The 2013 Green Bay Packers defense did not have a very good season, to put it lightly.
One of the main contributions to the poor play was due to the fact that they were missing their X-Factor and it may not be exactly who you think.
In 2013, the Packers’ interception total fell to 11 which was seven fewer than the 2012 season. That 2012 defense was led in interceptions by Casey Hayward who hauled in six alone.
If you look back at Hayward he has always been the “quarterback” of every defense on which he has played. His senior year in high school he led his team to the state quarterfinals as their quarterback and as an all-state defensive back. Hayward picked off four balls his senior year, three were pick-sixes.
Hayward took his game to the next level at Vanderbilt where he played in just about every game beginning with his sophomore year. His junior season he picked off six passes and had a streak of four games in which he had an interception. More attention and coverage of Hayward may have hit the media if not for Vandy’s 2-10 record.
In his final campaign at Vanderbilt he raised his interception total even more, hauling in seven interceptions, two of which came in the Liberty Bowl. Hayward was named a second team all American his senior year. Fifteen career interceptions in the SEC is quite the accomplishment.
Casey Hayward definitely broke onto the scene for the Packers in his rookie season giving them a solid tackler who showed he was capable of making a big play on any given snap. Finishing third for NFL defensive rookie of the year seems that Thompson had found another draft gem.
Hayward’s presence was missed tremendously in 2013 as the Packers struggled to make plays or force turnovers. The Packers clearly missed the guy who haunted opposing quarterbacks. Their passer rating against Hayward was just 31.1 in 2012, good for the lowest of any cornerback in the league.
You can make a very strong case that Casey Hayward is indeed the Packer’s X-Factor.
2014 has tremendous potential. With a healthy Clay Matthews and the addition of Julius Peppers it could bolster the pass rush enough to allow Hayward, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Micah Hyde and newcomer Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to wreak havoc in the secondary and put the turnover differential back to championship status.
If healthy, Hayward and the rest of the defense could be the most improved unit in all of football in 2014. It may be time to start coming up with our own nicknames for the secondary.
Legions of Boom is catchy in Seattle, but “Thieves of Lambeau” has a nice ring to it.