Packers grades: Mike Pettine's system demands more from safeties
Eighth in a nine-part Packers position-analysis series with 2018 grades.
GREEN BAY - A Green Bay Packers position that was thought to have two solid starters to open the season in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Kentrell Brice quickly turned into a rotating cast due to trades and injuries.
The position was a weakness to start the season and burned often deep, but the insertion of Tramon Williams and the use of multiple corners helped mitigate some of those issues.
The safeties were asked to do a lot in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme, but there was an overall lack of turnovers and impact plays from anyone who played the position in 2018.
Williams was moved off the cornerback position to help solidify the back end of the secondary, and he did just that. Miscommunications and the big plays over the top that plagued the team early in the season were reduced to occasional moments later in the season, and usually there was a newer face involved in such plays.
As a whole, the position group was leaned on heavily in coverage, run defense and pass-rush situations. Five safeties recorded one sack and seven recorded at least one tackle for loss.
Clinton-Dix was traded and Jermaine Whitehead was cut in season as poor fits for the locker room and scheme, which meant moving Williams out of position. Brice had serious issues in deep coverage and was dogged by injuries, and the rest of the safety play was erratic at best.
This was a key position for Pettine, whether he wanted to bring pressure, assist in run defense or help in coverage — and too often there were breakdowns. No safety other than Clinton-Dix had an interception and he led the unit with seven pass breakups despite playing in just seven games.
A big, ball-hawking young safety who can cover. That’s a big ask — but with what Pettine showed last year in wanting his safeties to play the run and then cover tight ends and receivers, the Packers need to find this player.
The position suffered numerous injuries and its depth was also tested with personnel decisions, but now the personnel side must replenish it with an influx of talent more suited for Pettine’s schemes.
Tramon Williams: Signed to add depth and leadership to a young corner position, Williams eventually played most of the year as a safety to help the team. Didn’t tackle like a safety and missed more than a half dozen, and failed to make an interception for the first time in his career. He also had his fewest passes defensed ever (two), but was a stabilizing factor in a banged-up secondary. Grade: B
Kentrell Brice: Improved on early deep-ball coverage mistakes; third-year pro played through several injuries to appear in 13 games. Grade: D
Josh Jones: Slowed by injury and coaching decisions early in the season, he eventually moved into a larger role as the year progressed. Had issues in coverage and run assignments but also flashed potential. Grade: D
Raven Greene: Undrafted rookie played largely on special teams and ended the season on injured reserve after appearing in just eight games. Reliable on the specialist units, Greene saw just 43 defensive snaps. In that limited time he had a sack and a forced fumble. Grade: C-
Eddie Pleasant: Played six games after being signed Nov. 28 and was immediately thrust into key situations. Had a dropped interception against the Cardinals and was picked on by Chicago in a must-win game late in the season. Grade: D
Ibraheim Campbell: Claimed off waivers Nov. 5 and placed on injured reserve Dec. 4, the veteran played in three games, making 18 tackles and forcing one fumble. Played better than initially imagined and has a chance to return for 2019. Grade: Incomplete