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Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Starts to Find Comfort Level on Packers Defense

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Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Starts to Find Comfort Level on Packers Defense


Despite making Ha Ha Clinton-Dix their first round draft choice, the Packers have not handed their rookie safety a starting job in the Green Bay secondary.

Starting with the team's offseason program in the month of May, the Packers have made Clinton-Dix earn his playing time with the starters, and it's come slowly in the early going.

"I've always had to put in extra work, stay around, asking Micah (Hyde) for help, asking Morgan (Burnett) for help and just be in my playbook a lot," said Clinton-Dix after practice on Monday.

With Burnett held out of the Packers' preseason opener because of a strained muscle, Clinton-Dix got the nod with the first-string defense by default, and from most indications, turned in a promising debut against the Tennessee Titans.

In that game, Clinton-Dix got a "Welcome to the NFL" moment, failing to wrap up and getting ran over by 170-pound Titans running back Dexter McCluster, but from that time forward, the rookie safety has held his own, both against the run and the pass.

Relegated to backup duty once Burnett returned for this past Saturday's second preseason game against the St. Louis Rams, the rookie safety continued his solid string of play and took it up a notch, hinting he could be a threat as a pass rusher when he blitzed off the edge and earned a second-half sack of quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

"Actually the play before that, the previous play was a called blitz, but I just didn't make that play," said Clinton-Dix, "but the next time it came to me perfectly."

That series of downs seems to have typified Clinton-Dix's first training camp as a professional football player: a learning experience one moment and capitalizing on it the next.

His development continued on Monday as the Packers returned to the practice field, reportedly intercepting two passes in team drills inside the Hutson Center, arguably having his best day in a Packers uniform.

"I think Ha Ha's progressing very nicely," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "He's very consistent. What I like about him, he's the same personality, same man every day. He picked it up schematically, and he's been productive. So I think Ha Ha's having  good camp."

The decision to bring Clinton-Dix along slowly is perhaps starting to pay dividends. Evident in his play through two games, he's recognizing and diagnosing offenses, a product of week-by-week preparation for the upcoming opponent.

"It's starting to slow down a lot," said Clinton-Dix. "I'm starting to be a lot more consistent, just playing around, flying around the ball, having fun."

Still to be determined is if and when the first round draft choice can crack the starting lineup. Thus far, he's been stuck beind Burnett and Hyde as the first-team tandem, his biggest role coming in the team's dime defensive packages when the Packers send out six defensive backs on the field.

The Packers didn't make Clinton-Dix the 21st overall selection in the NFL Draft for nothing, though. The way he's headed, it won't be long before he steals playing time away from those ahead of him on the depth chart.

For the time being, however, he's biding his time and soaking up as many Xs and Os as possible.

"I can't say I'm ready to be done with training camp," said Clinton-Dix. "I'm taking it one step at a time. We have two more preseason games left, and I'm looking forward to those."

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (15) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Stroh's picture

My only issue w/ Clinton-Dix starting is knowing the calls and adjustments well enough. We've had continuous breakdowns in coverage and miscommunications for the past couple years. I have had enough of it. The Packers need to keep safeties that know the D the best on the field. Clinton-Dix is probably the most talented Safety, but IMO right now he doesn't have the ability to make all the calls and get others lined up properly yet. Let Burnett and Hyde start. HHCD will get plenty of playing time and will be the starter soon enough.

The safety position is just too important and has too much responsibility to have a rookie calling the coverages, even one as talented as Clinton-Dix. Its just asking for more of the same problems.

MarkinMadison's picture

I agree with the general point of not starting a rookie at safety. We've all seen that it takes good safeties a few years to develop. But why do you assume that if he is starting he is the one making the calls? There are two safeties, so he doesn't need to be doing that. He just needs to know how to respond to the calls and read the plays as they develop.

Stroh's picture

In Capers scheme, from everything I've read the safeties share it. Obviously, Burnett would be the primary Safety calling most of the adjustments/plays, but there are going to be times where the other safety has to call them. That's even more true IMO if Clinton-Dix is playing mostly FS and Burnett is the SS. From what I can tell the FS is the one who calls most of the plays/adjustments. Its part of the reason the Safeties are best if they're interchangeable, not strictly FS and SS.

DrealynWilliams's picture

What does "starter" really mean?

If we start out in our Base Def and Hyde is in that package - so be it.

If we start out in our Nickel/Dime Def and HHCD is in that package - so be it.

There are things I like about Hyde.
(Versatility + Coverage)

There are things I like about HHCD.
(Range + Physicality)

RC Packer Fan's picture

Also to add..
The things I like about Richardson
(Size + physicality)

DrealynWilliams's picture

+ He also displays range

As much as I would like to see it happen - I doubt MM/Capers start Richardson or gives him significant PT any time soon. Even though he deserves a shot...

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah he does have range.

I think he does deserve some extra playing time. He has played really well this camp. That's not taking anything away from Hyde and HaHa either.

I have said it before but I wouldn't mind seeing them coming up with a package where they could use Richardson in a hybrid ILB/S position. His size and speed would allow them to do a lot of different things. He could cover TE's, RB's, or be in a spy type of roll for QB's like Kaepernick and other mobile QB's.

Again, I really, really like our Safety's this year. A lot more options then last year.

Archie's picture

There are things I like about all our S except for Burnett and he's the one given per the coaching staff. Go figure. Burnett was atrocious last year after getting a fat contract. He blew coverages and his tackling left much to be desired. He, along with his two compatriots were the problem, so why does he get a pass as teh starter this year? I don't get it.

Dix will be just fine and will likely be a full tim e starter this time next year.

ALREADY HYDE IS MUCH MORE ACTIVE ON THE FIELD THAN BURNETT.

The role of nickel ILB would suit Richardson perfectly.

I even like Banjo.

Burnett has been around 4 or 5 years now. He is not to going to get better. Having him and Hawk guarding the middle of the field is a problem for this defense. When people say the Packers are soft, those two are Exhibit A. yet TT is in love with both. Curious.

Stroh's picture

"I don't get it." There It Is!

No you certainly don't get it... Any of it.

RC Packer Fan's picture

It really seems like they are trying to bring Clinton-Dix along the same timeline that they brought Eddie Lacy last year. Bring him along slowly at the beginning and then let his play earn him more playing time.

It sounds like HaHa had a good day yesterday intercepting passes, so hopefully that continues.

One thing I can say is no matter who the safety's are this year, they are much improved from last year.

ben's picture

Dix has consistently been 2 steps late. In coverage over the top, not even close. Range my ass. Sorry homers, he has not played well.

"Clinton-Dix is probably the most talented Safety"....? , "even one as talented as Clinton-Dix"....?

Fact: Hasean is the slowest, weakest, non-explosive safety on the entire packers roster. And except for Charles clay, the least productive as well.

Packer Safeties:

4.43 40, 1.51 split, 22 reps, 39 vert, 4.19 shuttle, 6.90 cone (257 tackles, 18.0 tfl, 1 int, 11 passes defended, 1 ff)

4.42 40, 1.57 split, 16 reps, 38 vert, 4.15 shuttle, 6.88 cone

4.50 40, 1.57 split, 23 reps, 40 vert, 4.27 shuttle, 7.19 cone (321 tackles, 9.5 tfl, 4 ints, 17 passes defended, 3 ff)

4.51 40, 1.57 split, 16 reps, 40 vert, 3.92 shuttle, 6.87 cone (235 tackles, 13.5 tfl, 14 ints, 32 passes defended, 2 ff)

4.52 40, 1.59 split, 12 reps, 34 vert, 4.22 shuttle, 6.67 cone (240 tackles, 5.5 tfl, 7 ints, 36 passes defended, 4 ff)

4.58 40, 1.60 split, 11 reps, 33 vert, 4.16 shuttle, 7.16 cone (99 tackles, 4 tfl, 7 ints, 15 passes defended, 0 ff)

It is amazing how people see what they want to see.

Imma Fubared's picture

Can't pass judgement yet on this guy. One thing we know will slow a player down is the mental side of the game. If you have to think about what to do your reaction time is effected. Hopefully this is it. He just needs time to learn all the different roles expected of the safety position.

I live in Minny and get all the Vikes games and they have another bone crushing corner and one new free agent who have been laying licks on people. With two other pro bowl dbacks they are going to be a force.

I see none of that on this team. I've seen it take three of our guys to bring down a receiver and it ain't pretty so Dix isn't going to help that much. EIther you have size and speed on your team or you don't. The pack did not pick both. Speed but smallish was their mode of operation and its not effective.

The TKstinator's picture

Is the bone crusher Munnerlyn or Rhodes?

Archie's picture

Speed but smallish pretty much sums up our CBs. Just the opposite model that seems to be the NFL rage currently. TT missed that boat.

But I disagree on Dix. I can't remember the last time a Packer S looked good this soon in their careers as Dix and even Hyde. Not Collins or Sharper. I guess I'd have to go back to the rookie LeRoy Butler. I feel confident Dix will be a very good S for the Pack for the next decade barring major injuries. Like Raji, 2014 is a show me year for Burnett.

GoldFinger's picture

Butler was actually a corner when he was a rookie.

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