Hyde Should Play Central Role

A year after dropping a potential game-winning interception against the 49ers, versatile and mistake-free Micah Hyde will be in the center of the action against the Cowboys. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY)

In last year’s NFC Divisional playoffs against San Francisco, immortality slipped through the hands of Micah Hyde.

Late in the fourth quarter, Hyde correctly read the play and stepped between Colin Kaepernick’s pass to Anquan Boldin. What might have been a game-winning touchdown, however, slipped through Hyde’s hands. Given new life, the 49ers drove to the winning field goal.

“I would love to get a shot like that in any game,” Hyde said this week. “I’ve put that past me and that’s been gone for a while. If the ball’s in the air anywhere on the field, I’m trying to get it.”

Hyde figures to have a key role in the Packers’ Divisional game against the Cowboys on Sunday. Hyde is the Packers’ nickel defender, which requires a player as adept in coverage as he is fearless in run defense. With the NFL’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, in the Cowboys’ backfield and underrated slot receiver Cole Beasley being a prime weapon for quarterback Tony Romo on third down, Hyde has a chance to be a hero even without getting his hands on the ball.

“When Micah gets opportunities, he makes plays,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

Hyde opened the season as the starting safety but eventually relinquished that position to first-round pick HaHa Clinton-Dix. Still, Hyde played 64.6 percent of the defensive snaps this season and only once played less than half of the snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Along with two interceptions, Hyde finished third on the team with 13 passes defensed, according to the coaches’ film review.

“He’s a consistent player,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. “He doesn’t make mistakes. He always tackles at a high level. This year, he’s shown the ability to get the ball, which is needed. He does everything well. He can play corner, he can play nickel, he can play dime, he can play both safety positions, returns for us, plays special teams. He does everything very, very well and there’s no real holes in his game. People talked about when he came out he wasn’t fast. Well, you don’t see anybody catch him. He’s just a quality player and I’m glad that we have him.”

Hyde, a fifth-round pick in 2013, was seen as a “tweener” when the Packers grabbed him out of Iowa. At 6 foot and 197 pounds, he didn’t seem big enough to play safety. With a 4.56-second clocking in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, he wasn’t viewed as having the speed to play corner.

With three career touchdowns on punt returns, the speed question seems crazy in retrospect.

“People don’t realize how fast 4.5 is,” Whitt said. “That’s the first thing people don’t really know. The second thing is you have some players that just play football. They’re football fast. He’s one of them. I promise you this: If you put him up there and they ran 40s, he might not be the fastest in the room. But if you say, ‘Hey, guys, you give him ball and y’all go catch him,’ there’s not one guy that can go catch him. That’s what I care about. What do they do when they’re out there on the football field, not what they’re doing at Indianapolis wearing tights. There’s a bunch of guys that go to Indianapolis and run fast and they’re sitting at home.”

If Hyde comes up big on Sunday, the Packers probably won’t be sitting at home next week.

“I felt like the play after that (drop) I was a much better football player,” Hyde said. “I learned from that. Yeah, I would love for the opportunity to present itself again.”

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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