INDIANPOLIS––It was almost exactly a year ago at the NFL Combine that Micah Hyde expressed his desire to play cornerback first and foremost in the NFL, but he wouldn't close the door entirely on safety.
"This whole process I've been trying to be evaluated as a corner," said Hyde in February of 2013. "I let them know I'm a versatile player like I just told you guys, and I'm capable of doing whatever. I played safety in the past. I'm just throwing that out there, just to let them know whatever they put me at, I can do."
The time may have arrived to put Hyde at safety with Packers head coach Mike McCarthy acknowledging for the first time on Friday that playing Hyde at safety is a possibility.
Like fellow second-year player Eddie Lacy on offense, McCarthy wants to see Hyde develop into a player that doesn't come off the field.
"Micah, to me, is a multiple-position player," said McCarthy. "I think Micah, just like we talked about the running backs, I'd like to see Micah compete to play all three downs on defense.
"If there's a personnel group that he has to play safety, that's an option. He's also played nickel, he's played dime, he's played corner. He's definitely someone that I think that's earned the opportunity to compete to be on the field all three downs."
To say the Packers got subpar play at safety this past season would be putting it kindly. One statistic that's been cited repeatedly has been the failure of any player at the position to grab so much as a single interception.
Taking things a step further, M.D. Jennings was credited by the NFL with only one pass defended the entire season in 855 snaps (per ProFootballFocus.com).
McCarthy doesn't believe statistics paint a full picture, but he does think the Packers need more production from the position.
"If you want to throw out statistics, Morgan was very productive as far as tackles, but we want more plays made by our safeties," said McCarthy. "I think that's important. Really, it all fits together.
"We need to go back, which we have, and look at exactly how we're utilizing everybody: What are you practicing? What are you calling in the games? We go through this every single year. Are we creating enough play-making opportunities for our players? Why are they not making more plays? We graded each and every week; we grade the same way during practices and it's definitely an area we need to improve. We need to make more plays on defense period."
After finishing 25th in the NFL in total defense in 2013, McCarthy on Friday spoke about being more creative on defense and utilizing players in more than one role, and that's perhaps where Hyde will fit.
Despite being just a part-time player in his rookie season, Hyde showed potential and versatility in making 55 tackles on defense and leading all NFL rookies in punt return average (12.3 yards).
Hyde also proved to be a physical presence at the slot cornerback position, making several strong tackles and lending credence that he might mesh well at safety.
Maybe Hyde could fill a role not unlike former Packer Charles Woodson, who in his final year in Green Bay in 2012 would play safety in the base defense but become a slot cornerback in the nickel and dime subpackages. At least it's one way not give up on Hyde playing cornerback entirely.
McCarthy has likened Hyde to Woodson in the past, and it's shown to be an increasingly apropos comparison given their physical style of play and comfort with the football in their hands.
There are other options for the Packers to add talent at safety, either through free agency or the draft or both. But there's also the possibility to stay in-house.
With such an obvious need at safety in Green Bay and the potential for more playing time, Hyde might warm to the idea.
"I've played safety in the past, and I'm capable of doing that," said Hyde at last year's Combine. "If I'm drafted playing safety, I'd love to do that."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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