Monday Musings: New Safety

Aaron Rodgers appears happy and re-energized with the Jets, but that’s because it’s May and not November. Let’s see how the four-time MVP looks after losing a few games in a row. The aggressive New York media will turn on him faster than you can say “old quarterback.” Anyway, here are a few Packers-related thoughts that ran through my mind in the past few days:

1) The Packers signed Jonathan Owens last Friday, adding yet another veteran safety to the roster. The 27-year-old, who’s married to Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, started 17 games for the Texans last season. While the former undrafted free agent from Missouri Western is blessed with above-average size (5-11, 210) and speed (4.4), his play on the field has been undistinguished. Owens is better closer to the line of scrimmage. He’s aggressive in run support but lacks transitional quickness and a closing burst, which limits him in coverage. He hasn’t been much of a playmaker in four seasons (one interception and zero forced fumbles in over 1,100 career snaps) and misses a few too many tackles. Owens joins Darnell Savage Jr., Rudy Ford, Tarvarius Moore, Dallin Leavitt, Innis Gaines, seventh-round pick Anthony Johnson Jr., and undrafted rookie Benny Sapp III at a position that aptly defines the phrase quantity over quality.

Because Owens (#36) is so afraid of getting beat deep, he often makes it too easy for WRs like Philly’s Quez Watkins to catch the ball in front of him.

2) It’s understandable why fans are excited about Brenton Cox Jr., the outside linebacker signed by the Packers last month. The former Georgia and Florida star is undoubtedly more talented than most undrafted free agents, but he wasn’t as productive in the SEC as Kingsley Enagbare, whom Green Bay selected in the fifth round a year ago. While Cox might’ve gone a bit higher in a weak draft had he not been dismissed by both schools he attended, the idea that Brian Gutekunst outsmarted 31 other GMs isn’t supported by the tape. Cox plays hard and uses his hands extremely well to shed blocks at the point of attack, but it’s highly questionable whether he has the foot speed to outquick NFL tackles. The bend and burst that worked well in college might not be enough at the next level. He can also be overly emotional and lose focus at times. To sum it up, the 23-year-old Cox is a decent prospect who, if he keeps his nose clean, could be a solid backup on defense and a real force on special teams. Anybody expecting more is likely to be disappointed.

3) Speaking of outside linebackers, it’s hard to think of any team with more talent and depth at the position than the Packers. Before suffering a torn ACL last November, Rashan Gary was among the top handful of pass rushers in the NFL. He had six sacks and 40 pressures in only eight-plus games. The aforementioned Enagbare had a better rookie campaign than Gary and has the potential to be an above-average starter. Preston Smith is getting a little long in the tooth, but he’s still a solid player at 30. Lukas Van Ness was selected 13th overall in last month’s draft and, at the very least, should be a disruptive addition to the nickel package next season. And fifth-stringer Justin Hollins logged over 300 snaps for the Rams last fall before being waived. Gutekunst has done a really good job of accumulating talent at one of the most important positions on defense. Now it’s up to coordinator Joe Barry and his assistants to get the job done.

Avatar photo

Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Brad H
Brad H
May 16, 2023 5:45 pm

I received my magnet today from Packer Notes. Appreciate the swag, Mr Rodney. It looks great on my fridge!

May 16, 2023 6:39 pm

Given your take on Owens – and no one else is offering any kind of analysis of the signing, so kudos to you – I really, really hope that LaFleur will be changing his mind about keeping Douglas at Corner. The way that safety looks now – and likely will remain – is a group that will cost the team games. That’s how bad it looks.

Please share your thoughts with a comment!x