When comparing the 2019 Green Bay Packers to the 2020 Green Bay Packers, both teams went 13-3, and both lost in the NFC Championship Game. However, it was quite obvious that last year’s team was much improved over the 2019 squad.
So with only a few ho-hum free-agent additions and a draft class that overall didn’t make much of an impact, how did they end up so much better? Well, in short, it was because of internal development. Players from previous draft classes continued to improve and play larger roles while the offense took a massive leap in Year 2 under Matt LaFleur.
If we look at the 2021 team, Green Bay is, once again, largely banking on internal development. Due to salary cap restraints, this is pretty much the same roster that they had a year ago, minus Corey Linsley and Jamaal Williams, although one difference is that they should get more immediate help from a few members of this year’s draft class.
But in order to get over that pesky NFC Championship hump, they’ll need several players who were already on the roster to take a step forward and make a greater impact. As the old saying goes, it takes all 53.
When discussing who some of those might be, names often brought up include Kingsley Keke, Rashan Gary, Jace Sternberger, AJ Dillon, Josiah Deguara, and others. However, I wanted to discuss three under-the-radar candidates who haven’t gotten much attention but could end up playing significant roles during this 2021 season.
Green Bay Packers S Vernon Scott
One of the more intriguing positional battles to watch this summer will be for that third safety spot behind Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos. So with that, the obvious caveat here for Vernon Scott to be a breakout player is that he needs to be the third safety on this team–if not right away, then for a bulk of the season, which I clearly believe he can do.
In this Joe Barry defense that will look similar to that of Brandon Staley’s and the 2020 Los Angeles Rams, we can expect two things from the safeties. One is that we will see the two-high look very often, and secondly, the safeties will be lined up closer to the line of scrimmage, providing help against the run.
When it comes to Scott, he is well-versed in that two-high safety look from his time at TCU under Gary Patterson where he took 348 of his career snaps as a free safety. But he also has experience playing close to the line of scrimmage as well, with 356 snaps from the box during his time in college. During the 2018 season, Scott graded very well as both a tackler and as a run defender by PFF ($$), and in addition to his time spent as a free safety and in the box, he also took 219 snaps at TCU from the slot–a position that we know is up for grabs this summer with the Packers.
From a fit standpoint, Scott’s versatility, experience in a two-high safety system, and his willingness as a tackler make him a player who can find success in this Green Bay Packers defense. But ultimately, it comes down to whether or not he can make a leap in Year 2. As a seventh-round rookie in 2020, Scott’s playing time was limited to just 90 total defensive snaps, and for him to be that potential breakout candidate this season, he needs to show the coaching staff that he deserves much more playing time.