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Smarts and stability are calling cards for Billy Turner, Adrian Amos

Packers found what they needed with their less flashy free agents

G/T Billy Turner, S Adrian Amos
G/T Billy Turner, S Adrian Amos

GREEN BAY – Two are making noise with all the headlines, and the other two are very quietly doing what the Packers hoped they would, too.

Back in March, when General Manager Brian Gutekunst signed four unrestricted free agents practically before the opening bell quieted down, it was natural for Za'Darius Smith  and Preston Smith to turn heads.

They play the glamor position of outside linebacker, they get after quarterbacks, and they rack up sacks, to the tune of 21½ combined through 14 games.

The less-heralded free agents, guard Billy Turner and safety Adrian Amos, weren't likely to compete for that kind of attention. But that's perfectly fine.

In discussing these "other" two with position coaches and teammates, it's fair to say they actually have more in common than their dissimilar positions and disparate personalities would suggest. Namely, they're cerebral players whose brains bring as much to the table as their fellow free agents' stats.

"His football IQ, in my mind playing next to him, that's the biggest thing that stands out people may not see," center Corey Linsley said of Turner.

Added cornerback Tramon Williams about Amos: "He's very smart, and he's always in the right place. He's a person you can count on at the end of the day, you know what I'm saying?"

Intelligence and reliability. That's precisely what the Packers have in Turner and Amos, and they couldn't be happier about it.

Turner quickly stood out upon arriving in Green Bay for everything from his unusual haircut to his off-beat interests to a peculiar sense of humor. With everything in measured tones, he fit in as the new veteran on the Packers' offensive line rather easily.

Starting every game at right guard this season, he's been steady with a couple of standout performances against premier defensive tackles – Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox and Chicago's Akiem Hicks in the rematch with the Bears this past week.

"He does a good job for us as a tone-setter," offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said. "He's a guy you can lean on to go against big matchups."

It's his mind that supplements those physical, athletic traits, though. With Green Bay already Turner's third team in a six-year career, upon arrival in the spring he was accustomed to absorbing a new playbook in the normal course of an offseason.

Linsley, tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari, and guard Lane Taylor, on the other hand, had only known one offensive system their entire NFL lives. It didn't take long for Turner's smarts to get noticed.

"When we got here," Stenavich said of the Packers' new coaching staff, "Billy had been in, I think, four different offenses in four years, or something like that, and I had bounced around as a coach.

"You come here and these guys had only done one thing for so long. With me installing new things, Billy was picking it up, like 'OK, that's what this is. And this is that.' For the other guys it was harder. They hadn't had that newness."

Communication with his linemates has been smooth from the get-go, too.

"He's easy to talk to. We're on the same page a lot," Linsley said. "There's very few times when we're not, but it's very easy to fix stuff with him. If we're coming off (the field) and had a little issue … 'I thought you were going to do this,' … OK, we'll just fix it, like that.

"I could tell (early on) he was a very calm football player, very intelligent, had a feel for the defense and everything."

Communication with a calming presence is Amos' forte as well. The former Bears safety's responsibilities are more wide-ranging in that respect due to his position, and he stepped into that role right away as a new veteran starter in coordinator Mike Pettine's defense.

Defensive backs coach Jason Simmons, who played some safety himself during a 10-year NFL career, said it's obvious his teammates respect Amos for his experience and knowledge. That's important when directing traffic for a rookie safety starting alongside him and for a cornerback group that has only one player, Williams, with more than three full seasons in the pros.

"Whenever you play safety in this league, the No. 1 thing we talk about before we talk about physicality or anything else, you have to be a good communicator," Simmons said. "We are the coverage quarterbacks. We are the guy that everybody looks to. Anybody moves, everybody now looks to the safeties to know what they're calling, to confirm any check or to change any check."

Amos is very soft-spoken and understated, not the rah-rah type. But there's no mistaking his tone when he's making a call for his teammates to follow. He communicates with confidence and conviction, and it has helped the defensive backs look much more in sync in recent weeks passing routes off to one another in certain coverages.

"His call command is one of the best things that he does for this defense," Simmons said. "Guys know when he says it, there's no hesitancy, there's no apprehension, or not sure, no uncertainty. The whole thing with him is he says it, and if it's wrong, play what I call, and that's OK. Play what I call and we'll get through the next down and get it coached up on the sideline."

Put another way, "He's seen a lot of football at this point," Williams said. "He brings a state of stability."

He also ranks second on the team with 81 tackles, tied for second with two interceptions, and fourth with eight passes defensed. Amos even has a sack, just the third in his five-year career.

Billy Turner's 14 starts are a career high for a single season and he's not done yet. He's also played every snap this year but two, when he exited for a kneel-down sequence.

But that turns the conversation back to stats, and that's not what these "other" two free agents are about. The Smiths bring more than the numbers as well, but if it's harder to see what makes Turner and Amos so valuable, that's OK.

The Packers got exactly what they were looking for with them, too.

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