GREEN BAY – He never envisioned it, but now it seems like the perfect fit.
Raven Greene said he was “purely a free safety” in college at James Madison. This idea of playing closer to the line of scrimmage as a hybrid/dime linebacker, which he’s been doing regularly in his second year with the Packers, was a foreign concept.
Yet now, less than two weeks before the 2019 season opener, it’s a role he’s all but assumed and solidified in coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense. Lining up next to Blake Martinez on third downs, Greene might have to plug a hole against the run, attack the quarterback, or pick up a slot receiver, tight end or running back in coverage.
The possibilities are numerous, so the job isn’t for just anyone. But Greene has taken a liking to it despite the lack of familiarity at first, and the organization cast a strong vote of confidence in him with the release Sunday of 2017 second-round draft pick Josh Jones, who had taken his share of reps in the same spot.
“I didn’t go down into the box much at all,” Greene said of his college career, in which he set a school record with 14 interceptions. “I never rushed once. I had no blitzes or anything like that, so this is all new to me, but I’m starting to see it’s my skill-set.
“It’s kind of funny. I reached out to my college coaches and said, ‘Maybe you should have put a couple blitzes in back then.’”
If they had, perhaps Greene wouldn’t have gone undrafted last year and been forced to make the team as a rookie the hard way. But he has no regrets about his path.
He was on an impressive trajectory in 2018, when he posted five tackles and a forced fumble on special teams and was starting to get more game snaps at safety before a nasty ankle injury in Week 11 at Seattle ended his season prematurely.
It was a long rehab road back, but Greene rebuilt his upper body with noticeably more size while also getting his injured leg back to full strength. Then he came into the offseason program with an open mind as far as where Pettine thought he fit best, and Head Coach Matt LaFleur said he’s doing a “tremendous job” in the hybrid role.