Safety is one of the biggest question marks for the Green Bay Packers as they head into OTAs and mandatory minicamp in the coming weeks. The position is in transition after the departure of Adrian Amos over the offseason. The Packers have a crowded field of candidates but a lot of uncertainty at the position. They are counting on competition to help them find the best starters at the position.
The newest addition is Jonathan Owens who GM Brian Gutekunst signed as a free agent last week. Owens spent the last four seasons with the Houston Texans and started all 17 games for them in 2022. The former undrafted free agent was originally signed by the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 but spent the season on injured reserve.
While most causal fans know him best as the husband of Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, he is now going to be in a battle for a starting safety spot for the 2023 Packers.
Owens had a rough season in his first year as a starter in Houston in 2022. According to pro-football-reference.com, opposing quarterbacks completed 66.7 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Owens and had a quarterback rating of 128.5.
In 31 career games and 19 starts, Owens has made one career interception and one career sack. He broke up only four passes in 2022 and was in on 125 total tackles.
The biggest asset Owens has is his athleticism. He was timed at 4.43 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2018. The Packers are hoping that his speed and athleticism will help both their pass coverage and their run defense.
Returning veteran Darnell Savage is expected to start at one of the safety positions. The former first round pick is playing on his fifth-year option in 2023 and had a frustrating and inconsistent season in 2022.
Savage was benched in midseason for his poor play. He struggled in coverage and allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 68.2 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by him in 2022, the worst percentage of his career. Their quarterback rating was 114.2.
His tackling was also a problem as he missed many tackles and was criticized for his lack of effort at times.
Later in the season, Savage regained his starting position and managed a 75-yard pick six in the Packers late-season win over the Vikings. He played a bit better after his return to the lineup.
The Packers and defensive coordinator Joe Barry will be counting on Savage to return to his late 2020 form when he was playing at a high level.
Rudy Ford will also battle for a starting spot after starting a career-high six games in 2022. He also had three interceptions which was also a career best.
Ford also struggled in coverage, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 65.0 percent of their passes and to accumulate a quarterback rating of 106.7. Prior to 2022, Ford was best known for his prowess on special teams.
The Packers also drafted a safety in the seventh round of this year’s draft. Anthony Johnson is an intriguing prospect with long-term potential, but it is unlikely he will start as a rookie. The former Iowa State star is likely to get his start on special teams and at best see action in the dime packages by the end of the season on defense.
The Packers also signed former 49ers Tarvarius Moore who is also better known for his talents on special teams. Moore has started 13 games in his career including a career-high eight in 2020. He missed the entire 2021 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Moore has good size at 6’2”. He has also struggled in coverage and allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 75 percent of their passes in 2020 when he started eight games, and they had a quarterback rating of 156.2.
The Packers also have other candidates fighting for roster spots like special teams ace Dallin Leavitt, returning players Innis Gaines and James Wiggins and undrafted rookie free agent Benny Sapp.
The Packers are likely to keep four safeties although a fifth player is possible if he has an extended role on special teams.
With very little money to spend this offseason, Gutekunst has brought in eight players to fight for a roster spot and is hoping that the competition will help the team find two quality starters and at least one functional third and fourth safety with the potential to develop into a starter and to help on special teams.
It will be a tight competition for jobs at safety in training camp and the defense will be hoping that this position doesn’t become a major weakness by the time the season gets under way.
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