GREEN BAY—So far, what was supposed to be a battle for the starting safety spot alongside Morgan Burnett has been devoid of any drama.
Micah Hyde took all the snaps with the No. 1 defense in the spring and has continued to do so through the first two practices of training camp, while Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has toiled with the second unit.
If that’s troubling Clinton-Dix, the rookie first-round draft pick from Alabama isn’t letting on, but he’s not backing down, either.
“I can win the job playing with the twos,” Clinton-Dix said on Sunday after another practice under sunny skies at Ray Nitschke Field. “It doesn’t matter to me and it doesn’t bother me at all. Every second, every chance I get, I’m going to take advantage of that, whether it’s with the twos, the threes, whoever it’s with.”
Normally in a camp competition for a starting job, the true contenders get their chance to run with the first group at some point. There’s still plenty of time for that, though Clinton-Dix said he’s been given no indication whether that’s in the coaches’ plans for him. Pads go on for the first time on Monday, so some dynamics of practice could change.
Clinton-Dix said he feels no additional pressure coming in as a first-round draft choice, and he hasn’t concerned himself with the defense’s struggles at the position a year ago, only reiterating that the Packers “brought me here for a reason.”
“Like coach said a long time ago, it doesn’t matter if you’re the first-round pick or the sixth-round pick,” he said. “The only difference is a little pocket change.
“I’m here to play ball and win a job.”
While he waits for a first-string opportunity, though, Hyde continues to make it more difficult to push him aside. On Sunday, he broke up a long Aaron Rodgers pass intended for Jordy Nelson, taking the proper angle and leaping at the right time, as any safety should. He also knocked away a short, low pass intended for rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis, though Hyde may have gotten away with some early contact.
Mostly a slot cornerback as a rookie fifth-round pick last year, Hyde has made a “seamless” transition to safety, according to Head Coach Mike McCarthy.
“Micah Hyde is a football player. You can line him up anywhere, you really can,” McCarthy said. “He’s had the offseason to learn the position, get the communication down. He’s a playmaker.”
For his part, Hyde said he’s not to the point yet where he can play the new position more instinctively, but he plans to get there.
“Every day with experience, I’m getting better,” Hyde said. “I’m still thinking, and I’ll be doing that for the next couple of weeks until I get this playbook down 100 percent.”
However it shakes out between starting jobs and sub-packages amongst Burnett, Hyde and Clinton-Dix, McCarthy believes the position has been upgraded significantly. Another interception-less season from the safeties would not be the expectation.
“I think the criticism has been production, and if you watch particularly those three, athletically, we feel very confident the efficiency of their play will be much better than last year,” said McCarthy, who also pointed out that fellow safeties Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo are off to solid starts as well.
Richardson looks “back” to McCarthy now after recovering last year from a neck fusion surgery that kept him on the sidelines until the final six games of the regular season. He nearly had the first interception of camp on Sunday, making a strong break on a ball over the middle, but it was deflected by another defender before he got to it.
“I know the playbook a lot better,” Richardson said, describing how he feels different now, two years removed from making the roster as an undrafted rookie. “I’m playing a lot faster, playing with a ton of confidence. It’s helping and it’s showing.”
On the offensive side, now that Nelson has a new contract, attention has turned to Randall Cobb and whether a new deal is in the works for him. He’s heading into the final season of the rookie contract he signed as a second-round pick back in 2011.
Cobb said he’s not aware of any talks between the Packers and his agent, though he told his agent not to mention anything to him until negotiations actually get serious.
Coming off a year in which he missed 10 games with a broken leg, Cobb said he hasn’t “done enough” to feel entitled to anything, so his plan is to focus on his day to day work and let the business side sort itself out.
“For me, I think the most important thing is to go out every day and just prove myself, and the time will come,” he said. “If it’s meant to be, if it’s supposed to be, if I’m supposed to get an extension, if I’m meant to get an extension, it’ll come when it’s supposed to.” Additional coverage - July 27