26

January

Casey Hayward 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers CB Casey Hayward

1) Introduction: After a great rookie season in which he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 cornerback, Hayward appeared poised to take on an even larger role in 2013 with Charles Woodson playing elsewhere. But a bum hamstring hampered Hayward (shoutout to alliterations) throughout training camp and into the season. As a result, Hayward was only on the field for 88 snaps in his second season. The Packers dipped to 26th in the league in interceptions without Hayward–who led the team with six interceptions as a rookie in 2012. It’ll be interesting to see a healthy Hayward on the field next summer at training camp.

2) Profile: Casey Hayward

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 9/9/1989 in Perry, GA
  • Height: 5’11″
  • Weight: 192
  • College: Vanderbilt
  • Rookie Year: 2012
  • NFL Experience: 2 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: As a rookie, Hayward was clearly the Packers’ top slot cover man. So with Woodson playing in Oakland, the need for a “turnover creator” was pressing, and Hayward was the most logical choice on the roster. The Packers had big expectations for Hayward coming into the season.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Hayward played a season-high 42 snaps Nov. 4 against the Chicago Bears and made five tackles. That’s about it for his highlights. As far as low-lights, it’s pretty easy. Hayward was hobbled by his hammy literally from summer through the winter, and the result was a lost season.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Hayward was rusty–certainly not in top form–as he battled through his hamstring injury, and 88 snaps can only elicit so much in terms of a contribution.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Hayward ended up on the I.R. and didn’t appear in the playoffs. If you’re keeping score at home and/or looking for reason to be optimistic about the Packers’ chances against the 49ers, Hayward didn’t play a snap in either game against San Francisco this season and both games were decided by one possession. In fact, Hayward has played a total of 35 snaps in four games against the 49ers.

Season Report Card:

(N/A) Level of expectations met during the season

(N/A) Contributions to team’s overall success

(N/A) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: LS (Lost Season)

19

January

Packers, Capers really missed Casey Hayward in 2013

Casey Hayward wasn't the Packers' only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Casey Hayward wasn’t the Packers’ only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

As a rookie in 2012, Packers cornerback Casey Hayward was one of three finalists for the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best cornerback–the second-round pick trailed only established veterans Antoine Winfield, Richard Sherman and Charles Tillman.

After Hayward intercepted a team-best six passes and holding opposing passers to an abysmal 31.1 passer rating, the Packers had high hopes for Hayward, as they cut ties with their veteran leader and turnover-creator Charles Woodson following the 2012 season.

But Hayward’s encore was disrupted by a recurring hamstring issue, limiting him to appearing in just three games. He played 88 snaps.

With Woodson playing in Oakland and Hayward on the sideline, the Packers were left searching for a solution in the slot early last season. Sam Shields and Tramon Williams had fine seasons, but both are better suited for the perimeter. Micah Hyde didn’t play like a rookie, as he took over as the primary punt returner while proving to be a reliable run defender and a versatile cover man.

All things considered, the Packers’ cornerbacks fared well, but they were seriously lacking in one area.

For as long as Dom Capers has served as defensive coordinator in Green Bay, the Packers defense has relied heavily on takeaways. Woodson intercepted 19 passes and forced 11 fumbles during Capers’ tenure, which began in 2009. When Capers served as defensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992-1994, he had another Woodson (Rod), who intercepted 16 passes in three seasons with Capers.

But for the first time since taking over in Green Bay, Capers was without his X-Factor in 2013. He didn’t have a play-maker. He certainly didn’t have a Woodson.

For a defense that had grown accustomed to bending but not breaking, losing its turnover-creating wild card would be like throwing Capers in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean without a raft. Hayward’s 88 snaps were a makeshift life vest, but Capers and the defense remained stranded and searching for answers.

It would be foolish to assume Hayward’s career will unfold like Woodson’s, but you don’t let go of your high-school sweetheart without a winner on deck. The Packers had a plan for Life After Woodson, but that plan (Hayward) fell by the wayside thanks to the injury bug.

1

November

Seven games into rookie season, Micah Hyde looks like he belongs

Packers rookie Micah Hyde, just 22 years old, has already proven to be a versatile defender and solid return man.

Packers rookie Micah Hyde, just 22 years old, has already proven to be a versatile defender and solid return man.

Prior to coming off the board in the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft, Packers rookie cornerback Micah Hyde had no idea where he’d be selected.

“I was hearing stuff from all different angles, but at the end of the day I really didn’t care,” Hyde said. “As long as I got the opportunity to get on a team somewhere, whether it was first round or free agent, I was going to try and make the best of it.”

On the final day of the draft, Hyde was on the golf course when he got the call from a Green Bay number. He said people looked confused when they saw a group of 20-something-year-old guys throwing balls into the pond and driving across the fairway in a spontaneous celebration.

But for Hyde, who grew up in Ohio and attended college at the University of Iowa, Green Bay seems to be the perfect fit.

“This is exactly where I want to be,” Hyde said. “I was fortunate to be picked by the Packers because this is the perfect place, and the draft, all that stuff is in the past.”

Hyde was pick No. 159 in April’s draft, but there certainly aren’t 158 rookies making a bigger impact than he has thus far.

Talking to second-round pick Eddie Lacy last week, it was clear that Wisconsin’s cool October weather was an adjustment for him, but while Hyde says he doesn’t “like to play in the cold,” he’s grown accustomed to it.

Last week, in the temperature-controlled confines of the Metrodome, Hyde scored his first touchdown on a 93-yard punt return just before halftime. After proving to be a valuable player in the secondary, capable of covering the slot and playing on the perimeter, Hyde stepped up and gave the Packers a splash play on special teams–an area in which such plays have been lacking so far this season.

“It was definitely exciting,” Hyde said. “Especially because it was at Minnesota and it kind of quieted the dome a little bit.”

On his way to the end zone, however, Hyde nearly had a fail of Danny Trevathan proportions. Less than ten yards shy of the goal line, Hyde slowed his stride and strutted as he approached the end zone. He stumbled and nearly faceplanted.

28

October

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 44, Vikings 31

Jordy Nelson caught two touchdowns, giving Myles White and the rest of the team reason to celebrate.

Jordy Nelson caught two touchdowns, giving Myles White and the rest of the team reason to celebrate.

The opening kickoff made it look like the Minnesota Vikings would have a shot to upset the Green Bay Packers in teams’ final meeting at the Metrodome, as Cordarrelle Patterson raced 109 yards for a touchdown.

But from then on, it was all Packers.

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense moved the ball up and down the field with ease throughout the game. Despite having Myles White as his No. 3 receiver and Andrew Quarless as the starting tight end, Rodgers threw for 285 yards and a pair of scores to go along with just five incompletions.

His two touchdowns–both to Jordy Nelson–were perfect. There’s no other way to put it, really. Rodgers zipped the ball right past the defender’s earhole on each throw, leaving the defender with no chance at deflecting the pass.

After the first scoring connection from Rodgers to Nelson, I tweeted, “If I’m Aaron Rodgers, I’m putting an ongoing loop of that throw on a projection screen. Maybe in every room of my house.” And I meant it.

Then, after Nelson’s 76-yard score, I, again, wanted share my admiration. However, I just couldn’t seem to think of the words. It was simply another perfect throw by one of the best quarterbacks in football.

That touchdown, ironically, reminded me of Rodgers’ crucial third-down dart to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLV. Jennings, now with quarterbacks Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Matt Cassell and the Minnesota Vikings, was targeted three times Sunday night and only caught one pass for nine yards.

It’s safe to say that, while wealthier, Jennings is not having a lot of fun wearing purple this season. And that’s nothing against the color.

Speaking of Jordy Nelson, I think it’s worth revisiting the unwritten rule that you can’t compare white wide receivers to anyone other than white wide receivers. Nelson isn’t Eric Decker or Ed McCaffrey. He’s not Wayne Chrebet or Wes Welker.

The guy is every bit of 6’3″ 217 pounds. He’s not the fastest receiver in the world, but he does everything you could possibly ask a wide receiver to do, and he does it well.

25

September

No reason to panic despite Packers’ 1-2 start

With Aaron Rodgers under center and Randall Cobb in the lineup, the Packers will be just fine, offensively.

With Aaron Rodgers under center and Randall Cobb in the lineup, the Packers will be just fine, offensively.

Through three weeks, the Green Bay Packers sit at 1-2 entering their much-needed bye week.

Coming into the season, the Week 4 bye may have been seen as a disadvantage, but now, the timing could not have worked out better.

After giving up a 16-point lead and losing in dramatic fashion at Cincinnati, the Packers were left in a cloud of dust, wondering what had happened. The loss gives the Packers a much different feeling during their week off than they would have had they held onto their lead.

But coming out of the bye, the Packers figure to be in their best shape of the young 2013 season. And it’s not time for Packers fans to jump off the cliff just yet.

Perhaps the Packers’ biggest individual boost will be from safety Morgan Burnett. Likely the team’s most irreplaceable part of the secondary, Burnett (even without his dreads) is arguably the Packers’ second-most valuable defensive player behind Clay Matthews.

While the team is deep enough at cornerback to recover from losing a player–such as Casey Hayward–the depth at safety is not as strong.

Against the Bengals, Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings played pretty well overall. But against top-tier quarterbacks, a Burnett-less back end could spell a field day for the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world.

Some are quick to point out that Burnett is not Nick Collins; Burnett may not be the savior for Green Bay’s defense, but there’s a reason why the Packers gave him a healthy long-term contract extension.

Whether it’s in Week 5 against Detroit or shortly after, the secondary will get an added boost from Hayward, who led the team with six interceptions as a rookie last season.

Hayward has been nursing a hamstring injury since training camp. Tramon Williams and Sam Shields have fared well through three games and adding Hayward to the slot–along with Burnett returning at safety–would give the Packers their best possible secondary.

Offensively, the Packers are fine.

That may sound overly optimistic following a disappointing performance in Cincinnati in which Aaron Rodgers threw a pair of interceptions. But there’s no panic going on at 1265 Lombardi; Rodgers remains one of the best in the business, and as long as No. 12 is under center, the Packers are going to be among the league’s top offenses.

23

August

Pre Season Week 3 – Packers vs. Seahawks: Keys to the Game

Packers vs Seahawks

Wilson will provide the Packers with their first test with a mobile quarterback in 2013

Please forgive my hiatus for last week’s Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams contest.  I was temporarily brainwashed to think that my post would write itself.  But I digress. . .

This week’s pre season game has the Seattle Seahawks visiting Lambeau Field to face the Packers on Friday.  As John Rehor of Packers Talk has said, this is not a rematch of last year’s Monday Night Football debacle.  Dubbed the “Fail Mary” game, it incited a lot of controversy and left many Packers fans wanting vengeance against both the man (the Seahawks) and the machine (Roger Gooddell and the NFL).  But alas, as John said, it’s not a rematch.  It’s just a pre season game.

Still, week three of the NFL pre season has long been considered a dress rehearsal for the upcoming season and the starting units typically see their longest stint on the field during this game.  It’s more of a true litmus test to see how a team looks and how prepared they are for the upcoming regular season.  While there may be some chatter from the players and media, the Packers need to drown that out and focus.

During the offseason, the Seahawks got busy in acquiring more pieces to complete their team and get even better than last year when they came within inches and seconds of advancing to the NFC Championship game.  They traded a first round draft pick for receiver Percy Harvin to give quarterback Russell Wilson another solid target.  Harvin promptly injured his hip and had to have surgery, which will prevent his Seattle debut until some time in November, if at all.  Seattle also brought in former Lions defensive end Cliff Avril to help with their pass rush and former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield to add some experience to their defensive backfield.

Seattle comes into this season as not only a favorite to win the NFC West, but they are also considered by many to be front runners for the NFC and the Super Bowl.  This should provide a solid test for the Packers, who also figure to be in the mix for a deep playoff run.  Let’s drill down on the keys for the Packers in this week’s game and also some of the position battles that are still in full swing.

19

August

Revisiting My 10 Top Training Camp Topics for the Packers

Eddie Lacy may not get the first carry of the season, but he's the "starter" in my eyes.

Eddie Lacy may not get the first carry of the season, but he’s the “starter” in my eyes.

About three weeks into camp and halfway through the NFL preseason, many of the Packers’ key question marks are starting to take shape.

Some of such unknowns have since seen new faces (Vince Young) enter the conversation, while other questions (Jermichael Finley) are still completely up in the air.

Prior to training camp, we put ten Packers training-camp topics under the microscope for further review. Now two games into the preseason, it’s time to revisit some of these questions and predictions.

1. Who will be the Packers’ opening-day starter at running back?

Answer: Eddie Lacy, and I feel the same. Kinda.

The Packers clearly didn’t want to (literally) hand the job to a rookie running back without some competition; the team routinely gave veterans Alex Green and James Starks run with the No. 1 offense early in the offseason.

But after the “fat” Eddie Lacy thing blew over, the rookie quickly separated himself from the pack at the position. Coach McCarthy has been effusive in his praise of DuJuan Harris, who returned to practice this week, but if “Fat” is healthy, he’s going to get at least a share of the workload.

Fat was exceptional in his preseason debut against the St. Louis Rams, racking up 51 total yards on nine touches. He broke tackle after tackle, picked up the blitz and caught the ball out of the backfield. It was certainly an impressive showing for the rookie.

But if Harris and Lacy are both available on opening day, I really think both players will get a share of the load. Harris played well against the 49ers in the playoffs, but the Packers abandoned the running game in the second half.

So, in this case, the “starter” label may be a bit subjective. It could be a “starter and closer” or “thunder and lightning”-kinda situation.

2. How many defensive linemen will the Packers keep?

Answer: Six. Now, I think they’ll keep seven, including Mike Neal.

I was cautiously optimistic and mildly skeptical about the Neal-at-outside linebacker thing, but it looks like it’s working so far. Injured second-year defensive end Jerel Worthy told me and Cheesehead TV’s Zach Kruse to “look out” for Neal in his new role, and halfway through the preseason, he certainly looks like one of the team’s best pass rushers.