Packers Eyeing Safety Depth With Starter’s Status in Question

Packers Safety Workouts

Getty Darnell Savage #26 of the Green Bay Packers looks on prior to a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 15, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland.

A depth addition could soon be in the cards for the Green Bay Packers with multiple safeties on their active roster currently battling injuries.

According to the NFL’s transaction wire for September 14, the Packers hosted former New York Giants safety Chris Johnson for a workout on Tuesday after auditioning another pair of defensive backs for a possible roster spot one day earlier.

Johnson has bounced around to several different NFL teams in his first two seasons in the league, most recently spending his summer with the Giants. He played on 127 total defensive snaps for the Giants during the preseason but did not make much of an impression as a defender, recording just five tackles and receiving average-to-poor performance grades from Pro Football Focus.

The Packers could be motivated to sign another safety for depth ahead of their Week 2 matchup with the Detroit Lions given the injury concerns with both Darnell Savage Jr. and Vernon Scott. Savage was knocked out of Week 1’s loss to the New Orleans Saints with a shoulder injury and remains in question for Monday Night Football, meaning the Packers could need to enact a backup plan for one of their starting spots.

Meanwhile, there have been no further updates on the status of Scott, a 2020 seventh-round pick, after he was ruled out of the season opener with a back injury. The only other healthy safeties on the Packers’ active roster at veteran Adrian Amos and Henry Black, who played 14 defensive snaps (23%) in relief of Savage in Week 1.

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LaFleur Shares Hopeful Update on Savage

For the most part, the Packers came away from their blowout loss to the Saints in a good place health-wise, but they didn’t return home completely unscathed. Josiah Deguara, their 2020 third-round tight end, sustained a concussion while attempting to make a block and began the week in concussion protocol, casting uncertainty over his status for their home opener against the Lions on Monday.

There was also Savage’s injury, which he sustained late in the third quarter when he picked off Jamies Winston in the end zone and was brought down hard on his shoulder. To add insult to injury, Savage’s interception ended up getting called back as a result of a highly questionable roughing the passer call against outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. The good news for the Packers’ starting lineup is that head coach Matt LaFleur seemed relatively optimistic about Savage’s outlook for Week 2 at the start of the week.

“I don’t think (it’s) long term, but hopefully, with the extra day, that will give us an opportunity to get him back for Monday night,” LaFleur told reporters on September 13.

Will Gaines Earn Elevation Opportunity?

If the Packers want some additional security for their safety position, they may not need to turn to the open market for it. They have Innis Gaines, who contended for a roster spot with some good play in training camp, stashed on their practice squad and eager for an opportunity to contribute, even if only on special teams.

Gaines recorded 11 solo tackles and made three stops across his 83 snaps of preseason action, but his four missed tackles were a sore spot that prevented him from closing the gap and seriously challenging Black and Scott for a roster spot. He did, however, beat out undrafted rookie Christian Ophoff for a place on the practice squad during the final round of roster cuts this summer. Again, the Packers might not need him for much if Savage is able to play — and even less so if Scott returns, too — but it could be a good opportunity to see how Gaines handles himself in an actual NFL game.

The Packers did not promote anyone from the practice squad in their first game, but they are allowed to elevate two players each week to their game-day roster. The restriction, though, is that each player can only be elevated twice during the regular season before an active-roster contract is necessary to get them in the lineup.

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