Doug Pederson reveals how Jaguars will use Darnell Savage

• The Jaguars already have a plan in place for Darnell Savage

Jan 14, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Green Bay Packers safety Darnell Savage (26) returns an
Jan 14, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Green Bay Packers safety Darnell Savage (26) returns an / Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars raised eyebrows when they signed safety Darnell Savage in free agency. At the time, it looked like a lateral move since they had just released Rayshawn Jenkins. However, head coach Doug Pederson brought clarity to the move and revealed how the coaching staff plans to use Savage moving forward.

Pederson says that Savage will play nickel for the Jags, noting that they like his ability to blitz and his willingness to tackle. On top of that, the head coach points out that his versatility to play multiple positions in the backfield gives defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen lots of scheme flexibility.

"His nickel coverage ability inside his ability to blitz he's a good tackler. He's a willing tackler," Pederson told the media at the NFL owner's meeting. "He's a pretty good cover guy. Just all the things that we were looking for at that position. He's got the versatility to play multiple spots on defense, so he does give you that safety flex. If you want to do it. You can play that nickel spot if you want to move them in there."

"We have a young kid Antonio Johnson. It's a work in progress there, with these two guys and I'm excited again to get them in and get them to work," Pederson said.

Savage, a first-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2019, has mostly played safety throughout his NFL career but he's also logged a significant amount of snaps at nickel. As recently as 2022, he lined up at nickel on 231 of his 873 defensive snaps (26.4 percent).

In Jacksonville, Savage will replace Tre Herndon who held slot duty for most of the past two seasons. As Pederson noted, his arrival will allow sophomore defensive back Antonio Johnson to move back to safety after playing nickel last year. Pederson says that having both Savage and Johnson in the mix gives the coaching staff options in the backfield.

"It just helps your overall team and if you do have an injury at a position, you can plug and play a guy. So having a guy like Darnell, who has that ability to play safety, even Antonio who we drafted, Antonio, can play safety can play nickel, so you got to get the best of both worlds out of those two guys."

Johnson, a fifth-round pick in last year's draft, missed time with a hamstring injury to start the season. Once he was able to contribute, he had a huge impact, registering two interceptions, one forced fumble, and three passes defensed. Here's Pederson's full sitdown with the media.

The Jaguars had a plan when they signed Darnell Savage in free agency

Darnell Savage will be an important piece of Ryan Neilsen's defense. Justis Mosqueda, via John Shipley of Sports Illustrated, says that former Packers coordinator Joe Barry wasn't able to get the most out of Savage in his zone-match defense and was a better fit to play a man-coverage style system. That's the kind of defense Ryan Nielsen will run in Jacksonville.

Savage said during his introductory press conference that he had the versatility to play multiple spots and was excited to see how the Jaguars would deploy him. Doug Pederson's comments bring lots of clarity.

It's also worth noting that the Jaguars' brass has done a good job of giving Nielsen the pieces he needs to run his defense. Besides Savage, the front office signed cornerback Ronald Darby, defensive end Arik Armstead, and defensive end Travis Gipson. That gives him more than enough pieces to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 system.

Based on the move the Jaguars have made since the end of 2023, it's clear they want to avoid another late-season collapse. Giving Ryan Nielsen pieces such as Darnell Savage will help.

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