In our continued journey exploring the 2018 Green Bay Packers roster, we have moved to the defensive side of the ball. Last week I wrote about the importance of the young Cornerbacks, and this week we’ll take a look at the players who will try to provide them coverage over the top and underneath..
Safety seemed to be a position the Packers were set at for years to come, but with the regression of HaHa Clinton-Dix and the departure of Morgan Burnett it is suddenly unsettled.
The thing that was most disturbing about HaHa’s play last season was his apparent lack of effort. I’m guessing it was the first time in his life he has played on a losing team, and he didn’t handle it well. There were times you would see him let up on a hit or tackle before the play was over, or as a player was getting close to the end zone. His angles were poor and he seemed to lose focus at times. My hope is that he has learned from those trials and many of the problems will be alleviated. Clinton-Dix still has a ton of talent and has proven he can be a high quality NFL Safety. He’s also playing for a new contract, so I expect him to have a major bounceback in 2018.
Expectations for Josh Jones are high sky after a solid rookie campaign. He certainly brings the toughness, speed, instincts, and hitting ability to be an impact player. He’ll likely replace Morgan Burnett playing close to the line of scrimmage. He’s shown a ton of ability in stopping the run and blitzing situations. He’ll likely be asked to play Dime Linebacker, but I think his tape shows him as a true Safety rather than a hybrid Linebacker. With big shoes to fill, there is a lot of pressure on Josh Jones in 2018.
When Brice is healthy he has the attributes of a fantastic Safety. He possesses 4.4 speed and hits as hard as any player on the team, but he’s spent most of the last season injured. If he can stay healthy he’s a fantastic Special Teams player and will see the field as a third Safety on 3rd downs.
Evans has led the Packers in Special Teams tackles since 2016. He’s shown ability in the pass game with several pass breakups. Evans is a solid depth guy that can fill in for short periods, but you’d prefer him to be a core Special Team guy than a starter on your defense.
Whitehead is another good Special Teams player. On defense he is solid against both the run and the pass, but lacks a defining skill. If the Packers decide to keep a fifth Safety, Whitehead will have the upper hand with Special Teams Coordinator Ron Zook.
Greene is a small school guy, who is a bit undersized. The undrafted free agent out of James Madison jumps off the tape with his instinctiveness and ability to anticipate throws. He’s definitely a cover-first Safety. He has a chance to make the active roster as the fifth Safety if he can show ability on Special Teams. If not, he’s got a great opportunity to start the year on the Practice Squad and be another undrafted success story in Green Bay.
With an incredibly young Cornerback group, the Safeties will be relied on to cover up mistakes on defense. The ability of Mike Pettine to get the most from this group will go a long ways in the Packers’ pursuit of another Lombardi Trophy.Andrew Mertig is a a lifelong Packers fan and draft enthusiast. He has covered the NFL draft for radio and television stations in Green Bay. He is currently a host of the Pack-A-Day podcast and a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig