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Darnell Savage brings shades of Adrian Amos’ Chicago running mate to the Packers

Maryland star Darnell Savage says he models his game after Bears standout Eddie Jackson. With his speed, versatility and playmaking, he might just be right.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan
Darnell Savage is the perfect blend of athleticism and attitude to pair with Adrian Amos.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The perfect complement to new Green Bay Packers safety Adrian Amos would have speed, playmaking, and coverage ability, including some slot work. Eddie Jackson ticked all those boxes in Chicago, allowing Amos to play steady, assignment football while Jackson created splash plays.

On day one of the 2019 NFL Draft, Green Bay traded up from the 30th pick to number 21, nabbing a guy who has a chance to check all of those same boxes. Maryland safety Darnell Savage lives up to his name, a heat-seeking missile who flies around with bad intentions despite a lean 5-foot-11, 198-pound frame. But his reckless abandon creates plays around him.

Put him in the slot, deep, in the box, in zone coverage, or in man — Savage can play anywhere with 4.36 speed and swagger to spare. He may not have the deep-middle instincts of Jackson, but Mike Pettine likely won’t ask him to play single-high safety on a regular basis given his propensity to go big nickel. Amos, on the field with Savage and Josh Jones, gives Green Bay two über athletes and a Steady Eddie in Amos.

From a fit standpoint, there wasn’t a safety in this draft with more appeal for the Packers coming into the draft. Clearly, Brian Gutekunst and his staff agreed, giving up their pair of fourth-round picks to move up for Savage. More than that, Pettine’s defense has no intuitive long-term starter next to Amos, with repeated insistence from the team that Tramon Williams would preferably be a corner for the team. Safety was perhaps the only position the Packers could foreseeably start a rookie barring injury.

In terms of impact, that means Savage could come in and play 60, 70, 80% of snaps or more if he can pick up the defense quickly. It’s hard to imagine another player at any position coming in and immediately giving them that.

Such immediate impact may have lead to the decision to take Savage over some highly rated offensive linemen like Jawaan Taylor, Dalton Risner, and Andre Dillard. One explanation would be the Packers view Billy Turner, who was ostensibly overpaid as a right guard, as the heir apparent to Bryan Bulaga at right tackle. As a result, Gutekunst and Co. wouldn’t see the value of taking a future right guard in the first round. If that was the calculation, there’s an easy road to making the case a safety they love would be the most impactful player on the board.

Savage must have been S1 on the Packers’ board and viewed as clearly better than other options like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Juan Thornhill, Nasir Adderley, and others. Could they have waited to take Savage until 30 and not given up the picks? Perhaps, but just a few selections later, the Raiders tabbed Johnathan Abram. If Savage had been there could he have been the pick? It’s possible, and the value Green Bay got in the trade up, via whatever trade value chart one wants to use, favors the Packers.

Gutekunst moved up to get his guy with solid value. That guy happens to be the perfect fit for one of Gutekunst’s other guys, a free agent priority and a steadying force in the secondary. Savage can play out of control at times. He’ll gamble in zone coverage in particular. But when a team has a player as consistently assignment-sound as Amos, that’s a risk worth taking for the splash plays.

Rashan Gary’s selection left plenty of Packers fans scratching their heads. There should be no questions about how Darnell Savage fits into this defense, particularly next to Amos. This defense is faster, more athletic, more relentless, and a little bit scarier than it was yesterday. Will it be better? It’s April, so we’ll see, but Savage possesses the skillset to slot in next to Amos and shine. It’s not fair to put the kind of All-Pro expectations of Eddie Jackson on Savage yet, but the shades are there, the traits hinting at how this pairing could work.

If nothing else, Amos should feel right at home next to a speedy playmaker who plays the game with attitude. Smash and Savage are coming to an NFC North receiver group near you.