To put it simply, the safety play that we saw from the Green Bay Packers in 2018 was brutal. Even since the days of Nick Collins patrolling the secondary, the Packers have struggled to find consistency at the position, but last season was particularly tough to watch.
Former Pro Bowler, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was traded mid-season due to his unreliability, Kentrell Brice struggled to stay healthy and had issues in deep coverage. Then Jermaine Whitehead was cut, while Josh Jones couldn’t seem to figure the position out, and season-ending injuries to Eddie Pleasant, Ibraheim Campbell, and Raven Greene all but depleted the position.
In an attempt to help solidify the back-end, the Packers moved Tramon Williams over to safety as a last ditch effort to find some sort of stability. And while Williams did fine, Green Bay would much rather have him at cornerback.
So to remedy this madness, GM Brian Gutekunst got aggressive. He went out and signed free agent Adrian Amos to a four year – $36 million contract and in the draft, he would trade up to the 21st overall pick to select Darnell Savage from Maryland.
Amos may not have the interception totals but he will rarely be found out of position and is going to limit the number of big plays from opposing offenses. Meanwhile Savage may just be a rookie, but through offseason programs he is turning heads and taking on more responsibility.
At least up to this point, it appears that the Packers have found their starting safeties that will provide the back-end of the secondary with some reliability and big-play potential that has been sorely lacking in recent seasons.
However, beyond Amos and Savage, the overall depth of the position remains in question.
First off, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine demands quite a bit out of his safeties as they are expected to play a heavy role in coverage, as well as in the run game and as blitzers. In 2018, five of the Packers’ safeties recorded at least one sack and seven made at least one tackle for a loss.
Also, while Green Bay may have found two every down safeties, often times Pettine likes to run with three safeties on the field to play a variety of roles, so some of the younger guys on the roster are going to have to step up, but who?
Prior to OTAs, many assumed that player would be Josh Jones. Over his career he has struggled with his coverage responsibilities, but has been much more effective playing closer to the line of scrimmage and in 2019, it looked like that hybrid linebacker/safety role would be his for the taking.
But Jones had different ideas and with the additions of Amos and Savage, he has demanded that the Packers either trade or release him. And while as of now we do not know his fate, based on what we have seen from Gutekunst in the past with players such as Clinton-Dix, Damarious Randall, and Ty Montgomery, my guess is that he will oblige Jones.
As a result of Jones’ demands, Raven Greene was given the opportunity to play as the team’s third safety in offseason programs and has taken full advantage. He has lined up as both the dime linebacker and at safety and has bulked up over the offseason. That extra muscle coupled with his athleticism could allow him to see a significant amount of snaps in the box, while also providing the versatility to drop into coverage.
2019 may be off to a promising start for Greene, but he was still an undrafted rookie and will just be entering his second season. We won’t truly know if he is ready to be the Green Bay Packers’ third safety until Training Camp and the preseason begin and the pads are finally on.
On the 90-man roster behind Amos, Savage, and Greene, the Packers have Mike Tyson, Natrell Jamerson, and Tray Matthews. And although we do not know how the season will play out, these three players are likely special teams players if they make the final roster.
So given everything that we’ve covered above, I do not think it is a bad idea at all for the Packers to bring in another safety to create some more competition heading into Training Camp.
A few names that come to mind include Ibraheim Campbell, who in his short time in Green Bay last season made a nice impact. In just three games he would record 18 total tackles and had shown that he was comfortable playing down in the box.
Another candidate could be free agent Tre Boston, who somehow still finds himself on the open market after another successful season. In 2018, Boston registered 79 total tackles, nine pass deflections and three interceptions. His ability to play deep could allow Savage to play closer to the line of scrimmage where he took a number of snaps his senior season and it would allow his instinctive nature to take over.
Lastly is Jalen Thompson who will be a top prospect in this year’s supplemental draft and has garnered a lot of attention from the Packers. During his time at Washington State, Thompson had displayed that he is a proven tackler and can make plays on the ball.
Overall this position has greatly improved this offseason, but depth is still a concern. Can the young players on the roster fill that third safety position? And for whatever reason, injuries to the Packers’ secondary happens every year, so having some added depth at safety can go a long way for this team.
Whether it’s one of the three players I mentioned above, or someone else, I don’t see how adding a new player and more competition to the safety position this summer is a bad idea.