It is well-known that the Green Bay Packers employ one of the best cornerbacks in the business with Jaire Alexander. While narrowly missing out on a first-team All-Pro spot this last season, Alexander has helped the Packers pass defense go from a liability to a top-10 unit.
Of course, one player does not make an entire team. While the second cornerback position has been suspect ever since Kevin King has battled nagging injuries, the Green Bay safety tandem of Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos has played a large role in Alexander’s ascension the last two years. The steady, competent safety play has been an underrated backbone of a defense that has, more often than not, been a net positive.
Each of these two starting safeties is representative of a vision that general manager Brian Gutekunst wants to actualize on the field. With two solid players ensuring that (most) catastrophes are avoided, Gutekunst can afford to swing for home-run CBs to fill the King-shaped void opposite Alexander. Ergo, Eric Stokes was selected in the first round of this year’s draft instead of a wide receiver.
Amos and Savage are integral parts of a secondary that desperately needs to elevate its play this season in the wake of an embarrassing performance in the NFC Championship game. Since they arrived in 2019, they have filled the void left from the midseason trade of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2018. Gutekunst knew he would be able to lure in a free agent like Amos and roll the dice on a safety in the 2021 draft, and that move has paid dividends so far.
Everyone likes a good underdog or “underrated” story, sure. Perhaps it is due to the nature of the position, but people do not realize just how good Amos has been for the Packers.
It is a small mystery why the Chicago Bears let him walk after his rookie contract expired in 2018. He had steadily shown improvement every season since his rookie year in 2015, and as a fifth-round pick, he had become a regular starter for an otherwise struggling Bears team. Gutekunst offered Amos a 4-year, $37 million contract in 2019 and has not felt one ounce of regret.
While his hands can be unreliable at times, Amos has the speed (4.56 40-yard time) and frame (6’0”, 214 lbs.) to cover just about any position on the field. This makes him an extremely reliable presence at the back end of the defense — especially working with as many young secondary players as he has in Green Bay. Despite this, PFF has ranked him in the top 10 for safeties in three of the last four years, with the one outlier coming on his first 2019 season in Green Bay. Two out of those three seasons, PFF had Amos ranked in the top three.
Amos is a supremely talented and valuable member of the defense who often does not get the recognition he deserves. He has done an excellent job of both making an impact on the field and mentoring the younger players. When Gutekunst selected Savage in the first round of the 2019 draft, he could not have selected a better veteran to pair with the young talented rookie.
Darnell Savage Jr
Beyond having a cool name, Savage has been electric since being selected 21st overall in 2019. Savage made the All-Rookie team that year and then followed it up with four interceptions in his sophomore campaign.
While Savage has taken a couple of knocks in his career and has yet to play a full season, he has only missed three total games over the last two seasons. He’s shown savvy for anticipating passing lanes and increased his total number of combined tackles by almost 40% in his second year. There is still room to grow, of course, though Savage has shown that he has the talent and know-how to have a lengthy career in the NFL.
With two full seasons and ample playoff experience under his belt, expect Savage to make another leap in his third year. If he can stay healthy and play a full complement of 16 games, his stats will back up what has been a promising young career thus far. His health will be important to monitor moving forward.
Green Bay’s depth at safety is shallow but stable. The team has not had to dig too far back into the reserves due to the superb track record of Amos and, to a lesser degree, Savage. Will Redmond has made some appearances the last few years and has held his own.
Behind Redmond is Vernon Scott, who has been solid on special teams but has not played a great deal on defense otherwise. Cornerback Josh Jackson is rumored to be getting some looks at safety as the team still tries to figure out how to utilize him the best. If there are any injuries to the starting two, Redmond or Jackson could see some snaps at safety in the secondary.
The health and play of Amos and Savage will be paramount. They have showcased clean bills of health in the past, and the same should be expected for this upcoming season. It will be the third year of those two working together, so expect even better things from Green Bay’s strong and underrated starting safeties.