Safety Battle: Levine Making Push

Beyond Charles Woodson and Morgan Burnett, none of the other five safeties have played defense in a regular-season game. Of that quintet, M.D. Jennings has been in front since May.

In the Green Bay Packers' base defense, the starting safeties are Charles Woodson and Morgan Burnett.

What's not so obvious is who will start alongside Burnett in the Packers' nickel and dime packages.

All offseason and throughout training camp, M.D. Jennings has lined up with the starters. The job might be his to lose but nothing has been finalized, coach Mike McCarthy and position coach Darren Perry said.

"All spots are wide open," McCarthy said on Monday. "You know what you can do with that depth chart. It takes the full training camp to decide the way your 53-man roster is going to come out."

Jennings struggled during his first big opportunity on Thursday at San Diego, including losing Antonio Gates in coverage on the first touchdown.

"Sometimes you've got to be patient and let the play come to you, and understanding in zone coverage that not every play is your play," Jennings said this weekend. "You've got guys that are outside or inside. You just have to do your job and try not to do someone else's job."

Jennings was absent on Monday for personal reasons. That gave Anthony Levine, who's officially a first-year player but is in his third Packers training camp, his opportunity with the starters. Against San Diego, Levine had two noteworthy plays. He stormed into the backfield to drop the runner for a 1-yard gain on the final play of the first quarter and added an interception on San Diego's first possession of the third quarter.

"I thought he played very well, and I'd like to see him stack the success that he had last week," McCarthy said. "Anthony's been with us for some time and showed a lot of range, a lot of athletic ability and he's doing a nice job."

At 25, Levine is the Packers' oldest safety (other than Woodson). If Woodson and Burnett are locks, Jennings and fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian are the clear front-runners for the next two spots. If the Packers keep another safety, Levine is ahead of undrafted rookies Sean Richardson and Micah Pellerin. Of the seven safeties, Jennings, McMillian, Levine, Richardson and Pellerin have not played a snap on defense in the regular season.

"He's young — they're all young and green as grass," Perry said last week when asked about Levine. "That's why these games are so important for those guys to get out there and show us what they can handle and all of the things that come along, not for half a game or a quarter or two, but to be able to do it with some consistency is so important. That's when a lot of guys fall by the wayside. You see a play here, you see a play there, but then you see something that will get you beat. That's what you're looking for in these exhibition games in terms of guys going out, executing with the proper technique, being disciplined, playing with poise and being productive."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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