Green Bay Packers beat writer Paul Imig will be analyzing the 25 most important players to the Packers’ success in the 2014 season. Check back each weekday to see the latest player on the list. You can find the entire list here.
NOTE: This is not a list of the team’s 25 best players, but rather it’s a list of which players mean the most to how Green Bay will fare this year. Criteria such as depth at that player’s position, general expectations and overall importance of that player having a good season are all highly considered.
NO. 15 – MICAH HYDE, SAFETY / SLOT CORNERBACK
AGE / EXPERIENCE
23 / Second NFL season
WHY HE’S NO. 15
There’s a lot on the plate of Micah Hyde this season. The offseason began with head coach Mike McCarthy declaring that Hyde should be an every-down player, and that part of staying on the field will include work at safety. However, that didn’t mean Hyde would exclusively play safety. Essentially, it meant he’d be the new Charles Woodson (the 2012 version); a defensive back who roams to different spots on the field depending on the situation. Yes, a second-year player is being put into the category of an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
All that Hyde did during his rookie season was impress every single member of the Packers coaching staff. They all now view Hyde as one of Green Bay’s 11-best defensive players and thus wanted to make sure he had a more significant role.
Hyde is highly unlikely to play outside cornerback in 2014, just as he didn’t in 2013. He’ll do just about everything else, though, splitting his time between free safety, strong safety, dime cornerback and nickel cornerback. If any readers expected Hyde to be able to take on that significant of a role in just his second season, then they knew more than NFL executives who let him slide all the way to the fifth round (No. 159) in last year’s draft.
Hyde is No. 15 on this list because of how much he’ll be asked to do. Green Bay has depth at cornerback and used its first-round pick this year on a safety, but none of that minimizes Hyde’s role. If he takes the big Year 2 jump that McCarthy always looks for, Hyde could go from being one of the Packers’ 11-best defensive players to being one of the best up-and-coming versatile defensive backs in the entire NFL.
EXPECTATIONS FOR 2014
Hyde’s tremendous rookie season has brought about expectations that are perhaps unrealistic. But he can blame — or thank — Green Bay’s coaching staff for that. It could be said that Hyde is the 2014 version of Casey Hayward, who a year ago was coming off a fantastic rookie year. The Packers have to hope that Hyde follows up his success better than Hayward did last season, when the 2012 second-round pick had a lost sophomore year due to hamstring injuries.
A glance at Hyde’s statistics don’t suggest he’s a possible superstar in the making. One sack, zero interceptions, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and 55 tackles while playing less than 40 percent of the defensive snaps certainly doesn’t have the sizzle of Hayward’s six-interception rookie season. Though Hyde is capable of putting up big numbers, he can have a successful 2014 season without it. If he’s a steady presence who continues to improve his all-around game, Green Bay will be happy with him.
WHAT WOULD THEY DO WITHOUT HIM?
The thing that the Packers can rest easily about during Hyde’s development is that there are other options. With Sam Shields and Tramon Williams at outside cornerback, Hyde doesn’t have to concern himself with that position, especially when adding in Hayward and Davon House as the backups there. In the slot, Hayward is about as good as it gets. There’s also the veteran presence of Jarrett Bush, who continues to do enough for Green Bay to keep him around. The cornerback depth is part of what allowed the Packers to give Hyde a dual position, and it’s a credit to general manager Ted Thompson and his staff for assembling that talent.
Safety was the Packers’ biggest area of need heading into the 2014 draft, and they addressed it head-on by taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. Somewhat surprisingly, though, it’s been Hyde next to Morgan Burnett with the starting defense during OTAs and minicamp. That could change in training camp, but for now, it appears like Clinton-Dix will have to beat out Hyde in order to start. Having Hyde and Clinton-Dix to go along with Burnett is a much better three-man group than what Green Bay had a year ago, when it was Burnett with M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian, both of whom are gone. Add in Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo and undrafted rookies Tanner Miller and Charles Clay, and safety should no longer be the Packers’ weakest position.