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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