Cornerback Micah Hyde has been one of the pleasant surprises of training camp for the Green Bay Packers.
But once fellow cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Tramon Williams return to full health, Hyde may find himself as the odd man out at the position. At that point, a switch to safety may be in order.
Despite a lack of elite speed, you can’t blame the Packers for taking Hyde for a test drive at cornerback. Through two preseason games, it doesn’t appear as if the NFL is too big for him.
Hyde looks especially adept at defending the slot where he’s closer to the football, is a threat to blitz and doesn’t have to cover downfield nearly as often as on the perimeter.
Much like Hayward a year ago, Hyde came out of college without a blazing 40-yard dash time, but he has shown to possess football instincts and a nose for the football.
Perhaps ironically, it’s the presence of Hayward that may force Hyde to switch positions. Hayward returned to practice on Monday this week for the first time since pulling his hamstring shortly before the start of training camp.
The Packers appear to be bringing Hayward back slowly at practice, and perhaps will go so far as holding him out of Friday’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks as a precaution.
At some point, however, Hayward will get back to full speed. And when he does, it will be difficult to keep him out of the lineup after grabbing six interceptions in just his rookie season in the NFL.
The same goes for Williams, who’s been injured since the first week of training camp with a bone bruise to his knee. Even though he may have had poor performances against the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers last season, Williams is still a veteran that has plenty of experience shutting down an opponent’s No. 1 receiver.
Not even mentioned yet are Sam Shields and Davon House, both of whom bring experience to the cornerback position.
If Hayward, Williams, Shields and House are all healthy and Jarrett Bush is around as an insurance policy, the Packers may be inclined to move Hyde to safety where there’s a lot less depth.
In trying to find a running mate for Morgan Burnett, the candidates thus far have underwhelmed in the months of July and August.
M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian have been mostly reliable for the Packers defense but rarely impressive. There’s reason to think the Packers could do better at safety, and there’s similar reason to believe Hyde could be that player.
In his brief stint with the Packers, Hyde has displayed a knack for being around the football and for being a physical tackler, not unlike Charles Woodson. It’s also worth noting that Hyde did see occasional action at safety during his college career at Iowa.
Beyond Jennings and McMillian, there’s probably not another safety in Green Bay that’s worthy of making the 53-man roster, at least at this stage in their development.
If there’s any hesitancy to move Hyde to safety, it may that he’s slightly undersized at 197 lbs., but that hasn’t stopped them from developing Jennings at the position, who’s also under 200 lbs.
The Packers may also try gazing into the crystal ball at cornerback and notice that Shields is a free agent at season’s end and see that Williams is at an age when cornerbacks start to lose a step.
Certainly, there are arguments that can be made both for and against using Hyde like a movable chess piece. But his fastest way onto the field may be at safety once the regular season starts.
And even if Hyde were to become primarily a safety, that wouldn’t necessarily prevent the Packers defense from using him as a slot cornerback in the nickel or dime defenses. It’s just a matter of where he lines up when they’re aligned in their base 3-4.
In the first two preseason games, the Packers haven’t been afraid to give Hyde a boatload of playing time. He led the defense, playing 39 snaps against the Cardinals in Week 1 and another 56 snaps in Week 2 versus the Rams (according to ProFootballFocus.com).
Not surprisingly, he leads the Packers with 10 tackles during the exhibition season and is credited with a sack to boot.
It will be difficult for the Packers to keep production like that off the field, and safety just might be Hyde’s ticket.
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.