One of the few position groups on this Green Bay Packers team that remains largely undecided is at safety. Outside of Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos, there are at least two and likely three spots up for grabs this summer. And not only is it a roster spot that these players not named Savage and Amos will be competing for but playing time as well. Whoever ends up as the third safety should see their fair share of time on the field.
Enter second-year safety Vernon Scott, who, in a recent article, I named as a possible under-the-radar breakout candidate this season. Scott was a seventh-round pick by Green Bay in last year’s draft, and as expected, saw minimal playing time as a rookie.
Scott was on the field for 90 defensive snaps in 2020, according to PFF ($$), and recorded one sack, five tackles, and in coverage, he allowed seven receptions on eight targets at 10.6 yards per catch. Although a small sample size, we still saw Scott’s versatility on display, as he took four snaps on the defensive line, 32 from the box, 41 as the safety, 12 in the slot, and another on the boundary as a cornerback.
Coming out of TCU, Scott was known for his versatility, lining up all over the defensive formation, and as GM Brian Gutekunst told us after the 2020 draft, that is a big reason why the Green Bay Packers were drawn to the former Horned Frog:
“We really like his versatility,” said Gutekunst via Forbes. “He’s got a little bit of that ability to play safety but he can cover in the slot a little bit. He’s a little of a late bloomer, some struggles to get through the early part of his college career but once he took off this year, we just really liked his upside.”
Expectations are that this new Joe Barry defense is going to look similar to that of Brandon Staley’s and the Los Angeles Rams’ from a year ago. That defensive unit finished the year ranked fourth by DVOA and first in points per game allowed. If this is, in fact, the case, then as Packer Report’s Ross Uglem told us in the Cheesehead TV Draft Guide, we can expect two things from this defense: they will play with light-boxes often, and we will see a lot of two-high safety looks.
Scott, coming from TCU and playing under head coach Gary Patterson, is well-versed in the two-high safety scheme, taking 348 of his career snaps at that position. And with the lighter boxes, that means we will see the safeties playing closer to the line of scrimmage and having an important role in the run game.
Again, Scott has plenty of college experience playing closer to the line of scrimmage as he lined up in the box on 356 of his career snaps at TCU. He’s also shown that he is a willing tackler, finishing the 2018 season with a “high quality” run defense and tackling grade by PFF metrics.
It’s also worth mentioning that with there being the possibility that Savage sees more action in the slot this season, Amos will need a running mate in that two-high look, which would mean ample playing time for whoever that third safety ends up being.
Ultimately, training camp and the preseason will be the true litmus test for Scott and give us the opportunity to see if he’s taken a step forward in Year 2. Competing with him will be Will Redmond, Henry Black, Innis Gaines, and Christian Uphoff.
But from a fit and skill-set standpoint — which is obviously very important — Scott could certainly carve himself out a fairly significant role in this Joe Barry defense this season.