We left off discussing the state of the Green Bay Packers cornerback room and its outlook for the future. Today, we look at the back end of the Packers secondary and analyze the changes general manager Brian Gutekunst has made to the safety position. One of the roster’s most perennial gaping holes has a new look and loads of potential. Although the depth is concerning, the Packers have two prominent players in Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. Mike Pettine utilizes three safety sets more than any defensive coordinator in the league, making this position group ultra-important to the team’s success. The state of the Green Bay Packers secondary looks bright at cornerback, but its safety group needs to make strides for this defense to reach the next tear in 2020.
State of the Green Bay Packers Secondary: Safeties
A key free-agent signing last off-season, Amos made an instant impact with the Packers. He signed a four-year, $36 million deal after spending his first four years with the rival Chicago Bears. Amos quickly made the Bears regret not re-signing him by securing a game-winning interception in Week 1 for the Packers. Amos had always been a steady if unexciting player in Chicago. His stats don’t set the world on fire, but Amos set a career-high in tackles and made an impact play or two in every game for the Packers in 2019. He played well both in the box and on the back end last year. If he can force a few more turnovers (just five career interceptions), Amos could be in for a Pro Bowl-caliber year in 2020.
Although the signings of Preston and Za’Darius Smith garnered much more national attention this past year, Amos’ contract looked like a bargain. After years of issues at the safety position, the Packers finally found an ascending veteran leader to stabilize the secondary. With Tramon Williams still unsigned, Amos becomes the elder statesman of the secondary. He will bring a sturdy presence to the defense and should only improve going into year two with the Packers.
Drafted as the first defensive back in 2019, Savage already looks like a star. He had some inconsistencies both in coverage and against the run, but his play speed and explosion are something special. He had 55 tackles, two picks, and two forced fumbles in his 14 games while being banged up in a few more. From day one in training camp, Savage impressed coaches and teammates. Rarely do the Packers require so much out of a rookie player, but Savage rose to the occasion. He is the unquestioned starter at free safety and is a candidate for a huge breakout in year two.
Savage joins Jaire Alexander as the most important building blocks of the Packers’ secondary. They are similar players in their aggressiveness and quickness. Both take risks and both have been impact players without causing many turnovers. There have been rumors that Savage will play more in the slot this year, showcasing his versatility even further. As Savage and Amos head into year two under Pettine, this defense could become even more imposing.
Who Will Be the Third Safety?
Greene began the last off-season as the third safety and was the first to come off the bench in sub-packages. The 25-year-old undrafted free agent was signed by the Packers in 2018. Although he has made the 53-man roster in each of the last two seasons, he remains an enigma due to injury. Playing in just 10 games, his presence has been noticed on the field. Bulking up last off-season, Greene was going to be a major piece of Pettine’s scheme. He played nearly 77 percent of the defensive snaps in the week one win over the Bears. The Packers didn’t add much competition in the defensive backfield, so Greene could be in line to pick up where he left off before his season-ending injury in Week 2.
After losing Greene for the season, Redmond filled in as the team’s dime linebacker. A former 2016 third-round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers, Redmond lost nearly his first two seasons in the league to injury. He caught on with the Packers’ practice squad in 2018, making his way onto the active roster. After Greene went down and Josh Jackson continued to struggle, Redmond joined Chandon Sullivan as two unexpected contributors in the secondary. Redmond played just over a quarter of all defensive snaps and was a major contributor on special teams, leading the team with nine special teams tackles. Perhaps an underrated storyline for the defense will be how Pettine divides snaps between Sullivan, Greene, and Redmond as he looks to replace Williams in the slot. Chances are, two of the three will see significant playing time in 2020.
Fighting for Depth
The Packers drafted Scott in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Highly thought to go undrafted, it signifies that Gutekunst saw something in Scott that other general managers missed. He started one year at TCU, recording 44 tackles, seven pass breakups, and one interception. The 22-year-old has good size for the position at 6’2’’, 202 pounds, but his athletic scores did not test well in the pre-draft process. There is not much-proven depth at safety or cornerback, so Scott could sneak on to the end of the roster. If there is a preseason this year, look for Scott to make an impact similar to his former TCU teammate and fellow seventh-round draft pick Ty Summers last year.
Griffin had a productive few years while playing linebacker for Texas State. He posted over 200 tackles, seven sacks, and seven forced fumbles the past three years. The 6’0″, 200-pounder would have to switch to safety to have any shot in the NFL. Griffin’s experience as a hybrid safety-linebacker in college is what prompted Gutekunst to sign him as an undrafted free agent. He could have a more feasible transition to the position than a typical UDFA would. If Griffin showcases his skills in that dime linebacker role Pettine covets, he could push Scott for a roster spot or at least find his way to the practice squad.
The final safety on the Packers’ current roster is UDFA Henry Black out of Baylor. The 23-year-old rookie started all 14 games for the Bears last season, finishing with 62 tackles, an interception, and six passes defended. He is in a very similar mold to Griffin at 6’0″ and 202 pounds and played a similar hybrid linebacker role at Baylor. Both Griffin and Black will need to bulk up to withstand the NFL game. They could be fighting for the same spot on the practice squad.