Darnell Savage is as good as gone after Jeff Hafley's first Packers press conference

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Changes are coming to the Green Bay Packers' defense, particularly in the secondary.

Most of the Packers' safety snaps this season belonged to Darnell Savage, Jonathan Owens, and Rudy Ford. The only other starter at the position was seventh-round rookie Anthony Johnson, but he played significantly fewer snaps.

Savage, Owens, and Ford have expiring contracts at the beginning of the new league year next month. Their Packers future is uncertain, especially with defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley bringing a new scheme and philosophy to Green Bay, placing greater emphasis on safety play.

One of the biggest changes from Hafley's system compared to Joe Barry's is the role of the safeties. Barry frequently opted for two-high safety looks designed to limit big plays. Hafley prefers single-high coverages, a more aggressive approach that requires key contributions from the safeties.

Hafley spoke to the Packers' media for the first time on Thursday, and after hearing what he wants from the safety position, it's hard to imagine Savage returning in 2024.

Darnell Savage's future uncertain with Jeff Hafley as new Packers defensive coordinator

In his introductory press conference, Hafley spoke about the "post safety" role in his defense. He said he wants a player who can "erase things."

"If a run hits up the middle, this guy has got to come out of the middle of the field with his hair on fire and has got to be able to get a guy down," said Hafley.

Hafley emphasized tackling. Players in his system need to be good tacklers. The Packers will play more aggressively, and missed tackles will be punished with explosive plays.

Missed tackles have been a consistent issue throughout Savage's career. According to Pro Football Reference, Savage had a missed-tackle percentage of 13.6 in 2023. That number has reached double digits four times in five seasons with the Packers.

A missed tackle from Savage hurt the Packers in the divisional-round loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

It was exactly as Hafley described, with Christian McCaffrey running up the middle. Savage had an opportunity to stop him for a minimal gain, but a missed tackle allowed McCaffrey to get free for a 39-yard touchdown, a costly mistake in the third quarter.

Hafley wants his safeties to "eliminate explosive plays," which isn't what Savage does regularly enough.

The safety position becomes more important in Hafley's scheme, and the Packers must prioritize it this offseason. That could mean signing a top free agent like Xavier McKinney or using an early draft pick.

Based on Hafley's expectations at the position, Savage is as good as gone.

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