Heading into the 2021 NFL season, certain positions for the Green Bay Packers are deep with depth. The offensive line, wide receivers, and outside linebackers look to be the deepest for the Packers. While those positions look deep, others might be an issue. One of those positions that might be thin is the Green Bay Packers safeties.
Numbers are Small for the Green Bay Packers Safeties
General manager Brian Gutekunst had a very difficult task setting the 53 man roster. The priority was making sure the roster consisted of players who can contribute. Then, he needed to make sure certain positions had more depth than others.
The Packers will be entering 2021 with five outside linebackers. It came as a surprise that the Packers would carry five players at outside linebacker to start 2021. Za’Darius Smith, Rashan Gary, and Preston Smith are all high-level pass rushers. With that talent, most expected that the Packers would carry just four. However, because of a back injury to Za’Darius Smith, Gutekunst decided to carry five. With carrying five, that meant that another position would be limited when it comes to depth.
It appears the Packers safeties group is one of those positions that will be limited in regards to depth. The two starting safeties are one of the best duos in the NFL. But behind them, the Packers are limited in quantity and experience. The Packers safeties will be a position to keep an eye on in 2021.
Amos has Brought Veteran Leadership to the Packers Safeties Room
Most NFL teams are lucky to have one upper echelon safety. But for the Packers safeties group, they are blessed to have two.
When Gutekunst signed four big named free agents before 2019 Adrian Amos didn’t get much publicity. The pass-rushing duo of the Smiths got most of the headlines. But the signing of Amos might be just as important.
Since joining the Packers, Amos has become the leader of not just the Packers safeties, but the entire secondary. His veteran presence, along with his ability to stay on the field has been an asset to the Packers defense. He has played in every game for the Packers the past two seasons. Not only has he been available, but he has also been one of the most talented players on the Packers defense.
Amos has totaled 171 combined tackles, registered three sacks, and picked off four passes in his time with the Packers. When the Packers needed a nickel linebacker, it was Amos who stepped up and played the position. Amos doesn’t get the recognition league-wide that he has deserved. He isn’t just one of the best defenders for the Packers, but he is one of the best safeties in the NFL.
A Star in the Making
While Amos is the rock of the Packers safeties group, Darnell Savage Jr. is the playmaker. The duo is a perfect match. Amos does all the dirty work, which opens up Savage Jr. to do what he does best, which is to make plays.
In only his second professional season, Savage Jr. had 75 combined tackles, recovered one fumble, had one sack, and picked off four passes. If the Packers defense needed a turnover, in most cases it was Savage Jr. doing it.
From all indications even more will be expected from the third-year safety in 2021. His ball skills have some believing that he might be utilized as the star defender in Joe Barry’s defense. The position, which requires a player who can make plays, would seem like a perfect fit for Savage Jr.
However, the thin depth at the Packers safeties might prevent that. If Barry were to utilize him at that position, it would mean that one of the backup safeties would need to step up. The Packers might not have a player that is able in doing so.
Inexperience Behind Amos and Savage Jr.
If Barry is planning on utilizing Savage Jr. at the STAR position, he will need one of the backup safeties to step in and play alongside Amos. That would mean that one of the backups, Vernon Scott or Henry Black, will need to step up.
Out of the two, Scott has the most experience on defense. A former seventh-round pick in 2020, he played in 15 games last season for the Packers. He registered 13 combined tackles and had one sack. Scott doesn’t have nearly the ball skills as Savage Jr. has. But in his limited playing time in 2020, he did show some ability. It would be a massive dropoff from Savage Jr. to Scott. But if Barry truly wants to use Savage Jr. at the STAR position, using Scott next to Amos might be the only way he can.
The other safety on the Packers roster is Henry Black. Black was an undrafted free agent in 2020. He played in just eight games for the Packers last season. His playing time was mostly limited to special teams.
It is assumed that most of Black’s playing time will come on special teams once again in 2021. With his limited playing time, it would be a risky bet to have him step in for Savage Jr. if he were to move to the STAR position. That would leave Scott as the best option to step in.
Lack of Depth Limits Barry’s Options
Because of the lack of depth, especially inexperienced depth, it will limit Barry’s options on what he can do in the secondary. Not only are Scott and Black inexperienced, but neither possess the high-end athletic ability to play safety in the NFL, down in and down out.
One option that Gutekunst and the Packers could have gone with was to keep undrafted free agent Christian Uphoff. While being an undrafted free agent, he wouldn’t have brought the desired experience for a backup. But Uphoff displayed good athletic ability and showed he was capable of playing on special teams.
Unfortunately for Uphoff, the numbers needed at inside and outside linebacker caused him to be released. Still, it was a curious decision that the Packers chose to sign safety Innis Gaines rather than Uphoff to the practice squad.
If Barry is going to make the Packers into a top ten defense, he will need for Amos and Savage Jr. to stay healthy. Injuries to one or both will put the Packers defense in major danger. With the depth so thin and inexperience, Amos and Savage Jr. must stay on the field.
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