Packers Casey Hayward: We Know, We know, But Just Calm Down

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Packers Cornerback Casey Hayward
Packers Cornerback Casey Hayward

If you’re suddenly enamored with Packers rookie Casey Hayward, be prepared to join a very large club. Three days of training camp, and it’s obvious the kid is a player, right? At the same time, know that around here you’re very late to that party. Indulge me for a  bit:

Very early on during “draft season”, I was told told by a little birdie that Casey Hayward could be the second or third best CB in the draft and that the Packers were in love. I was also told the Packers would be willing to trade up for him, which is why I included him in my one and only mock  draft  and whispered just before the draft that the Packers loved Casey Hayward.

I’m not mentioning these things to brag (although it does sound like that), but rather to point out that if you are a regular reader of AllGreenBayPackers.com, you’ve known about Casey Hayward for awhile. So you weren’t one of those fans who said “who?” when the Packers traded up to snatch him up. And months later, you aren’t surprised that Hayward has made an instant impression in training camp, picking off passes, blanketing receivers and gaining the enthusiastic praise of his teammates.

Hayward has had a fantastic first three days of camp, and has opened up some eyes. Here are some quotes about Hayward that Bob McGinn of JSOnline.com recently garnered:

James Jones: “Probably the best thing about him right now as a rookie is he understands the schemes and what people are trying to do to him,” wide receiver James Jones said. “As a rookie, he’s smart. He’s going to be good.”

Tramon Williams: “He’s picking up the defense well and making plays,” Williams said. “If he keeps making those plays he’s definitely going to push.”

This is reminiscent of two camps ago when Packers players were raving about a rookie corner that went on to be a first-year starter at nickel: Sam Shields. Of course, we all know that Shields has lost his way a bit in the last year.

There was never a doubt in my mind that Hayward was going to push Sam Shields, Jarret Bush and Davon House for playing time. And I have no doubt he will one day be a starting cornerback in the NFL.

But people, it’s only been three days! The camp reports and the article by McGinn have fans thinking the Packers’ secondary problems are going to be solved by this one rookie. As much as I like Hayward, the odds that he wins a starting job are pretty steep, and frankly, would be more an indictment of how poorly his competition performed, than an endorsement of how good he is so early in his career.  Even if he were to earn a starting role, what are the odds the positives outweigh the rookie negatives in year one? If they came out even, would that be considered a win?

My guess for this season is that Hayward wins the dime (or possibly nickel) CB role, contributes on special teams and fills in admirably for injured teammates when called upon.  Anything beyond that is pure gravy (but then again,  I’m a big fan of gravy…).

 

 NOTE: Here’s a little bonus for our readers from the NFL Scouting Pre-Draft Report on Casey Hayward:  

While he might not make it into the first round, unless Denver takes a “few smart pills,” Vanderbilt’s Casey Hayward is not only an outstanding ball thief, but is also the most explosive hitter in this cornerbacks group. As for his run stuffing and blitzing ability, name the last time you can remember a Southeastern Conference cornerback leading his team in tackles-for-loss (2009), making eighteen tackles behind the line of scrimmage while picking off fifteen passes 31 others over his last three seasons.

 What separates him from most of the other cornerbacks in the 2012 NFL Draft is his keen field vision, above average instincts and excellent ball anticipation skills, along with impressive leaping agility that allow him to climb a receiver and get to the ball at its high point, even when challenged by much taller opponents (see 2011 South Carolina, Army, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest games, along with his classic jam vs. 6:10, 280-pound WR  Ali Villanueva in the 2009 Army clash).

 He is a good student of the game and it is rare to see him make the same mistake twice. He has a keen understanding for blocking schemes and could make a fine coaching candidate one day, as he is apt to ask detailed questions to explore every aspect of the play with his coaches. With his loose hips, suddenness to redirect and true explosion to close, you would think that Hayward would get over-confident and give a big cushion to the receiver, but he prefers to play his man tight, knowing that he has the hand placement ability to impede the receiver’s route progression.

 The Vanderbilt defender has the valid speed to stay with his assignment on deep patterns and does a nice job of getting his body in the way to prevent catches over the opponent’s outside shoulder. He can close in an instant and is very quick to react to the ball in flight, showing natural hands to make the interception or pass deflection. He has the burst needed to accelerate and close on plays at the opposite end of the field and has the second gear to catch up on rare times that he is beaten (see 2011 Elon, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee games).

 Hayward has above average foot quickness which gives him the ability to adjust to the receiver’s movements, along with the ability to plant, redirect and flip his hips. However, when he gets too tall and upright in his pass drops, he will take wasted steps (needs to be more certain of himself playing on an island, at times).

 

 

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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  • Big T

    Of course he will start from day one. Anyone with a pulse is better than what we currently have with the exception of Woodson. Why do you think we were hell bent on fixing the D-line? We know that our db’s can only cover for about 1.5seconds, so we accept the fact that they can’t cover and get a kick azz D-line. It is a pretty good strategy.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      yes, it’s the right strategy, even if you have a good secondary. But the Packers certainly haven’t ignored the secondary the last 2 years with the drafting of House, Heyward, McMillian and the UDFAs they brought in. The combination of the two strategies should equate to a much better defense this season..

  • SchenySchen

    Sam Shields has picked a poor time to continue regressing. I like Bush close to the line of scrimmage. Other than that, it looks like a two man race between Hayward and House. GoPack!

  • Ron LC

    Three days does not a carreer make. I am glad to see, however, he is another competitor for the defensive jobs available. Strong competition will result in a significant improvement in GB’s major question mark.

    In addition, those players who tought, by virtue of 2010’s SB run, they were irreplaceable now realize they can be replaced if they don’t get their heads out of their rears. More competition please.

  • Mojo

    I know you don’t see him starting, but I’m not sure by a few games into the season he isn’t. In McGinn’s article he points out how seven other Packer CB rookies started – so it’s certainly not unheard of. Put Bush back as a quality sub. Let Shields figure out if wants to be an NFL player.

    With Tramon getting healthy and CWood playing safety, there would be a lot of veteran help back there. Besides, based on the McGinn article it seems Hayward knows more about his position than most 5 year starters.

    Sure we as fans have a tendency to, well lets say, get irrationally exuberant over a new guy who does anything, but I reserve the right to come to extreme conclusions based on very small sample sizes.

    Also Al, not only did you hit on Hayward, but you had Manning and Coleman as alternates, so we can give you half-credit for both for a total of two correct picks.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      That’s mighty generous of you…

  • FireMMNow

    house and hayward both sound like they are having an outstanding camp. shields apparantly had a better day today. house is the x-factor. the guy has tons of athleticism. fans did not get to see anything from him last year, but if he steps up and hayward continues to impress woodson may be playing more safety in the nickel than people are expecting at this point.

    BTW, i am guessing that putting bush in the nickel package is a way to push the other guys and stress to them that in order to be on the field you have to tackle. while bush has improved over the years, if he is a nickel or dime corner then we are in trouble.

    • I bleed green more

      I agree we are in big trouble.

    • tlvincent4

      agreed, move smells of making the young guys work twice as hard to try and win a major job or role, I still hope Sheilds can right the ship, we need his speed!

  • JimR_in_DC

    Stolen title: Packers Sam Shields: We Know, We know, But Just Calm Down. ;)

    It’s how many days into training camp and some of us are already writing off Sam Shields this year? The competition is great, and I expect that we’re still a long ways from knowing how the CB battles are going to end up. I’m so damn happy football is back and we’ve got subjects like this to talk about. :)

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      good steal and good points!

    • Oppy

      People aren’t writing off Sam Shields because he’s been a no show for the first three days of camp.

      People are legitimately concerned because Shields has had an on-the-field attitude problem since the start of the 2011 regular season, and has seemingly blown off the severity of the issue, and has shown no change in his work habits to correct it.

      Dude needs to get his head right, and make the decision to play the position as he’s coached to. That means getting in there and tackling. That means pursuing the ball carrier with the intent to tackle at all costs.

      I like how Mojo put it- Shields needs to DECIDE if he wants to be an NFL player or not. No more coasting on raw talent and speed. Time to work or sit down.

  • Mr. Bacon

    I think he will be special, but Cornerbacks usually take 3 years or so to get the flow of the game in their veins.

    He will get playing time for sure, but unless the Defensive Line is able to penetrate the O-Line I wouldn’t expect him to get a lot of picks this season.

    Most of the problems with the Secondary would be solved easily by having the Defensive line dominate. You cannot expect the Secondary to be able to cover the Receivers if the QB has loads of time to look at the field.

  • tlvincent4

    not to get carried away but it sure beats the alternative that the young DB’s are showing they can play!!! I was thinking Dom should come up with a package to get all of them on the field. Talking about moving CM Jr. and N.Perry to DE with BJ Raji at DT, then play just one LB DJ Smith, and 7 DB’s, 3 Safeties in Woodson,Burnett,and McMillian, with 4 CB’s in Williams,Shields,Heyward,and House. Come on opposing QB’s would have no clue who was playing what or where!!!

    • tlvincent4

      we could break it out specially for the Detroit Lions and megatron!!!

  • Dan

    I have a good feeling about the improvement of our D this year.

  • http://httm bill from jersey

    Vincent,do u mean a prevent,prevent defense when all it does is prevent u from winning