Unexpected absences from two top cornerbacks spawned the opportunity. Fifth-round rookie Micah Hyde took care of the rest.
Subbing in for Casey Hayward (hamstring) and Davon House (illness) at cornerback, Hyde broke up multiple passes in coverage and otherwise became the unexpected star of Day 1 of Packers training camp Friday. He even got a well-earned shout out from Packers head coach Mike McCarthy during his post-practice press conference.
“If you asked me one player who stood out today, I’d say it was Micah Hyde,” McCarthy said. ”I thought he got off to a good start.”
Such an opportunity may not have been available had it not been for Hayward and House standing on the sidelines. According to McCarthy, Hayward has a hamstring injury that may keep him off the field for 1-2 weeks, while House was dealing with an unspecified illness.
In their absence, Hyde impressed.
The 159th pick in April’s draft broke up passes intended for Alex Gillett, Randall Cobb and Andrew Quarless, plus a fourth attempt later in the practice. Rob Demovsky said Hyde was “around the ball a bunch.”
While it’s only one practice in his first NFL training camp, Hyde appears well on his way to proving he belongs in a crowded depth chart of cornerbacks for Green Bay.
Veteran Tramon Williams leads a deep and talented group that includes Sam Shields (arguably the team’s top cornerback to end 2012), Hayward (team-high six interceptions) and House (last training camp’s breakout cornerback). Hyde would figure to remain as the No. 5 option at cornerback, but teams can never have enough quality cornerbacks in today’s age of pass-heavy offenses.
Above all else, instincts remain the driving force of Hyde’s game.
At 6’0″ and 197 pounds, Hyde is of ideal length for a cornerback, but he lacks the top-end speed (4.56 40-yard dash at the NFL combine) most teams covet at the position. What Hyde lacks in recovery speed, however, he makes up for with understanding and anticipation.
During his senior season at Iowa, Hyde ranked fourth in the Big 10 and 22nd nationally in pass breakups per game. And while he finished with just seven career interceptions in 51 games, Hyde broke up a total of 36 passes.
He was widely praised for his instincts and zone coverage ability during the pre-draft process, although concerns over his long speed were the likely culprit for his fall down boards.
At least for one practice, it appears Hyde’s ability to get his hands on the football has translated to the NFL game. With Hayward out for the foreseeable future and House being eased back, Hyde figures to get ample opportunity to continue impressing his superiors.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at email@example.com.