Some may contend that cornerback Casey Hayward has already broken out for the Green Bay Packers, but starting just seven games as a rookie with mild success does not a career make. Hayward will undoubtedly see a larger role in the Green Bay defense this season with veteran play-maker Charles Woodson heading back to where it all began with the Oakland Raiders in 2013. Can Hayward find success in his second season as a full-time starter in the Packers secondary?
Even though he wasn’t full-time per say a year ago, Hayward still played 63 percent of all defensive plays for the Pack which was surpassed by only five other players on the defense. His role in 2012 was facilitated more by injury than by merit, but once he hit his stride, clearly the Packers didn’t want to take him off of the field.
Six interceptions as a rookie is tough to top, but Hayward will be taking over the role of the departed Woodson this season as the hybrid defensive back. Tramon Williams and Sam Shields are the projected starters on the edge so his role as the slot corner in most cases will be the perfect fit.
And that’s good because his position coach in Green Bay, Joe Whitt Jr. spoke highly of him earlier this offseason as he told the team’s website:
“This guy has a skill set that is very similar to Woodson, and that’s rare. He can smell routes, see things, and do things that not many people can do. Now, what he has to learn how to do is catch the flash of the ball. That’s one thing ‘Wood’ can do better than anybody, and Casey needs to continue to improve on that.”
Wowser. Saying that a guy heading into just his second NFL season is comparable to Woodson in any regard is quite a compliment, but to say that his recognition skills are similar is serious praise. His full statistical slate from last season included 55 tackles, 25 passes defensed, six interceptions, and one forced fumble. One has to believe that accomplishing that as a rookie means the sky’s the limit for the future.
NFC North quarterbacks not named Aaron Rodgers should consider themselves put on notice as training camps get underway. This former Vanderbilt Commodore is well on his way to becoming a lockdown defender at the NFL level.