Packers, Capers really missed Casey Hayward in 2013 All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Casey Hayward wasn't the Packers' only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Casey Hayward wasn’t the Packers’ only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

As a rookie in 2012, Packers cornerback Casey Hayward was one of three finalists for the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best cornerback–the second-round pick trailed only established veterans Antoine Winfield, Richard Sherman and Charles Tillman.

After Hayward intercepted a team-best six passes and holding opposing passers to an abysmal 31.1 passer rating, the Packers had high hopes for Hayward, as they cut ties with their veteran leader and turnover-creator Charles Woodson following the 2012 season.

But Hayward’s encore was disrupted by a recurring hamstring issue, limiting him to appearing in just three games. He played 88 snaps.

With Woodson playing in Oakland and Hayward on the sideline, the Packers were left searching for a solution in the slot early last season. Sam Shields and Tramon Williams had fine seasons, but both are better suited for the perimeter. Micah Hyde didn’t play like a rookie, as he took over as the primary punt returner while proving to be a reliable run defender and a versatile cover man.

All things considered, the Packers’ cornerbacks fared well, but they were seriously lacking in one area.

For as long as Dom Capers has served as defensive coordinator in Green Bay, the Packers defense has relied heavily on takeaways. Woodson intercepted 19 passes and forced 11 fumbles during Capers’ tenure, which began in 2009. When Capers served as defensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992-1994, he had another Woodson (Rod), who intercepted 16 passes in three seasons with Capers.

But for the first time since taking over in Green Bay, Capers was without his X-Factor in 2013. He didn’t have a play-maker. He certainly didn’t have a Woodson.

For a defense that had grown accustomed to bending but not breaking, losing its turnover-creating wild card would be like throwing Capers in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean without a raft. Hayward’s 88 snaps were a makeshift life vest, but Capers and the defense remained stranded and searching for answers.

It would be foolish to assume Hayward’s career will unfold like Woodson’s, but you don’t let go of your high-school sweetheart without a winner on deck. The Packers had a plan for Life After Woodson, but that plan (Hayward) fell by the wayside thanks to the injury bug.

Woodson was gone, Hayward was injured, and the Packers suffered.

And despite having just 791 snaps under his NFL belt, Hayward will be counted upon in 2014, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Shields (unrestricted free agent) and Williams (set for a $6.9 million base salary in 2014).

The reasons for the Packers’ defense finishing 26th in the league in interceptions and rushing yards allowed and 23rd in opposing passer rating are plentiful, but if there’s one missing link to point to, it’s Hayward. He may only be a fraction of what Woodson was in his prime, but without Hayward, Capers and the Packers had no chance of filling Woodson’s shoes.


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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.


42 thoughts on “Packers, Capers really missed Casey Hayward in 2013

  1. Nice article, Marques.

    This just reinforces a concern I have about the Packers coaching. We have the players we have. If we lose one or two key play makers on offense or defense, why does that unit’s performance drop off so severely? Shouldn’t there be an adaptation of the scheme employed and/or play calling to make the best of the players we have left? Maybe I’m wrong (wouldn’t be the fist time), but I felt like the scheme/play calling remained unchanged after the loss of our key playmakers.

    1. You raise a good point Jim. IMO the issue is an overall lack of premier (and even replacement level) talent on the defensive side of the ball. Great players make plays. Woodson did. Collins did. Bishop did. Jenkins did. CM3 does when he’s not hurt.

      Quite simply, TT’s defensive draftees have been ravaged by injuries since 2011 – and the ones who are left (by and large) haven’t played up to expectations.

      The fact is, outside of CM3 (who’s hurt half the time anyway), Capers has had a bunch of schlubs to work with from 2011-2013.

      Hyde and Heyward and Daniels show promise. Perry has too when he’s not been hurt. Something has to be done at ILB, S and NT this next year though.

    2. There are only som many playmakers/difference makers in the NFL. Take one or even 2 off any offensive or defensive unit and the whole suffers. Hell sometimes it even carries over to the other side of the ball. We saw that first hand w/ Rodgers missing 8 games. You simply can’t replace what a difference maker does. Playmakers supercede the scheme and often have the scheme adjusted to accentuate their abilities.

      BTW Capers did what he could to make up for the loss of Matthews. Hawk had a lot more sacks than he ever had, including 3 in one game. That’s adjusting! But that only last so long, the opponent adjusts to that. Only so much you can do to try to scheme to get more pressure.

    3. Funny, an analyst kind of summed it up in an article I read. Most teams with adequate play at Qb and average players should be 8-8. No more no less.
      Its when the team has skill players on offense and defense they step up and become 10-6. The elite teams like the Broncos, etc, have skill players as backups as well so those injuries don’t tend to put a damper on their performance over the season and end up being those 12-4 teams. They beat the average teams, and eck out wins against the above average teams as well because they are deep with skilled players on both sides of the ball including back ups.

      1. Funny the Packers were a 12-4 team pre Rodgers injury. They would have overcome all the other injuries. Guess that makes the Packers an elite team. Thanks for clarifying that for us!!

  2. All three defensive units are in total disarray from a personnel perspective.

    SEC – Safety play is miserable. TW is a question mark these days. Shields may not be back. House looks like he’s just a back-up. Hayward is another question mark. Hyde did well as a rookie but seems to have limited upside.

    LB – After CMIII the cupboard is bare.

    DL – Time to move on from the four hippos and replace them with longer, more athletic types, something TT has been unable to do in his 9 years in GB and his years in SEA. Datone Jones may be another TT bust – too small at #280 to play in a 3 man front. Finished season at OLB. If TT can’t get productivity out of Perry, Jones and Worthy, GB is in big trouble. Neal was a R2 pick too and it looks like he is leaving as well. The defensive personnel situation is one big hot mess in GB. Who’s job is that anyhow? Oh yeah, the ass-clown himself, In Ted We Trust. When people can’t talk (looking at you TT and MM) I don’t trust their ability to teach/coach. TT is a freak with more draft failures than any other current GM. He has been drafting defense for three years solid now with NOTHING to show for it. Maybe it will change if we give the ass-clown another six years. Not. Once an ass-clown always an ass-clown.

    1. You know, Archie, you make good points, but you ruin almost every post with your ass-clown comments. The use of it tells those who read that you’re not capable of defending a point; you just resort to name calling. Sound intelligent.

  3. We need Hayward, and the rest of our injured players, back on the field next year for the whole season. No more injuries next year! Positive thoughts, positive thoughts. ….

    1. Totally agree, I’ve never saw a team have so many injuries to key players. In that Playoff game against the 49ers the Packers 1st round picks were hurt or playing at less than 100% from 2009, 10, 11, & 2012, Same thing applies to their 2nd round picks from 2010, 11, and 2012. Matthews, Bulaga, Neal, Sherrod, Hayward, and Worthy. Cobb and Perry weren’t close to 100% and James Jones knee wasn’t right since he hurt it in Baltimore. When you throw in Finley, Jolly, and Shields that’s 10 starters that weren’t on the field BEFORE the 1st quarter ended. Oh and Aaron Rodgers was playing in just his second game back after a 8 week injury. I don’t care who you are, that’s a lot to overcome.

  4. Perry’s been hurt for all but 5 games in 2 years. He hurt his wrist in week one and his knee in week 6 his rookie year and was done. This past year he broke his foot against the Ravens and had just started getting it going. The week before against Detroit and against the Ravens, he was playing great.
    Jones is going to be a good player and I’m pretty sure he was playing LB because of injuries. Capers had no one else to play after Neal got hurt and Mulumba was shaken up against the 49ers.

  5. Having Hayward might have translated into more regular season wins… so what?

    Fact of the matter is – whenever the Packers make the playoffs they just can’t get the job done vs elite teams. They’re a second – tier team.

    The defense wasn’t the problem v SF… the offense scored 20 f’n points. A $100 million QB should be able to muster more than 20.

    1. And he said as much Cow. But considering the conditions the game was played in it’s not really the offense’s fault.

      Defense wins in the playoffs. 2 out of Gb’s 4 playoff wins in 2010 were because the defense played lights out.

    2. God knows I’m not a huge TT supporter BUT if he has another draft like he did in 2013, signs someone at Safety, and gets those 10 starters that missed the playoff game back, I’d venture to say they could hang with any team in the NFL. With all the Packers FA it will be a interesting offseason. But to play the 49ers without Matthews, Bulaga, Neal, Hayward, Shields, Worthy, Franklin, Harris, and Finley to name a few, I doubt any $100 millon QB would have done better in his 2nd start after a 8 week layoff.

    3. So you don’t think Hayward couldn’t have made an INT that helped tilt the outcome of the game in the Packers favor? Hell Hyde would have done exactly that had he been able to hold onto his INT. Go look at stats in the playoffs. We had a +1 turnover vs SF, teams rarely win in the playoffs if they give up 2 turnovers. IIRC its like an 85 or 90% winner when the turnover ratio is +2.

  6. The current team that is currently on or can’t get on the field for the Packers looks eerily similar to the teams of the great Dan Devine. Other than Arod and no 1970’s Vikings team in the divison, we are right there. Can’t figure out why no one can see how poor of a job TT and MM have done with a HOF Qb at the helm! Actually the 1972 team did beat a few teams with winning records unlike what the present team was able to do with or without Rodgers. It just amazes me the lack of accountability there exists with this present team structure from Murphy all the way down the roster, they look pretty uninspired.

  7. Hopefully Hayward’s injury is resolved by next year.

    I think it would be a mistake to write the year off to injuries & bad luck. I’m not a big believer in writing things off to luck. Some of the injuries are simply bad luck for sure, but I have a feeling that some things could be changed to prevent this from being an every year thing, which is the trend I fear. I think they’d be wise to bring in an outside “expert” to look at that issue. Self interest can cloud results of in- house analysis.

    1. I’m all for bringing in outside experts simply for the fact there seems to be no downside. However, in the end it will probably be a waste of time and money. There is no training method that will prevent broken bones, blown out knees, or spinal contusions. That leaves the pulled muscles, and I’m not sure the Packers numbers there are statistically disproportionate to the rest of the league.

      In summary, the number of Packers injuries has the feeling of a statistical anomaly, something that just can’t be explained.

    2. FYI… Hayward showed up in GB w/ the injury. It happened while training w/ a trainer he hired in the offseason. Can’t put his injury on the Packers training staff. And he wasn’t the only one to show up to training camp injured. IIRC there were a couple others injured training in the offseason.

  8. Bearmeat, you are correct. In today’s NFL your QB gets you to the playoffs but your defense determines how far you go. Rodgers and the offense took the lead twice against SF and the defense failed to hold those leads for even one defensive series. Then at the end when we needed to get the ball back one more time the defense allowed SF to run the final 5+ minutes off the clock and win the game. That’s not the fault of the offense. As for comparing the current Packers with Dan Devine’s teams, I’d rather have our current team than Devine’s any day. Devine made the playoffs once and immediately was eliminated by the Redskins. Our current team has made the playoffs 6 out of last 7 seasons, has won a Super Bowl, and will be a playoff team next season as long as we stay healthy. Devine was a total failure compared with MM and TT. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

    1. Devine didn’t have Aaron Rodgers at QB and at this point there isn’t a playoff quality team in our Division or for that matter, one with a winning record, hence winning the Division is no longer a great accomplishment. Making a deep playoff run would be. Management in the real world typically doesn’t get awards for what they did 3 years ago.

      This team should be achieving a heck of a lot more with Arod than it has. This is on management and coaching – period. I’ll say it again, this team didn’t beat a winning team this year with or without Rodgers ! Did we really look like a team motivated enough to be playing in a Championship Game like the rest of the teams today? What happened in the first few games of the year before Cobb’s injury. How did this team make out against winning teams? I feel sorry for Lacey who will probably suffer the same fate as Brockington who was run into the ground behind a patchwork O’Line which was actually better than what we have now. At least they had 1 All Pro – Gale Gillingham. TT needs to get some immediate help in the trenches as well as the D’ Backfield, not more castoffs or Draft Day projects.

  9. Thank you Marques, been waiting all year for someone to write this column. The loss of Hayward was disastrous. He was the second play maker behind CM3. It meant TWill or House had to play out of position or Hyde had to play more coverage than he was ready for. In addition, Hayward was able to cover some of the Doctor’s and McMillian’s deficiencies, allowing Burnett to concentrate more on covering the back end. Just a huge loss for the year, the most important injury other than AR.

  10. I couldn’t agree with this post more. Think about it, if Hayward were healthy the packer might have been able to experiment a little more at safety with House, and especially Micah Hyde. If say one of them became decent enough and Sean Rchardson had been allowed to play a little more then just maybe we would have safety tandem that was just good enough. Certainly no probowlers back there, but I would be pretty confident that they would have done enough to have kept us in the playoffs.

    1. Hayward would obviously been a huge help to the D. He would have added another potential playmaker. However, House is purely a CB and is best in man coverage. And Hyde I think could be a good Safety, would need an offseason to learn to play it. It would not have been something they did during the season.

      Once Richardson was healthy he started getting snaps. He wouldn’t have gotten anymore had Hayward been healthy. Richardson will be given an opportunity this year to earn a starting job.

      1. I don’t know how well Hyde or Richardson would have played, but I am confident they that might have been at least a little better than what we had.

    2. A healthy Hayward and Cobb would have allowed Hyde to focus on one position, instead of three or more.

  11. What the Packers really missed was a pass rush. After Matthews was injured, how many times did we see that the opposing QB have all day to throw? A playmaking CB can make more INTs with pressure on the QB. As I review the year and the last game, I think the Pack had an incredible year. It’s a rare team that can sustain so many key injuries and still win it’s division, make the playoffs, and lose by a whisker to such a great team like the 49ers. Wow what a roller coaster ride of a season. Just 2 games away from a Super Bowl with all those key injuries.

  12. Any time you lose a playmaker, the ripples are felt throughout. But I’ll be honest, the Packers got at least reasonable play from the fill-ins in the slot. Nobody can say whether or not Hayward would’ve repeated his freshman effort…for all we know, he would have played no better than those who replaced him.

    I think the take-home message is that there are plenty of holes to fill, here, and we should hope that no one underestimates the loss of a guy who showed a knack for key plays, but that nobody OVERestimates the impact his return will have on the defense. Find more playmakers, please!!!

  13. Capers missed more than Hayward. He missed on inspiring the defense to play above there ability. Rodgers made him look good so as soon as Rodgers went down so did his defenses. The fact is the Defense was never outstanding. all the emphasis has been on improving the offense. They got to and won the Super Bowl with lots of desire and a lot of luck. Speed is their enemy because there entire team is a step slower than the elite teams in the nfl. You can’t pound a nail in with a feather so I can’t tell you how to put together a dominant team with management that won’t spend the big dollars to lure top players? This team will always struggle as long as the (fans) owners are willing to accept failure and a season 8 and 8 record. The division is weak and so are the Packers.

  14. Of course injuries played a part in what amounted to a miserable season. Detroit folding and handling us the division a nice gesture, but not deserved. I’m watching the 49r’s/Seahawks and see Willis and Bowman and then we have the albino genius re-upping with Hawk and Jones. He’s had 2 top 10 picks and was all out to keep them both for some reason. Thank God, in addition to being unmotivated and lazy, Raji is also dilussional. TT’s been riding the coat tails of Favre and Rodgers and so has MM. Predictable personnel decision making (no FA) and predictable play calling on both sides of the ball. We could have easily gone 0-8 during that stretch! We’re a 3-4 win team at this stage without Rodgers….with a few breaks.

  15. defense wins super bowls .management had better go out and get one.hate to see rodgers abilities go to waste

  16. Best two teams made it….the way it should be. Looking at safeties like Whittner and Chancellor, Reid etc and then think about the group we put out there this year. Between those guys, the LB core minus CM and the anemic DL, not shocking we wound up looking up stat wise. This D needs major surgery and draft picks alone won’t do it Ted. We have NO leader…no White, no Butler. no Woodson…nobody. Clay tried, not the type. Some house cleaning and a FA or two would make the next few months a lot more palatable. Not counting on either

  17. Good article, lack of impact players or lack of impact play was the downfall of the defense. A great team is able to stop opponents. +/- on turnovers is a key indicator of a successful team. I don’t know what our was, but the defense didn’t make a lot of great plays to help that I can recall. The packers were really weak at linebacker and safety, positions where playmakers should be thriving. Ours certainly didn’t make much impact, and were mostly invisible.

  18. After watching the second round of the play offs even without any injuries the Packers are not in a position to compete with the top teams in the league. The high light of the season was their field goal kicker. I don’t know why they seem to be so bad in the fundamentals, like blocking and tackling. There are so many weak spots and bad play I could write a novel to try and explain it. MM’s press conferences are nothing but excuses for poor performance week after week. Although Pre season doesn’t count I still say he failed to create a wining environment by “NOT” trying to win in any of the games, by keeping the starter out all the games. I know that if they operate the same next season they may win in the division but they will not be dominate in any game, always playing catch up.

  19. I have Perry and Worthy and possibly Datone as busts. They could be adequate second sting releif guys but no way do any of them live up to number one or two pick billing.
    First. Perry did hurt his wrists last year, but in that year prior to the injury he did nada including the pre season.
    This year teams ran at him successfully all day long. I would guess 80% of the runs were towards his side and he never sealed the edge. My take its lack of speed and quickness.
    Datone by game 12 according to Sports Track, had 8 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
    Worthy, not sure how much he even played once he came back. I never heard his name mentioned.
    These guys were supposed to step up and fill Mathews duties and I did not see that at all.

  20. Dear Ted. Did you watch the game in Seattle yesterday? At the very end Sherman knocked the ball away and ended the game. Funny, that same pass play to the same guy was used to beat your team and it worked. Why? Because you like to draft the 5’10 dbacks who can’t cover those 6’5 receivers and Seattle has 6’1 and 6’3 receivers who win games for them. Big games.
    Kapernick will continue to throw those high passes over the heads of your guys until you Ted, change your draft choices.

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