Very few positional groups on the Green Bay Packers roster has seen as much consistency and production from its occupants than the safeties.
It can even be argued that no position outside of the man under center for 64.31 plays per game last season has topped the duo of safeties holding down the back end of the Packers' secondary.
Packers safeties coach Darren Perry will agree. Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. may even attest to it. The Packers are going into 2017 with one of the league's best up-and-coming playmaking units between now eighth-year veteran Morgan Burnett and fourth-year free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
They both played a combined 2,190 total team snaps in 2016, whether on defense or special teams. 1,152 of those snaps came from Clinton-Dix alone, who didn't miss a single down last season in a year where the Packers' pass defense finished 31st in the NFL.
That 31st-ranked defense led to the team's untimely demise in the NFC Championship game, but the Packers aren't dwelling on it.
Take it from Burnett, who has either led or finished second on the team in tackles for five out of the last six seasons.
"It's nothing to hold our head down about," Burnett said Tuesday of the team's January defeat at the claws of the Falcons. "The exciting part is now that we get that fresh start; everything that happened last year is behind us. We're just trying to look forward."
Despite the addition of Davon House to solidify the veteran presence at cornerback, Burnett still remains as the secondary's most seasoned player. Burnett turned 28 in January, however, House turns 28 in July. The gap is nearly insignificant, but in terms of leadership and longevity, Burnett takes the cake in Green Bay.
"We picked back up like he never left," Burnett said of House returning to the Packers. "He fit right in. Now he has more years under his belt so he brings that veteran presence.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what (House) does on the defensive side of the ball as well as special teams."
The leadership aspect of Burnett's presence has never been more important to a secondary consisting of younger players coming off the worst year in terms of pass defense since 2011.
"We got new guys coming in, got some young guys making that jump from year one to year two. It should be a fun process."
Burnett is entering his eighth season with more incentive now than before; he's playing for a new contract. His current deal expires in 2018 whereas his counterpart Clinton-Dix has a contract that runs through 2019. Unlike Burnett, Clinton-Dix has the choice of picking up the standard fifth-year option after this upcoming season.
Clinton-Dix staying in Green Bay is almost a guarantee barring anything unusual that would completely distort how the front office views the hard-hitting safety's worth. He led the team in interceptions last season with five, combining for seven with Burnett's two.
Keeping both of their top defensive assets in the mix would be the best course of option for the Packers, whose defense allowed 45.05 percent of opponent deep completions in 2016.
The role for Clinton-Dix is almost all but solidified. Burnett, however, has embraced the versatile upside to his abilities by playing more in the box as an inside linebacker, helping attribute to his team-best 68 solo tackles.
Clinton-Dix, meanwhile, was just one of two defenders at any position last season to play every single defensive snap as previously mentioned. Pro Football Focus even gave Clinton-Dix the top run-defense grade on the team with a score of 88.9. The Packers were one of 12 teams to have both safeties represented in PFF's secondary grades.
The Packers may even add to the depth at safety in this year's draft depending on who best fits the mold general manager Ted Thompson is looking for. They'll without question be drafting a cornerback or two, possibly even on day one.
"If it wasn't for the Draft, I wouldn't be standing here right now," Burnett said. "That's something that's very special to me, to my family and every time this time of the year comes around, I'll be glued to the TV."
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