Wed, 29 Sep 2021

Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage return for third season together on the back end Wes Hodkiewicz

As training camp approaches, packers.com is examining Green Bay's roster, position by position. The series continues with the defensive backs.

GREEN BAY - The Packers enter 2021 with high expectations for their cornerback room, which touts four top 50 draft picks and returns virtually everyone from last season's unit that finished seventh in passing defense.

The crown jewel remains 24-year-old cornerback Jaire Alexander, whose string of shutdown performances led to his first AP All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections last season.

The 5-foot-10, 196-pound cornerback has led the Packers in passes defensed in all three of his NFL seasons, while ranking among the league's top cornerbacks in opposing passer rating.

Still, Alexander was at his best when the lights shined brightest. During January's NFC Championship Game against Tampa Bay, Alexander picked off future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady twice in the fourth quarter to keep Green Bay's Super Bowl hopes alive.

There has been a lot of speculation this offseason as to whether Alexander might move around more under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry. That answer could depend on how the rest of the cornerback depth chart sorts out in training camp.

The Packers brought back fifth-year veteran Kevin King and nickel cornerback Chandon Sullivan in March, but also drafted Georgia's Eric Stokes in the first round and Appalachian State's Shemar Jean-Charles in the fifth.

Coming off a career year in 2019, King once again battled injuries last season. He missed five games and was on the receiving end of Brady's 39-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Miller at the end of the first half in the NFC title game.

When healthy, the 6-foot-3 King has been a key cog on the perimeter. He led the Packers in 2019 with five interceptions, while establishing career highs in both tackles (59) and passes defensed (18).

Sullivan, cut by Philadelphia a week after the 2019 NFL Draft, has been quite the find for the Packers. He won the nickel job last summer and held onto it all season, finishing with 41 tackles, six passes defensed and an interception.

With Alexander not participating in OTAs and King sitting out of most team periods, Stokes and former second-round pick Josh Jackson saw significant first-team reps this offseason.

Stokes, the 29th pick in April's NFL Draft, had a statement-making junior season at Georgia in which he recorded four interceptions in just nine games, returning two for a touchdown.

Stokes then catapulted himself into the first round after recording a 4.25-second time in the 40-yard dash at his pro day.

Jackson, a second-round pick in the same 2018 NFL Draft the Packers discovered Alexander, is hoping for a fresh start in Barry's defense. After playing mostly special teams in 2019, the fourth-year cornerback started five games on defense last year but is still searching for his first NFL interception.

Jean-Charles enjoyed a prolific run at Appalachian State after arriving on campus as a two-star recruit. He started 25 of his 50 games for the Mountaineers, registering 97 tackles, 33 passes defensed and two interceptions. Pro Football Focus labeled him as one of the top performers in this year's NFL draft class.

The Packers also return former sixth-round pick Ka'dar Hollman, Kabion Ento and Stanford Samuels. Hollman and Samuels saw limited action last season, while Ento missed the year with the foot injury he suffered during training camp.

Safety and stability

The Packers weren't just investing in the future of the safety position when they signed Adrian Amos as a free agent and traded up to draft Darnell Savage in the first round two years ago.

The organization also was banking on that tandem growing together on the back end - and Amos and Savage haven't disappointed.

While Amos durability has come as advertised, the 28-year-old safety also has provided quiet and steady leadership on defense, while displaying a willingness to play wherever he's asked to.

Case in point, when dime cornerback Raven Greene missed time with injuries the past two years, Amos didn't bat an idea at the notion of moving down into the box on passing downs. The end result was two of Amos' best NFL seasons to date.

In 2020, Amos led the defense in both playing time (1,008 regular-season snaps) and tackles (83). He received six votes in the AP All-Pro balloting after recording nine passes defensed, two interceptions and two sacks in 16 starts.

Meanwhile, Savage's stock continues to rise in centerfield, with his four INTs leading Green Bay's secondary in 2020. According to stathead.com, Savage's six picks are the most by a Packers safety in his first two seasons since Tom Flynn (10) in 1984-85.

Sixth-year veteran Will Redmond served as the primary backup to both Amos and Savage last season, recording 28 tackles and a deflected pass in 13 regular-season appearances.

The former third-round pick of the San Francisco found new life in Green Bay after catching on with the team's practice squad in 2018. Over the past three seasons, Redmond has switched from cornerback to safety and developed into a core performer on Green Bay's special-team units.

Vernon Scott, a seventh-round pick out of TCU a year ago, played in 15 regular-season games as a rookie. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound safety had 13 tackles and a sack in limited action.

After signing with Green Bay as a college free agent, Baylor's Henry Black played in eight games for the Packers and forced a game-ending fumble in the Packers' 35-20 win over the Houston Texans last October.

Illinois State's Christian Uphoff and TCU's Innis Gaines hope to follow in the footsteps of Black, Greene, Chris Banjo and Sean Richardson as the next undrafted safeties to find a home in Green Bay.

Uphoff recorded 94 tackles, 13 passes defensed and three interceptions in a college career that also saw the 6-foot-3, 209-pound safety finish as the Redbirds' all-time leading kickoff returner (27.1 yards per attempt).

Countdown to Camp series

QBs: Full offseason program aided Jordan Love's growth

RB: New No. 2 at running back for Packers

WR/TE: Davante Adams taking his place among the NFL's elite

OL: In sorting out offensive line, Packers have options

DL: Kenny Clark's strong finish to 2020 bodes well for Packers' defensive line

LB: Linebacker groups have mix of proven and emerging players

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