The Green Bay Packers (3-2) have had their ups and downs this season. The downside has outweighed the upside in the training room as the Packers have what seems to be a bottomless pit of injuries to significant players such as Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga.
The positives have outweighed the negatives this season, though, because of the Packers’ extremely deep group of quality players from the 2013 rookie class.
Rookies such as defensive end Datone Jones, left tackle David Bakhtiari and running back Eddie Lacy have made positive impacts for the Packers this season. Jones, Bakhtiari and Lacy are three of 14 rookies currently listed on the Packers’ 53-man roster.
Another rookie who has surprised the Green Bay fans is cornerback Micah Hyde. The former Iowa Hawkeye defensive back dropped to the fifth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft and the Packers feel they have a hidden gem.
Hyde has served as the Packers’ primary nickel defensive back in place of injured cornerback Casey Hayward this season, and he will now serve as the Packers’ primary kickoff and punt returner in place of Cobb, who broke his fibula in a win over the Baltimore Ravens (3-3) this past Sunday.
“From day one, I’ve said this before, I think he’s about as natural as a returner as I’ve seen coming out of college,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said about Hyde. “Micah is similar in how Charles Woodson returned. It’s very natural and it’s about getting comfortable”.
This season, Hyde is averaging 10.7 yards per punt return on seven attempts. It’s nothing flashy, but Hyde is guaranteed to gain plenty of opportunities in the next couple of months.
Defensively against the Ravens on Sunday, Hyde recorded seven total tackles, including one sack. Even with Hayward possibly returning from injury this weekend, Hyde may have earned some more playing time moving forward.
Going back to McCarthy’s comment on Hyde, though, the head coach compared a fifth-round draft pick to a future NFL Hall of Famer. McCarthy’s opinion regarding Hyde may seem extremely farfetched to the normal fan, but when taking a look closer look, these two are pretty darn comparable.
Woodson started immediately in the NFL after the Oakland Raiders selected him with the 4th overall draft pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. In 1998, Woodson was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year after he recorded 62 total tackles, forced two fumbles and intercepted five passes.
What Packers fans have seen in Hyde and Woodson is comparable size and stature, similar sure-tackling ability and a knack for finding the football.
Hyde starred in high school on the both the offensive and defensive sides of the football at Fostoria High School in Fostoria, Ohio. Before earning a scholarship to play at Iowa, Hyde was an offensive high school state player of the year. In his high school career, Hyde accounted for 111 total touchdowns on offense and eight interceptions on defense.
Woodson is from Fremont, Ohio and only 21.5 miles separates Fremont and Fostoria in the northwest area of Ohio. Before Woodson went on to become an instant playmaker on offense and defense at the University of Michigan and become the first defensive player to ever win the Heisman Trophy in 1997, his stardom all started in Fremont.
At Ross High School, like Hyde, Woodson was an all-around game changer. Woodson rushed for 3,861 career yards and scored 466 points in his high school career where he was named Ohio’s “Mr. Football” as a senior.
Unlike Woodson, Hyde only starred on defense in college. For the Hawkeyes, Hyde started his final 38 games of his collegiate career and he won the Big Ten’s individual award for the conference’s top defensive back. The award is named after two Big Ten icons: Jack Tatum and ironically, Woodson.
As a rookie, Hyde is already returning punts and kicks for Green Bay. When Woodson was in Oakland, the Raiders didn’t use him as a returner on special teams until his fourth NFL season.
Will Hyde ever win an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award like Woodson did with the Packers in 2009? Only time will tell if the rookie corner can live up to Woodson’s legacy in Green Bay. Will Hyde win the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award like Woodson did with the Raiders in 1998? It’s a long season, so there is a shot.
McCarthy mentioning Hyde in the same statement as the Packers’ former All-Pro is enough of a reason to get excited for the potential second-coming of “Chuck”.