GREEN BAY - When it really comes down to it, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears swapped safeties this offseason.
And they both seem to be happy with the exchange.
The Packers signed Bears free agent Adrian Amos on March 14 to a four-year, $36 million deal that included an $11 million signing bonus and pays him $14 million total in 2019. Amos has played all 849 defensive snaps this season and totaled 78 tackles, a sack, two interceptions and eight pass break-ups.
As important as any of those things is that he’s been in coverage on just one touchdown pass and three passes of 40 or more yards (one on his own, two shared responsibility). He has missed just five tackles.
The Packers rank tied for sixth in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (16) and tied for second in most completions of 40 or more yards allowed (14).
The consistency and stability Amos has offered is exactly what the Packers were seeking when they shelled out way more than some scouts thought the veteran was worth. Being a mentor to rookie safety Darnell Savage has been a bonus.
“I think he’s been awesome in terms of just consistency, coach Matt LaFleur said. “And it is nice that we’ve had the majority of our secondary available, really the majority of our team available most of the season.
“But just a calming veteran presence that can make plays on the football. And just a consistent guy, whether it’s practice, games; he’s the same every day and you can always count on him."
The Bears needed to replace Amos and on the same day he signed with the Packers, they signed Clinton-Dix, the former Packer, to a one-year, $3.25 million deal. General manager Brian Gutekunst had traded Clinton-Dix to Washington just before the trade deadline after showing no interest in extending his deal beyond 2019.
Clinton-Dix had tackling and coverage issues with the Packers – seven missed tackles, one TD allowed and partial responsibility in four others in seven games last year.
The Bears weren’t exactly sure what they were getting, but his stat line is about the same as Amos’: 66 tackles, two interceptions, five pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries. Clinton-Dix has played 893 snaps or 99.3% of the defense’s plays.
The Bears rank fourth in the NFL in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (14) and 11th in fewest completions of 40 or more yards allowed (six).
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do whether it’s in meetings or practice, making plays in games,” coach Matt Nagy said. “He’s just completely bought into who we are as a family as a culture and it’s a really cool story that probably doesn’t get enough pub. He’s been great for our team, our defense and it’s been fun to watch.”
Scott back to form
JK Scott was one of the Packers’ top performers in their 10-3 season-opening victory over Chicago, not only in preventing dynamic returner Tarik Cohen from getting going but by putting five punts inside the 20 and booming one key 63-yarder to flip the field from the Green Bay 26 to the Chicago 11.
Through the first seven games, Scott averaged 49 yards per kick – leading Aaron Rodgers to say the second-year specialist had given the team “clutch punts” as the team went 6-1.
But beginning in Kansas City on Oct. 27 and lasting through the loss in San Francisco on Nov. 24, Scott slumped. He averaged just 36 yards per punt in those four games in which the Packers went 2-2. He found a rhythm again in New York two weeks ago, however, and has averaged 43.0 yards per kick the last two weeks.
“I would say I’m definitely feeling a decent groove right now,” Scott said. “You just try your best to get back to your groove. That’s as simple as it is. You just kind of go back to basics and go back to the simplicity of it and just try to keep hitting punts. At the end of the day you’re just kicking a football. That’s kind of the mentality you try to get back to.”
Scott pinned New York at its 11, 21 and 6-yard lines and Washington at its 12, 5 and 20-yard lines.
“It was like it was early in the season,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said. “I know he knows that he’s working through it. He’s battling each and every day. I love what he’s all about. It was just good to see that kind of performance from him.”
Scott’s reclaimed groove couldn’t come with better timing, either, as Cohen enters the game as the league’s second-best punt returner at 9.14 yards per return with a long of 71 yards.
“He’s definitely a dangerous guy,” Scott said. “My goal this week is just to prepare as best I can to hit the best balls that I can every time, regardless of the returner back there. That’s just my goal – get the ball, place it right.”
The Packers’ roster exemption for offensive tackle Jared Veldheer expired this week, and after seeing him in practice the club elected to move him to the active 53-man roster and waive offensive lineman Adam Pankey on Monday.
Veldheer was claimed off waivers from New England on Nov. 29 and then he came off the reserve/retired list.
“They wanted to make sure I could still play football,” Veldheer said with a smile. “Fortunately enough for me I’ve been doing it a long time to where there’s so much muscle memory. The fundamentals are all there, it’s just kind of fine tuning some stuff. I was able to go out and have fun playing football the last couple weeks. It was my goal to earn a spot on the roster and play ball.”
Pankey was claimed by Miami, so a return to the practice squad was not in the offing for him. It leaves Lucas Patrick as the only traditional interior lineman backing up center Corey Linsley and guards Billy Turner and Elgton Jenkins. LaFleur said Veldheer could play both tackle spots, but the team also listed him as the backup left guard on its depth chart. The veteran linemen said his first NFL start came at center and he has some experience inside and will be able to fill in there if needed.
“I think he’s done a nice job since he’s been here,” LaFleur said. “He’s a smart guy that’s picked it up quickly. I think (offensive line coaches) Adam Stenavich and Luke Butkus, and the other guys in that room, have done a nice job with him. But he’s a veteran that’s got a lot of experience so we feel good about him.”
Martinez earns Walter Payton nomination
The Packers nominated inside linebacker Blake Martinez for the NFL’s coveted Walter Payton Man of the Year award. The award annually recognizes a player for his community service activities coupled with his play on the field. The award was established in 1970 but renamed for Payton in 1999.
Martinez will receive a donation of up to $50,000 in his name to the charity of his choice. The winner of the award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice. Martinez often donates to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and has worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Salvation Army.
“It’s one of those things where when I started doing this, if I could change one kid’s outlook on life, it’s a success for me,” Martinez said. “To be able to have those moments. Kids coming up to you saying I remember when you gave me a high five, I member you said hello to me. To me, it’s hello. To them it could be the whole entire world. It’s those moments that get you wanting more of that and to give more of that. Because if you can keep doing that over and over every single day, all of a sudden you're changing a hundred lives, a thousand lives.”
Beginning Sunday against Chicago and through the end of the season, Martinez will have a Man of the Year decal on his helmet.