Casey Hayward: Quarterbacks beware


The Green Bay Packers defensive backfield has been rejuvenated in 2014 – thanks to the outstanding play of safety Morgan Burnett, the emergence of rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the steady consistency of Micah Hyde and most importantly, the shutdown, ball-hawking skills of cornerback Casey Hayward.

If opposing QBs throw his way, their likelihood of success is highly diminished. His QBR of 29.2 is tops in all the league.

It’s a fact that gets lost on many because of the team’s porous run defense and overall dubious ranking as the worst in the league in yards allowed against the run … 1,228 yards – an average of 257 per-game.

For most teams, that would be a back-breaker, but for the Green Bay Packers who happen to have Aaron Rodgers, those poor defensive statistics tend to soften.

But if defense wins championships, then the Packers have a long way to go.

If there is one silver lining on the Packers defensive side of the ball through the first half of the season, it’s been their pass defense. The strong, consistent play of cornerback Sam Shields and safety Morgan Burnett has been missed the past couple of weeks because of their injuries, but if there’s one other defensive back whose presence has been welcomed, it’s been that of Casey Hayward.

Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward celebrates following an interception during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

The 5-11, 188-pound cornerback doesn’t strike fear into the offense from a physical standpoint, but his ability to run, cover and take the ball away is one of the reasons he has stuck with this team. Through the first half of the season, Hayward has two of the team’s 10 interceptions.

In fact, his absence last year was certainly a factor in why the Packers’ defensive backfield was such a shambles in 2013.

This year, Hayward, though quietly, has made his presence felt once again – especially when it comes to quarterbacks. If opposing QBs throw his way, their likelihood of success is highly diminished. His QBR of 29.2 is tops in all the league.

Casey Hayward. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports photograph

And it’s been his presence that has helped the Packers to a fifth-ranked quarterback passer rating (QBR) this year. With an 82.1 overall QBR, the Packers have shown they can be a factor in holding opposing passers in check – a fact that defensive coordinator Dom Capers points to when defending his unit.

Hayward hasn’t been just  one-year wonder either. When he was healthy as a rookie in 2012, his QBR of 31.3 led the entire league. He was also the fourth-rated cornerback in 2012 – not bad for a rookie and the reason why we all expected bigger and better things from him in the future.

Yes, Drew Brees pretty much had his way with the Packers last week as Green Bay played without Shields and Burnett, but when those two are in the lineup, they help solidify a unit that has done a great job through eight games; they will be counted on to do so through the final eight games, as well – especially if the Packers can’t get their pathetic run defense figured out.

What’s impressive about Hayward is the fact that he leads the entire league’s cornerbacks in QBR once again this year – a measly 29.2, according to (subscription required).

Compare that with Brandon Flowers‘ QBR of 66.9, he’s the San Diego Charger who is the top-rated cornerback in the league through the first eight games. Even Hayward’s teammates Sam Shields (89.6) and Tramon Williams (104.8) pale in comparison to Hayward in that category.

While Shields is ranked tenth overall among all cornerbacks, Hayward comes in at sixteenth. Williams, who is one of the highest paid defensive players on the Packers’ squad and considered to be having one of his best seasons ever, is ranked seventy-fifth overall.

Which brings us back to Hayward’s value to the Packers.

Live Feed

4 Atlanta Falcons who could follow Mariota out the door
4 Atlanta Falcons who could follow Mariota out the door /

Blogging Dirty

  • 4 Atlanta Falcons moves to open up $18 million in cap spaceBlogging Dirty
  • 3 players who must get back on track for the Atlanta Falcons in 2023Blogging Dirty
  • Atlanta Falcons shouldn't consider cutting Casey HaywardBlogging Dirty
  • 3 Ways the Atlanta Falcons can upset the Chargers in week nineBlogging Dirty
  • 7 well-known trade candidates for Chiefs to considerArrowhead Addict
  • He brings a shutdown mentality and ball-hawking skills that the Packers need from more of their defensive backs if they are going to have a shot at winning the second half of the season. After all, it’s been the takeaways in the first half that have helped the Packers to their 5-3 record. Green Bay is tied for third in the league with the Arizona Cardinals with 10 interceptions so far in 2014.

    Keeping Hayward healthy and on the field will be a huge key for the Packers’ pass defense. With his soft-tissue injuries hopefully behind him, expect Hayward to show even more as the Packers head into the second half of the season.