While Hayward is only about 1/15th of the injury situation that has once more plagued the Packers training camp, the fact that he hasn’t touched a single blade of grass outside (or inside) the Don Hutson Center is downright sad.
He’s the kind of player who will make the Packers defense not just stout, but intimidating. Missing him in the slot goes way beyond what the Packers were feeling last year when he stepped in for the wounded Charles Woodson. Everybody knew he had potential, but none of us were prepared for what he would bring to the field and the team.
In a thorough look at Hayward’s unique skills and place on the team, Robert Mays of grantland.com brings us information that cuts to the essence of his impact. He tells us about how he was a quarterback-turned-defensive back in high school and turned that into a college career at Vanderbilt that ended with him being drafted by the Packers.
Mays also tells us about how Dom Capers recreated his work with one Rod Woodson in Pittsburgh and used Charles Woodson inside in the nickel and turned him into a defensive player of the year. More importantly, Capers saw the same in Hayward and transitioned him from outside the numbers into an inside defender, targeting him to spell Woodson last year when Sir Charles went down.
That’s why the lack of Hayward’s presence on the field is the biggest disappointment so far in Packers camp. Sure, you can make a case for Bryan Bulaga and Jordy Nelson and their injuries, but it is Hayward’s absence that is hurting the Packers the most. Green Bay’s defense needs him back. They need his patience and intelligence in the defensive backfield and they need it within the next couple of weeks – that’s when he is scheduled to make a comeback on the field. Our hope is that he makes it.
Here’s why the Packers are missing Hayward as described by Mays:
According to Football Outsiders, Hayward was fourth in the league in passes defensed, first in success percentage, and first in total defeats among cornerbacks. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks had a 31.1 rating when throwing in Hayward’s coverage area — the best figure for any cornerback in football.
And those are statistics from a rookie. We can only imagine what he might accomplish in his second season.
That’s why they need him back … and that’s why not having him has been the biggest disappointment so far in Packers camp.