Against Chicago in Week 4, Hyde started and played safety when the Packers were in their base and nickel defenses for the first two series. After that, Clinton-Dix played every snap at safety.
After Minnesota in Week 5, Hyde started and played safety when the Packers were in their base and nickel defenses for the first three series. After that, Clinton-Dix played every snap at safety.
“I think the situations in games, sometimes that dictates it,” safeties coach Darren Perry said on Thursday. “We don’t go in with a set amount of plays that HaHa’s going to play and Micah’s going to play. Both of those guys have earned the right to play and we’re rolling with that.”
Through five games, Burnett has played 349 of 373 snaps; he sat out the final 21 in the blowout of Minnesota. Clinton-Dix has played 252 snaps (67.6 percent) and Hyde 208 snaps (55.8 percent). Over the last two games, however, the difference is more stark. Clinton-Dix played 126-of-157 snaps (80.3 percent) compared to 76-of-157 (48.4 percent) for Hyde.
Here’s the breakdown:
The Packers didn’t select Clinton-Dix to be a cheerleader. Other than a couple missed tackles and a dropped interception in the season-opening game at Seattle, he has looked ready from almost the moment he set foot in Green Bay. So, the coaching staff has had him learning on the fly rather than learning from the sideline.
“He’s got to (learn from experience),” Perry said. “Each day that he practices and in the meeting room and the film he watches and obviously the in-game experience is going to help, but you expect that growth. As a rookie, every day’s going to be something that you probably hadn’t seen before. A guy of his inexperience, each day is going to be a learning experience for him. He’s got to grow from the mistakes and keep building on the positives.”
There have been plenty of positives. At Detroit, he was in perfect position on the deep pass to Calvin Johnson that was intercepted by Davon House. At Chicago, he broke on the ball quickly and used his strength to keep Martellus Bennett out of the end zone at the end of the first half — even with Bennett having 5 inches and 57 pounds on Clinton-Dix.
“He’s instinctive. He’s got a real good feel,” Perry said. “Obviously, a first-rounder, there’s some things that you expect out of him. Again, he’s still young. It’s a different game than the college game. He’s a very talented player but he’s still learning. There’s a lot of room for growth. This is the National Football League. You can’t underestimate that. He’s only played five games so …”
The Packers don’t have to anoint one or the other as a starter, and they could go a similar route for the rest of the season. According to the coaches’ stats, Clinton-Dix has 21 tackles (16 solos), one sack, one interception and three passes defensed while Hyde has 21 tackles (15 solos) and four passes defensed.
They’ve undoubtedly helped elevate Burnett’s game. After a dismal 2013 while playing alongside M.D. Jennings, Burnett has 47 tackles (39 solos), one forced fumble and one pass defensed.
In terms of impact plays, the trio has combined for one interception, one forced fumble and eight passes defensed. Last season, all of the Packers’ safeties combined for zero interceptions, zero forced fumbles and 13 passes defensed (nine from Burnett, two from Jennings, one from Richardson, one from Chris Banjo).
“Everybody wants picks,” Perry said. “It’s about opportunity. The picks and those things, those are byproducts of pass rush, coverage, being in the right call and guys being in position. I don’t make a big to-do about that because there’s a lot of great players that have played this game that haven’t had a ton of interceptions. Some guys have more of a knack, some guys are around the ball a little bit more and have more opportunities. We want turnovers and that’s one of the things that we emphasize, but a lot of that is a byproduct of great effort and everybody playing well as a defensive unit.”email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.
Fishing Green Bay with retired Packer Bryce Paup