Monday, August 8, 2022

Packers sign former Raiders safety, core special teamer

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Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia reunites with one of his key associates from his days in Las Vegas.

The Packers added former fifth-year Raiders safetyman Dallin Leavitt to their 90-man roster ahead of the start of training camp later this week, according to the NFL’s official transaction announcement July 25. No appropriate action was required as Leavitt filled the roster slot that opened three days ago when the Packers waived Eli Wolf’s tight end.

Leavitt – who turns 28 in August – has been a key contributor to Bisaccia’s special teams in each of the last three seasons with the Raiders, playing more than 800 snaps in the third period during that span. Last season, he played a career-high 348 special teams snaps and recorded a team-high 12 special teams tackles in 16 games. He also made his first defensive start of his career, finishing with 35 total tackles and two fumble recoveries.

Bisaccia was tasked with reversing the Packers’ special teams, which were among the worst in the league in 2021 under Maurice Drayton. Now he will have another familiar face from his days in Las Vegas to help him make the necessary moves for the upcoming season. The Packers also signed cornerback Keisean Nixon earlier this offseason, who played for Bisaccia from 2019-2021.

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The Packers don’t have many holes in their defense heading into the 2022 season and could potentially have the league’s best runners-up this year, in part due to the stability that returning starters Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage Jr. offer them in safety. However, one of the key battles for the team this summer in training camp will be determining who will serve as backup behind the two.

Prior to Leavitt’s signing, Shawn Davis and Vernon Scott seemed like the likely options to be the next two safeties on the rotation. Davis was a fifth-round pick for the Indianapolis Colts in 2021 but was waived shortly after training camp and spent most of his rookie season on the Green Bay practice team, where he played in nine special teams snaps towards the end of the year. And Scott, a Packers seventh finisher in 2020, has spent each of the past two seasons on their active roster.

The biggest problem is that none of them played a single defensive strike in 2021. Scott actually regressed in his sophomore year for the Packers, playing in just three games and spending some of them inactive due to injuries after playing 15 games as a freshman. Even if both improve with more defensive opportunities, Leavitt has enough experience to legitimately push one of them into his roster spot.

Leavitt may not have had extensive replays with the Raiders defense, but his 249 defensive snaps in 2021 are still more than double what Scott and Davis have achieved in their previous careers together. Pro Football Focus also credited Leavitt with seven defensive stops and three stopped passes as a rotation player last season, which feels more than enough to earn him roster consideration beyond his special team’s worth.

Davis, Scott and Leavitt appear to be the focus of the Packers’ security struggles, but there are a few other players — Innis Gaines and Tre Sterling — who could be hot on their heels during practice this summer.

Gaines signed a reserve/future contract with the Packers in January 2021 and fought for a roster spot during camp 2021, missing the cut but remaining as a member of their practice team all season. However, he was included in the gameday list for the Week 16 home win over the Cleveland Browns and managed to pick up his first NFL tackle despite only playing five special teams snaps. If Gaines can prove himself worth his salt as a Phase 3 contributor, he could be retained as the team’s sixth security guard — or even higher if he outperforms any of the other three.

The Packers also have an undrafted rookie in Sterling, who was a preseason All-American who headed into the 2021 season for Oklahoma State before a wrist injury derailed his final season and severely damaged his draft inventory. The good news is that Sterling avoided the Packers’ PUP list when he signed up for camp, so he seems 100% ready to compete at camp this summer. If he can return to the player he was in 2020 — when he recorded 11 tackles for losses and two interceptions — there’s no reason he couldn’t be pushing for one of the rotation spots, too.

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