PACKERS FOOTBALL FRIDAY: Dimeback Summer Battle

I’m going to admit right away that this might be a little deep of a conversation for some.  The competition to see who the 6th defensive back on the field in dime situations is probably not something resides in the consciousness of the majority of Packers fans.  I’m going to try and sway you to think that it’s more important than you think.  Not only is it more important than you think but the competition is going to be fascinating.  One of the big questions that I referred to in Tuesday’s article seems to be the elephant in the room, how are we going to get Micah Hyde on the field? For the purposes of this article I’m going to assume that Casey Hayward wins back his nickel corner job and that no one is going to mess with the $18+ million a year outside duo of Tramon Williams and Sam Shields.

The Packers were one of the trailblazers in the “new” defensive strategy of the NFL.  More and more teams every year are playing nickel defenses with at 5 defensive backs on the field most of the time.  NFL teams don’t run the ball like they used to and dealing with the spread offenses of the New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, and even your Green bay Packers has been made easier by getting better athletes on the field.  As with the defensive line the dimeback position not as simple as the backup-backup starting cornerback.  When you have three corners on the field a lot the fourth corner is going to have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice to play 60-70% of the defensive snaps in addition to the special teams obligations he undoubtedly already has.

The contenders:

Micah Hyde- the poor man’s Charles Woodson, Hyde is one of my favorite young players on the team.  After his rough start to the season (not including his breakout against Baltimore) Hyde registered positive Pro Football Focus grades in each of the team’s last 6 games, including the wild card game against San Francisco that he almost won for the Packers with a dropped “pick 6”.  He’s really a very good run defender, a decent blitzer (1 SK, 3 hurries).

Defensive backs don’t often become true playmakers until they learn a little bit more about the NFL game (Casey Hayward notwithstanding).  If he maintains his other abilities and regains the nose for the football that he had in Iowa Hyde is going to become an indispensable player for the Packers.  Keep in mind that there’s at least a chance that Hyde wins the starting free safety job this season.

Davon House- House is a tantalizing prospect that hasn’t yet delivered on his promise.  At 6’0″ 200 pounds wearing #31 and dreadlocks House is a dead ringer for former Packers shutdown man Al Harris.  His physical style of play reminds fans a lot of Harris as well. He has certainly shown flashes, but entering his 4th (and a contract) season House has not provided the consistent impact on defense that we’d have hoped for.  House always seems to be a OTA and training camp star.  Whether it’s actual ability with pads or injuries it never seems to translate into the fall.

Besides consistency, one of the things that House has going against him is his inability (or his perceived inability by the team) to play the slot cornerback position.  If you ever see House in the game it means that he’s playing on the outside and the team has moved one of the other corners (probably Tramon Williams) inside to play the slot position.  House has been spectacular on special teams and nearly saved the Packers by almost blocking the field goal that San Francisco kicked as time expired.

Predicition: the real reason that this battle is so important is really for the future of the team.  Tramon Williams is playing on an expiring contract.  In order to sign him to a  new deal at the end of this season the Packers would have to give a 32 year old player another contract.  The team has showed that it’s pretty unwilling to do that unless the player is a hall of fame level guy like Charles Woodson or Julius Peppers.  If Davon House can show something this season Williams’ outside position covering the other team’s #2 WR is possibly his next season.  If he can’t show anything he’s probably going to be allowed to walk and the battle in 2015 will be between Hyde and Hayward as to who is going to play on the outside in the base defense, with possible bids by this year’s pick Demetri Goodson and rookie that would be drafted in the 2015 draft.

I’ve just read too many things this offseason from the coaching staff about their desire to find a way to get House on the field and I really do like him as a player.  I hope that House is able to find his way on to the field and make enough of a positive impact to earn a second contract from the team.  I believe that he is worth keeping but there is nothing better that could happen to this defense than for Hyde to develop into Diet Charles Woodson.

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Ross Uglem is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Ross on twitter at RossUglem

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