GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers might have been facing a desperate situation were it not for general manager Ted Thompson’s decision to address a position that looked pretty solid in April.
When he selected Iowa’s Micah Hyde in the fifth round of the draft, it looked like a pick for the future, possibly with the knowledge that Sam Shields would be an unrestricted free agent after this season and Tramon Williams would be past age 30.
But for this season?
He had Shields, Williams, rookie sensation Casey Hayward, third-year pro Davon House, promising practice-squad member James Nixon and emergency fill-in Jarrett Bush to go along with raw-but-athletic prospect Lloyce Means. He planned to add other young prospects after the draft.
But as defensive coordinator Dom Capers likes to point out, you can never have too many quality cornerbacks, so Hyde was swept up in the fifth round.
If things continue to go as they have, it might be the second-most important selection Thompson made (behind left tackle David Bakhtiari) in what has the potential to be one of his best drafts. Injuries to Williams (knee), Hayward (hamstring) and House (food poisoning) have left the secondary pretty thin.
But Hyde has come in and, despite not possessing the speed and quickness of Shields, Williams and Hayward, played like he belongs in the NFL.
“He’s a football player,” Capers said. “I think he showed up very positively last week. I think he showed he can run and tackle and can do a number of things for you. ... These guys like Micah, every practice have one or two plays that bring a smile to your face.”
Hyde has seen action as the slot corner and the wide corner, and will likely play a lot of both Saturday against St. Louis.
Coach Mike McCarthy said that upon seeing Hyde’s ball skills returning punts and kickoffs during rookie orientation camp in May, he wonders what the breadth of the Iowa rookie’s talent was.
“Just to see his ability to catch the ball on the run and do different things, hell, I was tempted to put him on offense,” McCarthy said. “I think he has that type of ball-skill ability. He’s doing some really good things as a young player.”
There is still the challenge of covering faster receivers, and Hyde could find himself matched up in the slot against speedy Rams rookie Tavon Austin, a 5-8, 176-pound electrified proton. It will be a test of the 6-foot, 197-pound Hyde’s ability to get his hands on a smaller player and knock him off his route, because it’s unlikely he can run with him step for step.
Hayward is more equipped to handle that assignment, but the Packers have to find out whether Hyde can do it, because Hayward hasn’t practiced once during training camp. Williams, Shields and House are all outside corners with limited or no experience playing the slot.
The one strength of Hyde playing inside vs. Hayward is that Hyde adds more size defending the run and blitzing the quarterback. The 5-11, 192-pound Hayward is a willing tackler, but just doesn’t have the base Hyde does.
“I thought he showed toughness,” Capers said of Hyde’s play in the preseason opener against Arizona. “His tackling, his block protection was very good.”
Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.