Acme Packing Company continues the examination of the Green Bay Packers’ 2016 roster. Each day over the next two weeks, we will break down a different position on the roster with examinations of the players on the 53-man roster in 2016, the contributions of new additions and players who signed new contracts, and players who have contracts expiring this offseason.
As we near the end of the line with our overview of the Packers’ 2016 roster, our next subjects are the last line of defense: the safeties. During yesterday’s discussion of the admittedly bad cornerback unit, the numerous injuries were cited as a factor in their play. Fortunately, the safety position spent 2016 rather healthy, and were able to bring stability to the back end of an otherwise uneven secondary.
Starters: Ha ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett
Having to makeup for coverage deficiencies elsewhere led to Burnett playing all over the field; towards the end of the year, he saw time at middle linebacker in sub packages and played the position quite well. Typically a player who needs a competent partner on the opposite side of him, Burnett’s level of play has steadily risen since the Packers drafted Clinton-Dix.
The overall tackle numbers were down for both Clinton-Dix and Burnett this year, but that is actually a blessing - it means fewer receivers were getting to the second level. While their overall impact was hampered by poor coverage in front of them, Burnett and Clinton-Dix again proved themselves to be invaluable. There’s no doubt that the back end has again been solidified by two excellent starting safeties.
Backups: Micah Hyde, Kentrell Brice
Covered as part of yesterday’s review of the cornerbacks, Micah Hyde found himself to be an invaluable piece of the secondary. When one of the cornerbacks went down, it was Hyde who stepped in to cover slot duty. He still lacks ideal spatial awareness for a starting safety, but that’s not what the Packers ask him to be.
Kentrell Brice, another prized Ted Thompson UDFA, finished the season with 26 tackles and a single pass breakup, and added 7 more tackles during the postseason. His play did improve throughout the season, but what his 2016 season will probably be remembered for is this:
Third-Stringer: Marwin Evans
What’s that? Another UDFA in the secondary? Strange, I never would have guessed. With the majority of his snaps coming on special teams, Evans’ 2016 stat line was a bit meager; 6 total tackles. Fortunately for the Packers, good health in the safety unit meant Evans only saw 18 snaps on defense during the regular season.
Released: Chris Banjo
As a backup and important special teams gunner for several years, Banjo played in only 2 games for the Packers in 2016 before he injured his hamstring. Ultimately, he reached an injury settlement with the team at the end of October, and finished the season with the New Orleans Saints.
Position Grade: B+
While they didn’t set the world on fire, and the overall number of takeaways is a bit lower than a Dom Capers-led defense needs, the safety group performed admirably well throughout the year. The growth of both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett has become a joy to watch, and they have become a top notch duo of safeties in the NFL. Unfortunately, their play was overlooked in lieu of an awful cornerback unit.