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Clinton-Dix or Hyde? Either is an upgrade

7/28/2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In every offseason practice -- whether organized team activities or minicamp -- and in the first two days of training camp, Micah Hyde took all the snaps with Green Bay Packers' defensive starters in a safety tandem with Morgan Burnett.

That, in itself, tells you what coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator think of the second-year defensive back.

Then, consider that general manager Ted Thompson used his first-round pick on safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to fill one of the team’s greatest needs yet the 21st overall selection in the draft had run exclusively with the second-stringers, and you can tell they are serious about Hyde.

But maybe the real competition started on Monday.

The pads went on for the first time, and Clinton-Dix finally got his chance to rep with the No. 1s -- at least for a few snaps. Although Hyde, who played exclusively as a slot cornerback last season as a rookie, continued to take the first snaps at free safety with the starters, Capers paired Clinton-Dix and Burnett for a few snaps and also unveiled a sub package that included all three of the safeties on the field at the same time.

Regardless of who wins the starting job, it appears both will play and either will be an upgrade for a group that not only lacked big plays (it was the only safety group in the NFL last season without an interception) but also big hits.

"I don't know exactly what went on before I was here," Clinton-Dix said. "But I just know they brought me in here for a reason, and that's to win."

The first day in pads was rather tame, but the most vocal member of the defense, Mike Daniels, who said this offseason it was time for the Packers to get mean, can't wait to see Clinton-Dix start hitting.

"When he got drafted, I was walking around my house screaming 'Yes' about five times; I think they showed five clips of him knocking the crap out of somebody," Daniels said. "Some things translate at any level. If guys are going to hit, you're going to hit when you're [waist high], you're going to hit when you're in high school, you're going to hit in college, you're going to hit in the NFL because it's in your nature. Some things don't translate, but toughness translates at any level. So I'm excited. We'll see."

Surely, the Packers would like Clinton-Dix to be their starter, but they might not need him to be right away given how Hyde has transitioned from a slot cornerback last season as a rookie.

Since Hyde let a potential game-changing interception slip through his hands late in the fourth-quarter of the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers -- a play he said he will "remember until I'm 50 years old," -- he has shown an increased awareness for the ball. So far in camp, his pass breakup numbers have been high. On Sunday, he broke up a deep ball for Jordy Nelson, who has been catching everything in camp.

McCarthy was succinct in evaluation of Hyde’s transition from cornerback to safety.

"Seamless," he said. "Micah Hyde is a football player. I think you can line him up anywhere. You really can. He's had the offseason to learn the position, to get the communication down where it's so important. He's a playmaker."

Yet if you ask Hyde, he will say, "I'm not there yet."

"I still go out there, I try to play fast, I try to make things easier on myself but at the same time I think it comes with time and it comes with experience," said Hyde, who as a fifth-round pick played more snaps (542) last season than any Packers' defensive rookie. "I think every day I'm getting better and better. Once I make a mistake, I think I learn from it and I just go out there and try to not make the same mistake twice."