A year ago, we knew very little about cornerback Casey Hayward, but it wasn’t long before all of Packers Nation was hearing about the rookie. He was the player who didn’t have superior numbers at the NFL Combine, but a guy who was much more than just a guy.
It started when he turned heads with cover skills and instincts that showed from day one of training camp. He was a player who made plays and seemed a good fit with the Packers defensive scheme.
He made the squad and bided his time until his break came. While he saw spot action during the early season, Hayward got more playing time as the season progressed. In all, he started seven games, but played in all 16, in addition to two playoff games. By the time the season came to an end, Hayward had picked off six passes, had 40 solo tackles, 13 assists, and 21 passes defensed. Even more impressive was the fact that when quarterbacks threw his way, they only managed a quarterback rating of 30.4.
Now with a season under his belt, there’s no reason to think that Hayward isn’t headed into his second season with high expectations. Though he will have to compete for a starting job, he’s got to be the front-runner heading into training camp. No doubt Davon House will also compete for the job opposite Tramon Williams. Williams, in fact, may be one who will need to show some competitive spirit against the young players ready to take their next step forward.
I don’t think there’s anyone who isn’t excited to see the Packers defense take the next step. After being battered by the 49ers in that final playoff game last January, it’s time for redemption.
I see Hayward as playing a huge part in that effort.