The Green Bay Packers will begin three weeks of organized team activities this week, with the first of those that’s open to the public set for Thursday. We get you ready with a positional look at the team, which concludes with the safeties.
Rookies and first-year players: Jean Fanor (undrafted, 2012).
Noteworthy: During the offseason, the Packers have added six cornerbacks and six wide receivers. Contrast that to the safety position, where the Packers added ... absolutely nobody. In fact, it’s the only position group on the roster that didn’t get at least two new faces via the draft, college free agency or any of the other free-agent routes. Why? Clearly, the Packers feel good about the starting duo of Burnett and Clinton-Dix, and they can only hope that the NFC Championship Game, when they combined for three interceptions, is a sign of things to come. Green Bay matched Oakland’s restricted free-agent offer to Richardson, who will be counted on to anchor the new-look special teams and perhaps be given a larger role on defense to earn his $2.55 million payday. It helps, too, that cornerbacks Micah Hyde and Damarious Randall have some safety in their background.
The star: After a poor 2013, when he had to drag along M.D. Jennings, Burnett bounced back in a big way in 2014 with the addition of first-rounder Clinton-Dix. Burnett led the team with 125 tackles. His 99 solo tackles were more than the total tackle count of runner-up Clinton-Dix (95). What was interesting is Burnett remained primarily an in-the-box safety. With the wiry Jennings, Burnett lined up in the box on 48.7 percent of run snaps compared to 22.9 percent for Jennings, according to Pro Football Focus. But there’s nothing wiry about Clinton-Dix. Nonetheless, in 2014, Burnett lined up in the box on 48.9 percent of run snaps compared to 36.8 percent for Clinton-Dix. What Burnett did better was make plays vs. the run. In 2014, he finished second to Seattle’s Kam Chancellor in PFF’s run-stop percentage, which measures impact tackles (such as a first-and-10 tackle that holds the play to 3 yards or less). While Burnett intercepted his first pass since 2012, he finished with six passes defensed — his fewest since missing most of his rookie season of 2010.
The battle: When no new blood is added, it’s hard to have much of a battle. That limits it to Banjo vs. Fanor as the No. 4 safety. Banjo went undrafted and unsigned in 2012. He signed with Jacksonville before the 2013 draft but was released before the start of training camp. He landed in Green Bay and, remarkably, played in all 16 games with one start. Last year, however, he languished on the practice squad for most of the season — never mind how he might have helped the special teams. He was promoted late in the season and recorded a total of six tackles in three regular-season and two postseason games. At 5-foot-9 7/8, he is the shortest player on the 89-man roster.
Rookie impact: Fanor joined Green Bay’s practice squad on Dec. 17 — his first time in an NFL locker room since failing to make the Chiefs’ roster as an undrafted rookie out of Bethune-Cookman in 2012. He spent 2013 and 2014 playing for Tampa Bay in the Arena Football League. At 6 foot and 205 pounds, he ran in 4.62 at pro day three years ago.
Quoteworthy: “It was very disappointing but you’ve got to put that behind you, you’ve got to move on,” Burnett said on April 20 when asked about the loss to Seattle in the NFC title game. “You don’t use that as motivation. What you use as motivation is getting better going into the next year. I think that you can get better from last year and work on that and improve and try to find a way to get better going into this year.”email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.