The Green Bay Packers have been slow to make drastic changes to their starting lineup, but after consistently poor level of play from one of their former first-round picks, the coaching staff finally decided to start someone else against the Philadelphia Eagles.
On the opening drive of Sunday Night Football, the Packers started on defense. However, the starting lineup featured a new face with safety Rudy Ford taking over as a starter. That left former first-round pick Darnell Savage on the bench, as Ryan Wood with USA Today pointed out on Twitter.
Savage was able to get onto the field on the first third-down situation of the game, but was injured while trying to tackle a scrambling Jalen Hurts, who converted for the first down. To say that Savage’s night couldn’t have gone worse would be an understatement.
A Disappointing Career for Darnell Savage
Although Packers fans were excited with Savage’s potential coming out of college, the veteran safety has never been able to live up to the expectations while in Green Bay.
Savage was the top-ranked high school recruit in the state of Delaware in the 2015 recruiting class. He had few offers from top FBS programs, however, with some of the bigger offers including schools like Coastal Carolina, Rutgers, and Syracuse.
The young safety decided to enroll at Maryland, and he became a key player for the Terrapins. By his final season in 2018 he was a second-team All-Big Ten selection. HIs production and explosiveness helped him get picked up by the Packers in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Savage has shown some flashes over that time, even recording four interceptions in 2020. Unfortunately, the fourth-year safety has had a brutal year this season, logging zero interceptions and just two pass breakups.
The 25-year-old will be on the final year of his rookie deal in 2023, and it will likely be his last if the Packers decide not to cut him outright before the season begins.
Rudy Ford Has Earned a Starting Job
Savage hasn’t played at a high level in 2022, but his backup Ford has absolutely earned the opportunity to start.
The Packers picked up Ford this past offseason, primarily to serve a special teams role for coordinator Rich Bisaccia. The former sixth-round pick stood out for some reliable tackling on the punt coverage team before earning reps on defense.
Ford had his breakout game for the Packers in their big win over the Dallas Cowboys. Seeing a big uptick in playing time on defense, Ford came away with four solo tackles, two pass deflections, and two interceptions.
After spending his first two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Ford bounced around with the Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars. His career would have been spent bouncing around training camp rosters and practice squads, but he has been able to showcase his toughness and aggressiveness while in Green Bay.
If the 28-year-old continues to play at a high level for the rest of the season, general manager Brian Gutekunst would be wise to keep the veteran safety around for a few more seasons, especially as the team tries to rebuild for the post-Aaron Rodgers era in the coming years.