fetched as one might think.
“I know exactly what (Whitt) is saying,” Williams said. “First of all, he’s saying those two guys definitely are the future here.
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“Now, they have two different styles of play. I like Jaire. His style may be more like Wood. Because he’s really, really physical. And Al was long, Kevin is long. So I can see exactly what Joe’s talking about by body type and play style. But obviously they’ve got a ways to go.”
A good start would be for them to play together against the Cardinals, of course. But they certainly don’t lack for confidence. Told of the comparison, King upped the ante.
“That’s definitely what we want to do. We definitely can do it, we definitely will do it,” King said. “Anything that anybody else can say — ‘I think they can be this good’ — we think we can be better. Ever since I’ve been watching the Packers, they’ve had some real good corners with Tramon and Sam (Shields) and Al and Wood. That’s what I remember from watching the Packers growing up.
“Joe was their coach. We know the standard and Joe knows what it looks like, We’re going to for sure create new standards. That’s always the goal: Create new standards.“
As expected, the Packers listed left tackle David Bakhtiari (knees) as questionable for the game, but because he was able to practice on a limited basis on Thursday – and would have been able to do so again on Friday, had the team practiced – there’s optimism that he will play. Wide receiver Randall Cobb, who has missed six of the past eight games with a hamstring injury, was also officially listed as questionable despite pronouncing himself good to go earlier this week. …
The team ruled out safety Kentrell Brice (ankle/concussion), defensive lineman Mike Daniels (foot), returner Trevor Davis (hamstring), safety Raven Greene (ankle) and running back Tra Carson (ribs).