Of course, Green Bay Packers safety Darnell Savage will surely want his team to be in good shape for his first game as an NFL player at Lincoln Financial Field.
But the Packers, with Aaron Rodgers, are 4-7 as both the offense and defense have struggled at different times of the season.
Savage, who played at Caravel Academy and the University of Maryland, has started every game Green Bay has played in since making him a first-round pick in 2019 (21st overall).
But this season, Savage has seen some time as a nickel corner, especially in the last few weeks as injuries have forced the secondary into the mix. That could continue Sunday night when the Packers take on the 9-1 Eagles.
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It also affected two former Eagles at cornerback, 2017 Eagles third-round pick Rasul Douglas and safety Rudy Ford, who was a special teams player with the Eagles. Both have been released in the last few years and have rekindled their careers with the Packers.
Douglas, in fact, has been with four other teams since the Eagles waived him in September 2020, before the Packers picked him off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad early last season. He played well for the Packers, who gave him a three-year, $21 million contract with $5.3 million guaranteed.
Douglas played in the slot but was out when cornerback Eric Stokes was injured. Savage then moved to the slot while Ford secured. Ford actually had 2 interceptions in his first start at safety on November 13th in the Packers’ 31-28 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
But it’s in the Packers’ best interest to find a role that benefits Savage. After all, Green Bay picked up Savage’s fifth-year, $7.9 million new contract option through 2023. After that, Savage will be eligible for free agency.
Savage had 8 interceptions in his first three seasons, but he has yet to have one this season.
“I think Darnell Savage would be a great nickel, and we’ve been around him for years,” Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry told reporters before the trade. “But to do that, if you’re going to. move him to the nickel corner, you’ve got to feel comfortable putting somebody at safety.”
It eventually happened, but the Packers’ secondary didn’t fare well in last Thursday’s 27-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Pack held star running back Derrick Henry to 87 yards with 28 carries, while Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 22 of 27 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns.
Savage said he was aware of the deal last summer.
He was one of three NFL players from Delaware, along with Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Troy Reeder and Minnesota Vikings right tackle Brian O’Neal, to host a free football clinic for 250 campers at the TITUS Free Camp. Community Soccer Clinic at the Chase Center in Wilmington last summer.
At the time, Savage was asked about the Packers’ offensive changes, which saw star receiver Davante Adams traded to the Raiders and Marquez Valdez-Scandling signed by the Chiefs as a free agent.
But his answer could also apply to the defense.
“The NFL is a revolving door,” Savage said. “At the end of the day, there’s always going to be a next-man-up mentality because, unfortunately, the sport we play, guys have a lot of chances to get hurt all year, guys miss games. Stay as long as we keep this up. As long as we stay hungry and keep competing with each other, we’ll be fine.”
It didn’t happen.
Rodgers, who turns 39 next week, obviously misses his two star receivers. The two-time defending NFL MVP has thrown 7 interceptions this season, his most in a season since he threw 8 in 2015. time starter 2008
But Savage knows Rodgers can turn it around, and he has the last two games, largely due to the emergence of rookie Christian Watson.
Rodgers has thrown 5 TD passes — all to Watson — in the last two games. Rodgers’ rating in those games is 115.9, higher than in his best seasons.
Savage sees it in action, and it makes him better.
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“It’s a no-brainer,” Savage said of going up against Rodgers in practice last summer. “When you’re going up against a guy who’s seen every broadcast a thousand times and seen hundreds of different guys do it, you’ve got to try to find new tricks.
“But he’s good at that kind of stuff. He’s very receptive to the questions we ask. He asks us questions, so we pick each other’s brains. It’s always fun.”
This season hasn’t been all that fun for the Packers.
But it’s not too late. There are six games left in the season, and the Packers can still clinch one of the three wildcards. After all, the Eagles were 3-6 and 5-7 last season and they entered.
So if Rodgers returns to form, he could carry the Packers. Savage and the secondary did a good job for the most part. Green Bay ranks fifth in pass defense, allowing 193 yards per game. It’s the 24th-ranked run defense, allowing 136 yards per game.
But Savage doesn’t have to worry too much about stopping the run if he plays more nickel. That could improve the run defense, and that could be enough for Rodgers to lift the Packers’ offense.
The Eagles will find out if that’s the case.
Contact Martin Frank at [email protected] Follow @Mfranknfl on Twitter.