The biggest question for the Green Bay Packers this offseason has been what to do with their safeties. Last year, the duo of Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings were unable to make a single interception. On top of this, blown coverages were almost a weekly occurrence on the part of Jennings. With his departure to the Chicago Bears, the Packers were left without a free safety.
As they should have, they selected Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round of the draft earlier this year.
Prior to the draft, however, there was some hinting that Micah Hyde may be the man for the free safety job. He displayed great reliability as a third cornerback during the 2013 season and given his range, speed and instincts, he made Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers convinced that he would capably make the transition to the new position. Entering the first few days of camp, Hyde has been the man lining up with the first-string offense.
Another important consideration here, however, is the impact that Hyde as the starting free safety would have on Green Bay’s cornerback situation.
Hyde played roughly 40 percent of all defensive snaps last year, and his overall performance was very pleasing to his coaches. He adapted well to the playbook and produced 55 total tackles and a sack during the 2013 campaign. These are very promising stats for a rookie playing as much as he did.
If he were to be moved to safety, the Packers would lose their third cornerback. That job would then likely fall into the hands of either Casey Hayward, who is now healthy after missing almost half of last season with a hamstring injury, or veteran backup Jarrett Bush. Only time will tell if Hayward, who had a very strong showing during the 2012 season, will be up to such a task.
Bush, on the other hand, has been on the Packers’ roster since 2006. He has never been a regular starter, but did perform well in the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning game back in 2011.
One major reason for which Hyde should be given a chance to at least start the season alongside Burnett is that he already has one season working with the Packers’ defense. He knows the system already and functioned well within it. No matter how much of a talented young man Clinton-Dix is, Hyde is ahead of him by a year. In addition, Hyde has the faith of the coaches. McCarthy and Capers have both expressed their confidence in Hyde at either corner or safety.
Though these two players are both bright, young defensive backs with good instincts and good skills, there are some significant differences. Clinton-Dix is about 15 pounds heavier and definitely hits harder, but lacks the top speed to be considered one of the fastest men on the field. With that said, Hyde’s agility and ability to stick with receivers and diagnose routes need some work.
The Packers will have a good young safety alongside Burnett no matter who they choose. Clinton-Dix is big and physical with great hitting skills and sharp instincts. Much of the same can be said of Hyde, but he is notably smaller. With that said, McCarthy seems poised to start Hyde purely based upon the fact that he has a solid year of experience working within the Packers’ system and has earned the trust of his coaches.
It will take a truly phenomenal performance out of Clinton-Dix if he wants that starting job for the 2014 season. Don’t be surprised if he does earn the job however, as he has made it clear that no matter who the coaches are in favor of now, he’s at training camp to win the starting position. This is arguably the most exciting Packers position battle of this offseason.