It’s never easy losing a player like Charles Woodson. Packers fans were sad and disappointed to see Woodson released prior to the 2013 season to make cap space for a few large deals that have since been made. It became even more difficult to swallow when Woodson found his way back to the Oakland Raiders, the team he started his career with and played eight years for, and has since had another great year.
Enter: Micah Hyde.
I made a comparison during the preseason about Micah Hyde reminding me a lot of Charles Woodson, and I was laughed at. But is the comparison really so laughable?
It’s too early in Hyde’s career to start pulling statistics into the comparison, so I have been watching specific play styles. To me, Woodson has had two distinct stages in his career: the cover cornerback stage and the run support stage. Earlier in his career he blanketed receivers and cut off a lot of passes for interceptions. Later in his career, he seemed to really play the run well, especially after the Packers moved him from cornerback to strong safety.
He read plays well, had phenomenal vision, and a natural ability to see where a play was going. One of my favorite things about Woodson was that he was not afraid to come right up to the line of scrimmage and hit someone hard. So far, Micah Hyde has showed that he has some of the same natural abilities, with one distinct difference so far: he tackles better.
Very rarely do you see a cornerback with the ability to wrap up a receiver or a running back and take him to the ground with no help. Woodson was famous for giving the ball carrier one good pop, but often enough the ball carrier would shrug it off and keep going. Hyde wraps up and finishes his tackle. In only six games played, Hyde has 19 total tackles, only three of which have been assisted. That means 16 of Hyde’s tackles were solo. That may not seem like a large number of tackles compared to some of the starting cornerbacks, like Sam Shields who has 25 tackles, but keep in mind that so far Hyde has only been used as the sixth defensive back in the dime and on punt returns.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers also praised Hyde for his vision on blitz packages. Hyde seems to naturally grasp the offensive flow and he knows how to get into the backfield and force pressure.
So far this year he has 1 sack, 1 stuff, and 1 forced fumble. Capers has made it clear that Hyde, along with Chris Banjo, will be seeing more playing time.
So far, Hyde has held up well in coverage as well. Typically you see veteran quarterbacks “picking on” rookie corners, as Sam Shields and Casey Hayward found out. Shields fought hard to earn his respect, as I remember multiple times having to refrain myself from throwing my remote at my TV during a typical Shields blown coverage. I haven’t felt the same kind of growing pains watching Hyde get comfortable with the defense, but he also hasn’t been paired up 1-on-1 against some of the best receivers in the NFL yet, either.
So given time, can Micah Hyde step into the position left vacant by Charles Woodson? I think he is well on his way, but only time will tell. Feel free to post your comments below and debate for yourselves.