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Xs & Os Breakdown: Micah Hyde as Nickel Linebacker/Dime Cornerback Hybrid

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Xs & Os Breakdown: Micah Hyde as Nickel Linebacker/Dime Cornerback Hybrid

This is part three of a four-part series that will analyze the four of the most intriguing Packers players going into the 2014 season. We will now look at Micah Hyde.

Going into the draft, there were two glaring needs for the Packers: safety and inside linebacker. The safety position was addressed by picking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 21st selection in the first round.

In this article, we will assume that Clinton-Dix and Burnett will be the starting safeties. Of course, Hyde could play safety if he A) wins a competition for a starting safety spot, B) is thrust in due to an injury or C) serves as a replacement due to poor play. However, we will assume that Clinton-Dix and Burnett are the starting safeties since Clinton-Dix was a first round pick.

Dom Capers has to ask himself how he can use the young, versatile Hyde at a position other than safety. In 2013, Hyde’s rookie year, he was thrust into the nickel (slot) cornerback position due to Casey Hayward’s injury. However, with Hayward coming back, Hyde will have to play elsewhere. He is too talented to be on the sidelines for the majority of the game, and, as the defensive coordinator, it is Capers’ job to make sure that the most talented players are on the field.

So, what is a logical way to use Hyde? The answer: as a nickel linebacker/dime cornerback hybrid defender. What does this mean? It means that instead of having two pure inside linebackers in Dom’s 2-4-5 nickel, Hyde (technically the dime cornerback) would serve as one of the linebackers with only one pure inside linebacker (ILB) playing next to him.

Additionally, this would also be the Packers’ dime package since Hyde is technically a sixth defensive back. This hybrid position is perfect for guys who are somewhat bigger or slower than a pure cornerback, but have the body type or skillset of a safety. Hyde seems to fit this description pretty well. It would look like this: Tramon Williams and Sam Shields would be the perimeter cornerbacks, Casey Hayward would be the slot cornerback, Hawk (or someone else) would be the pure ILB, and Hyde would be the second ILB/dime cornerback.

The Chiefs used their safety, Eric Berry, this way many times throughout the 2013 season. In the picture below, the Chiefs were playing with two down linemen, two outside linebackers, one pure ILB (Derrick Johnson, who is circled in yellow), and six defensive backs (Berry, circled in red, was technically the dime cornerback, but also the second ILB):

Essentially, the Chiefs are playing their 2-4-5 nickel defense (like the Packers do), except Berry is the ILB/dime cornerback. As you can see (above), Berry is lined up over the Broncos tight end, Julius Thomas (circled in blue), which is a decent matchup. Here is the view from behind:

This is simply one way Capers could use Hyde. By using him this way, it immediately gives the Packers the advantage against the pass.

Most defenses counter “11" personnel (one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers) with their nickel defense (with two pure inside linebackers). The problem with this is that an athletic tight end can create mismatches.

If Capers employed this, Hyde would be matched up on tight ends when an offense comes out with “11" personnel. According to Mike Clay of ProFootballFocus.com, in 2013, “11" personnel was used 50 percent of the time by NFL offenses.

So, if the Packers were playing the Saints, for example, Hyde would be matched up on Jimmy Graham most of the time (depending on the formation). That matchup is much better than having Hawk or Jones carry him up the seam. By using Hyde in this manner, he can blitz, play man on tight ends or the offenses’ fourth receiver, or play zone. Former Packers defensive coordinator, Fritz Shurmur, used LeRoy Butler in this role at times.

In 2013, because of Casey Hayward’s injury, Hyde played the nickel (slot) cornerback position for the majority of the season. However, during the short time when Hayward was healthy in 2013, Hyde was the sixth defensive back, and he played the dime cornerback position instead.

An example of this scenario occurred in the game versus the Eagles. In this game, Hayward started at the nickel (slot) cornerback position. When Hyde came in, he was the dime cornerback. This gave us a sneak peak at what Hyde could be doing this season. Here is a picture of him (circled in red) at the dime cornerback position playing man to man on Eagles tight end Zach Ertz:

Here is the view from behind (red arrow pointing to Hyde):

So, what is the main weakness of putting Hyde in this hybrid position? Well, the defense would be weaker against the run. However, in this passing league, it is imperative to prevent mismatches, and by using Hyde this way, offenses would have trouble throwing the ball against Shields, Williams, Hayward, and Hyde.

If Capers believes that an offense’s running game is too big of a threat, then he could insert an inside linebacker and play the normal 2-4-5 nickel instead. Using Hyde in this way is based on the personnel of the opposing offense and whether or not they have a dominant tight end.

Another advantage of doing this is that Capers would not have to substitute personnel versus a no-huddle offenses like the Eagles. Remember, with Hyde out there, this would be the nickel and dime defense.

Again, this is just one way how Hyde could be used. He seems to be physical enough versus the run, but if the coaches do not think so, this may not be suitable against certain opponents. It is a fascinating option, however.

Could Hyde eventually start at safety? Sure. However, by drafting Clinton-Dix in the first round, it is an indication that Hyde is not an automatic starter this year at safety. In the meantime, Capers needs to find a way to utilize Hyde’s talent and compensate for the lack of playmaking ability at the ILB position. This is one logical possibility.

Thanks for reading, Packers fans. Follow me on Twitter at @RobertOlson92 for daily analysis on the Packers.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (27) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

DrealynWilliams's picture

Bottom Line:

MM to Capers: You have no excuses. Get it done!

Jordan's picture

TT to McCarthy: I was happy that Capers' defense held 49ers to 23 points without Matthews and Shields, but disappointed that your offense was shutout in the first quarter at home and only scored 20 points. Get it done on offense against good teams! Nobody cares that you pad offensive stats against the sorry Vikings defense.

DrealynWilliams's picture

See,here's the problem I have with you. I was going to agree with you up until I read your last 2 sentences. What the hell does that have to do with anything!?

Yes,that 1st quarter was horrible. I'm sure the offense has no problem taking that bullet. But the defense broke came crunch time.

Zoellner25's picture

Great article. Actually makes alot of sense to me. Hyde is a good tackler and should be able to play alot near the LOS and cover TEs when needed. Any scheme that takes our ILBs off TEs is fine by me.

JimTaylor31's picture

That's something to think about. I would almost be in fovor of bringing Richardson in to replace Hawk in some situations. Definitely Capers needs to be more creative or we'll be watching Hawk stumble around trying to cover TEs again. Not fun.

Evan's picture

Agreed - with his size and speed, I'd love to see Richardson used in this manner as well.

Stroh's picture

I wouldn't mind except that coverage isn't what Richardson is good at. He was used as box Safety in college and has little experience in coverage. Now if he gains experience and gets better in coverage that would work. However, if he does that he will likely become a starting Safety very soon after.

Bear's picture

Richardson seems to be the guy we forget about.. Hopefully he is recovered and will challenge Hyde for playing time. I think the competition will make them both better.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree for the most part. I think that would be a way to get Hyde on the field more.

Another option at ILB would be to bulk Richardson up a bit and use him there as a Nickel/Dime LB. He provides some size for helping in the run and has the speed to cover.
I've said this in a previous article but I think this is something they could do.

Also to get more pass rushers on the field I can see them using Mathews more as an ILB. He has proved to be effective rushing from the middle and it would allow more OLB's to be used.
I like this lineup as pass rushers. Perry, Neal or Jones, Daniels, Peppers with Mathews in the middle. And if Bradford could play ILB like some have suggested that would provide another pass rushing option.

L's picture

Versatility is definitely the theme and key for the Packers defense going into 2014.

They could certainly make use of Hyde or Richardson in that hybrid role where they're kind of like an extra safety-in-the-box, inside coverage backer, or dime corner player within a variety of their defensive sets.

I also expect that they are planning to move C.Matthews around a lot more this year too with him seeing some additional playing time inside. When Clay's inside it'll allow the team to play and rotate Perry, Mulumba, Palmer, and maybe Bradford outside on one end while rotating Neal, Peppers, and perhaps even Hubbard either as an outside backer or as an elephant end on the other side with a combination of players rotating down on the the line that could also include Neal and/or Peppers, but will probably feature M.Daniels, D.Jones, and BJ.Raji most often.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, I agree with you.

The thing that I am the most excited about is the amount of versatility that the defense could use with players and schemes.

Jordan's picture

"However, with Hayward coming back, Hyde will have to play elsewhere. "

Unlikely. Hayward will take a backseat to Hyde. Hyde is the one they want on the field at all times. Hayward is not physical enough against the run and rushing the QB.

Hyde will play nickel and then move to dime spot when they're in dime. Hayward will only be in the game on dime situations.

JimTaylor31's picture

And I'm not against having Hyde, HHCD and Burnett complete for the two safety spots. Nice to see a real competition for those jobs rather than Jennings vs. McMillan. Odd man out plays in sub packages.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Only way I see Hayward taking a backseat to Hyde is if he doesn't comeback healthy and doesn't play like he did his rookie year. If he plays like he did his rookie year Hayward will be the Nickel CB again.

People forget how good Hayward was that year. Not only his 6 interceptions, but he was a true shutdown CB. He was the 3rd rated CB in the league that year according to PFF.

They both will play a lot but Hayward is/was the better player of the 2. Not saying Hyde played bad, just saying Hayward is better.

JimTaylor31's picture

I like both but I agree in that I think Hayward is better CB of the two. That's why I think a 3-way competition between Ha Ha, Hyde and Burnett would better serve the team. They are all versatile enough players to move around a bit. The main thing is to get your best players on the field. I would think (hope) Capers could make that happen. Also, we all know how important quality depth is.

HankScorpio's picture

I'm with you, Jim. I still want Hyde moved to the Safety room to compete there. Competition is always a good thing. No matter how it works out, they'll be better prepared to deal with an injury from a starter.

Let the loser of the 3-way battle for the 2 starting Safety spots play in the dime. Hayward plays nickel.

JimTaylor31's picture

That's kinda what I'm thinking too. You keep your best guys on the field that way. Good competition breeds better all around play.

Jordan's picture

Are you talking about Hayward's performance in the regular season or are you talking about how he played against the 49ers in the playoffs? I tend to put a lot of weight on playoff games since they are usually against good teams. Regular season stats against mediocre teams don't interest me.

If you've got that 2012 49er playoff game on DVR, take a look at it and let me know what you think.

JimTaylor31's picture

I haven't seen the film but I'm pretty sure most everybody on defense stunk in the 2012 49er playoff game. I'm not gonna trash Hayward because he stunk right along with the rest of the "D". I'm pretty certain you can select a game for about anybody in which they crapped the bed. That would even include Rogers, Mathews etc. Is Peyton Manning a bum because he had a lousy SB along with the rest of his team? C'mon.

Jordan's picture

If you're not actually watching film, then I'm not sure what you're basing your comments on.

I like Hayward in dime situations but not nickel.....so I guess I'm trashing Hayward. Interesting.

JimTaylor31's picture

Actually I think your full of hot air.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I'm referring to his play for the entire season. He had 6 interceptions that year. He was rated the 3rd best CB in the league by PFF. I don't remember exactly but I think he was one of only a few that didn't give up a TD in the season.
I don't specifically remember the 49ers game other then the defense was horrible all together. Not just him.
Hyde while I like him, one could argue he cost the team a victory against the 49ers this year. His dropped interception essentially killed us.

I like Hyde, I think he is a good player. But for actual players, Hayward is the better player. I expect Hyde to be used a lot this year. But if Hayward is healthy he will be playing the Nickel over Hyde.

HankScorpio's picture

Steve True (Mke sports radio personality) has a saying about young guys...you base your view of them at their best, not their worst. His logic is that young players will learn to smooth out the rough edges. The good will remain (or even get better) while the bad will recede (or disappear).

I think that's a pretty good way of looking at things with young players. If we just looked at the one playoff game both Hyde and Hayward played, I think we're missing the boat on what they can be.

JimTaylor31's picture

Well said. I very much agree with that!! It's real easy to find plays and games where anybody isn't at their best and that's especially true with rookies. That's why we call it "draft and develop". We have to take some bad with the good while the young guys develop.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I like Homer. I tend to agree with him in his view.

Also you can't just take 1 play or 1 game and say that defines a player. Give them a year or years worth of plays to determine that, especially rookies and young players.

I like Hyde a lot. I actually look at that dropped interception as a good play by him. He made the right read, got into position to make the play, just didn't complete it.

I do agree with you though that its a good way to view young players. I like to give young player time to prove themselves.

Icebowler's picture

I thought we would draft one more safety or at least bring in more UDFA's at the position. The fact that we didn't convinces me that Hyde will be competing at S.

DrealynWilliams's picture

...and they will find out what they have in Richardson and Banjo.

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