GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Packers got a glimpse of what their top two draft picks are capable of during Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals, with hybrid safety/linebacker Josh Jones and cornerback Kevin King making their first NFL starts.
And they did not disappoint.
“Anytime you can get your young players in there and get that experience, (it’s valuable),” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday, one day after the team’s 27-24 overtime victory over the Bengals.
“The plan is to win the game but you’re always, always very cognizant — I always have been — of getting these young players in.
“Let’s face it, when we get to November, December, there’s a very high probability that these guys are going to be playing major roles in these game plans and these big games.”
King and Jones had an impact on an unseasonably hot September Sunday, too.
Also among those impressed by the two youngsters, especially with Jones: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who led a 75-yard fourth-quarter touchdown drive that forced overtime, then hit Geronimo Allison for a 72-yard catch-and-run to set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal.
Jones, who didn’t play a single snap on defense against Seattle in the Sept. 10 regular-season opener for his NFL debut, registered a team-high 12 tackles and had two sacks and three total tackles for loss.
“He was fantastic, he really was. It’s fun to watch him play and get confident,” Rodgers said of Jones. “(That’s important) for young players like that, and for Josh especially.
“He got a lot of action and he made the most of it. He was huge for us with the sacks, with the stops, with the coverage. I’m really happy for him. It was the stuff that we saw in training camp.”
Jones played the hybrid linebacker position as one of four safeties the Packers played for most of the game Sunday.
With safety Kentrell Brice (groin) and inside linebacker Jake Ryan (hamstring/concussion) out, Jones played the linebacker role, veteran Morgan Burnett worked in the slot and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Marwin Evans served as the traditional safeties.
The approach worked, as the Packers limited the Bengals to just 109 second-half yards and did not allow them to convert a third down (0 for 5) after halftime.
“It’s satisfying to know that your preparation paid off, but this is a long season,” said Jones, who made a crucial tackle on a third down to end the Bengals’ only possession of overtime, leading to a punt and setting up the game-winning field goal.
“This is just one game. I expect to continue to do that throughout this season.”
King (No. 33 overall) and Jones (No. 61 overall) were both taken in the first round by a Packers team that clearly needed to upgrade the defensive personnel, particularly in the secondary.
With veteran cornerback Davon House (quadriceps) not playing Sunday, and with third-year corners Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins each having struggled the previous week against Atlanta, defensive coordinator Dom Capers gave King the task of covering Bengals six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green.
Although Green did catch 10 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown — the 10-yard TD, however, came against zone coverage, not against King — his longest reception went for 20 yards.
Given the kind of game-changing plays the Packers secondary has had a penchant for giving up against top receivers, keeping Green from breaking the game open was an accomplishment. King figures to start again on Thursday night against Chicago, even if House is cleared to play.
“I think I did well. I think I did well,” King said. “Like every game we just want to improve. It’s a quick turnaround on Thursday. Good plays, bad plays, you’ve got to move on to the next.”
NOTES: The Packers placed veteran long snapper Brett Goode on injured reserve with a hamstring injury he suffered against the Bengals and signed rookie long snapper Taybor Pepper, who was with the team for part of the offseason program. Goode suffered his injury early on against the Bengals but toughed it out, snapping for the game-tying extra point at the end of regulation and for the game-winning field goal in overtime. … The team’s health issues won’t be helped by the short week, as 12 players were on the injury report when it was released Monday — including the team’s top three active offensive tackles: Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari, who missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury; starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who made his season debut, but left after aggravating the right ankle injury that kept him out the first two weeks; and Kyle Murphy, who started in Bulaga’s place in the opener and for Bakhtiari the past two games but suffered a foot injury against the Bengals. With Jason Spriggs (hamstring) and Don Barclay (ankle) on injured reserve already, the Packers’ top five tackles are all hurt.