BY WESTON HODKIEWCZ — Green Bay Press-Gazette
The Green Bay Packers’ selection of Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde in the fifth round of April’s NFL draft was greeted with raised eyebrows the moment the pick was turned in.
Considering their laundry list of other needs — safety, wide receiver and even backup quarterback — why would the Packers add another body at arguably the deepest position group on the roster?
Over the course of four months, however, the 6-foot, 197-pound rookie has made Packers general manager Ted Thompson look like an oracle. Hyde has risen from the seventh cornerback on the depth chart to registering a team-high 15 tackles (three for a loss) with three pass deflections and a sack in three preseason games.
No defensive player on the roster has had a heavier workload than Hyde this preseason — 135 defensive snaps — a result of a stressed cornerback contingent that’s been playing without Tramon Williams (knee) and Casey Hayward (hamstring) for most of camp.
There’s no guarantee either will be ready for the Packers’ regular-season opener in San Francisco in 13 days. Hayward returned to play 10 snaps in Friday’s 17-10 loss to Seattle before aggravating the same hamstring that kept him out for the first month of camp.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy has ruled out the 2012 defensive rookie of the year candidate for Thursday’s preseason finale against Kansas City and it’s entirely possible the injury could linger into the regular-season opener.
If that proves to be the case, the experience Hyde has gained starting across from Sam Shields over the last two preseason games while shifting to the slot in subpackages could pay even more dividends.
“Micah had a lot of production. He had a lot of opportunities,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Micah has probably made as many or more plays than a large majority of our football team. I think he’s having a heck of a camp and I’d like to see him grow some more this week.”
Hyde is the first to admit he hasn’t been perfect, and like most rookie cornerbacks, he’s occasionally been victimized in coverage. A 57-yard pass to Chris Givens over Hyde’s defense against the Rams two weeks ago stands as one of the few blemishes.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hyde has allowed nine catches for 127 yards and a touchdown this preseason, but it doesn’t appear the game is too big for him.
Docked by scouts for possessing average speed, the 22-year-old Hyde utilizes his instincts when tackling in the open field with his ability to run blitz from the slot making him an intriguing prospect in the nickel and dime defense.
When something doesn’t go according to plan, Hyde has learned to compartmentalize it from his time at Iowa, a run that ended this past year with him being recognized as the Big 10 defensive back of year.
“You have to learn how to let it go,” Hyde said. “I think throughout my career I messed up, I gave up some big passes at Iowa and I think that kind of lingered throughout the game. I think Coach (Kirk Ferentz) could really tell what was going on with me, that I was really bothered, but I just learned how to let that stuff go. It’s a new play, that’s in the past, there’s nothing you can do about it now.”
It’s elevated Hyde past third-year pro Davon House on the depth chart and helped take some of the sting out of not having Williams and Hayward manning their usual spots.
Williams confirmed Sunday that he and the team doctors are taking things slow in his rehab with no timetable for his return from the bone bruise he suffered in the second practice of training camp on July 27.
The 30-year-old cornerback has been impressed by what he’s seen from Hyde.
“I think he’s come in and been able to gain the coaches’ trust from the style he plays with,” Williams said. “It’s definitely great to be deep at this position at this point in time. You never can be too deep, especially in the NFL at this position. So yeah, I guess you can say we’re lucky.”
Hyde watched plenty of Packers games during his senior year with the Hawkeyes and understood the situation he was walking into when the team drafted him 159th overall.
With only days left in camp, he’s become a sure bet to make the final 53-man roster later this week. The only question is if he’ll be ready if called upon against the 49ers.
That answer remains a definitive yes from Hyde’s perspective.
“I think if I keep preparing to the best of my ability and keep listening to older guys and keep listening to Coach (Joe Whitt), and studying more, I’ll be fine,” Hyde said. “I’ll be ready if he throws me in there.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football