Although a recurring hamstring injury made for a disappointing sophomore season, Packers cornerback Casey Hayward should be able to work his way back to peak performance in 2014.
Although a recurring hamstring injury made for a disappointing sophomore season, Packers cornerback Casey Hayward should be able to work his way back to peak performance.
Jeff Hanisch / USA TODAY Sports
By Paul ImigFOX Sports Wisconsin
FOX Sports Wisconsin's Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. Check every weekday through mid-April for his latest report.
Season stats: Three games (88 snaps), eight tackles, two missed tackles, zero tackles for loss, zero sacks, zero interception, zero forced fumbles, zero passes defensed, three stops (solo tackles that resulted in offensive failure); targeted seven times in coverage, allowing five receptions for 43 yards, zero touchdowns
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: 1.0 (ranked No. 6 out of Packers defensive players, though he didn't play enough snaps to qualify)
Best game: Week 9 loss vs. Chicago (played 42 of 77 snaps; zero interceptions, zero passes defensed, one missed tackle, three stops; targeted four times in coverage, allowing three receptions for 28 yards; 0.5 PFF rating)
Worst game: Week 8 win at Minnesota (played 23 of 49 snaps; one tackle, zero missed tackles, zero stops; targeted one time in coverage, allowing one reception for 9 yards; minus-0.5 PFF rating)
Looking live: Casey Hayward reported to training camp with an injured hamstring, which he suffered while working out on his own in July. After missing the first 15 training camp practices and two preseason games, Hayward returned on Aug. 19, but he was clearly behind schedule and had a lot of work to do to catch up with the rest of the cornerback group. Two days later, practice concluded with Hayward intercepting a pass in the end zone from Vince Young. But in the Packers' third preseason game, Hayward reinjured the same hamstring that had kept him out of the team's first 15 practices. In April 2013, with Hayward coming off of a fantastic rookie season (in which he mostly played in the slot), he told FOXSportsWisconsin.com, "I want to start outside. I feel like I can be an outside guy now full-time. . . . I'll prove that I can play outside now and not just the slot." Four of Hayward's six interception in 2012 came when he was lined up outside, and that wasn't the only piece of evidence that suggested he'd be able to live up to his word. However, with all of the critical practice time that Hayward missed due to injury, there was almost no chance that he'd be able to follow up his rookie season with anything resembling the same level of success.
Upon further review: Hayward didn't make his season debut until Week 8, but he was immediately on the field for a fairly significant amount of time (51.5 percent) in his first two games back. It was apparent that he wasn't playing at the level of 2012 Casey Hayward, nor should he have been after such an extended absence. He certainly wasn't bad in those games, but Hayward wasn't the playmaking ballhawk that he was a year earlier. Those traits likely would have returned as the season progressed, but by his third game back, Hayward once again injured his hamstring. He was placed on injured reserve Nov. 23, ending his season after just 88 snaps. There should be no doubt whatsoever that Hayward can regain his 2012 form, though. A rookie player doesn't show up in the NFL, play that incredibly well and then have a permanent, drastic fall-off. An injury like what Hayward sustained while training on his own isn't one that should hinder his career long-term. Yes, Clay Matthews has lingering hamstring issues, but the problem with Hayward suffering the same injury three times in one year had a lot more to do with him attempting to come back too soon each time.
Status for 2014: One-hundred percent chance of being on the Packers' active roster to begin the 2014 regular season. Depending on how the offseason plays out, Hayward could fulfill his goal of becoming a full-time starting outside cornerback in 2014. Sam Shields is a free agent and Tramon Williams is due $9.5 million in the final year of his contract. Does general manager Ted Thompson want to pay Shields and Williams somewhere in the range of $16 million combined next season just on those two players? If Green Bay's front office does decide that it wants to use its money in that way, it will be very difficult for Hayward to start outside next season. Even if that is the case, Hayward thrived in the slot as a rookie, and with the Packers often using three corners on the field together, there will be plenty of playing-time opportunities for him. No matter where he plays, as long as Hayward is healthy, it's fair to expect him to at least duplicate his 2012 success in 2014.