Young Packers secondary showing promise early in camp

Sports

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – DECEMBER 23: Cornerback Kevin King #20 of the Green Bay Packers carries after an interception intended for wide receiver Stefon Diggs #14 of the Minnesota Vikings during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 23, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – 27 years old.

That’s the age cap for a Packers secondary loaded with young talent, featuring a ballhawking cavalry of rapidly improving defensive backs.

“I feel as good about that group as any in the National Football League,” head coach Matt LaFleur said. “They’re guys that love to compete, they’re young and they’re hungry.”

That hunger has shown out in the first three practices of Packers training camp, notably on Tuesday, as the secondary intercepted two Aaron Rodgers passes on the first day in full pads.

It’s not uncommon to see Green & Gold defensive backs picking balls out of the air. Green Bay ranked third in the NFL last season with 17 interceptions, led by 5 from Kevin King.

“With the secondary we have, everybody’s gelling,” King said. “You know with our safeties we’ve got with Sav (Darnell Savage) and Smash (Adrian Amos), those guys are so comfortable, they lead the charge and they command the back end as well as any team that I’ve been on.”

Amos, the oldest Packers defender at 27 years old, had one of Tuesday’s three total interceptions in 11 on 11 drills.

Meanwhile, the safety alongside him is turning heads as he looks for a second-year jump.

Darnell Savage, a former first-round pick out of Maryland, made Pro Football Focus’ All-Rookie team in 2019, posting five quarterback pressures, two forced fumbles and two interceptions in his debut season.

But even as he improved last year, he focused his energy on how he and the entire secondary could learn from mistakes regardless of the game results.

“We didn’t play any perfect games last year,” Savage said. “Even the wins as well, we use those as motivation too because we always feel as if you can always do better.”

That standard resonates throughout the defensive backfield. Amos and third-year corner Jaire Alexander have been vocal in the offseason about focusing on the little things, mastering their craft in Year 3 of Mike Pettine’s defense.

Alexander, in particular, has garnered high praise from both LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst this offseason. In Saturday’s media availability, Alexander was asked if he, himself, believes he’s elite.

“What?” Alexander quipped. “Yeah.”

The numbers in 2019 backed it up. He allowed opposing quarterbacks a mere 53 percent completion rating, tallying 50 total tackles and two interceptions on the year.

In 2020, the former first-round pick out of Louisville looks to make an even bigger jump.

“I think through those last couple games, especially in the playoffs, my defense and my coverage was the best it’s been all year,” Alexander said.

“When I master my craft, the sky’s the limit.”

The confidence and production all adds up to one of the most dangerous young secondaries in football, a crucial piece to a Packers team looking to defend its NFC North title.

And with road games against the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Deshaun Watson, the back end will need to carry an even heavier weight to get the Pack back in the Super Bowl mix.

“Guys are getting comfortable with the defense,” King said. “We want to take it past that undergraduate level and kind of to those graduate level courses, just getting into the intricacies of the defense and the small details and things like that.

“Just going out there and playing free.”

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