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Previewing Packers OTAs: Safeties

The Green Bay Packers enter their offseason practices with the top-flight starting tandem of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage but major questions with the rest of the depth chart.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – For the Green Bay Packers, the road to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz., will begin this week with the start of offseason practices.

To be sure, nothing will be settled during two weeks of voluntary organized team activities, the mandatory minicamp, and one more week of OTAs. Still, what happens on the practice field will set the stage for the start of training camp in a little more than two months.

This 10-part series of positional previews concludes with the safeties.

The Sure Things: Amos and Savage

On the list of concerns for the Packers entering 2022, safety is at or near the bottom.

The excellent duo of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage are heading into their fourth season as the team’s starting tandem.

Amos was worth every penny of the free-agent contract he signed in 2019. He started all 17 games last season and led the defense with 1,048 snaps. Mr. Consistency was second on the team with 94 tackles, tied for third with two interceptions and fourth with eight passes defensed. That doesn’t include his goal-line interception in the playoff loss to San Francisco.

Amos is in the right place at the right time every time, it seems, and is one of the NFL’s best tacklers at the position.

Savage, a first-round pick in 2019, also started all 17 games. He was second on the defense with 1,038 snaps. He finished fourth on the team with 63 tackles, tied for third with two interceptions and third with nine passes defensed. He dropped three interceptions, including a potential game-changer in a loss at Minnesota, and his missed-tackle rate was one of the worst at the position.

While he had a quiet third season, some of that was based on usage. Mostly, defensive coordinator Joe Barry lined Savage up 15 yards from the line of scrimmage to play center field. Opportunities are fleeting at that position. Usually, if you’re in the right place, the ball doesn’t come your way.

With so much experience together, Amos and Savage share one mind.

“Some things are unsaid,” safeties coach Ryan Downard said. “From a coaching standpoint, we always say we want you to communicate, we want you to signal. We’ve got to be on the same page. If you two guys are on the same page, now we can echo it to your side of the field. It’s just like a relationship. They’ve been together for so long they can look at each other and they know what the other one’s thinking because they’ve been in that position hundreds of times together.”

The Big Mystery: Who’s No. 3?

The Packers don’t have much proven depth at cornerback. They have even less at safety, with last year’s No. 3, Henry Black, not tendered as an exclusive-rights free agent and recently signing with the Giants.

Listed in alphabetical order, here is the rest of the roster (with pertinent NFL stats):

– Tariq Carpenter (rookie seventh-round pick).

– Shawn Davis (fifth-round pick by Colts in 2021, he played zero snaps on defense and nine on special teams in one game).

– Innis Gaines (undrafted in 2021, he played zero snaps on defense and five on special teams in one game).

– Vernon Scott (seventh-round pick in 2020, he played 89 snaps on defense as a rookie but was a healthy scratch for most of 2021, when he played zero snaps on defense and 17 on special teams in three games).

– Tre Sterling (undrafted rookie).

Scott was a massive disappointment last season. His career is on the clock.

“We’ve talked to all the safeties about call command,” Downard said. “That’s a huge thing with the safeties. We’ve put them in charge of making sure that the coverage checks in the back end are in the right spots. He’s done a tremendous job with that. He’s really smart. When he gets on the board, you can tell that he knows, but he’s got to let everybody else know that he knows it, as well – the linebackers in front of him, the other safety, the corner to his side – and he’s done a really good job of that.”

Worth Watching: Tariq Carpenter

Carpenter was the first of the team’s four seventh-round picks. At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he’s got the size of a linebacker. With 4.47 speed in the 40, he’s got the athleticism of a safety. He was a player the Packers had targeted, having hosted him on a predraft visit.

Carpenter was a four-year starter at Georgia Tech. As a senior, he had 65 tackles in 10 games, highlighted by a season-high 13 stops at Clemson. He added three passes defensed and one forced fumble. In 52 career games, he picked off four passes, broke up 22 and forced three fumbles.

“He’s rare,” safeties coach Ryan Downard said last week. “I know he’s been labeled a lot of different things, he’s been labeled a hybrid [safety/linebacker]. He brings a good set of tools that we can use in different ways. I just go back to the movement skills. Typically, with players that are that big, because of the size, whether it’s the height or the weight, they just lack the fluidity and the movement skills. With him, it’s not lacking. I’m excited to keep working with him.”

He looked a step slow during the rookie camp but perhaps that was a byproduct of thinking his way through some defensive calls he had just learned. Given the lack of proven reserves, there is an enormous opportunity in front of Carpenter, whether it’s as the No. 3 safety or a specialized role. That pursuit starts this week.

Green Bay Packers OTAs Previews

Aaron Rodgers and the Quarterbacks

Jones, Dillon and the Running Backs

Allen Lazard and the Receivers

Robert Tonyan and the Tight Ends

Injured Knees and the Offensive Line

Kenny Clark and the Defensive Line

Gary, Smith and the Outside Linebackers

Campbell, Walker and the Inside Linebackers

Three Lockdown Cornerbacks

Amos, Savage and the Safeties