The safeties are almost all new. The cornerbacks are largely the same. But that combination of new arrivals and development of young players gives the Green Bay Packers’ secondary a chance to be a very good unit in 2019, and some people around the NFL are beginning to take notice as OTAs are set to begin on Monday.
This week, Danny Kelly of The Ringer listed the seven most underrated position groups in the NFL, and the Packers’ secondary was one of the highlights of the list. In a sense, Kelly is looking at the potential ceiling for these units compared to their wider expectations and finds that this gap is massive for the Packers’ defensive backs: “Put together, Green Bay has amassed one of the most talented, versatile, and high-upside secondaries in the NFL.”
The projected safety duo of Adrian Amos and first-round pick Darnell Savage, Jr. appears to be a perfect set of complements for each other on the back end. Although the initial analysis suggests that Amos will be more of the in-the-box safety while Savage will play a center field role, that’s not how they must line up. Both players are capable of playing in any safety alignment, while Savage has plenty of slot corner experience as well. Ultimately, though, it is Amos’ ability to always reliably carry out his assignment that should allow Savage to roam more freely and hunt out big plays.
That versatility will be critical for the Packers on the back end this season. After all, Mike Pettine loves to disguise pressure on the quarterback as well as hide his coverage schemes, something that these players should help him do. As Kelly notes, this year’s group of safeties “should give (Pettine) the ability to deploy his safety group in any number of schemes or coverage looks—and should augment his ability to send blitzes from everywhere on the field.”
Then there’s the cornerback group. Admittedly, optimism among Packers fans about the position is centered around the development of young talent. Sure, Tramon Williams is a steadying presence and will likely contribute in the slot a fair amount, but it is the top-end talent and swagger of Jaire Alexander that will lead this group on the field. A full offseason of development on man coverage should help Josh Jackson as well, and for Kevin King, it’s all about staying healthy rather than worrying about development. Kelly didn’t even get a chance to dig deeper into the depth chart either, where Tony Brown projects as a physical, athletic number five cornerback and Ka’Dar Hollman brings exceptional speed and tenacity to the table.
Adding the Packers’ defensive backfield to a list of units that includes the 49ers’ defensive line (with new additions Nick Bosa and Dee Ford), the Colts’ receivers (which added Parris Campbell and Devin Funchess) and the Falcons’ offensive line (first-round picks in Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary) shows that big additions are a theme here. These groups all have received significant investments from their GMs this offseason, and are looking for big steps forward in 2019.
Here’s hoping that the Packers’ secondary stays healthy, because if they do — and if the revamped pass rush in front of them does as well — this defense could get very good very quickly.