Quick thoughts on Packers position groups: Many unknowns at safety

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 17: Rudy Ford #20 of the Green Bay Packers gets set against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau on November 17, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 17: Rudy Ford #20 of the Green Bay Packers gets set against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau on November 17, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

As one part of my training camp preview, I have been examining each of the Green Bay Packers position groups as they currently stand on the 90-man roster.

In this series, I have been diving into each position, sharing my thoughts on what I’ve seen and heard during the handful of open practice sessions throughout the offseason programs. I’ll also discuss my expectations for each position group, questions I still have, and just about anything else that comes to mind.

Next up is the safety position, where there are many unknowns. If you’ve missed any of the previous articles in this series, you can find them all below.


Running back

Tight end 

Offensive tackle

Interior offensive line

Wide receiver

Interior defensive line

Edge rusher



Current roster: Darnell Savage, Rudy Ford, Anthony Johnson, Tarvarius Moore, Jonathan Owens, Benny Sapp, Dallin Leavitt, and Innis Gaines

– Matt LaFleur has already stated that Darnell Savage is going to be one of the starting safeties for the Packers to begin the season. Savage was, at one point, benched last season. If he is going to bounce back, it begins with being a more sound tackler, which hasn’t been a strong suit of his, and fewer breakdowns in coverage. By his own admission, Savage was trying to do too much, which led to him abandoning his responsibility at times, and resulted in big plays for the offense.

– Next to Savage in the starting lineup throughout the offseason programs was Rudy Ford. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, either. Excluding Savage, Ford is the next most experienced safety on the roster in the Joe Barry defense. Last season he also proved to be a sound tackler and was positioned correctly, which led to Ford coming away with four takeaways.

– The safety position within Barry’s defense plays an integral part against the run. Because of how frequently the Packers utilize light boxes, safeties have to be part of the reinforcements at the second level by filing gaps, taking on blockers, and being sound tacklers. As run game coordinator Jerry Montgomery said, an improved run defense is going to take all 11 defenders.

– I go into greater detail here, but it was clear that with the additions the Packers made this offseason, tackling and run defense were priorities at the safety position. Jonathan Owens was one of the most reliable tacklers at the position in football last season. Tarvarius Moore has proven to be a willing run defender, while Anthony Johnson ranked among the best in college football in PFF’s run-stop rate metric last season.

– Johnson has the skill set to fill an Adrian Amos-like role in this defense with his ability to play in the box and fly downhill to help against the run. But it’s important to remember that not only is Johnson making the jump from college to the NFL, which comes with a steep learning curve, but after spending four seasons at cornerback at Iowa State, this is only his second year as a safety. Throughout OTAs and minicamp, in terms of playing time with the defense, Johnson was the clear fifth option. I wouldn’t be surprised if his role as a rookie is quite small defensively.

– So if Savage and Ford are the clear first and second options at safety right now, who is the third? Based on what I saw, it’s either Moore or Owens, but I’m not exactly sure who is three on the depth chart and who is four. If asked this question after OTAs, I would have said Moore, given that he saw more snaps than Owens with the starters. But with Moore out during minicamp, Owens saw those snaps. If I had to guess, the safety depth chart right now would be Savage, Ford, Moore, Owens, and Johnson.

– Not to be forgotten at the safety position is Dallin Leavitt, who is essentially a fourth special teams player, along with the kicker, punter, and long-snapper. Adding him to the mix gives the Packers six safeties fighting for a roster spot. The last time Green Bay rostered six on the initial 53-man roster was in 2016, otherwise, they’ve kept either four or five. That means that the chances are one of the players I’ve mentioned will be cut. Although Leavitt likely isn’t going to contribute on defense, I just can’t see the Packers cutting him. He was a core special teams player, he has spent his entire career playing under Rich Bisaccia, and there were a few occasions last season where Aaron Rodgers mentioned Leavitt’s leadership qualities in the locker room.

– Innis Gaines saw some snaps towards the end of last season from the slot and made a few plays there during offseason programs. However, this room already feels too crowded that I’m not sure how he makes his way onto the roster.

– From a salary cap perspective, none of the players (outside of Savage) at this position are safe from being released. All come with minimal dead cap hits and little guaranteed money that the Packers could absorb their absences quite easily, even with their tight salary cap situation. Johnson is currently the only safety under contract beyond 2023.

– As the title suggests, and we all know, the Packers have a lot of questions at safety. However, it’s not like this group was dominant last season, either. While PFF’s grades are far from the be-all-end-all, if players are playing well, they, for the most part, reflect that. And the same goes for those not playing well. Out of 68 eligible safeties last season, Amos ranked 64th in grade and Savage 68th. Even just some reliability at the position will go a long way this season.