HOUSTON -- Defensive back play will always be a issue of need in the NFL. As teams become more pass-happy and transition into throwing consistently, every defensive back will have a target on his back.
The Houston Texans might not have an elite secondary, but the addition of Desmond King - who has survived and has before thrived with that "target'' - should solidify the nickel position. If Houston is getting a college version of King, perhaps he could be on his way to another Pro Bowl season.
King was named one of the top 80 college defenders of the 2000s by ESPN's Bill Connelly. Coming in a No. 38, Connelly credited the former Iowa standout for his ball-hawking skills when asked to play in man coverage.
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A longtime Ball State commit, King flipped to the Hawkeyes late in the 2013 recruiting cycle and became an immediate star. Over four years, he picked off 14 passes, returned three for scores, broke up 33 more passes and won the Thorpe and Tatum awards in 2015. - ESPN's Bill Connelly
King was ranked as the No. 6 cornerback among Connelly's list, falling behind Tyrann Mathieu (No. 8), Terrance Newman (No. 13), Alphonso Smith (No. 21 ) and Derrick Strait (No. 35). Of the names listed, Mathieu remains the only one now in the league and he is primarily used as a safety.
Drafted by the Chargers, King proved to be a draft day steal during his time there. The 2018 season was a breakout year for the former Hawkeye, in which he recorded 62 tackles, 10 passes deflections, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
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King also saw reps in the return game, earning a first-team All-Pro nods at defensive back and second-team on special teams.
Last season, King was traded at the NFL trade deadline to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a sixth-round pick. He finished with 55 total tackles, two passes breakups and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
This offseason, he signed a one-year $3.5 million deal with Houston. The Texans are hopeful the addition of King, with Bradley Roby and Justin Reid, will be enough to contain wide receivers in coverage.
Entering the summer, Pro Football Focus ranked King as the No. 6 slot defender for 2021.
King’s career has trended in the wrong direction since making a splash with PFF grades north of 85.0 in his first two NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. He followed up that hot start with solid, yet unspectacular, grades of 70.9 and 67.0 in the last two years.
King has been a reliable run defender and tackler throughout his first four seasons. Coverage has been the area where his play has started to decline. However, King still ranks in the 69th percentile of all slot defenders in coverage grade since 2019. He’ll look for a fresh start on a Houston defense in need of playmakers next season. - PFF
Can King return to his college-level — or even his early-NFL level of play? The Texans return to NRG Stadium July 27 for the start of training camp, offering a chance to find out.
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