Rookie safety Darnell Savage Jr. has been deemed questionable for Sunday night’s game in Kansas City, making for his best chance to return to action since he suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys. Packers center Corey Linsley (back) is also questionable, while star wide receiver Davante Adams (turf toe) and tight end Robert Tonyan (hip) are both doubtful.
The outlook has been good on Savage since he returned to practice Wednesday as a full participant, which had him “looking good” in the opinion of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. Savage also told reporters Thursday he wasn’t worried about the injury hampering his speed when he did make it back onto the field.
“It’s not like it’s a hamstring,” Savage said. “It’s not gonna slow me down.”
As LaFleur also noted, the Packers could use his speed against Tyreek Hill and the rest of Chiefs’ offense when the two division leaders face off at 7:20 p.m. CT Sunday night.
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Packers Defense Has Gotten by Without Savage
The Packers defense that held opponents to no more than 16 points through the first three games of the season has eased up as the season has gone on, but they are still among the league’s top 10 units with fewer than 20 points allowed per game. Yards of offense allowed, though? That’s another story.
The Packers have surrendered a seventh-worst 381.0 total yards per game, forcing the Aaron Rodgers and the offense to make magic happen even as injuries ding up some of their leading weapons. By no means an impossible challenge, as the Packers have long led with their offense. Rodgers himself is coming off a six-touchdown, MVP-caliber week at home in a 42-24 win over the Oakland Raiders, but cracks in the defense could become problematic if a high-powered Chiefs unit stays efficient without Mahomes.
One particular area that opposing passers have exploited in the past two weeks has been Will Redmond, who has been pulling double duty as the team’s only healthy safety opposite Adrian Amos. The 2016 third-rounder has made some admirable effort plays during his sudden bump in importance and has the team’s fourth-most tackles at 29 with two for a loss, but he has also contributed a number of costly errors in his relief work.
Savage was among the leading rookies in the NFL before spraining his left ankle, recording 18 tackles, defending three passes, forcing a fumble and intercepting a pass. His impact, though, was felt more in his instincts and speed that helped Mike Pettine’s system run like a well-oiled machine.
Rushing Savage back would be ill-advised for the Packers, who have a genuine star on their hands once he returns to normal. But don’t be surprised if Savage is back out there Sunday night ready to work.
“I’m listening to the guys back there,” Savage said Thursday, “so if I feel good and they feel as if I’m good to go and there’s not any risk-reward kind of thing, then I’m going to feel good to play and comfortable enough to play.”
Receivers Rising Up in Adams’ Prolonged Absence
Trade rumors are still floating around the league about whether the Packers are interested in procuring another wideout talent for their offense with Adams in line to miss his fourth straight game since suffering his injury.
While there are some candidates out there — like Cincinnati star A.J. Green — who could add an influx of talent, the Packers could be just as content to stay put with their array of pass-catching options across multiple position groups.
Second-year Marquez Valdes-Scantling is coming off a career-high 133 yards last week against the Raiders and currently leads the team charts with 416 yards, and behind him, tight end Jimmy Graham (214) and lead rusher Aaron Jones (196) have been no slouches — even if each has dropped a touchdown pass or two in the past few weeks.
Allen Lazard is also a young option in the process of a breakout after his late-game heroics against the Lions were followed up with steady production in his limited looks last week. He has caught seven of the nine passed thrown his way this season for four first downs, 107 yards and a touchdown.
Nevertheless, be on the lookout for how the Packers receivers perform in prime time Sunday night with next Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline approaching fast.