Micah Hyde, Bills defense will test Packers' passing game

Michael Cohen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Buffalo Bills strong safety Micah Hyde (23) celebrates their win against the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 26, 2017.

Fourth in a 13-part series on the opponents the Green Bay Packers will face during the 2018 regular season.

GREEN BAY - In a league dominated by quarterbacks, teams without a franchise passer live in a constant state of desperation. Some, like the Cleveland Browns, swing and miss repeatedly through the NFL draft. Others, like the Buffalo Bills, are caught somewhere in the middle with players such as Tyrod Taylor — good enough to win games and (possibly) reach the playoffs, but probably not good enough to make legitimate runs toward a Super Bowl. 

So the Bills made the decision to take yet another run at a potential franchise quarterback in this year’s draft. They traded Taylor to the Cleveland Browns for a third-round pick and then traded up on draft day to select Wyoming’s Josh Allen with the No. 7 overall selection.

The Bills are gambling on their ability to maximize the potential of a very divisive draft prospect. At 6-5 and 237 pounds, Allen appears chiseled from quarterback marble. His arm strength, according to early reviews out of Buffalo, is simply incredible.

But there are major questions about Allen’s decision making, accuracy, consistency and ability to produce at the NFL level after a fairly mediocre career in college. He threw for only 1,812 yards in 11 games last season and finished with 21 interceptions in two years as a starting quarterback. Some scouts believed he had the biggest upside of any passer in this year’s draft. Others didn’t want anything to do with a player whose potential to bust seemed so obvious.

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Eventually, Allen will have his chance as the Bills’ starting quarterback; teams don’t draft a player so early in the first round and confine them to the bench forever. It’s just a matter of how quickly he grasps the system.

Here are three things to know about the Bills:

Insurance policy

Because the Packers host the Bills so early in the season, there’s a chance they won’t see Allen at all if he doesn’t win the job out of training camp. With Taylor in Cleveland, where he will compete with No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, the Bills signed quarterback AJ McCarron to sit atop the depth chart until Allen is ready. McCarron, who inked a two-year deal with $6 million in guaranteed money, spent the first three years of his career as the backup to Andy Dalton with the Cincinnati Bengals. He has appeared in 10 games over the last three seasons and completed 86 of his 133 passes (64.7 percent) for 920 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. 

Familiar face

Barring injury, coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin will be preparing for a familiar face as they create a game plan against the Bills defense. Safety Micah Hyde was originally drafted by the Packers in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. He settled in as a hybrid safety/nickel back for former defensive coordinator Dom Capers before signing a five-year, $30 million deal ($14 million guaranteed) with the Bills prior to last season. Hyde started all 16 games for the Bills in 2017 and snagged five interceptions to earn both Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors. Meanwhile, no player on the Packers’ roster had more than four interceptions. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix led the safeties with three.

Fresh start

Last spring, the Packers used a seventh-round pick on wide receiver Malachi Dupre from Louisiana State. Dupre, formerly the No. 1 rated receiver coming out of high school, had an up-and-down training camp that was interrupted by a vicious hit and concussion that landed him in a Green Bay hospital during an exhibition game. The Packers released Dupre during final cuts and did not offer him the chance to re-sign with the practice squad; former general manager Ted Thompson had seen enough. After 10 days on the street, Dupre joined the Bills as a member of the practice squad and was promoted to the active roster Dec. 27, 2017. Dupre was among the inactives for the regular-season finale but should compete for a roster spot this fall, given Buffalo’s modest wide receiving corps. 

Packers schedule glimpse

Sept. 30 vs. Bills, noon, CBS

Week before: at Washington, Sept. 23.

Week after: at Lions, Oct. 7.

On the horizon: vs. 49ers, Oct. 15.

Buffalo Bills

Coach: Sean McDermott (9-7 overall, second season with Buffalo).

2017 record: 9-7, second in AFC East.

Scoring offense: 18.9 points per game (22nd in NFL).

Total offense: 302.6 yards per game (29th).

Scoring defense: 22.4 points per game (18th).

Total defense: 355.1 yards per game (26th).

Series: Bills lead 8-4.

Last meeting: The Packers and Bills haven’t played since 2014, when a December trip to upstate New York proved disastrous for the visitors. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers played one of the worst games of his career by completing just 17 of his 42 pass attempts and throwing a pair of interceptions. His passer rating of 34.3 was still 20 points worse than that of his counterpart Kyle Orton, who managed only 158 yards and did not throw a touchdown. Instead, the Bills won with four field goals, a safety and a 75-yard punt return touchdown by Marcus Thigpen. The final score was Buffalo 21, Green Bay 13.

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