Three Questions Heading Into Packers Training Camp

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Clinton-Dix is vying for a starting spot at safety after being the Packers’ top draft pick in 2014

With the Green Bay Packers opening their 2014 training camp in less than a week, I took to Twitter to find out what our followers’ and readers’ top questions were about this year’s team.  Thank you to those who submitted theirs and I’ll certainly be doing this again throughout camp and the regular season.

1.  What does Micah Hyde bring to the table that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix doesn’t and vice versa?

There has already been a lot of discussion about the safety position in Green Bay this offseason.  For the first time in over 60 years, Packers safeties recorded zero interceptions in a full season in 2013.

Perhaps the fans in Green Bay have become spoiled after seeing the likes of Leroy Butler, Darren Sharper and Nick Collins grace the gridiron in green and gold.  Still, it’s hard to argue that the production at safety since Collins was forced to retire in 2011 has been subpar.

Heading into this season and before the draft, the team let incumbent starter M.D. Jennings depart in free agency and there was much talk that they would give Hyde a look at safety along side Morgan Burnett.  Sure enough, Hyde took most of the first team reps during OTA’s and mini camp.

The Packers drafted Clinton-Dix with their first pick in this year’s draft and more questions swirled about whether he would become the immediate starter or if he would have to compete for his role.

Clinton-Dix worked almost exclusively with the second team during the spring sessions but the Packers will give him every chance to earn a starting position throughout the preseason.  Not all first rounders start right away, but the Packers were addressing a need with the first rounder and likely can’t afford to have him sitting on the bench this season.

When Casey Hayward was injured last season, Hyde emerged as a serviceable fill-in at slot corner.  With as much nickel as the Packers tend to deploy, that will certainly be a position of great need and importance in 2014.  Hayward expects to be back, but we won’t know where the Packers stand at slot corner until camp gets underway.

During the offseason, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said he envisions Hyde as an every-down player in 2014.  He also said he wants to see more guys making plays this year.  Hyde had a sack and logged 55 tackles last season however the play he’s most known for is the one he didn’t make.  Late in the fourth quarter of the wild card matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, Hyde dropped a potential interception that would have given the Packers the ball and a chance to take the lead late in the game.  Too bad, “close” doesn’t count in the NFL.

Still, Hyde flashed some play-making ability and certainly will see plenty of time in the secondary.  He actually ran .02 faster during his 40-yard dash than Clinton-Dix did, so we’ll call their speed even.  Hyde has a full year’s worth of experience under his belt in a number of roles, including punt returner.  He has good football intelligence and I see no reason why he can’t learn the safety position.  But learning and producing are not always synonymous.

Clinton-Dix is slightly taller and about 20 pounds heavier.  While his speed is the same as Hyde’s, he has more agility and plays quicker.  What that essentially means is that Clinton-Dix uses his speed and athletic ability to make plays that many others with the same raw speed cannot make.

Clinton-Dix changes direction well and in a deep cover-2 shell, should be in position to improve the Packers pass coverage at safety.  This is something that was lacking last season and is one of the biggest reasons I can see HHCD beside Burnett in the base 3-4 defense this season.  While Hyde would likely be mentally sound and know where to be, his deep coverage skills would likely be tested with double moves.  Yes, some of that burden falls on the pass rush to prevent double moves, but in a pure safety sense, I’d give Clinton-Dix the edge here.

Both play physically and are able run supporters but Clinton-Dix appears to be a slightly better tackler.  Hyde has a tendency to lower his head in the open field, at times, which can lead to missed tackles and long yardage for the opposition.

It sounds more and more like I’m taking Clinton-Dix to win the safety spot over Hyde, right?  Not exactly.  I expect to see a lot of both on the field together this season.  In a slot role similar to what we saw Charles Woodson playing in 2012, Hyde has proven his ability to be around the football and get to the quarterback.

Hyde’s versatility and experience in the system gives him the edge right now.  Clinton-Dix will need to show steady progress throughout camp and come up big during his preseason game reps in order to leap into the conversation as a true starter.

2.  Which WRs make the final 53 after Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin?

Another great question and one that has also received a lot of discussion around NFL circles.  Some have debated whether Boykin will enter this season as the team’s third-best wide receiver, which would change the complexion of the conversation altogether.

I have never really cared much whether a receiver was a #1, #2 guy, and so on.  But assuming Boykin is the team’s “third” wide receiver, and I expect him to be, the Packers have to decide how many receivers to carry.  Most often during McCarthy’s tenure, they have carried five.  In 2012, they carried six after deciding to hang onto veteran Donald Driver for one more season.  That decision paid off somewhat, as the Packers lost Greg Jennings for a good portion of the year to injury.

Second round pick Davante Adams will be on this year’s roster, barring injury.  I’ll safely put him at the fourth receiver spot and if anyone is going to push Boykin for more playing time, it’s Adams.  He has yet to compete in live action, but the team used a second round pick on him and he is going to get every opportunity to develop and contribute this season.

After that, the picture is a bit more fuzzy.  Rookies Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis will most likely be competing for a spot along with Kevin Dorsey, who was a seventh round selection last season, Myles White and Chris Harper.

Dorsey was lost to injured reserve at the end of training camp and has yet to take a single snap.  White filled in last season when both James Jones and Cobb were injured, but was not impactful.  Some of the reason was who was throwing him the ball with Aaron Rodgers having been out for much of the season.

Harper was a fourth round pick for the Seattle Seahawks before joining the Packers early last season.  He didn’t see much action in the offense but according to the chatter, he seems to have the best chance of last year’s holdovers to crack the roster.

Still, it’s going to take a major showing for one of them to warrant a roster spot.

Abbrederis and Janis both took some reps at kick returner during OTA’s and mini camp.  Abby flashed some potential, but none of it was with pads on or during a live period.  Janis has great speed, but I heard nothing that has me optimistic that he enters training camp with high hopes just yet.

The fifth receiver is not likely to see a lot of action on offense so the key here is going to be ability to contribute on special teams.  Right now, I’d give the edge to Harper and Abbrederis.  Both need to flash during camp and the preseason, especially Abby.  His size and strength are not at an ideal level for the NFL.  Speed alone and sound mechanics can only take him so far, but the Packers like him and he will seemingly get many chances to stick.  That chance will hedge largely on his ability to win the job of kick returner.  If he can’t, Abbrederis could be looking at a stint on the practice squad.

As it stands, I don’t see enough happening that the Packers will carry a sixth receiver this year.  Time will tell and stranger things have happened, but this isn’t yet a stacked position group at present level of ability.

3.  What will the defensive line look like after the departure of Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and C.J. Wilson?

Another good question heading into camp.  For the first time since 2006, Pickett won’t be starting on the Packers’ line.  Wilson was not re-signed and Jolly is still recovering from his neck injury suffered late last season and hasn’t been cleared by any NFL team doctor.  With that, the face of the Packers defensive line will look quite a bit different in 2014 and beyond.

The team was able to re-sign B.J. Raji to a cap-friendly one-year deal and he will line up at nose tackle this season.  Raji had spent much of his time at defensive end over the past few seasons, but was most effective during the 2010 season when spending most of his time at the nose.  With this year being a “prove it” type scenario for Raji, Packers fans have to hope he comes into the season motivated and with some added vinegar to his game.  Raji will be 28 years old after this season and right in the wheel house to score himself a nice veteran contract, if his performance this season warrants it.

One of the early favorites to land a defensive end spot is Mike Daniels.  Daniels took a giant step forward during his sophomore season and racked up 6.5 sacks last season, second-most on the team behind linebacker Clay Matthews.  Recently, Daniels went off about how he is tired of seeing his teammates getting pushed around on the field and after plays.  He’s looking to become more of a vocal leader and bring more “nasty” to the demeanor of the defense this season.

The other end spot would seemingly belong to Datone Jones, who enters his second year.  Jones suffered an ankle injury early in training camp last season and was said to have been bothered by it all season.  Jones didn’t make anywhere near the type of impact most teams would want to see from a first round selection, but the Packers have unfortunately become all too familiar with that scenario.  Jones has been training hard on his own during the offseason, even spending time with former MMA fighter Chuck Liddell.  Mentally, Jones is ready to make a jump in year two but it’s all about the on-field product.  The Packers hope Jones has the same second year that Daniels did last year.

Let’s also not forget the biggest (no pun intended) newcomer to the Packers roster this season, Julius Peppers.  Peppers lists as a defensive end and linebacker but is slated for the elephant end spot.  From there, he can put his hand on the ground and rush the passer in a more traditional 4-3 end would.  Peppers won’t play every down and will be used in a number of ways throughout the season, but he is expected to be the presence that the Packers have sorely needed opposite Matthews that can create pressure on the passer.

Jerel Worthy did not take a single snap during OTA’s and mini camp and has a lot to show during camp in order to keep his spot on the Packers roster.  A knee injury forced Worthy to miss most of last season and he was ineffective in very limited snaps upon his return.  Worthy will be competing with Josh Boyd for one of the defensive end spots and it’s hardly a foregone conclusion that both will be on the roster when final cutdowns are made.  Worthy is on the bubble right now.

Boyd will have his work cut out for him during camp and will be pushed by Worthy and rookie Khyri Thornton.  Boyd was adequate in limited playing time in 2013 but didn’t make an impact.  He has the potential to improve and elevate in season two so many eyes will be on him this summer.  Right now, I’d give him the edge over Worthy simply from a health and most recent production standpoint.

Thornton was a third round pick this past May and as I have said many times, the Packers will give their early picks every opportunity to crack the roster and make an impact.  I’m interested to watch Thornton at the NFL level.  When I wrote up his draft profile, I had to do a bit more digging than usual to find good information and video on him.  I don’t see many ways that he’s not on this year’s team, and that’s another reason why Worthy’s spot is so iffy.

Lastly, free agent defensive tackle Letroy Guion was signed as a free agent and could provide some depth in the middle, if he earns a roster spot.  He was previously with the Minnesota Vikings but was obviously not able to lock in his place within their future plans.  Guion has a decent chance to make the final 53-man roster, but will need to show some flash during camp and preseason games.

Of all of the names mentioned, that is eight roster spots if all are kept.  I haven’t mentioned Mike Neal because Neal was mostly a linebacker last season and will likely split some time between the line and linebacker again this year.  With Neal included, that would be nine total and the Packers aren’t carrying that many, at least not early on this season.  If they decide to lump Peppers and/or Neal in with the linebackers, there’s an outside chance that all true defensive linemen may stick.


My thanks again to those who submitted questions for today’s column.  I’ll do this again so have your questions ready as training camp moves along!


Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on

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25 thoughts on “Three Questions Heading Into Packers Training Camp

  1. I’m concerned about the inside run game against our new look Dline. Raji got pushed around bad last year.i know he played better at NT in the past, but, that was the past. Did he regress? Or just become complacent? He really looked bad last year. And now we have 2 lighter in the pants guys playing next to him at DE. Jones didn’t show much last year and Daniels is smaller than Pickett or Jolly. Daniels will be asked to hold the point more in the 34 base (on run downs)than what he was asked to do last we have the same 2 middle LBs. Our run D was bad last year, is this a better formula?

    I really hope so . Maybe the new speed and athleticism will be what the doctor ordered. Only time will tell

  2. I just hope McCarthy gives Clinton-Dix every opportunity to be the starting Safety. Clinton-Dix was rated as the top Safety in this year’s draft and you shouldn’t have a guy like that sitting on the bench unless he is a bust. Let’s remember that a year ago McCarthy anointed DuJuan Harris as a starter ahead of Eddie Lacy. One has to wonder what would have happened if Harris isn’t injured.

    1. I’m sure Clinton-Dix will be given plenty of chances to win the starting job. But you have to ask yourself… Do you really want a rookie being put in position of having to get the D lined up correctly and having to make play calls, given the Packers have had soo much trouble w/ those aspects in the secondary?

      Clinton-Dix is plenty talented enough, no doubt about it, but personally given those issues in the past 2 years, I would much rather see Hyde starting.

      It won’t be about talent… Who starts at Safety will be who knows the play calls better, who can line players up better and knows the D better. IMO that’s Hyde.

      Clinton-Dix will have to prove his knowledge of the D more than anything else to have a chance to start.

      1. HHCD made all the secondary calls for Alabama, I have no doubt he can learn this defense.

  3. Need Hyde and Dix on the field at the same time. Only 2 that are willing to tackle someone as opposed to just sticking an arm out and see what happens. As far as Jones, I hope Chuck can rap him along side the head and knock some sense into him.(if that is possible)
    Raji the “blob” should be motivated this year. If he doesn’t perform this year his NFL career is over.
    And now we have salt and pepper to rock some qb’s into submission. Overall definately looks better than last year.

    1. “Salt and Pepper”…NICE! I think we should all make a concerted effort to make this nickname happen!

  4. I think Hyde is an insurance policy for both Dix and Burnett. May construct some special packages to get all three on the field at times.

    As long as we’ve got 4 top WRs who are healthy and ready to go, I’ll sit back and watch/enjoy competition for # 5 guy to emerge.

    DL – can it be any worse than last year? No. Can it be better? Yes. Will it be and by how much? That is the $64K question. Chain is strong as weakest link. DL and ILB are the weakest links. We need substantial improvement over last year from DL/ILB to get to the Super Bowl. Another year of defense like last few and even AROD won’t get us into the playoffs this year. Don’t give TT an extension until he proves he can fix the defense!

    1. “DL – can it be any worse than last year? No.”

      Unless you’re saying the Packers defense last season hit absolute bottom…yes it can be worse.Many things need to come to fruition for it to be better by any significant measure and if the things fail to sprout once again,it can be worse…keep it real! 🙂

      1. I think people on this board know I keep it real. maybe too real for most. Last year’s defense was as bad as bad gets. The only position on defense that showed a semblance talent was CB. I know CMIII was out injured but still, the front 7 as a whole was piss-poor. And the S were worse. Lots of square pegs in round holes. Players with fat contracts that don’t deserve them. It all speaks to ineptitude by the GM in selecting these guys and the HC/DC in deploying them. Mostly it is on the GM’s head. Very few if any of our front 7 guys and S from last year deserve an NFL roster spot, let alone a bloated paycheck. It is more than clear that TT is clueless at drafting defensive talent. I’d love to know the true story as to who was pounding the table for CMIII to get TT to make the one great move of his career on the defensive side. Dix was a safe pick this year. Thornton reminds me of the Mike Neal pick of old. Many are excited about Bradford but when was the last time a short guy with dinosaur length arms made a splash in the NFL as an OLB? Try never.

        1. If by “real” you mean “obviously and self-evidently full of crap,” then yes, you are indeed “too real for most.” What Tarynfort is saying is that you are badly exaggerating and overstating your case… which, of course, you ARE doing, and almost always do.

          You say, “Last year’s defense was as bad as bad gets.”

          No it wasn’t. It wasn’t even very close to the worst defense in the league LAST YEAR, let alone historically. But that’s what you do, Arch. You throw around a bunch of wild over-exaggerations without any kind of perspective or insight.

          In the NFL last year, 25% of the teams (8) gave up the same or more points than Green Bay. Seven teams (22%) gave up more total yards. Seven teams gave up more rushing yards. One quarter of the league (8 teams) gave up more passing yards. A full 81% (26) of teams forced the same number or fewer fumbles than Green Bay, and 22 teams (69%) recovered the same or fewer fumbles. As for sacks, 75% of all teams had the same or fewer than Green Bay. Six teams (19%) had the same or fewer interceptions.

          In no major defensive category did Green Bay finish last in the league.

          So can you explain what you mean when you say that last year’s defense was “as bad as bad gets?” Or are you just talking from your backside again?

  5. I still think the biggest question is who’s going to be starting at TE, but that’s been covered so heavily, I can see why you wouldn’t want to include that.

    Adding on to the defensive line section, who’s going to be starting at NT if Raji goes down? Boyd? Thornton? Luckily, Raji never has injury issues, but it’s something to think about.

  6. Honestly, I just think it’s crazy when people wonder if Clinton-Dix “will be given every opportunity” to win the starting job. Of course he will! Does anybody really think that the Packer coaching staff is so committed to Micah Hyde (!) that they won’t even give their first round draft pick a legitimate shot to win the job??

    Look, I like Micah Hyde (really, I do!), but a good number of people are just massively overrating him. He is a few months removed from being a rookie, he was NOT a world-beater all-pro as a rookie, he did NOT play safety as a rookie (or in college), and will very likely be bumped out of the slot-corner job by Casey Hayward.

    Do we really think he’s such a lock at safety that Clinton-Dix won’t even get a legitimate shot? Sorry, but I just think that’s nuts.

    Maybe in the end Hyde does win the starting safety job, but it is absolutely, positively NOT going to be handed to him on a platter. We’re not talking about Ronnie Lott over here.

    1. While I agree Clinton-Dix will be given a legit chance to win the starting job, I don’t think its in the Packers best interests to start a rookie at Safety. THE most important quality at Safety between Hyde and Clinton-Dix will be who knows the Defense better, can make the Defensive calls better and run the secondary better. A lot of that will fall on Burnett, but both Safeties have to be able to do that. And I just think that Hyde will be better equipped to handle those responsibilities more. Especially given that miscommunications and missed assignments has killed the secondary the past 2 years.

      I’m no Hyde lover, and was among if not the first, to note he didn’t have any INT’s last year. But it’ll be about who the coaches trust more… IMO that’s Hyde this year.

      1. I think we agree that there will be an open competition. My contention is that Clinton-Dix stands a much better chance of winning that competition than many people think.

        I agree that lining up the D is extremely important, but I also agree that most of this will fall to Burnett. That would be true even if Hyde were starting next to him.

        So let’s say that the coaching staff feels more comfortable with Hyde’s understanding of the D, but more comfortable with Clinton-Dix actually making the plays. Who do they start? Clinton-Dix, hands down… because Burnett will be calling the plays anyway. And what if Burnett goes down? HYDE comes in, and if the Packers feel that he understands the D better, then Hyde calls the plays alongside Clinton-Dix.

        So I DON’T really think that the battle comes down to whether Hyde or Dix understands the D better. It’s who plays the position better. If Burnett goes down, then BOTH Hyde and Dix are in, and you can take your pick on who sets the defense.

        I think it’s a reach anyway to assume that Hyde will certainly be better at lining things up. While it is true that Hyde has 1 year of experience in the Packers defense, it is also true that he has been a corner by trade, while Dix was born and raised at safety.

    2. Marpag,thanks for saving me some writing time. All your major points are valid. HHCD will compete to start. Unless injured, both he and Hyde should see significant playing time.
      One other thought I would have, is why is Burnett being ‘handed the other starting safety position? Because he is overpaid? He stunk last year and unless you place all the blame on MD Jennings,our safety play was near the bottom of the NFL.
      Adams is penciled in as the de facto 4th
      WR. Number 5 and possibly 6 will be interesting to watch. Most GB fans I know are pulling heavily for Abbrederis, but, let’s see how he performs in camp and the preseason games. No one seems to give Dorsey nor White and Gillette a chance,save to possibly land a spot on the PS.
      The DL has added youth, quickness, and athleticism and appear to me to want to
      emulate what Seattle did last year, mainly with young studs. CJ Wilson seldom suited-up last season and Pickett
      was pitiful most of last season, as evidenced at other NFL team’s dearth
      of interest for his services. He seemed
      slow and out-of-shape or simply washed-up after many solid years in the league.

      1. I agree with your comments about the DL and safety, with a few exception (or maybe expansions):

        At DL, I think people are not entirely cognizant of how much Boyd has bulked up and what Guion’s typical playing weight is. The two of them provide plenty of back up for NT and the option of a heavier ‘run stopping’ end to rotate in for Datone Jones and Mike Daniels on short yardage/goal line situations. I agree with you that 310#, young and athletic is a better fit for the defense we want than 330# and creaky. (All respect to Pickett but his play began to decline in mid 2012 at the latest.)

        At S, I think the Packers are not handing Burnett a starting job because of his contract; they are handing him a starting job because the coaches apparently feel that most of what we fans think of a *Burnett”s* horrible play last season was actually caused by Burnett trying to (having to) fix mistakes at the other safety position. We fans can’t really judge that; even if we watch the ‘All 22’ film, the coaches are the only ones who actually know what each player was *supposed* to do on each play.

        As for Clinton Dix, I am more worried about fans beginning the drumbeat that he is a bust if he does not rapidly win the ‘starting’ position (whatever that is in today’s multiple personnel scheme, multiple coverage, pass happy NFL). Hyde does not just give the team a ‘high cover’ safety, but a lot of ‘3 down’ options in slot coverage and blitz schemes. That consideration is just as important to the Defense as the offense having an RB who can run, catch and pass block all at the same time. I can see the team wanting Hyde on the field as the 4th man in the secondary, with Hayward coming in as the Nickel and Clinton Dix coming in to provide ‘over the top’ coverage in the Dime. Given the level of talent throughout the secondary (now that the Macmillian and MDJennings experiments have been dumped and Hayward is back and healthy), that role would most definitely NOT represent a “bust” by Clinton Dix, because it really represents the strength and depth of talent in the Packers’ secondary.

        Let’s give the kid a chance to learn the whole game at the pro level. He does not have to win the ‘starting safety should (IMO) be the ‘6th D-back) coming out of camp will *eventually* become an option to rotate with Burnett as a single-high safety (Hayward or Hyde in the slot). Next year the secondary alone has 3 unrestricted Free agents (Williams, House, and Bush). That’s when Clinton-Dix will need to be in the ‘top 4.’ So give him a chance to ‘develop.’

        1. Sounds like same arguments that have resulted in a decade of having to watch AJ Hawk.

          NEWS FLASH: Hawk enjoys stellar off-season with two tackles of civilian drunks.

        2. Ed Sch., your points are well-taken and well argued. Let’s all hope Burnett’s play improves, Hyde works-out at Safety, and HHCD turns into an All-Pro-caliber safety.
          ALso, it would ben ice if Boyd develops into a stud nose tackle and Worthy shows a big jump from 2013.

  7. There’s a few Packers on the roster that some people consider bubble players, but they’re actually not.

    Barclay, Boyd, Harris and Boykin are four players I’ve heard from time to time to be potentially jettisoned. But they would, in my estimation, really have to play poorly in TC and preseason, get injured or have a competitor play lights-out.

    I get the feeling the Packers brass really likes these four players, so in response to Jason’s question 3, unless something like the aforementioned scenarios happens, I don’t think they have any intention of getting rid of Boyd.

    1. Agreed on those specific players. People sometimes also seem to forget Barrington and even Mulumba, though they don’t seem to be quite as secure as Barclay, Boyd, Boykin, and Harris, all of whom I consider locks to make the team if healthy.

  8. I would like to see Pickett signed for insurance reasons to provided beef against the run.. However, with all these young DLinemen on the roster, i don’t see this happening unless someone gets hurts or just flops in the preseason

  9. I don’t think the Packers keep 6 WR this year either. After the top 4, which are virtual locks, the #5 or 6 WR needs to contribute on ST. Abbrederis has a chance at Punt Return (not KR) but he would be ordinary at best. His elusiveness is lacking and that’s the most important trait for a PR.

    IMO, Harper is the favorite to win the #5 WR. There are plenty of reasons he was drafted higher than the others. I don’t put much stock in the reasons he didn’t stick in Sea and SF (being asked to be an H-Back). He knows the offense better, he’s more talented and more physically ready to assume a role on Offense and ST.

    I have no problems putting Abbrederis and Janis on the PS for a year and if one gets claimed, so be it. They both need it a year to develop…

    Dorsey is the one player that might be able to challenge Harper for the #5 WR job. I think he’s more talented than anyone gives him credit for.

    1. BTW another reason I like Harper is he played QB in HS and early in college. So he could be like Cobb in that he’ll have an idea what the QB is looking for.

      1. Stroh, many well discussed arguments concerning Harper winning the number five slot. Time will tell. Let’s hope we finally have a TC and Pre-Season without any of our front-line players headed for the DL.
        Most people have written-off Janis, but,let’s see him play. Dorsey, albeit with problems at Maryland at the QB, produced next to zero. White needs more time on the PS and never made any big plays I can think of last season. Gillette is given a ‘slim-and-none’ shot…So, the fifth slot is between (in no particular order): Janis, Harper, Abbrederis, and Dorsey. Let the TC and games begin…

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