Darnell Savage Jr. didn’t just stand out for the Green Bay Packers during the first four weeks of his debut season. The rookie safety became one of the most valuable pieces in their secondary.
So to see Savage get twisted up in a play during Sunday’s second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys and exit the game with the ankle injury was distressing for a Packers defense that shut out the Cowboys in the first half. He did not return for the second half and was ruled out officially near the end of the third quarter.
The first-round rookie out of Maryland, who the Packers selected with the 21st overall pick in this year’s draft, entered the week with 17 tackles, three passes defended, a forced fumble and one of the team’s four interceptions on the season. He had tallied one tackle before getting knocked out against the Cowboys.
Savage got his left leg twisted and pinned under Cowboys running back Tony Pollard as Packers inside linebacker Blake Martinez awkwardly pulled him down on a nearly missed wrap-up. Martinez’s flimsy arm tackle was broken on his approach, but he managed to hang onto Pollard and drag him down by his thigh with his teammate caught in the process.
An update on Savage’s injury said the safety “had his left foot trapped on a tackle and his knee was forced into valgus, which means a likely MCL sprain or high ankle (sprain),” according to reputable NFL and sports doctor David J. Chao.
“The hope is it’s mild because his knee was flexed and his foot was quickly pulled out, which means he escaped serious injury,” Chao wrote. “He has a chance to return, but because he’s in the secondary it’s unlikely. This injury appears to be a combination of a left high-ankle sprain and a left knee MCL sprain, these two injuries are paired when the foot is trapped.”
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Rookie Has Been Lighting Up League
Savage came into Week 5 with the second-most snaps played among defensive rookies in the NFL with 271, trailing Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy at 279. And while he will certainly fall behind on that list after missing the majority of Sunday’s game, the optics are still terrific on the rookie safety that has stepped right into a starting role.
An ESPN panel of six writers and analysts ranked Savage the No. 5 overall rookie through the first four weeks and rated him the second-best defensive newcomer. The list led with Oakland running back Josh Jacobs, while Carolina outside linebacker Brian Burns and a pair of wideouts — Washington’s Terry McLaurin and Baltimore’s Marquise Brown — finished among those valued just ahead of Savage.
Playmaking abilities and top-level speed were among the reasons why Savage drew such high praise in complement to newcomer safety Adrian Amos, who ranks just ahead of the rookie with the second-most tackles (23) for the Packers.
Losing Savage for any extended amount of time would pose another challenge for a Packers defense that just caught some luck this week with the return of linebacker Oren Burks and defensive lineman Montravius Adams. On the depth chart, Will Redmond backs up both Amos and Savage as the team’s only other safety on the active roster after Raven Greene was placed on injured reserve a few weeks ago.