21

May

Casey Hayward: What’s in store for his encore?

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers cornerback Casey Hayward was the 62nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but he was among most impactful defensive backs in football last season.

According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks had a collective passer rating of 31.1 when throwing at Hayward. And among cornerbacks who played at least 50 percent of their team’s defensive snaps, Hayward came in at No. 3 in the league, sandwiched between Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield.

The rookie went from being buried on the depth chart early in the season–Hayward played just three snaps in the season opener against the 49ers—to being, perhaps, the most irreplaceable part of the secondary.

When veteran Charles Woodson suffered a broken collarbone in Week 7, Hayward’s presence became increasingly important. From Week 7 to Week 14, Hayward played 88.5 percent of the Packers’ defensive snaps.

Coming into the season, Woodson was expected to play safety in the base and bump up to slot cornerback in the nickel. But when Hayward emerged as the team’s most reliable turnover creator, playing primarily in the slot, Woodson’s role was drastically reduced by the time he returned for the playoffs.

This offseason, the Packers decided to cut ties with Woodson, who was set to count nearly $10 million against the salary cap. Woodson, 36, remained a fan favorite at the time of his release, but the presence of a promising young talent in Hayward made the move easier to swallow.

As a team, the Packers accounted for 18 interceptions in 2012, which was tied for eighth-most in the NFL. Hayward led all rookies and tied for fifth in the league with six picks.

 

1. Week 5 @ Indianapolis (4th Quarter, 13:09)

QB: Andrew Luck / WR: Reggie Wayne / Position: Slot

Hayward’s first career interception came against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5. Matched up against Colts receiver Reggie Wayne in the slot, Hayward matched him stride-for-stride and made the play on the ball.

Wayne dominated the Packers throughout the game, catching 13 passes for 212 yards and a score. But according to PFF, Hayward allowed just one reception on three targets on the afternoon. Luck’s passer rating when throwing at Hayward was an abysmal 6.9.

2. Week 6 @ Houston (4th Quarter, 7:11)

QB: Matt Schaub / WR: Keshawn Martin / Position: LCB

When Charles Woodson crashes inside on a blitz, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub recognizes that he has Keshawn Martin in single coverage against Hayward. But Hayward wins this rookie battle and makes a great play on the ball.

Schaub’s pass came out a split-second late and didn’t have quite enough air under it to find Martin. Hayward snaps his head around just in time and comes up with a turnover with the game already in hand.

3. Week 6 @ Houston (4th Quarter, 3:40)

QB: T.J. Yates / WR: DeVier Posey / Position: LCB

Trailing big late in the fourth quarter, the Texans pulled Schaub in favor of second-year quarterback T.J. Yates, who tried pulling off (what would have been) an incredible throw to rookie wide receiver DeVier Posey.

Posey ran a post route to the middle of the field with Hayward right on his hip. Safety Jerron McMillian made the play for Hayward, deflecting Yates’s pass directly into Hayward’s hands. The Packers did a great job of disguising their coverage before the snap, as it looked like Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings would be playing two-deep coverage.

But just before the snap, Burnett bumps up to play the middle of the field, and McMillian floats back to where Burnett originally lined up. It was a great play all around, and although McMillian deserves the bulk of the credit for the turnover, Hayward couldn’t have covered Posey any better.

4. Week 7 @ St. Louis (3rd Quarter, 1:17)

QB: Sam Bradford / WR: Chris Givens / Position: RCB

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is reading Morgan Burnett before the snap. When Burnett crashes to cover the tight end in the middle of the field, Bradford realizes that Hayward is in single coverage on the outside against speedster Chris Givens.

Bradford doesn’t set his feet for the deep ball and, as a result, delivers a poor ball to Givens. Hayward makes the play and sets the Packers up with great field position late in the third quarter. It was Hayward’s fourth interception in three games.

5. Week 11 @ Detroit (2nd Quarter, 2:16)

QB Matt Stafford / WR: Titus Young / Position: Slot

This play puts Hayward’s instincts on display. Hayward is mirroring Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who stays in to protect quarterback Matt Stafford. In case Pettigrew sneaks out into the flat on a delayed route, Hayward holds his ground and holds his ground.

Wide receiver Titus Young comes across the field on a crossing route, and Stafford never sees Hayward, who has settled in the passing lane.

6. Week 15 @ Chicago (2nd Quarter, 1:25)

QB: Jay Cutler / WR: Devin Hester / Position: Slot

In the words of Charles Woodson, this is just a case of Jay Cutler being “the same ol’ Jay.” Clearly, there was a miscommunication between Cutler and wide receiver Devin Hester. But no matter what the problem was, Cutler made a poor throw and it ended up directly in Hayward’s bread basket.

Hayward makes a nice play after the catch, setting the Packers up with great field position before halftime.

 

Will Hayward have a sophomore slump or be a second-year stud?

Not many people foresaw Hayward’s six-interception rookie campaign. In fact, it was then-second-year player Davon House who was the most impressive cornerback throughout training camp.

Between Hayward, House, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, cornerback may have surpassed wide receiver as the Packers’ deepest position ground. All four players are capable of playing on the outside, while Hayward and Williams are also capable of pulling double-duty in the slot.

Hayward isn’t as physical as House, nor is he as fast as Shields, but he may very well be the team’s most well-rounded cornerback. And if any defensive back on the Packers’ roster is capable of moving around the formation as much as Charles Woodson did in years past, it’s Hayward.

Of Hayward’s six interceptions in 2012, three came when he was lined up inside, two came when he was lined up on the left and one was when he lined up to the right. As a rookie, it didn’t matter where Hayward lined up, the ball found him, and he made play after play.

Assuming Shields signs his tender or a long-term deal with the team before the season, the cornerback competition may be the most intriguing position battle this summer.

But regardless if Hayward is labeled a starter or not, he will definitely be on the field plenty in 2013 because, as Zach Kruse of CheeseheadTV points out, the Packers have led the league in nickel and dime defenses in each of the past two seasons.

Part of the reason the Packers have been using extra defensive backs is their lack of depth in the front seven. But while they’ve bolstered their defensive line in the past two drafts, the secondary remains the deepest part of the defense. Williams, Shields and House will all likely see playing time, but Hayward was clearly the team’s best slot cover man in 2012 and he’ll, at the very least, hold that same title in 2013.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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17 Responses to “Casey Hayward: What’s in store for his encore?”

  1. Brooklyn81 says:

    With the addition of Datone Jones and a better front seven overall this will be a much improved secondary and Casey Hayward will lead the team in interceptions again. There will not be any sophmore slump.

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    • PatMc says:

      With Bishop wanting to be Defensive MVP expect much better tackling.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  2. Savage57 says:

    Looking at this film, what you see is a solid, fundamentally sound DB who is able to make plays on the ball. Sometimes they are of his own or team mates making, sometimes the fault of the opposing WR or QB. When he has chances for a pick, you don’t see the ball bouncing on the ground with him running around grimacing with his hands on the side of his helmet – he has the ball in his hands. What’s also important is that he doesn’t have stupid, bad plays. Oh, and he was smart enough not to pay attention to CW and TW and not grab onto every receiver he covers.

    I think he has another solid season even if the pick numbers aren’t as high.

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  3. While no one may ever be able to have woodsons incredible physical ability out of college, i hade hayward pegged from get go as player who would be Woodson ultimately replacement with smarts/playmaking ability with just a tad less physical abilty.Hayward will be as close as some one could be. GLad he plays for us :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  4. Dobber says:

    Here’s hoping the Packers ultimately recognize what Hayward is best suited to do, which is cover slot receivers. In today’s NFL, that’s a very valuable commodity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    • Lou says:

      Short and to the point and dead on, last years results cements your case Dobber. Who 2 years ago would have thought the CB position would be this strong now, none of the “experts” for sure. Hayward was productive the day he took the field in the regular season much like Mike McKenzie who was the 3rd CB taken by the Packers that year, the others washed out in 2 years. Shields stepped up vs the 49ers and House looks like a young Al Harris. If the pass rush improves they will get their hands on a lot of passes in 2013.

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    • BishPlease says:

      He’s best suited to be the teams number one corner. Yea he was nasty as a slot corner, but he locked guys down on the outside also. Bring Tramon on field in nickel and House in dime with Shields/Hayward starting.

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      • Stroh says:

        Hayward is PERFECTLY suited for the slot CB. His skills, instincts and quickness are tailor made inside. As a #1 CB outside Hayward will have trouble beating out Shield and House, much less Tramon. His strengths and weaknesses don’t translate outside as well. Leave him in the nickel/slot role where he excels and leave the Tramon, Shields and House where they can excel.

        I don’t believe Hayward will become a shutdown CB outside. Personally I think he’s very near his ceiling. His strengths about as good as they can be, and he’ll have a hard time eliminating IMO

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        • BishPlease says:

          He played great last year in the games where he was base corner, and better than House and Tramon. The only trait that doesn’t translate well to edge corner is in-line speed. Even then hes about as fast as Tramon and somewhat slower than House.

          What do Tramon/House have that Hayward doesn’t besides speed?

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          • Stroh says:

            He played great in the slot and good outside IMO. House had the starting job locked up till he injured his shoulder. Similar to Tramon, the shoulder bother him all year. So Hayward might have been better by default.

            Hayward lacks makeup speed as mentioned. He has really short arms so WR will be able to separate in press coverage and due to limited speed and Hayward will have problems contesting balls downfield.

            Like I said he’s perfect in the slot, leave him there and let Shields, House and Tramon outside where they fit best. I’ll be surprised if he starts outside for the Packers.

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            • BishPlease says:

              I agree with the short arms. He also doesn’t jump as well as the others and is definitely much better suited for slot. I just hate seeing him off the field because hes such a playmaker and Tramon has just been the opposite ever since the Super Bowl.

              We’ll see. If House beats him out I’ll be happy. I think his ceiling is crazy high.

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              • Stroh says:

                I think he’s very near his ceiling. His instincts and football IQ are outstnding and those are the traits that usually develop the most.

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              • BishPlease says:

                House’s ceiling?

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              • Stroh says:

                OK. Sorry, thought you meant Hayward. Yeah I’m really high on House. Was on him well before the draft as a player the Packers should draft. He’s like Harris, but faster and with better ball skills.

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  5. Wendall says:

    I believe that the safety position will turn out the same as cornerback. No need for high priced hasbeens that the other team doen’t want

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  6. Wagszilla says:

    His encore?

    Starting over Tramon.

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  7. [...] rookie went on to finish third in the voting for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. In May, we put Hayward’s rookie season under the microscope and looked ahead to what he has in store for his sophomore [...]

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