Hyde Flashes Bit of Woodson's Toughness

Rookie cornerback Micah Hyde seems a natural for the nickel position because of his run-stopping skill. And, despite below-average speed for a cornerback, he's covered well and flashed impressive ball skills.

Who knows what Micah Hyde's role is going to be when starting cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward are healthy and back in action, but the rookie fifth-round pick is going to force his way onto the field in some fashion.

Against St. Louis on Saturday night, Hyde led the team with five tackles, including one sack and two tackles for losses, and added two passes defensed.

It's obviously very early, but Hyde looks like the latest cornerback find from general manager Ted Thompson and his scouts.

Last season, Hayward earned comparisons to the incomparable Charles Woodson because of his ability to anticipate routes and intercept the ball.

Hyde has a bit of Woodson in him, too. What separated Woodson from so many cornerbacks was his toughness against the run and ability to knife through blocks when blitzing from the slot. Not only did Hyde get a sack, but he was a menace in the run game. On St. Louis' first series, Hyde blitzed off the edge and dropped Isaiah Pead for a 6-yard loss.

At a sturdy 6-foot and 197 pounds, Hyde has the build to hold up in the slot. The nickel corner must double as an extra run defender because of his proximity to the ball. That's especially true under defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who prefers to play with five defensive backs — almost regardless of the down-and-distance situation — because it gets an extra athlete on the field.

"It's definitely want," Hyde said last week about tackling. "At Iowa, the corners had to come up and tackle. If you couldn't tackle, you weren't going to play. That's how it was in the past and I'm trying to carry it on to here."

With his hard-nosed style and relative lack of speed — he ran 4.52 at the Scouting Combine — there were some scouts who thought Hyde might be best suited to playing safety. He's shown he can cover, though. On back-to-back days last week, Hyde made remarkable interceptions, lending credence to coach Mike McCarthy's brief temptation — half-joking as it might have been — to put Hyde on offense. On Wednesday, Hyde made a leaping deflection and, upon falling to the ground, alertly made the interception. On Thursday, Hyde was playing underneath coverage but alertly picked off a bullet from B.J. Coleman that was intended for Tyrone Walker in the back of the end zone.

"Well, he's a football player," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said before Saturday's game. "I thought he showed that he can run and tackle and he can do a number of different things for you. The last two days he's made tremendous plays on the ball. Every practice, there's one or two plays to where it brings a smile to your face."

Hyde, a high school quarterback who tallied 111 total touchdowns, plays with a veteran savvy after starting 38 games at Iowa.

He has showed the short memory that all cornerbacks must possess. On St. Louis' second possession, Hyde was beaten deep by Chris Givens for a 57-yard gain — though, it should be pointed out that safety Jerron McMillian shouldn't have let Givens get behind him. One play later, Hyde was knocked to the turf on a pick play but was saved when Sam Bradford threw a terrible pass to Tavon Austin. On the next snap, second-and-goal from the 3, Hyde was in perfect position on a quick out by Austin and immediately tackled him for a 1-yard gain. On third-and-goal, Hyde helped A.J. Hawk and B.J. Raji stop Pead short of the end zone.

In coverage, according to ProFootballFocus.com, Hyde allowed three completions out of six targets for 63 yards. So, other than the deep ball in which McMillian should have been in position to help, Rams quarterbacks completed 2-of-5 passes against Hyde for 6 yards.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Hyde's development is how quickly he's grasped all that's been thrown at him. Rather than being anchored on the outside or the nickel, Hyde has learned both spots. Because of the injuries, he's played Williams' spot on the outside and Hayward's spot at nickel.

"Once you move some positions, you know what everybody on the field is capable of doing and what they're going to be doing," Hyde said. "Once you know the defense, you know not just what you're supposed to do individually but what everyone is doing, you can play way faster. You know where your leverage is, you know where your help is, and you know when you're all alone, so you can play a lot faster."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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