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Packers DB Innis Gaines continues to expand role with snaps from slot

Packers Wire logo Packers Wire 8/5/2022 paulbretl
a person wearing a helmet holding a baseball bat: Safety Innis Gaines (38) Is shown during the first day of Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.  Cent02 7fsae61yj12yoqvnhjf Original © File photo Safety Innis Gaines (38) Is shown during the first day of Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis. Cent02 7fsae61yj12yoqvnhjf Original

The more you can do. For fringe roster players battling for a spot on the 53-man, the more areas they can make an impact, the greater their chances are of making the team.

At the safety position, there are two or three roster spots up for grabs in what has become a crowded room, which could lead to some tough decisions for Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst when it’s time to make cuts.

For Innis Gaines, in addition to playing the more traditional roles that come with the safety position, such as playing deep or down in the box, he has also taken snaps recently from the slot.

Last summer, Gaines spent most of his time during preseason action lined up in the box or as a free safety. So him now getting playing time from the slot is a bit of a new development. However, he does have plenty of experience there from his time at TCU.

Gaines went undrafted in 2020, and prior to that, he had taken the majority of his defensive snaps with the Horned Frogs from the slot. Over his career, he was targeted 52 times, allowing 32 completions at just 7.1 yards per catch with six pass breakups and two interceptions, according to PFF.

As Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated would note in his recent practice recap, Gaines has been able to string some successful days together, logging a few pass breakups while in coverage.

Although the expectation shouldn’t be that Gaines would take slot snaps if he were to make the 53-man roster, that is a position where the Packers are lacking experience on this roster.

After Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas — none of whom have much slot experience in the NFL, for what it’s worth — it is Keisean Nixon, who has only 61 career snaps from the slot, and Shemar Jean-Charles, who has only 38 total defensive snaps in his short career.

Again, this isn’t to say that Gaines will step in and fill that role, but having an additional player to lean on at a position where there is little experienced depth isn’t a bad thing either.

In addition to the plays he’s made on defense, including as a blitzer, Gaines has also impressed on special teams as a gunner and a jammer—although once the preseason begins, keep an eye on his tackling, something that gave him issues last summer.

We know that Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos will be the starters, but after that, a lot is up in the air at the safety position.

Dallin Leavitt was a core special teams contributor in Las Vegas under Rich Bisaccia. Vernon Scott has made some splash plays on defense and has been on the roster for two seasons.

Tariq Carpenter brings special teams experience from his college days and a rare combination of size and athleticism. Meanwhile, Shawn Davis appeared to be the front-runner for that third safety role coming out of offseason programs.

As LaFleur told reporters this week, these roster battles have a way of sorting themselves out once the preseason begins. But for the time being, Gaines finds himself in the thick of this competition, along with each of the players just mentioned.

The more a player can do, the better off they will be, and we are seeing that from Gaines through the first eight training camp practices as he fills a variety of roles, including in the slot where experience is lacking in this roster.

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