Hyde, Clinton-Dix both central to safety plans
Micah Hyde doesn't see this as a competition for the Green Bay Packers' starting safety position.
As talented and heralded as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is, Hyde has been more focused on proving worthy of the consistent playing time than outdoing the first-round rookie out of Alabama.
The second-year defensive back burst into the slot in the Packers' nickel and dime sub-packages in place of an injured Casey Hayward and finished seventh on the defense with 55 tackles and a sack.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this offseason he sees Hyde as an every-down defender whether that comes at safety, cornerback or in the slot of the sub-packages.
That's why Hyde has been working mostly in safety coach Darren Perry's room and taking reps with the first-team defense across from veteran Morgan Burnett. Meanwhile, the Packers are bringing Clinton-Dix along slowly.
Nothing is set in stone for how the Packers will use Hyde. He could line up at safety. He could line up in the slot. The Packers could even try the same approach they took with Charles Woodson in 2012 as a base defense safety and sub-package slot corner.
As much as the battle between Clinton-Dix and Hyde has been hyped, McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers will be counting on both to help the defensive turnaround.
"It's still an ongoing process," Perry said. "We're still kind of kicking things around with him. Micah will have an opportunity for having a role on this team be it at safety, nickel, dime or whatever we may decide to stick him at. I think he's made a lot of progress and I think when you're learning a new position, you need to spend time there. That's what we're trying to do with him is give him a fair opportunity to make an impact."
Hyde said he's been tapping the shoulder of all three of the Packers' returning safeties – Burnett, Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo – to the point of annoyance, but he's set on making this work.
His 4.56-second time in the 40-yard dash at last year's NFL scouting combine raised questions if the Packers would convert him to safety immediately upon drafting him, but that was never a part of the plan.
The Packers struggled through the rotation of M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian for most of the season, but they didn't want to throw too much on Hyde too early. Looking back, Hyde believes it was probably the right move to let him get his feet wet.
"I still know the positions I played in the past, dime, nickel and corner," Hyde said. "I think it'd be different if I had played corner last year and then I moved to safety, not knowing nickel or dime. That would hurt me. But I still know that stuff and I still do it every day in practice, so I don't think it's hurting me by any means going out there and practicing just safety sometimes."
The Packers have struggled to get an immediate impact from their last three first-round picks, which puts some pressure on Clinton-Dix to contribute early like Burnett and Nick Collins before him.
With the draft being pushed back two weeks, it left a little more than a month for Clinton-Dix to pick up the Packers' playbook and you can bet over the next month he'll still be cemented to it.
Perry isn't handing out any grade sheets quite yet. That's what training camp and padded practices are for. Right now, it's about making progress and their current assortment of safeties trumps their holdings during a troublesome 2013.
Regardless of whatever Hyde or Clinton-Dix prevails, the Packers have big plans for both players.
"He's done some good things. He's done some bad things," said Perry of Clinton-Dix. "In this league, you're not going to get it all in four, five weeks. It'll be an ongoing process for him, but hopefully during that process we're going to continue to see growth and see him make some plays for us, and be a contributor for us.
"Our competition back there is going to be great to watch. I'm looking forward to seeing how that thing unfolds."
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