Savage Sees ‘Whole Bunch of Improvement’ in Year 2

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – No excuses.

Darnell Savage injured an ankle early in the Week 5 game against Dallas. While he wouldn’t admit it during a Zoom call Thursday, the Green Bay Packers’ safety wasn’t the same player the rest of the season.

In the first four games, Savage had one interception, one forced fumble, four passes defensed and averaged 5.0 tackles. After a two-game absence, Savage returned for the eighth game at Kansas City but wasn’t as productive. In the final nine games, Savage had one interception, one forced fumble, three passes defensed and averaged 4.1 tackles.

“Yeah, like you said, try not use it or anything like that [as an excuse] but, obviously, it was something that’s there,” Savage said. “I’m not going to use it as an excuse or anything like that. It’s something you’ve got to deal with. In the game of football, injuries are going to happen. Sometimes, you’ve just got to battle them through them because injuries, there are some that are severe and some that are moderate that you are able to push through. You’ve just got to find the best way to manage it and deal with it. I think I did a pretty good job with it being my first injury that I actually had to play with. Obviously, would’ve been a lot better if it never happened but it did happen, so it is what it is. I learned from it.”

RANKING THE PACKERS: DARNELL SAVAGE

All in all, it was a strong rookie season for Savage, the second of the team’s first-round draft picks. He was named to the all-rookie team, added a badly needed element of speed in the deep secondary and led the team with two forced fumbles.

With Year 1 out of the way, the expectations are for more in Year 2. That means more big plays and more consistency.

“I think he’s got a bright future,” coach Matt LaFleur said on Thursday. “He did some great things last year, and I think the more comfortable he is with our defense, the more detail-oriented he is, I think he’s going to make more plays. I’m really excited about how he’s attacked it on a daily basis. It just has to translate from the practice field and going out there on the game field on Sundays.”

Savage, who credited veteran defensive back Tramon Williams for teaching him how to practice and watch film “the right way,” said he split his offseason between Green Bay and his home state of Maryland. He knows he must improve; during an offseason Zoom, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine referenced some rookie-year “hiccups.” A starting point would be tackling. According to Pro Football Focus, he had the second-worst missed-tackle rate among safeties last season.

“I’ve gotten better every year I’ve played football and every year I’ve done anything. I’m extremely excited for Year 2,” Savage said.

“I think the emphasis I want to put on myself is continue to do what got me to this point and not overthink or anything like that. Just use my God-given ability, the brain that God gave me, the instincts, and just go. I feel like sometimes I may have been a little hesitant or whatever. As long as I just trust the process and continue to get better and continue to watch film and continue to play in this league, I think a whole bunch of improvement.”

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