Hayward was the Packers most consistent cover corner from the slot a year ago leading all rookies with six interceptions, and 21 pass deflections. Hayward also tallied a forced fumble and 35 tackles on his way to a third-place finish in the defensive rookie of the year voting.
Pro Football Focus named him to their 2012 1st team All-NFL after starting seven games as a rookie.
This year has been a different story for the Packers’ young cornerback.
Hayward suffered a hamstring injury early in the training camp process and was out for the majority of team drills and camp this past summer. Hayward was finally able to return to practice on Aug. 23, but would leave the preseason game against Seattle when he re-injured himself. The re-tweaking of the hamstring against Seattle forced Hayward to sit out the first six games of the season, and saw fifth-round rookie cornerback Micah Hyde play well in his absence.
Fast forward to last Sunday’s 27-13 home loss to Philadelphia.
After being back for just three games, in which he made one start, Hayward left the game against the Eagles after once again re-tweaking the same hamstring that has bothered him for half a year.
Following along with Hayward’s injury timeline with this specific injury it would suggest he is going to be sidelined for an extended period of time depending on the significance of the injury.
When Hayward first missed time he missed about a six weeks. When he re-injured the hamstring against Seattle, Hayward missed two months. Now he has once again re-injured the hamstring. A logical time table for his return from the latest hamstring tweak would be three months. That would put us into February, and barring an unforeseen turnaround, the Packers will not be playing in the Super Bowl.
This is exactly why the Packers must, at the very least, consider shutting down Hayward for the rest of the season.
Like I previously mentioned, Hyde is more than capable of taking over for Hayward in the slot. The Packers could even shift Tramon Williams into the slot in nickel situations and have Sam Shields and Davon House play cornerback one and two respectively in said situation. It’s no mystery that in recent weeks the Packers’ secondary has been poor to say the least.
Hayward has only given up five catches in the three games he has appeared in, so there would be a dropoff from Hayward to Hyde, but Williams and Hyde are more than capable of taking over for Hayward.
The Packers need Hayward to be healthy in the long-term, especially with Williams’ time in Green Bay coming to an end soon. At 5-4 the Packers have plenty of time to get back into the playoff race, but they’re going to have to do it without Aaron Rodgers for at least three to four more games — something they’ve shown they can’t do in the past.
The move would be difficult for the Packers as Hayward is a rising star in this league. He gives Green Bay security at a position that has underperformed for the majority of the season. However, it would be the right move for the Packers.
What do you think?
Respond in the comment section (civilly) and let us know what you think of the Packers shelving Hayward for the rest of 2013.
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