Innis Gaines Will Look to Take on Larger Role with Packers

With some question marks surrounding the depth of the safety position for the Green Bay Packers, Innis Gaines will look to earn a roster spot as well as playing time this season.

Although the Green Bay Packers may have Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos as their two starting safeties, in terms of experienced depth, well, they are lacking in that area as we work our way down the depth chart.

Vernon Scott has 90 career snaps, all of which came during his rookie season in 2020. Shawn Davis and Innis Gaines don't have any career defensive snaps, while Tariq Carpenter may end up spending more time with the linebackers, and Tre Sterling is a UDFA.

At a minimum, the Packers are going to keep four safeties on the 53-man roster, which means at least two spots are up for grabs. While the overall inexperience at the position certainly comes with some question marks, it also provides the opportunity for a lesser known player to assume a much larger role--and for the Packers at the safety position, that player just may be Innis Gaines.

Gaines would go undrafted in 2020, and in January of 2021, he signed a futures deal with the Green Bay Packers to be a part of the team for that upcoming summer. Gaines would take advantage of that opportunity, as he was one of the more impressive UDFAs throughout training camp and the preseason, and was on the verge of making the initial 53-man roster.

He flew around the field, making plays in coverage, as well as being active against the run, and he stood out on special teams as well--although one area of his game that will really have to improve will be his tackling. And as one would expect with any young undrafted player, in addition to those flash plays, he took his lumps as well.

During the preseason, Gaines would allow five completions on seven targets but at only 8.2 yards per catch, according to PFF. He also had a pass breakup as well but would miss 26.7% of his tackle attempts. Meanwhile, he took the second-most special teams snaps on the team.

At TCU, Gaines had three years of playing experience, appearing in 28 total games from 2017 to 2019, although injuries would shorten both of his 2018 and 2019 seasons. However, when on the field, we saw Gaines' versatility, as he spent most of his time either lined up in the slot or as a box defender.

Over that three-year span, Gaines would record 21 pressures as a blitzer and allowed only 7.1 yards per catch on 52 targets with a completion rate of 63%, along with two interceptions and six pass breakups. For what it's worth, Gaines also graded out very well as a run-defender by PFF's metrics, and we know that the safeties in Joe Barry's defense play an important role in the run game. He was also a fairly experienced special teams player, with 346 career snaps while with the Horned Frogs. 

Gaines would spend a majority of last season on the practice squad, continuing to develop his game and familiarizing himself with Barry's defense--which asks a lot of the safety group, including being very active against the run, and that does put an added emphasis on tackling. 

With the addition of Quay Walker at linebacker, the Packers will have the ability to play with two linebackers on the field more often, and that may reduce the need for a third safety. However, it's not as if that role is going to completely disappear either, and with Gaines' experience as a box defender and in the slot, he could be a very good fit as long as he can shore up his tackling--not to mention that if on the roster, he will contribute to special teams. 

Like any other fringe roster player, Gaines will have to earn his roster spot and any playing time that comes with it. But given that he has a year of experience under his belt, along with the flashes that we saw from him last summer, he is one of the young players who could make a big leap from the practice squad to seeing a fair amount of NFL snaps this season.

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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Comments (12)

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Coldworld's picture

May 09, 2022 at 12:05 pm

One hopes so because all fringe players should be dedicated to that objective. Gaines was a positive as a UDFA, but has steps to take. Stirling may be a UDFA, but on paper he’s a guy with talent who suffered due to injury. Not just after his wrist took him off the field but it having turned out he’d being playing more hurt than thought for a season or so, which may be a direct cause of his high missed tackle rate that was his biggest knock.

I still have no clue why they kept but didn’t play Scott who looked the most coverage capable in the year before.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 09, 2022 at 11:57 am

It definitely was weird that even with Black struggling as the 3rd S they kept Scott inactive a majority of the year. Was he slow to pick up the new defense or just have limited value on STs? Sure looked like Black had limited value there too though.

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mnbadger's picture

May 09, 2022 at 12:32 pm

I'm rooting for all of the holdovers along with the newcomers. I'm PRAYING for a veteran FA (or trade) addition though. GPG!

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PatrickGB's picture

May 09, 2022 at 01:26 pm

I kinda thought that the team would pick up a safety in the draft. They really did not because the guy they got looks like more of a LB. Perhaps there will be a quality player come available later this year.

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greengold's picture

May 09, 2022 at 02:57 pm

Patrick, I look at this much like TE, how Gutekunst & LaFleur liked what they had, including Tyler Davis, and believe Paul did right to call S Innis Gaines out.

VERSATILITY. That might be Innis Gaines biggest calling card in all of this, because he can readily switch to CB if needed.

I absolutely love the guy on this Packers team. Maybe those in charge felt the same.

Strong, highly regarded defensive program at TCU. He is a full on marauder in both run stop & pass coverage. He’s super talented and has a really fast playing speed. He’s instinctive too, and a pretty good ballhawk.

His highlight reel lasts forever because he made that many great plays. Really fun to check out if you get a chance.

Sadly, he had a shockingly awful preseason last year. We’ll see what a year’s development did for him under Jerry Gray.


Looking at the Safety class, man.. One of my favorite R3 picks, S Bryan Cook, a pretty much can-do-it-all-type S, he went off R2.

Gutekunst & Co. find a near carbon copy in UDFA, when the Packers signed S Tre Sterling.

Maybe those “value,” considerations came into play.

Gutekunst took S Tariq Carpenter in R7, a player with arguably better stats than S Jalen Pitre taken in R2. I liked a few of the later S picks as much as some of the early ones taken.

Who knows? We’ll see in due time.

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canadapacker's picture

May 09, 2022 at 06:26 pm

So Gaines needs to improve his tackling - Will somebody tell me what they are doing to fix one of the other issues that this team has had over the past decade - bad tackling. Bad tackling is represented quite well in bad special teams ( yes among other issues - getting off of blocks, blocking , staying in the lanes etc etc) but bad tackling is common. So what drills and techniques and coaching needs to be done - and why hasnt Gaines improved on it - if it is being taught and concentrated on. Everyone recognizes that there are limited contact practices and limited padded practices - but why are some teams so adept at it and others (GB) not. A trait in player selection is one aspect that maybe/hopefully we factored that in as part of our draft evaluations. Now we definitely need to focus on it during the OTA's and minicamps et al.

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NitschkeFan's picture

May 09, 2022 at 11:11 pm

Agree with you CP. it’s hard to see some of the same mistakes year after year as it is to see lousy special teams year after year.

This article and others like it are providing a little reading material during a quiet time for us NFL fans. But they seem too fan-boy for me. Talking up the potential of UDFA’s, 7th rounders, practice squad guys etc

This guy and most other late round or undrafted guys will be very unlikely to become significant NFL players. We can always hope for a surprise but write a realistic report please. Every season there 10 guys like this and maybe 1 of them develops into a 5 year NFL starter.

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murf7777's picture

May 10, 2022 at 07:49 am

"but why are some teams so adept at it and others (GB) not."

CP...The stats show GB as a much better tackling team then giving credit for. I think "we" as in the fans, scrutinize our own teams because we care so much for their success and at times unfairly judge them. They might not be great, but the stats show they aren't bad either.

Here are two sources on missed tackles the first one is from Statmuse and the second is Pro Football Reference. The rating below is for teams with the LEAST amount of missed tackles.

2019 #10 #13
2020 #11 #16
2021 #15 #2 (must be hard to determine last year)

As you can see, they have never been below average in missed tackles over the past three years according to these two sources. We all would like to see them do better, but I don't think they are as bad as many feel.

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Coldworld's picture

May 10, 2022 at 10:04 am

Tackling suffered from changes in the CBA restricting contact during the preseason. It’s about attitude and technique. The first is a willingness to commit that has to come internally, the second is knowing angles and how to engage to take a pkayer down and not get hurt. That comes from contact and experience. Hard to teach in walk through.

Douglas is a player who made himself from a poor tackler into a good one while in the NFL and bouncing between teams. It can be done, but that’s days a lot is in the individual to do so, due to the CBA.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

May 10, 2022 at 05:53 am

Innis Gaines was/is my favorite UDFA of the past two years. I absolutely loved his highlight videos, where he looks super athletic and destroyed people on some of his tackles. He showed that "missile" quality. That's why I was surprised by his missed tackles during the preseason last year. Hopefully, those were just rookie blips, and he becomes the guy that showed up on his college film.

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Coldworld's picture

May 10, 2022 at 10:07 am

He may just have been trying too hard to make a splash play. Tackling at full tilt hell-for-leather looks great but isn’t a high percentage tactic against elite players. It’s all about position and angles, and that sometimes requires one to commit later. Just a thought.

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canadapacker's picture

May 10, 2022 at 02:30 pm

I dont know where King would fit in especially after our draft - but he was used properly last year and he did one thing that many of our Dbacks didnt do - tackle at the line of scrimmage. He might be a fit here - if of course he isnt replacing somebody just drafted and cant beat them out. I keep having a replay in my mind of all the missed tackles on Kamara in that New Orleans game 2 years ago. He is good I will admit it -but not that good that you cant play under control - force him to the sideline and hold him up until help comes - what a brutal example of being unable to play defense.

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