Offseason Progress Report: Safeties

Morgan Burnett didn't provide enough bang for the megabucks last season. The Packers, however, say they aren't worried about the 25-year-old veteran. Meanwhile, Micah Hyde figures to enter training camp as the starter ahead of top pick HaHa Clinton-Dix.

With four weeks of offseason practices behind them, Packer Report is taking a position-by-position look at the Green Bay Packers, continuing with the safeties.

Depth chart

NO.PLAYERPOSHTWTAGEEXPSCHOOL
42 Burnett, Morgan S 6-1 209 25 5 Georgia Tech
33 Hyde, Micah CB/S 6-0 197 23 2 Iowa
21 Clinton-Dix, Ha Ha S 6-1 208 21 R Alabama
28 Richardson, Sean S 6-2 216 24 3 Vanderbilt
32 Banjo, Chris S 5-10 207 24 2 Southern Methodist
40 Miller, Tanner S 6-1 211 22 R Iowa
25 Clay, Charles S 5-10 204 23 R Hawai'i

The answer

Who knows if he will be the answer but, at the ripe old age of 25 and the owner of 49 of the 50 starts at the position, Morgan Burnett has to be the answer.

In 2011 and 2012, he was the only safety in the NFL with back-to-back seasons of 100-plus tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He parlayed those numbers into a four-year contract extension worth $24.75 million. For that money, the Packers got another 100-tackle season but no interceptions or forced fumbles in 2013.

Safeties coach Darren Perry spoke confidently that Burnett would rebound, but he also offered no excuses. Not only was Burnett saddled with M.D. Jennings -- a player with limited playmaking ability as a centerfielder and little strength to play in the box -- as his partner at safety, but he missed the first three games of the season with an injured hamstring.

"I still think Morgan's a heck of a football player," Perry said. "I know our critics may not agree but, again, Morgan's going to be fine and he's still a young player, ascending, and we've just got to keep him going."

The Packers are going to need more than "fine" at that price tag. In terms of total contract, Burnett's deal is the 15th-highest in the league among safeties. Yet last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com, Burnett ranked 48th out of 67 safeties who played at least 50 percent of the defensive snaps.

The question

Who starts opposite Burnett? Green Bay invested a first-round pick on Alabama's HaHa Clinton-Dix, but he spent the offseason working behind Micah Hyde. Hyde, a fifth-round pick in 2013, played cornerback at Iowa and played the nickel and dime positions for the Packers as a rookie. Even before the draft, coach Mike McCarthy was calling Hyde a "four-down player," so it certainly shouldn't be a surprise that Clinton-Dix hasn't been handed the starting job on a silver platter.

"He falls into that category where he can play a number of different spots," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "I've always felt that the more you can do in this league, the more your value goes up. You saw Micah play very well for us at the dime position last year, he played a lot of nickel for us. We really didn't feel that during the season it was fair to him to put him back at safety. There's just so much there that you've got to learn. So, he played the other positions, so we're working him at safety to give him the background there. Now, for me to stand here and tell you exactly where he's going to end up, I'm not sure. But we like his football ability and his playmaking ability. We think he's another good football player, and you want to find packages where you can him on the field where he has a chance to make plays."

So far, the coaches are pleased with Clinton-Dix. But only half of a defensive back's game can be analyzed during the no-contact practices of May and June. The Packers know Hyde can handle the physical play. Can Clinton-Dix?

"He's a talented player but he's young," Perry said. "He still has a ways to go. You don't want to get too excited now but you saw some things that you liked from him watching the tape. Again, he's still learning and there's still a thought process that he has to go through before he can let loose. Time will allow that to happen."

Roster prediction

Burnett, Hyde (also at cornerback), Clinton-Dix and Richardson.


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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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