The Packers are set at the top of their cornerback depth chart heading into 2023, but their situation at the safety position is different. A competition for a starting safety spot will take place through the summer, but an early contender is in place amongst the team’s in-house options.
“I like where our safety room is in terms of the competition right now,” Packers safeties coach Ryan Downard said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “There’s an opening there, and there’s only one guy in the room who’s played a ton of snaps for us… So it’s full competition when we go on the practice field.”
The player Downard is referring to, of course, is Rudy Ford. The latter joined Green Bay after being released by the Jaguars on the final day of roster cuts in August, leading to tempered expectations in his new home. Ford had started only six games in his career at that point, and had also spent time in Arizona and Philadelphia before his one-year stint in Jacksonville.
The former sixth-rounder played a career-high 442 snaps on defense in 2022, though, making him a key member of Green Bay’s secondary. Ford notched three interceptions and 44 total stops while logging a 43% snap share, which could put him in line for a step forward in playing time this season. Wood notes that Ford is the “top internal candidate” to replace Adrian Amos as a safety starter. The latter remains unsigned, and while a reunion could still be on the table, he has drawn interest from the Ravens as well.
That could leave Green Bay to rely on Ford in a tandem with 2019 first-rounder Darnell Savage, whose play at safety in particular has drawn signficant criticism. Depth at slot corner will bring Savage back to the safety spot, making identifying Amos’ replacement a top priority for the Packers if they are to take a forward step on defense this year.
Wood lists free agent signings Tarvarius Moore and Jonathan Owens as the other top competitors for the spot. Each has considerable experience at the NFL level, but also a track record of heavy usage on special teams rather than defense for much of their careers. It is also in the third phase that most (if not all) of seventh-round rookie Anthony Johnson‘s playing time will come in 2023. Those factors should leave Ford in pole position for a first-team role, though much remains to be determined in the coming months.