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Williams impressed by rookie Savage's intelligence, desire for workload

-- Tramon Williams is 36 years old and the oldest player on the Green Bay Packers' roster.

Darnell Savage is 21 years old and only Rashan Gary is younger.

The age differential doesn't mean much to the elder statesman of the team's secondary. If someone like Savage, who was one of the Packers' two first-round picks last month along with Gary, can step right in and instantly recognize what he's supposed to be doing -- and do it well -- then that's enough to impress someone such as Williams.

Typically, it's hard to really stand out during this time of the year when you're running around in a helmet and shorts. But in Savage's case: he's standing out with his intellect.

"You know what's funny with Darnell, even before he even stepped on the field, I recognized how smart the kid was," Williams said on Tuesday, according to Michael Cohen of The Athletic. "And with most rookies, you don't see that right away. Like you wonder, 'Okay, can he pick up this? Can he do this? Can he do that?' But man, this kid pretty much knows what we done put in already. He's asking for more."

After being signed by the Packers as a journeyman undrafted free agent in 2006, Williams has essentially seen it all in this league. He signed a two-year deal to return to the Packers last offseason after three years playing elsewhere, and could very well be entering the final season of his career.

With that fact comes the leadership aspect behind Williams' spot on the roster. While he may not be receiving much playing time, the best asset he brings to the locker room right now could simply be as a veteran guide for a young defensive backfield. A unit that consists of players such as last year's No. 17 and No. 45 overall picks, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, as well as Savage.

Savage ran with the first-team during Tuesday's open practice. A sign that he is fully expected to compete for a shot as the Packers' starting free safety.

The Packers spent half of last season with Williams starting at free safety after trading away 2014 first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at the trade deadline. If all goes well with Savage, the Packers won't need to worry about the status of their centerfield safety position for a long, long time.

If Williams' apparent rare praise is an indicator, Savage's willingness to learn and desire for an extensive workload has his arrow trending upward immediately.

"You don't get that from no rookies, asking for more things already. Just not what rookies do. They're trying to really get whatever the coach is giving them and they're trying to grasp that. But he's asking for more. That's the first thing that I recognized about the kid, that he's a very, very smart kid and he's in-tune with what's going on out on the field already.

"We're definitely going to need him. We'll definitely need those smarts."

The Packers' safety depth did suffer a blow on Tuesday, however, when it was reported by ESPN that Josh Jones requested a trade from the team.

Jones was selected in the second round of 2017's draft by the Packers and has since struggled to find a solidified role in the team's defense. Between playing in coverage at strong safety and as a hybrid linebacker where he seemed to be best suited, Jones just never materialized into what the Packers were expecting him to be.

The Packers also versatile safety Adrian Amos in March, making Jones' roster standing even more unclear. It could also be argued that trading -- or releasing if the quest to find a trade partner falls short -- Jones would be more of a hit to the team's depth at middle linebacker than it would be at safety.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (40) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

"The Packers' safety depth did suffer a blow on Tuesday, however, when it was reported by ESPN that Josh Jones requested a trade from the team."

Hmmm... Not a blow at all Zach, actually a blessing. We've not only found our future FS after struggling for years BUT we've also learned Josh Jones lacks the one thing that can't be measured with a stop watch or in the weight room.. We've learned Josh Jones lacks HEART, IMO one of the most essential traits a football player has that can't be measured. At least until his back is against the wall and Jones requesting a trade FAILED miserably.

Savage on the other hand has impressed Williams which in my book is saying something. T-Will doesn't heap praise on just anyone. Can't wait to watch Savage and Amos grow into one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. And it IS happening people. This defense is going to be nasty from week one on!

Qoojo's picture

and if you read the one quote from Josh Jones, it sounds like he thinks his draft position guarantees him playtime. Something like "you don't draft someone in the second round to sit on the bench". So he really doesn't get that it's all about performance, and at the pro level, he isn't good enough.

Lphill's picture

I still say the Packers are thin inside , expecting a lot from Burks, I think they should have held on to Jake Ryan .

Old School's picture

After Martinez, we don't have anybody who has shown they can play ILB in the NFL.

dobber's picture

With the investment the Packers have made at OLB (Gary, Smith, and Smith) and with Fackrell returning, those players rotating into the middle might very well put better players on the field than most ILB the Packers would slot next to Martinez, anyway...especially on run-downs.

Given how little base teams play--and what is this Packers base defense anymore, anyway?--and the fact that in nickel, the first player off the field in the default base 3-4 is usually an ILB, the question is how much difference this will make?

Freezn's picture

Lets see if Burks can pick up the defense in is second year a lot of rookies don't get it the first year.

Coldworld's picture

His problem was health primarily I think.

Coldworld's picture

Dobber, I agree, though I think it will be interesting to see what the role of ILB 2 will be. I do think we may see OLB types occupy part of it. I think we will see safety types capture another. How much is left, and what are the duties?

Summers, Sheldon, Brooks and maybe others will compete presumably behind Burks and Martinez. All a little bigger than Jones. Jamerson, Green, maybe Campbell if resigned are a little smaller but could be 3rd safety.

With respect to the article, I am just not sure we are thin in terms of potential at least even without Jones and to me, Jones only represented potential anyway.

Packers2019's picture

There is nothing going on in the news with football right now. This is click bait. That is all the article is.

A lot of them are at this time of year.

jannes bjornson's picture

They all can take some of Matthews sets from the Inside LB spots. Lots of moving parts to be revealed by Pettine. No more lead feet and bowling pins
looking to be knocked down. Attacking defense and more speed.

PeteK's picture

Please, no Ryan, who was another often injured player.

DragonSilk's picture

Jake was a thumper and it always good to have a thumper on the squad. Problem is spots on the 53 are a rare commodity, and you have to bring more than that in today's NFL.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"Typically, it's hard to really stand out during this time of the year when you're running around in a helmet and shorts."

Yep, remember Jeremy Thompson? But if there's one position where did difference is mimimal it might be safety.

jeepingmakooi's picture

Could always bring back Morrison

Coldworld's picture

I have a feeling they have a direction in mind that shaped the decisions not to bring back Morrison and Ryan well as what they did in FA and UDFA.

Perhaps they see Real potential among the UDFAs, futures contract players or really believe Summers is ready. But I think at least in part. or maybe for the most part, it looks like one traditional ILB is their vision. In that case the second ILB is absorbed by DBs and OLB types somehow?

It’s going to be fun to watch this camp. I think we see the D Pettine wants to build emerging this year. I think we will eventually remember how much fun D can be as the year progresses.

RCPackerFan's picture

This time of year we have to really temper our excitement over players especially rookies. We have seen countless rookies come in and looking great in OTA's but as soon as the pads go on they disappear.

That all being said, what the article mostly was talking about with Savage is his football IQ. Just the fact that he has been able to grasp the defensive scheme already is a really good sign.
The faster rookies can learn what they are supposed to do, the faster they get on the field and the faster they can make plays.

Out of all the rookies Savage is probably the most important to not only get on the field but be a play making type of player. Our Safety position has been more down then up since Collins' career ended.

I'm excited to see what Savage will bring us!

IceBowl's picture

Besides brains, it seems he also has heart. "Want to!!!"

Very important qualities.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

A quality that seams to be sorely lacking in the previous high Safety draft pick.

IceBowl's picture


stockholder's picture

I'm happy hear this. Williams understands the game. Savage can learn a lot from Williams. Now lets see it on the field.

Old School's picture

We used three draft picks on Savage, so it's imperative that he stays healthy and plays well.

dobber's picture

They used just cost 3 picks to get it. ;)

Nick Perry's picture

And one was from a guy traded named Ha Ha.... Who's laughing now? I promise you by the 2nd quarter (if that) into the Packers / Bears game in week one Ha Ha will have Bears fans crying with one his half ass attempts to tackle Aaron Jones.

dobber's picture

How many people were complaining around here going into the draft:
*the Packers have too many picks!
*If they use all these picks, there's no place for them on the roster and they'll just get cut!
*More high picks, not day 3 picks!'s almost as if BG was listening.

There's some contention based on which draft value chart you use as to whether the Packers actually gave Seattle true value (meaning the Packers actually got more value for their picks--#21-- than Seattle got in return--#30, 114, 118). The consensus is that the Packers won on value: if you use the drafttek board, for example, it says that the Packers won by a little over 50 points, which equates to--a 4th round pick! Using that rationale, the Packers really only surrendered a 1st and a 4th because the surplus value replaced the other 4th round pick.

Ultimately the issue seems to be one of two things (or both) for most people:
1. The Packers gave away 3 potential players for 1 (I will admit to being here when the trade was made). Most would argue that a first or second round pick should be a starter for you in the first two years of their time on the team. Analyses have shown that there's usually a pretty significant dropoff in the rate of players turning into pro-bowlers or all-pros once you get past pick 20 or so...21 would be on the cusp of that. What about 4th round players? Most of those turn out to be role players and they hit in terms of being quality starters at a low rate.
2. The Packers didn't draft a player that people liked, had a draft crush on, or knew much about when they dealt up. There's a reason why fans aren't GMs...suck it up, buttercup.

In the end: the Packers need to get Savage on the field and let him play. Does he need to be an all-pro to justify his draft position or pick? I don't think so. If he helps elevate the defense (meaning he's playing well), and the defense plays well, he will have been a solid pick. I care about winning football games. I don't really care about players getting personal accolades.

jannes bjornson's picture

Correct, Gutekunst won the trade both times; dumping Dix for a pick and making the move on Savage. The other option was Thornhill at #30 but he fell into the sixties, so the GM knew the real value of Savage when he made the deal. He would n't have picked Abram either since Mayock bagged him with #27. Savage never would have made it to #30 with the Crows lurking with the #22.

DragonSilk's picture

Ha Ha's main goal will be to get a pick, so he might get one. Though he'll probably give up 2 TD's in the process.

4thand1's picture

There seems to be a pattern in GB, you whine your gone. I've always wanted guys who want the ball, or want to hit, or want it more than the other guy. Team players not me first.

jannes bjornson's picture

That defense was soft for a reason. Change the talent and culture.

Packer Fan's picture

Tramon said something nice. He is a team guy. Jones, well he ain't no team guy. He could have stuck around and found a place to contribute. The Pack should dump him.

BadgerMan's picture

The Packers need to get some value for him. Another 4th round pick would be nice. Other wise keep him for depth and during the year some other alternative may pop up ( like a team replacing an injured player etc.). Remember he needs to play well to addition for teams and increase his own value.

Rossonero's picture

Besides football IQ, speed of thought is what Darnell Savage sounds like he has.

When you combine physical speed/agility with football IQ and speed of thought, there's potential to be special.

Freezn's picture

We now have 2 thumping smart fast safeties this year and I believe they will surprise a lot of offenses.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

We shall see when te REAL season starts.

Coldworld's picture

He is a rookie, he will have growing pains. I doubt anyone would argue that he doesn’t look like an immediate upgrade over last year from day 1.

jannes bjornson's picture

Campbell will probably be brought on board if he gets healthy. Steady veterans to help out the greenhorns.

Since '61's picture

All talk, speculation and hype at this point, but it’s better to hear positive talk, speculation and hype than negative.

The real story begins in September for all of these players. Thanks, Since ‘61

IceBowl's picture


A little realism. Thanks.

Freezn's picture

Our two new safeties will be one of the best if not the best tandum safeties in the league. we have thumpers at safety with speed and smarts that's dangerous for the apposing offenses

IceBowl's picture

I hope R Gary isn't to disappointed he wasn't asked 75 times about his shoulder or college production.

With this lack of attention, he may decide he "wants to" go somewhere else. :-)

Bryan Chisholm's picture

The more and more I read about him, and his work ethic, and just his knowledge and hunger for the game, makes this pick seem like a absolute steal. Being able to finally have a cerebral, quarterback of the defensive, roaming ball hawk next to a steady Eddy in Amos, allows the team to take the next step overall. When you don't have to worry about being beat deep, with either safety playing..

Players like Kevin and Jaire can really turn it up a notch with being more aggressive at the line. Josh Jackson can get back into jumping routes and playing more confident like he did his last year in college along. With Burks being able to learn his role covering the middle, with the monsters working in front of him and the secondary playing lock down behind him. Amos can just keep doing what got him paid and I'll be extremely happy, cause thats a huge upgrade in it's own.

I can't seem to shake the feeling that Ty Summers makes the 53 somehow, someway. I could only see him take Burks spot, but that would contradict Burks really finding his role.. idk.. well see.

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