Film Review: What Happened to HaHa Clinton-Dix?

By all accounts, 2016 was the breakout year for Packers’ safety HaHa Clitnon-Dix. The former first round pick out of Alabama collected 80 tackles, 5 interceptions, and a half sack on his way to his first Pro Bowl appearance and second team All-Pro honors by the Associated Press. Clinton-Dix was also ranked the 77th best player by his peers on the NFL’s top 100 list.

In 2017, the story was much different. Clinton-Dix’s numbers weren’t that dissimilar, he finished with 1 less tackle, 2 less interceptions and no half sack, but the shine of the 2016 season was gone. There were no Pro Bowl or AP honors and the feeling around the league was that Clinton-Dix regressed significantly throughout the season. To hammer that point home, Clinton-Dix was my lowest graded player on defense in 2017: https://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/grading-the-pack-regular-season-totals-454

So today’s question is… What Happened to Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix?

In order to really get a better understanding of the drop off I needed to really go back and study HaHa in 2016. While the differences, at times, were subtle, the results were not. I saw a very similar player in terms of athleticism, speed, change of direction, and physicality. I didn’t see a significant drop off in talent, or in athletic ability from 2016 to 2017.

What I had expected to see was a player who played closer to the line and was better positioned to make plays in 2016. While that was somewhat true, I charted out where Clinton-Dix lined up against Detroit in 2016 and where he lined up against them in 2017 and the results were almost identical. In fact he actually had more opportunities closer to the line of scrimmage in 2017 (at least against Detroit).

Some also thought that maybe Clinton-Dix, like the rest of the Packers, struggled because the team as a whole was struggling and because Aaron Rodgers was out. But here’s a tweet from me early in the season identifying the issues, and a pull from Aaron Nagler’s Facebook live session in early October that identified the same issues. These were ongoing well before Rodgers’ injury.

So the major difference wasn’t his talent and it wasn’t the situations he was put in. The major difference that I saw from 2016 to 2017 was twofold. First, I saw a vast difference in aggressiveness and assertiveness. In 2016, Clinton-Dix fired off the ball and didn’t think twice. This is where HaHa is at his absolute best. When he’s put in a position to react and go make plays, he has a great opportunity to be successful. When he has to think about what he’s supposed to be doing or when he's playing not to give up a big play, he’s much more passive and ultimately an inferior player. Here are some examples of the success HaHa can have when he’s playing aggressive:

And some examples of when he’s more passive:

The second major difference was simply making the routine play. Many people may forget that Clinton-Dix had his struggles early in his career making the routine play and simply wrapping up tacklers in the open field. In 2016 what really set him apart and gave him the opportunity to make the Pro Bowl was his ability to make the simple plays that came to him within the course of the game.

Playing safety can be mentally frustrating. It’s comparable to an infielder in baseball who might go 8 innings without seeing a ball come his way, then in the bottom of the 9th with the game on the line he gets a tough grounder that he has to handle with the game on the line. Clinton-Dix can go 15+ plays at a time where the ball doesn’t come near him. Then, in a big moment, he may have to make a tackle in the open field or breakup a pass in a key situation. In 2016 Clinton-Dix routinely made these plays and came up with the stops, pbu’s, or INT’s when they were available. In 2017, he routinely did not.

It’s worth noting that the drop off in play from Clinton-Dix wasn’t quite as severe as maybe some people think. The reason for that is because he simply wasn’t quite as good as people thought in 2016. Yes he was a solid NFL safety that helped Green Bay win games, but the tape doesn’t display a Pro Bowl or All-Pro caliber player. The interceptions and big plays he’s had in his career have mostly been gifts—either passes that were tipped or massively over/under thrown. It’s not to take away from the success he’s had but he simply doesn’t make enough of a positive impact on a consistent basis to be considered that type of player. Even in 2016 there were plays on tape where he wasn’t aggressive or missed routine tackles. Those plays have always been there to some extent. Of course who can forget the 2-point conversion in the NFC Championship game in Seattle where Clinton-Dix massively misjudged the ball? These types of plays have plagued him throughout his career and for a decent part of 2016 he was able to cut them down significantly.

When he’s not taking care of his business, his play tends to look like this:

So where does that leave Clinton-Dix in 2018? Mike Pettine needs to put Clinton-Dix in positions where he can quickly react and doesn’t have to spend as much time thinking about where everyone is positioned and what his job is on the play. He needs to be able to be assertive and aggressive and not worry about what might happen if he misses a tackle. A fast-thinking, fast-reacting, aggressive and assertive HaHa Clinton-Dix is the exact version that Green Bay needs.

If I were Mike Pettine, I would play Clinton-Dix in the box more and allow Josh Jones and/or Kentrell Brice to play as the last line of defense. Both Jones and Brice have the speed at the top to get sideline to sideline and both can absolutely wallop receivers when they have an opportunity to get a head of steam from the deep middle of the field. HaHa’s height can also be an issue for quarterbacks who are looking to throw over him when he’s in the short middle of the field. That’s another advantage that Green Bay can take advantage of. The more HaHa can be around the ball the better.

Some examples of HaHa in the box, making plays:

The last step of course is in HaHa’s hands. He needs to get back to making the routine plays look simple. He needs to wrap up, stay focused, and play with the heart and passion that Green Bay and Mike McCarthy continue to say he has. Clinton-Dix doesn’t need to be a Pro Bowler to be a successful player or to help Green Bay be successful on defense. If he can go from being a liability in 2017 to the strong player he was back in 2016, it’ll be a huge step to making the defense right again.

My scouting notes from 2016’s tape:

Had faster reaction times in 2016, seemed to be reading his keys better and quickly flowing to the ball—this put him in a better position to make plays. Had more opportunities in the box, played better as a box safety than a deep safety. Didn’t have bigger plays but had fewer mistakes. Played with much more confidence. Much better tackling form, wrapped up with more regularity. Playing next to Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde and Kentrell Brice seemed to free him up more. Saw the game with better clarity and trusted his initial read. Played with better instincts. Still wasn’t playing at a Pro Bowl level but was ridiculously more consistent. At his best when he’s aggressive, still saw plays where he was passive and this is when he struggled the most.

If you’d like to listen to the recent Friday Film Room sessions, including discussions on Daniels, Clark, Nelson, and Cobb, you can find all the recordings here: https://soundcloud.com/andy-herman-596646919

__________________________

Andy is a graduate of UW-Oshkosh and owns & operates the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Andy has taken multiple courses in NFL scouting and is an Editor for Packer Report. You can find him on WFRV's Green Bay Nation and every Friday on the Friday Film Room on WDUZ . Andy grew up in Green Bay and is a lifelong season ticket holder - follow him on Twitter @AndyHermanNFL!

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Comments (22)

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ShanghaiKid's picture

March 01, 2018 at 01:15 pm

Sounds like he needs to fill Burnett’s shoes and play closer to the line. While the Packers need to find themselves a FS.

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Packer_Fan's picture

March 01, 2018 at 01:19 pm

Being aggressive and reacting to the play goes a long way in keeping the player in the game. The defense went from supposedly being aggressive to a lot of soft zone coverage by the end of the season. It's like they practiced, trained and planned one thing and did another. Perhaps due to injury. But it seemed like no one was in sync at the end of the season. Actually both on defense and offense. Hopefully have AR and Pettine will help out.

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DD's picture

March 01, 2018 at 01:57 pm

Agree, but still have no change MM. 12th year with HOF QB? Come on. How long did it take t o get rid of no change Capers? MM fails to change period. He's set in his own offensive genius mind.

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gr7070's picture

March 01, 2018 at 04:58 pm

Speaking of no change, did anything really change with Haha Dix?

PFF graded him at 79 this year and the previous two seasons he was in the 83 range. That's, more or less, the same player year after year.

https://www.profootballfocus.com/news/pro-packers-pick-up-ha-ha-clinton-...

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CAG123's picture

March 02, 2018 at 01:26 am

Man y’all find every way imaginable to mention MM, news flash this article is about a defensive player. MM has nothing to do with that.

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johngalt's picture

March 01, 2018 at 01:51 pm

As someone thats played HS football, I know that safeties have to first and foremost be tough. I can't imagine how much more so this is true in the pros. I think 21 has displayed the mindset of someone willing to take the pay, but unwilling to take the punishment of the expectations of his paycheck. Can't say I be him, aside from a complete lack of skills- I'd be scared sh-tless of making the plays safeties need to make. It's a tough game for tough guys. Those that play hard after getting"paid" are rare. Earl Thomas is an absolute stud. Seeing this play out in GB makes that more evident

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DD's picture

March 01, 2018 at 01:53 pm

Nice article. Couple of things. Our Pass rush was terrible again, and coaches didn't help put players in the best position to make plays. Did we have talent? Hard to tell with no pass rush and confused players most of the time. Another thing, MM and Capers failure to change. Capers gone now, but MM still. I'm worried.

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stockholder's picture

March 01, 2018 at 02:01 pm

Figment of the imagination! He's just not charles Woodson or Nick Collins.

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ShanghaiKid's picture

March 02, 2018 at 02:11 pm

Trust me, nobody is mistaking him for either of those guys hahaha

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Colin_C's picture

March 01, 2018 at 02:22 pm

Great write-up Andrew! I guess we can add another safety to the list of needs on defense. I'm sure HaHa will start this season, but I'm not sure I like the idea of him being a long term fixture in the secondary. I'd be thrilled with Derwin James at #14. Plus, he wouldn't have to be thrown into the fire year 1. I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) this is a contract year for Dix, so now is the time to draft your insurance policy, not next year.

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Finwiz's picture

March 01, 2018 at 03:17 pm

Those highlights are a total embarrassment to 21.
He better get his act together or it's waiver wire in 2019, or the bench before then.
You make a lot of money to play a GAME....get your head into it.

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TXCHEESE's picture

March 01, 2018 at 03:53 pm

He is simply a poor tackler. Has been since he was drafted. You know the old saying, looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane. He's a good dude, but he needs to decide whether or not he's going to be a football player. Saw too many instances of half-a$$ed effort, and to my knowledge he wasn't injured.

That's the great thing about a new defensive staff. No one's getting a hall pass this coming season. Everyone starts with a clean slate.

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Since'61's picture

March 01, 2018 at 04:13 pm

To me Dix often looked flat footed during the 2017 season. He would start moving his feet too late to make a play, especially since he was usually 15-20 yards off the LOS.

It appeared that the game was too fast for him and that should not be the case for a 4th year pro. Don't t know if it was him or the defensive scheme or both but his poor play hurt the team in 2017. Thanks, Since 61

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Lphill's picture

March 01, 2018 at 04:29 pm

No we should not draft a safety with pick 14 who won't be ready to start yet, we need a pick at 14 who will make an immediate impact. Maybe new coaching is what HaHa needs.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 01, 2018 at 10:20 pm

The words Safety and Passive, should never be said together in Football. I look forward to Pettine, hopefully on the sidelines, lighting a fire under his....

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CAG123's picture

March 02, 2018 at 01:29 am

I’ve said it plenty of times 2016 wasn’t HHCD best year 2015 was sure he had the picks in 2016 but he was so much more physical in 2015 and played great in the box and made some really nice hits.

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JerseyAl's picture

March 02, 2018 at 06:33 am

"It’s worth noting that the drop off in play from Clinton-Dix wasn’t quite as severe as maybe some people think. The reason for that is because he simply wasn’t quite as good as people thought in 2016. Yes he was a solid NFL safety that helped Green Bay win games, but the tape doesn’t display a Pro Bowl or All-Pro caliber player. The interceptions and big plays he’s had in his career have mostly been gifts—either passes that were tipped or massively over/under thrown"

I'm thrilled to see someone else say this. thought I was the only one that never bought in to him being Pro Bowl Caliber last year.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 02, 2018 at 01:44 pm

Believe me your not. I never understood how he made the pro bowl. The need to justify the pick and believe we had finally fixed the safety position, was too powerful.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

March 02, 2018 at 05:20 pm

Same here, I was amazed that he was picked for the Pro Bowl, but I'd add that I was someone who didn't like him as a draft choice, either. It worries me that I didn't like King before the draft last year; hopefully I'm wrong this time!

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HankScorpio's picture

March 02, 2018 at 06:57 am

With a new defensive staff and a new GM, HHCD had better figure out how to not be a liability or his $6 mil cap hit will make a 53-man roster decision an easy one.

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Handsback's picture

March 02, 2018 at 08:00 am

HHCD wasn't the player he should have been. Last year that applies to many on defense. Maybe that's why Pettine is the new guy!

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ben's picture

March 02, 2018 at 04:06 pm

told ya.

about everything

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