Safety has been a relatively strong position for the Packers for the last few seasons. Although it took a while to find someone to replace Nick Collins, which was big shoes to fill, Ted Thompson did a great job drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to go along with the Packers young group of safeties. Safety is probably the youngest position group that the Packers have. Since Dom Capers became defensive coordinator, the Packers have regularly been amoungst the top of the league in takeaways. That is due in large part to very good safety play. If the Packers want to be playing in Super Bowl 51, they’re going to need big years from both safety positions.
1) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: The Packers 2014 first round draft pick has lived up to the hype that goes along with being a first round pick. The 23-year-old safety had a really strong sophomore season. Clinton-Dix was a tackling machine last year. He racked up 100 total tackles, 83 solo and 17 assists. He also tallied three quarterback sacks. Along with big tackling numbers, Clinton-Dix forced three turnovers in 2015. He intercepted two passes and forced a fumble. Look for him to make a big leap in his third NFL season. If he makes the leap to pro-bowl level, the Packers defense will be better for it.
Image via Bleacher Report
2) Morgan Burnett: 2015 wasn’t Burnett’s best season. The 27-year-old safety failed to record an interception and only played in eleven games. Morgan Burnett has never had gaudy interception numbers; his career high is three back in 2011. Burnett’s number one asset is tackling. Looking back at 2014, his last full healthy season, he was a force. He had 94 tackles, 36 assists, and 1.5 quarterback sacks. He also defended four passes, intercepting one of them along with one forced fumble. He is by far the Packers best option at strong safety for the 2016 season. Burnett will be a productive player; the only question is will he be healthy enough to play in all 16 regular season games.
Image via Fox Sports
3) Micah Hyde: Hyde is a valuable asset for Dom Capers. He can play corner as an injury replacement and is a very good special teams player, as the teams punt returner. Hyde did a nice job filling in at strong safety when Morgan Burnett was unable to go. The 25-year-old played in 15 games, starting seven of them. He had 51 tackles, 4 assists, and one quarterback sack. He also intercepted three passes. Even though he makes his greatest impact on special teams, he could probably be a starting strong safety on about half of the NFL rosters. He really strengthens their depth at the safety position. Hyde’s versatility makes him a valuable piece.
4) Chris Banjo: Like Hyde, Banjo’s biggest value for the Packers is his special teams ability. He is one of the Packers top five special teams contributors. The Packers thought so highly of his special teams work, they named him special teams captain along with Mason Crosby for the 2015 postseason. They also thought he was valuable enough to offer him an exclusive rights deal this offseason. The 26-year-old safety will be starting his third season this year. He made one start for the Packers last season. Overall he has 15 tackles and one assist. His defensive numbers from 2015 were nothing special, but the Packers know his greatest impact is on special teams, where he thrives. He will open the season as a backup safety, but the Packers also know his importance on defense because there is nothing but rookies behind him.
5) Kentrell Brice: Brice was signed by the Packers this spring as an undrafted free agent. The 21-year-old rookie safety from Louisiana Tech has the best chance of the remaining three safeties on the depth chart of making the roster and sticking around for week one at Jacksonville. Brice, although slightly undersized, is very athletic. He ran the forty-yard dash in 4.44 seconds and measured a 42-inch vertical leap. If Brice has a good camp, look for him to be on the 53-man roster.
6) Marwin Evans: The Packers signed the Oak Creek native as an undrafted free agent. The rookie free agent from Utah State looks to compete with Kentrell Brice and Jermaine Whitehead for a spot on the final roster, or a spot on the practice squad.
7) Jermaine Whitehead: Whitehead is a second year player that spent his rookie season with the 49ers and the Ravens, He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the 49ers and was taken off their practice squad by the Ravens. The Packers signed him in May to fill the 90-player roster for camp. Whitehead has very little chance to make the 53-man roster and is most likely playing for a chance to be on the practice squad.