The Packers Safeties Have Been Stepping Up Their Game

The Green Bay Packers safeties struggled in the early part of this season. Starters Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage got off to slow starts while hybrid S/ILB Raven Greene was often injured and saw only limited action while Will Redmond was inconsistent. But in recent weeks, the play of the safeties has noticeably improved and the defense has benefitted.

Savage’s turnaround has been the most obvious. The second-year man out of Maryland seemed a step slow early in the season, often taking poor angles when attempting to make tackles and struggling in coverage as well.

Injuries were a factor for Savage. He missed the Packers Week 7 game in Houston with a quad injury and that limited his speed and ability to change directions. Sometimes the difference between making a tackle and having the wrong angle that results in a long game can be a fraction of a second.

Gradually, Savage got healthy and things started to click for him. Packers secondary coach Jerry Gray knew Savage could play better than he did earlier in the season. “I talked to him about, you know what, be consistent, be steady and you're going to get your chances. And the last couple of weeks he's made some of those splash plays,” Gray explained. “He's helped out in the run game, he's had two or three tackles for loss, and you would think, 'How can a safety do that?' He's reading his keys faster [and] he's understanding what he's supposed to do and now he's letting the plays come to him other than trying to make a play.”

The first thing most fans noticed was Savage’s improved play against the run. He started making plays at or near the line of scrimmage and his penetration helped his teammates make key run stops on several occasions. Savage started getting more involved and making more tackles starting with the Jacksonville game.

Savage’s coverage improved as well. He has now broken up passes in in four consecutive games and has six passes defensed in that stretch. That gives him seven for the season, surpassing his total of all his rookie season.

Then, against the Bears, Savage came up with two big interceptions of Mitch Trubisky that helped the Packers gain and keep control of the game.

Savage himself is more comfortable at this point in the season. “I feel like I’ve really settled in and just trusted the process and trusted myself and just going out there and trusting everything that I’ve prepared for in the offseason,” Savage said after the win over the Bears. “I’m going to keep doing that and hopefully we keep getting the same results.”

Amos sees the improvement Savage has made in recent weeks. “He’s just getting smarter as he gets more plays and more experience in the NFL,” Savage told reporters in a conference call. “He’s continuing to grow and he’s going to continue to grow as time goes on. Experience is a big factor when it comes to playing in this league.”

Meanwhile, Amos has also upped his game in recent weeks. The former Penn State star is one of the steadiest players on the Green Bay defense.

Like Savage, Amos did not get off to an outstanding start this season, but in recent weeks, he has been playing more like the experienced veteran and leader that the team expects him to be.

Since the Houston game, Amos has been more active and has been making more tackles and more plays. He came up with his first interception of the season in the win over Jacksonville in Week 7. Amos has also made 34 tackles in the last six games including two pass breakups and three tackles for loss. He has also recovered a fumble.

Amos often plays center field in pass coverage, making sure nobody beats him deep. The Packers defense has been better this season at preventing splash plays in the passing game. Amos also has been consistent in helping to stuff the run, something the Packers clearly need to improve upon during the stretch drive.

The veteran safety believes the Packers defense needs to step up in December and January. “This is the time, late in the season, leading into completing our goals, when you want to be at your best,” he said.

Right now, Amos is raising his game. The Packers two starting safeties have climbed the PFF rankings in recent weeks with Amos now ranked in the top 10 among the 91 safeties graded while Savage his climbed into the top 20.

Raven Greene has also been healthier and more active, playing in each of the last four games after injuries slowed him earlier in the season. Greene has 29 total tackles in the last five games playing the hybrid ILB/S spot in the Packers dime defense. He also came up with a key interception against the 49ers. Greene plays well against the run and has also broken up five passes in his last five games.

The improved play of the Packers safeties has been a big positive for the Packers in recent weeks. The defense will need to see more from the position down the stretch if the Pack hopes to realize their goal of returning to the Super Bowl this February. 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (31)

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Bearmeat's picture

December 03, 2020 at 01:44 pm

The defense is showing signs of improvement... we'll see if they can keep the garbage points and run game bottled up just enough against good teams to let the offense work.

Savage's improvement, along with Gary, is HUGE.

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GilMartin's picture

December 03, 2020 at 01:59 pm

It's good to see Savage stepping up and Amos is his usual steady self. I hope they can fix the garbage time issue too. It's tough to watch the Bears move up and down the field regardless of the score and situation. Thanks for the comment, Bearmeat.

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 03, 2020 at 08:22 pm

Amos should blitz more.

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GilMartin's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:37 pm

It's worked well at times when they used it. Thanks for the comment, jannesbjornson.

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swisscheese's picture

December 04, 2020 at 04:03 am

not much concerned about garbage time...

i have a lot of faith in our secondary. problem to me is still de run d. pack didn't have to show it really this week. hope they get it done before the titans game. curious how pettine will use anthony rush. looks like a strong guy

gpg! bring vince home!

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GilMartin's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:38 pm

The run defense is definitely still an issue. I am also concerned about the Titans matchup but let's see how the Pack does against Philly first. Thanks for the comment, swisscheese.

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Razer's picture

December 03, 2020 at 01:56 pm

Gil - you have much greater trust than I do with this secondary. By isolating the safeties, you might be able to make the case that there is improved play but I am still skeptical. I am going to discount what happened against the Bears. Mitch Turbisky should not be throw balls in the NFL. We should expect these guys to shine against such competition. Improvement against the run? Sorry I am not seeing that, but I will say that everything in front of those safeties is not doing their part against the run so I won't hang it on those guys

I am still seeing a fair amount of assignment confusion and mis-alignment. Missed assignment in the red zone is particularly worrisome. Is this the responsibility of the safeties, not sure, but they are part of this problem.

Like many parts of this team, they are good one game and bad the next day. I think that both Savage and Amos are talented and are hampered by Pettine's scheme. The mixed results by this secondary gives me mixed feelings about our safety play. Good thing - we have 5 more games to practice before we have to prove ourselves.

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GilMartin's picture

December 03, 2020 at 02:03 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Razer. It's a tough situation because you're right, the defense is very inconsistent. They are giving up a lot of yards in garbage time and that skews the numbers a bit. Savage and Amos have both graded out well on PFF and a number of other areas in recent games. As for the run defense, it's still an issue, no doubt, but Savage and Amos have made more plays in recent games near the line of scrimmage and that's encouraging. I hope the defense improves down the stretch or the playoff stay will be a short one. Thanks for commenting.

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BBlake's picture

December 03, 2020 at 02:35 pm

"I am still seeing a fair amount of assignment confusion and mis-alignment. Missed assignment in the red zone is particularly worrisome."

I agree. Teams at this point of the season shouldn't be seeing players out of position or having communication problems with other players. It would be interesting to know if this a player issue or a coaching issue. Either way, it's something other teams are going to exploit coming down the home stretch.

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GilMartin's picture

December 03, 2020 at 03:55 pm

Good teams will exploit it. There is still some time to tighten things up. Thanks for the comment, BBlake.

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 03, 2020 at 08:26 pm

Coincidentally, Savage's health has been improved and he has been moving into the zone over the past month. We were screaming for Pettine to let him play His game. Get him in a proactive mode of operation.
Amos stated the mantra, get ready to rumble.

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GilMartin's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:39 pm

Got to hope they keep it up

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canadapacker's picture

December 03, 2020 at 06:09 pm

I think that we have to face the fact that our linebackers cannot cover. Preston Smith is too slow and Kirksey is not what we really needed and actually is a downgrade from Martinez. Burkes is not playing well but Martin has shown glimpses. Gary is improving but mostly in the rushing aspect of his game. Our issues become magnified when you have running backs who can catch the ball and the likes of Kelce and even Ertz. Right now Goedert appears to be Phillies go to guy but he isnt as fast or as deadly as Ertz has been in the past. So all that being the fact - we need our Dbacks to tackle - especially because we have so many on the field most of the time . That has been our big issue - the big runs and missed tackles on dump offs are killers. When we have played well recently our guys have made most of those tackles. If we hold them to the line of scrimmage or even a loss - it gives us a chance. But letting them get 7 or 8 yards on those plays lets them keep on marching. The other thing that goes hand and hand - and I dont know if it is scheme or missed assignments and bad communication but we let teams dump it off into the flat with nobody within 10 yards - so that is an automatic first down for them. When a team has a bad Oline - that is their go to play. Hopefully we have that under control on Sunday.

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Minniman's picture

December 03, 2020 at 09:39 pm

Re Martinez, I'd actually love to hear him talk about the transition from GB to the Giants. He's playing some good football this year and is grading out accordingly..... He's also $30M richer. I'd be keen to get his take on why he's performing so much better this year than last.

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GilMartin's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:45 pm

That would be interesting to hear. May not be able to fully know until he's retired as he may not want to say certain things publically. Thanks for the comment, Minniman.

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Archie's picture

December 04, 2020 at 10:25 am

Kirksey is slow as molasses. Plays like AJ Hawk.

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GilMartin's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:46 pm

I hope he raises his game as he gets healthier and more comfortable out there. Been a rough season for him so far with the slow start and then the injury. Thanks for the comment, Archie.

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GilMartin's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:44 pm

The Packers will have to slow down Philly's TEs. As for the linebackers in coverage, they are an issue. Hopefully, Pettine has defenses called that minimize their exposure and maximizes their talents. Thanks for the comment, canadapacker

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Leatherhead's picture

December 03, 2020 at 08:20 pm

The defense is getting healthy enough to practice and play together. King, Clark , Kirksey, Alexander, and Savage are able to be on the field together in games and practice for the first time since the opener. We’ve had 50 more practices since the opener. We’re gelling.

The angst regarding our defense has been largely misplaced. If our offense does the job...and it’s the #1 Offense in the league...then this defense is good enough to win with. We gave up 39 points in two quarters; in the other 42 quarters, we’re a top ten scoring defense. None of those points cost us any wins.

Going forward, we have some underwhelming offenses on the schedule and I think our rankings will start to reflect the reality that this is an above average defense. Not a great, or dominant defense, but good enough to get the job done most of the time.

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 03, 2020 at 08:29 pm

Just put Barnes in place of Kirksey and you may be getting somewhere. Play to win.

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Thegravedigger's picture

December 04, 2020 at 11:43 pm

Yup. Just cus your payin em dont mean you gotta be playin em.

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SpikeHyzer's picture

December 03, 2020 at 09:18 pm

Agree that the D has not been deserving of angst. The other 42 quarters matter (just as garbage time doesn't, which would make it look even better).
Martin and Barnes at LB and maybe we can cover all over the field.

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GilMartin's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:50 pm

Martin and Barnes are the future. Hope they can stay healthy although I think Kirksey will still play ahead of one of them this season barring another injury. Thanks for the comment, SpikeHyzer.

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GilMartin's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:48 pm

I hope you're right, Leatherhead. The strategy of the defense is in part to play with a lead and to force the other team to pass when they're behind. The defense is getting healthier and playing better in recent weeks. Even the Indy game was not the defense's fault. The game that has me the most worried is Tennessee with Henry pounding the ball down our throats. Hope that doesn't happen. The defense has potential and it is improving. Now they have to get it done when it counts. Thanks for the comment.

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chinachin's picture

December 03, 2020 at 09:10 pm

Amos is raising his game. The Packers two starting safeties have climbed the PFF rankings in recent weeks with Amos now ranked in the top 10 among the 91 safeties graded while Savage his climbed into the top 20. Happy Fun!
https://wordcounter.tools

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GilMartin's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:51 pm

It's been great to watch it happen and hopefully they can keep climbing. Thanks for the comment, chinachin.

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PhantomII's picture

December 03, 2020 at 10:14 pm

The pass rush is getting home and the secondary is feasting on tipped balls, hurried passes and poor decisions. The pass rush is better which is making the secondary better and the secondary is locking up the receivers which gives the pass rush another step. Yes our defense has taken a step forward in totality. I want to see these new big guys shutting the run down next, then we will really be firing on all cylinders. GPG

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GilMartin's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:52 pm

The big test for the run defense will come vs the Titans. Yes, the defense has been improving all the way around in recent weeks and being healthy is a part of it. Let's hope they keep playing better when it counts in January and hopefully February. Thanks for the comment, PhantomII.

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Guam's picture

December 03, 2020 at 10:35 pm

I think the impact of Jerry Gray is start to show in the secondary. Not only are the safeties playing better but Alexander is rated the #1 CB in the league and King has been playing well when he can stay healthy enough to play. I don't think it is an accident that everybody is getting better as the first season under Gray progresses.

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GilMartin's picture

December 04, 2020 at 03:53 pm

Also a big fan of Gray and the players seem to like playing for him. Thanks for the comment, Guam.

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ImaPayne's picture

December 06, 2020 at 08:40 pm

My problem is being here in minny and getting the vikes, I'm watching 3 new young dbs play tight coverage, tackle with purpose and they got two more interceptions today. Funny they didnt seem to need three years to develop. Took about five weeks actually and they are played way better coverage then our top picks with three years experience.
How many times in just this game did you see guys wide open no one near them? You never see that with the vikings, they are vying for all footballs and making immediate tackles. The difference is simple, they have the speed to stay with any receiver and that's what they are trained to do. Also they can merge to the ball to help on tackles quickly. We got none of that.
Its not Pettine its the lack of speed and ability to tackle thats the problem he has to deal with.

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