Safety is one of the most under-appreciated positions in all of football. It is vitally important to the modern defense, yet consistently overlooked -- to the point where even TV broadcasts crop safeties out of most plays.
However, safeties are responsible for communicating the defense to, and lining up, the rest of the secondary. They are responsible for being erasers for the rest of the defense; diagnosing the offense and giving help where it’s needed or finishing off plays.
In multiple-look, blitz and man coverage, heavy defenses like the the New York Giants run, safeties are even more important. They need athleticism as blitzers as well as helping to disguise coverages and the source of pressure. And it just so happens that the Giants are heading in to 2019 in need of a starting safety (or two).
Fortunately, this is a strong draft class for safeties. And while the Giants might not be able to spend a first round pick on one, they could find a high-upside option in the second round. Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. has been under the radar but announced his presence loudly at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. Let’s take a closer look.
- Highly athletic. Rangy and gets where he’s going in hurry.
- Incredible closing burst.
- Versatile. Played close to the line as well as in a 2-high or as a true free safety.
- Good feel for off and zone coverage.
- Good instincts and a knack for making plays.
- Experienced DB. Played in 40 games over four years.
- Occasionally plays a bit out of control. Almost too athletic.
- Can get caught peeking in tight coverage and lose track of the receiver.
- Can be over-aggressive and impatient in coverage.
- Can get hung up on blockers.
- Might be smaller than some teams
What They’re Saying
“A four-year starter for the Terps, Savage features a versatile skill set with an outstanding athletic profile. Not only is Savage a physical defender in pursuit and when tackling, but he’s sticky in coverage with excellent ball skills. He takes precise angles to the football, has outstanding range and is a clean processor overall. Savage profiles as an eventual starter that is maximized defending split zone while providing a tone-setting presence to the secondary.”
- Joe Marino (The Draft Network - Scouting Report)
Does He Fit The Giants?
Considering that the Giants have a massive void in the back end of their defense and are coming off a year of Curtis Riley at safety, Savage would look to be a massive upgrade for the Giants’ secondary. And from a purely “Giants” perspective, watching him calls to mind Will Hill, which makes it hard to not be intrigued by his play.
He has the versatility to play in slot coverage as well as in a deep zone would be assets in the Giants’ defense. Savage’s long speed, in particular, would create interesting opportunities to disguise and rotate coverages to better disguise blitzes, which is a major part of
Savage is legitimately explosive when coming downhill or closing on the ball in space. Often times he is able to see holes develop and shoot gaps into the backfield before blockers have a chance to react. The Giants will also like Savage as a blitzer for the same reasons. His ability to shoot gaps, avoid blockers, and fire into the backfield are impressive. Likewise, his explosiveness means that he can effectively apply pressure from the second level, where he might not be read as a pass rusher.
Savage shows good awareness and instincts in off-man or zone coverage and he has flashed the ability to diagnose and avoid conflicts created by route combinations and put himself in position to make a tackle. He has the physical abilities to match up in man coverage, but it is not his strong suit.
And while his athleticism goes well with his aggressive style of play, Savage will need to learn to rein those tendencies in at the NFL level. He can get impatient in deep zone coverage, as well as in tight man coverage. And while he is good at reading the quarterback to lead him to the play in off and zone coverages, it can get him in trouble when in man coverage. Other times it seems he is almost too athletic for his own good, outpacing his thought process and playing a bit out of control.
Savage has work to do to reach his full potential, and is not yet complete by any measure. But if he can learn to control his aggressiveness, he could be a very good starting safety in the NFL.