A Good Performance by Darnell Savage will go long way for Packers defense v. SF

It's been an up and down season for Darnell Savage, but a strong performance against the 49ers will go a long ways in helping this Green Bay Packers defense.

There are a few ways that this San Francisco 49ers' offense can create issues for the Green Bay Packers' defense--specifically with their ability to run the ball and pick up yards after the catch. 
 
Of course, it's going to take a group effort to try to contain Elijah Mitchell, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and the rest of the Niner playmakers, but the Packers' safeties are going to play a particularly important role in doing so. 
 
We will see if Joe Barry switches things up against the run-heavy Niners, but typically, he will play with lightboxes, and it's important for both Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage to be active in the run game. Mitchell, who didn't play in the Week 3 matchup between these two teams, tallied 963 rushing yards in only 11 games and 4.7 yards per rush. Kyle Shanahan also started using Samuel as a ball carrier in Week 10--and since then, he has averaged seven rush attempts per game and 6.3 yards per carry.
 
Slowing the 49er run game starts upfront with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith setting strong edges, along with everyone maintaining their gap responsibilities to limit running lanes being created. But at the second level, Amos' and Savage's presence will be required to limit any explosive run opportunities. 
 
Although San Francisco may be a run-first offense, and Jimmy Garoppolo comes with his limitations, this is still an explosive passing attack. Garoppolo averages the fourth-fewest pass attempts per game, and according to PFF, he ranks 30th in average depth of target. Yet, the Niners rank first in explosive pass play rate, according to Sharp Football. How, you ask? They are really good at generating YAC.
 
As a ball carrier, Mitchell averages 3.83 yards after contact, which is the fourth most among running backs, and he forced 41 missed tackles--the 11th most. Samuel finished second out of all receivers in total YAC and first in average YAC per catch, along with Kittle finishing second in YAC among tight ends and sixth in average. Bradon Aiyuk has also been tough to bring down, ranking ninth among receivers in average YAC per PFF.
 
This puts an additional premium on tackling for the Green Bay Packers defense. The good news is that Green Bay finsihed the season ranked second in tackling by PFF's metrics and recorded the fewest missed tackles out of any team. But it's going to take all 11 defenders to the ball, and it's going to be vital that Green Bay -- especially the safeties -- keep everything in front of them. 
 
It's also important to mention that when Garoppolo targets his pass-catchers, more often than not, he's doing so in the middle of the field. Samuel has been targeted a total of 117 times this season, and 80 of them have come between the numbers. It's a similar story for Kittle, who has had 67 of his 93 targets take place over the middle. Aiyuk also has 46 over the middle targets out of 89 total--you get the idea. 
 
With this much activity over the middle of the field, Amos and Savage are going to see a lot of action, whether that be in coverage or by being in the vicinity of the pass-catcher and doing what they can to limit any potential YAC opportunities.
 
When it comes to the individual play of Amos and Savage this season, Amos has been as reliable as they come at the safety position. Savage, on the other hand, has had a much more up and down season--with several metrics indicating that there have been more downs than ups. 
 
By PFF's grading system, Savage ranked 69th out of 98 eligible safeties during the regular season. Andy Herman of Packer Report, who grades every play for every Packers player over the course of the season, had Savage as his second-lowest graded defender. 
 
In coverage, where Savage has particularly struggled, he has given up a completion rate of 66 percent on 44 targets and is allowing 13.6 yards per catch along with a passer rating of 115.1. Now, Savage did have the fewest missed tackles of his career, but out of 64 eligible safeties, his missed tackle rate was the 10th highest. He did also come away with two interceptions, but there were several other opportunities that he was unable to capitalize on--in general, we haven't seen that consistent playmaking ability that we all know he is capable of.
 
Up against this San Francisco offense that relies on the run game, is really good at picking up YAC, along with a passing game that attacks the middle of the field, the Packer safeties are going to play a key role in limiting what the 49ers can do. With Amos, we know what we are getting week in and week out. With Savage, there is a bit more unknown, but if he can elevate his play on Saturday, this defense is really going to benefit. 

---------------------

Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

NFL Categories: 
8 points

Comments (24)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
splitpea1's picture

January 21, 2022 at 11:39 am

Excellent points about Jimmy G. usually throwing to the middle of the field, so hopefully the secondary will be pinching that way on obvious passing situations.

Savage is a bit of a concern, no doubt about it. He may be capable of consistent play-making ability in theory, but if he had the fewest missed tackles of his career and his rate was still the 10th highest, then there is a ton of room for improvement. Also, the officials seem to have their eyes on him for low blocks/tackles.

The good news is that the Packer defense improved their tackling tremendously this season--something we've all been waiting for a long time. Credit Barry for finally getting done.

7 points
7
0
Ferrari-Driver's picture

January 21, 2022 at 11:44 am

Paul, I liked the article and certainly agree with your wish that Savage plays well.

I think I understand your intent when you said "...But it's going to take all 11 defenders to the ball". However, I do think it's paramount that our defenders play "their" position and carry out their responsibility to the play and avoid overplaying.

I especially like your advice to have Smith and Gary set the edges and funnel running plays inside to let defensive lineman and Campbell hold runs to negative or short yardage gains.

Thanks for writing your articles for Cheesehead TV and that's one cute, young Packer fan you have in the family. I saw him on your weekly game predictions.

7 points
7
0
PatrickGB's picture

January 21, 2022 at 12:16 pm

If Alexander comes back then he may fill in as the slot corner. That puts him, often, in a place where the Niners like to go. Another possibility is King or Douglas in the slot. King has surprised me this year with his tackling ability and Douglas has good instincts. But whomever we put there will be called on to tackle some tough players. This game will hinge on smart tough plays from the defense. So next I wonder if Savage is up to that task. Of course we want to see the best from savage and he does have a lot of makeup speed but his instincts have some room to grow. Coach Grey will have to have them ready.

6 points
6
0
mnbadger's picture

January 21, 2022 at 12:40 pm

I agree with this article regarding the necessity for good safety play and discipline by the entire defense.
I would like to stress that we're giving our young safety a lot more credit for good play than he's earned. His big play ability is split almost evenly between big plays he's made for us, big plays he didn't capitalize on and big plays he's allowed. I know he's young, but he needs to be focused and steady on every play from now to season's end. I wish him nothing but the best. Pack 30-20. GPG!

3 points
3
0
Handsback's picture

January 21, 2022 at 01:00 pm

I loved the pick of Savage in the first round. To me he was a Nick Collins clone. It would take a few seasons to adjust to the NFL, but his capabilities would make him a star.
Reality is a b----, and Savage hasn't grown into the position. Maybe he will come around, but he doesn't seem to have any game day instincts to rely on. After the 49ers beat the Cowboys, I wondered allowed if Savage could make a difference in this game. Amos could or might make a big difference, but as far as Savage...he hasn't shown that performance yet. Which is a shame because he would be the perfect foil to Samuel.

3 points
4
1
Coldworld's picture

January 21, 2022 at 01:26 pm

It took Collins 2 seasons of doing very similar things to those Savage is going now before it clicked. Bad angles, missed tackles, dropped balls. It takes a while to click for most safeties, but Savage, like Collins, has the physical talent.

1 points
1
0
jannes bjornson's picture

January 21, 2022 at 03:50 pm

Nick Collins displayed a physical abiilty that transcends Savage. He was stronger, heavier and could elevate like M.J. Savage actually looked better under Pettine.

0 points
2
2
Coldworld's picture

January 21, 2022 at 06:06 pm

That’s later Collins not early Collins. He was about 8 pounds heavier, but similar height. Loved Collins, but he frustrated the heck out of us till year 3.

1 points
1
0
Coldworld's picture

January 21, 2022 at 01:24 pm

If we are playing a starting S close to the line, let it be Amos. Let Savage roam deep. He’s not a CB, star or otherwise. That was an unwise move by Barry I do not want to see try and fail again.

3 points
3
0
NitschkeFromTheGrave's picture

January 21, 2022 at 05:03 pm

To Paul Bretl (article writer). I'm feeling like you are baiting me with Savage accolades, so I'll bite.
Savage is the largest concern I have of any player on our defense. I really wish he would prove me wrong and get in there on plays and have a good game but I'm not holding my breath.
I said it in a previous post, "Savage reminds me of a 7 year old girl chasing a butterfly without a net." He's a lightweight defender, he's afraid to put a hit on someone, he is not a "hitter" at all. Savage would sooner play Patty-Cake and grab someone's wrist risking his freshly done manicure then to put a shoulder into them and drive. In my opinion he challenges NO ONE and is not respected on the field.
I gasp when a play goes in Savage's direction hoping someone else is close enough to help him.
Somebody please explain to me how this Lolly-Pop made it to an NFL team.

-1 points
4
5
Grandfathered's picture

January 21, 2022 at 10:04 pm

Actually, being a big hitter is exactly what got Alexander hurt. As Leroy Butler said, the smaller DBs need to learn to tackle and not try to hit hard.

1 points
2
1
Lphill's picture

January 21, 2022 at 01:42 pm

Maybe play 3 down lineman all game?

0 points
2
2
jannes bjornson's picture

January 21, 2022 at 03:52 pm

Three to Four. 4-2 looks and blitz in the face of Jimmy G with CBs and safeties.

1 points
1
0
Norm's picture

January 21, 2022 at 01:53 pm

Savage is important but Campbell is key. And Gary has to consistently set the edge and do his job, not try to play outside the scheme and get sucked inside as he has a tendency to do on occasion.

6 points
6
0
Minniman's picture

January 21, 2022 at 03:06 pm

49ers use their FB and TE’s to do zone blocking as a staple. They often fake or chip the first line of defenders (double team assisting their lineman) then look to engage the LB’s and Safeties.

I 100% see Savage being targeted as the weak link. They’ll look to sucker Gary to lose containment, tie Campbell up with Juszczyk and then make Savage have to tackle Samuel 1on1 in the secondary.

News just in - Z and Merc activated for the game. Very interesting!!!

5 points
5
0
jannes bjornson's picture

January 21, 2022 at 03:54 pm

Their Fullback is an ALL PRO. Key position for the WCO or any offense.

2 points
2
0
Coldworld's picture

January 22, 2022 at 09:47 am

Unless we have both safeties in the box that shouldn’t be an issue if Barry is smart. Amos is the more effective box player. The Savage to Star idea was a crock preseason, was tried, was ridiculous and hopefully ditched. In Barry’s defense, it was attempted when we were 2 CBs down on what we have now and I think Yiadom would have been worse.

1 points
1
0
stockholder's picture

January 21, 2022 at 02:48 pm

savage is a coward. He doesn't get physical. Plain and simple. This guy wasn't the best safety in the draft. Thornhill was. Sure he was fast. 2nd rounder all the way. But lets move up and make him All-pro material. Thats the thinking here. And it cost us a better player. If not two. You might say he's young, and still got time. Or you might say he's a bust. Either one is right. Because Nick Collins he'll never be.

-1 points
4
5
jannes bjornson's picture

January 21, 2022 at 03:57 pm

Thornhill was the Man as evidenced by his rookie season, but his injury history has set him back. Adderly is moving up to take the 2019 draftee crown this year.

0 points
1
1
13TimeChamps's picture

January 21, 2022 at 07:10 pm

"savage is a coward."

I'd gladly plop down a Benjamin to see you say that to his face. I wonder who would be the coward in that scenario.

0 points
3
3
Coldworld's picture

January 22, 2022 at 09:43 am

Savage is far from a coward. If anything he’s reckless at times. Really think that is a pretty pathetic thing to accuse a player of.

It’s rare that I find a post beyond the pale, but that kind of derogatory personal insult gets you there. The more so because there is no basis in fact.

0 points
1
1
stockholder's picture

January 22, 2022 at 06:55 pm

Point was: He doesn't get physical. I could have used "Yellow streak first". Seems everyone figured that out, But 'you'. Obviously you don’t remember Josh Jones. Or how Chuck Cecil was so physical. And as much as James Harrison knew how to tackle in the "Fan duel" commercial. It’s apparent. YOUR MISSION IS TO GET PEOPLE TO VOTE Down THE Comment. RATHER THEN understand it. I'm not the bad person here. Keep trying.

-1 points
0
1
Starrbrite's picture

January 21, 2022 at 04:03 pm

Outstanding defenses have generally had one thing in common—a very good/great safety. Willie Wood, Ronnie Lott, Butler, Collins, Atwater, et al.
Savage has some work to do.

3 points
3
0
NitschkeFromTheGrave's picture

January 22, 2022 at 06:52 am

Exactly right.

1 points
1
0