Packers searching for defined defensive role for versatile Tariq Carpenter

During a virtual draft party hosted by the Green Bay Packers earlier this year, second-year player Tariq Carpenter mentioned that he had been moved from linebacker to safety. However, what his exact role in this defense will be remains a bit of an unknown.

Carpenter played nearly 2,200 snaps at safety while at Georgia Tech, and that is where he was listed at during his first season in Green Bay. He saw just 17 defensive snaps in 2022, 13 of which came as a free safety.

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Listed at 6-3 and 230 pounds, Carpenter has the frame of a linebacker. For some context, De’Vondre Campbell is listed at 6-3 and 232 pounds. Carpenter brings athleticism to the position, recording a Relative Athletic Score of 8.92 during the pre-draft process, which included a 4.52 second 40 time. He’s also a capable tackler and willing defender against the run.

Carpenter may be in the linebacker room for team meetings for the time being, but from the sounds of it, the Packers are still going to see how OTAs, training camp, and the preseason play out in order to figure out how to best utilize him.

“When he came in last year, his weight was 225-230,” said defensive backs coach Ryan Downard last week. “So he would go a play or two, and he was out of breath at the safety position. They’re running. By the time we got to the end of the season, there were some times at practice where he got downhill and thudded a couple of our backs, and I thought this guy has the ability to run. We saw that in the preseason too. I think he can do both (play linebacker or safety), but we will see where we put him.”

By the end of the 2022 season, Carpenter had established himself as one of core members of the Packers’ special teams unit, taking snaps on a variety of phases. Despite taking the 14th most snaps on the team, Carpenter finished with the third-most solo tackles on the unit.

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Whether listed as a safety or a linebacker, Carpenter is again most likely going to be a primary special teams player this season. My guess is that, in part, Green Bay moved him to linebacker because it would be easier to keep him on the roster at that position than at safety. Although there are question marks around the safety group, it is also a crowded room, with Rudy Ford, Tarvarius Moore, Jonathan Owens, Anthony Johnson, and Dallin Leavitt all competing for either playing time alongside Darnell Savage or simply a roster spot.

On the flip side, by moving Carpenter to linebacker, that very well could mean that the Packers have to roster five players at that position — something they have done previously — or would have to be willing to move on from Isaiah McDuffie or Eric Wilson, two other core special teamers.

As the Packers attempt to carve out a defensive role for Carpenter, we could see him lined up all over the field this summer and used in a variety of ways. This also doesn’t only include linebacker or safety, or as a run defender or in coverage, but Green Bay could utilize Carpenter as a pass rusher as well. In that same interview, Carpenter mentioned that he spent some time at edge rusher during a few practices last season.

“He’s kind of a freak athletically,” said Downard last. “I think he gives us options to do some more exotic things with him because he can rush the passer. We will see if he can do that. We will see if he can cover. He’s got the ability to play both really.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire