In the Green Bay Packers Week 1 victory over the Chicago Bears, safety Darnell Savage put together a standout performance.
Savage finished the game with a team-high 10 total tackles, several of which came at or even behind the line of scrimmage, and he didn’t have any misses. Savage’s tackling grade from PFF in Week 1 was the third-highest among all safeties. Throughout his career, missed tackles have been an issue for him.
In coverage, Savage allowed two completions on three targets for 28 yards. His three stops – or plays that constitute a loss for the offense – were the eighth most at the safety position this week. As a unit, the Green Bay defense generated a whopping 36 quarterback pressures, held the Bears’ running backs to less than four yards per rush, and limited the Chicago offense to only 4.4 yards per play.
During OTAs, Packers’ safety coach Ryan Downard said that Savage was “at his best when he pulls the trigger and let’s it all hang out.” We saw that aggressive play style from Savage on Sunday, with him flying around the field and his willingness to fight through blocks and stick his nose in there to make tackles. This looked like the Savage we saw from his rookie season in 2019.
"“I thought Sav played a really complete game,” said Matt LaFleur on Monday. “I thought he was flying around. Obviously, led us in tackles with 10. I was just really happy for him.”"
During the 2022 season, missed tackles, poor communication, and coverage breakdowns were all too prevalent for Savage, and ultimately, it led to him being benched at one point. To Savage’s credit, he did play better upon his return to the starting lineup, and his performance against the Bears was the product of a really good summer of training camp practices.
"“We all know the up and down he had last season,” added LaFleur. “I think he’s really done a great job of coming in each and every day with a great energy, and he does a hell of a job communicating with the back end. Making sure everyone is on the same page.“His practice habits have been outstanding. He’s doing a really good job. He’s off to a really good start. And we anticipate and expect it to keep on going that way.”"
As defensive coordinator Joe Barry has said on a few occasions this offseason, while playmaking is great, what he wants, first and foremost, at the safety position is consistency. This begins with the pre-snap communication. It also includes Savage trusting what he’s seeing, being a sound tackler, and being in the right position based on the defensive play call.
By Savage’s own admission, his biggest downfall, as he put it last season, is that he wants to make every play, and when he’s not doing so, frustration sets in, and it’s then difficult to focus on the current task. However, to even have the opportunity to make plays, it all starts with doing the little things, many of which were just mentioned, correctly and consistently in order to be in the best position to do so.
On a Packers’ defense that is loaded with talent, safety is unequivocally the biggest question mark and the potential weak link. It’s difficult to envision a realistic scenario this season that includes the safety group playing well and Savage not being at the center of that. Playing on a one-year deal, a bounce-back season is a must for Savage and for this Packers secondary.