GREEN BAY – The Packers' defense waded through several injuries in the secondary en route to perhaps its best all-around performance Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons.
One reason for that was the play of third-year safety Raven Greene, who recorded a career-high eight tackles and a sack in his most extensive playing time of the season.
Green Bay had been gradually working Greene back into the lineup after he missed the regular-season opener in Minnesota due to a quadriceps injury that sidelined him during the last two weeks of training camp.
According to Pro Football Focus, Greene's 50 defensive snaps Monday night were split amongst box safety/defensive front (26 snaps), slot cornerback (17) and free safety (seven). It was the most he'd played since Green Bay's 2019 opener in Chicago.
"It was good to see Raven have a breakout night, get some more reps and make some plays," defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "He was just a guy we felt we needed to ease back in … get into game shape; log some practice reps to see it and rep it, and (I) see an expanded role for him moving forward. He's a versatile guy."
The Packers tapped deep into that versatility of Greene's against the Falcons. He started in his traditional role as a hybrid safety in the Packers' nickel package before dropping back in relief of an injured Darnell Savage at free safety.
After Savage returned, Greene then moved to the slot in the dime package after Chandon Sullivan left with a concussion and didn't return. He finished the game as Green Bay's nickel cornerback after Sullivan's replacement, Will Redmond, also exited with an injury.
His biggest play came from the slot position, when Greene sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan for an 11-yard loss off a delayed blitz on third-and-4. The result of the play forced Atlanta to punt with 1 minutes, 48 seconds left before halftime.
The Packers' offense scored less than a minute later on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan to pull ahead 20-3.
"He's a smart guy, he understands what his role is on the team," Packers secondary coach Jerry Gray said of Greene last month. "I learned this a long time ago, don't let one guy take you out of your package. The biggest thing we do is make sure we rep the other guys there … because you just can't let one guy (go down) and all of a sudden you can't play a six-DB package."
It's been a long way back to the field for Greene, who appeared headed for a significant role on defense a year ago before he sustained an ankle injury in Week 2 that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
Greene reported back to Green Bay in great shape, but didn't have the benefit of any preseason games due to the ongoing pandemic. After regaining his momentum, Greene proved more than capable of playing a bigger role against the Falcons.
The Packers finished Monday's game down Kevin King (quad), Sullivan and Redmond. A bye week will give all three defensive backs an extra week to heal but Greene remains at the ready.
"I think it's just his versatility – the ability to go in, either play in the back end or play closer to the line of scrimmage kind of in the box – it allows us to do more things on defense," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "I love his mentality, and he brings a physical presence to the secondary."