- Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy expects that to be different this season.
That could be the next step toward fixing the problems that hampered the secondary last season.
As a rookie, Hyde played 39.4 percent of the defensive snaps, and almost all of it came as either the nickel or dime defensive back covering or blitzing from the slot.
He rarely stepped foot on the field when defensive coordinator Dom Capers employed his base 3-4 scheme.
That, apparently, will change.
"Micah Hyde deserves the opportunity to be an every-down player on our defense," McCarthy told reporters this week at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. "And as we go into 2014, that's our responsibility as a coaching staff to create those competitive opportunities for him to get that done. I got to a point in the season where Micah was standing on the sidelines too much."
Hyde has shown a penchant for finding the football even though he dropped what could have been a game-changing interception in the final moments of the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. That's something the Packers lacked, especially from their safeties last season. The Packers were the only team in the NFL last season that did not get an interception from a safety.
They already are assured of fielding a new starting free safety this season. They let 16-game starter M.D. Jennings walk in free agency, opening the door for Hyde to play that spot at least some of the time. He could assume a role similar to the one Charles Woodson played in his final season with the Packers in 2012, when he played safety in the base defense and as a slot corner in the sub packages.
"We're going to give Micah the opportunity to play on all three downs -- whether that's corner, nickel, dime, safety," McCarthy said. "That's the versatility I think he brings to our football team."
Like Hyde, Hayward played almost exclusively in the slot as a rookie in 2012. After leading all rookies with six interceptions in 2012, his second season was a washout. He played only three games because of a recurring hamstring injury that he first pulled on the eve of training camp and which finally ended his season on Nov. 23.
In an interview just days after this past season, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said he had no doubt that Hayward also could line up on the outside as a true cover corner in addition to playing in the slot.
"And he will be given the opportunity to do that," Whitt said.
That plan remains intact.
"I look for Casey to come in and try to compete to be on the field for three downs," McCarthy said this week. "He had a heck of a rookie year. He missed all of last year with an injury. My understanding is he'll be full go once he comes back. But I won't know until we put those guys through physicals when they come back the 22nd [of April for the offseason program]. I would think he'd be ready to go."
2hField Yates and Rich Cimini