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Packers 2023 Roster Predictions: Darnell Savage must become a leader for safety group

Free agent additions Jonathan Owens and Tarvarius Moore will push for starting time.

Syndication: PackersNews Tork Mason / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Green Bay Packers’ safety group has received some intense scrutiny over that last 12 months. A position group that seemed to be a strong point after the signing of Adrian Amos and the drafting of Darnell Savage has taken a downturn, particularly in 2022. Now, Amos has moved on to join Aaron Rodgers in New York and Savage needs to revitalize his young career after a benching last fall.

With Amos gone, the makeup of this group has undergone some changes. A few off-season signings have changed this room, but this unit still looks likely to be the backbone of Rich Bisaccia’s special teams.

The biggest thing that this group seems to share is athleticism. By now it’s difficult to be unaware of RAS if you follow the NFL Draft, and it is clear that the Packers personnel department clearly trusts the metric — or something very similar of their own making. While production has been an issue in a few cases, the players in the safety room mostly have excellent athletic ability. The ones that do not are also unlikely to stay around.

Starters: Darnell Savage, Rudy Ford

Darnell Savage returns for his fifth season after the Packers picked up his option (and then restructured that contract to create four void years). However, Savage is coming off a rough season. He recorded just one interception and had his lowest tackles numbers since his rookie season. Now, with the departure of Adrian Amos, Savage is going to have to step into the role of leader. Savage is in a make-it-or-break-it season as free agency is looming.

Savage has shown few signs of the reason he was drafted in the first round. His speed is undeniable, but he has consistently found himself out of position. Amos was a steadying guidance and now it will be Savage’s chance to step up or step out.

Rudy Ford returns for his second season in Green Bay, which was the journeyman’s best season. He started six games, which matched the total from his previous five seasons combined. He was third on the team, and first among safeties, in interceptions (3). But as with any player who has played on four teams in six years, Ford lacks consistency, though he has the athleticism to make plays. He came out of Auburn with a 9.19 RAS including a 4.4 40 yard dash. The Packers have speed at safety, but they will need to get it in the right places to make plays.

Backups: Jonathan Owens, Dallin Leavitt, Tarvarius Moore, Anthony Johnson

Two of the Packers’ biggest off-season signings were safeties. Jonathan Owens started all 17 games for the Houston Texans last year. Bringing in a solid starter was a key indication that the Packers had concerns with this group. The depth was lacking and the starters needed to be challenged. Owens can conceivably push to start on this team. Owens is a great example of a guy who was undrafted, fought through an injury early in his career, and then moved from practice squad to starting safety.

Tarvarius Moore started 8 games for the San Francisco 49ers back in 2020. He played in every game that season and even managed an interception in the Super Bowl. He missed the entire 2021 season with an Achilles rupture, but returned for the 2022 campaign. Another fast player, he has the ability to step in and play when needed and could be valuable in special teams coverage.

Dallin Leavitt is making this team because Bisaccia loves him. That is about it. He was third on the Packers in special teams tackles last year. He joined the Packers after spending the prior four years in Oakland and Las Vegas with Bisaccia. He has a relationship here with a coach who sought him out. Still, he should not see the field on defense unless things are going really poorly or incredibly well. He did not look capable when placed in the defensive huddle last year during the preseason.

Finally, Anthony Johnson gets a final spot as he is the young draft pick. Despite a RAS of 8.13, Johnson is probably the least athletic in the group; he did not exhibit game changing speed, but he can hold his own. He was a seventh-round draft pick, but the converted cornerback should have enough juice to push out Gaines and Sapp and maybe see the field on special teams.

Released: Innis Gaines, Benny Sapp III

Gaines was an undrafted free agent in 2021 and ended up seeing action in one game that year after being elevated from the practice squad for a game. In 2022, he managed to play in seven games and had to start one. Having to watch Leavitt and Gaines start games is likely a key reason the Packers made free agent moves to improve the depth at this position.

Benny Sapp was always a long shot in this room. His one hope is to make a splash and maybe push against Anthony Johnson. He has a great story, fighting through three different knee injuries in high school (two ACL tears and meniscus tear) and managing to get to the University of Minnesota and then transferred to Northern Iowa. While at UNI, he was named an FCS All-American. Still, he ran a 4.62 40 and had a 7.27 three-cone. His athleticism is just not going to cut it against the competition on this roster.