Being a rookie like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the National Football League is not always an easy task – especially for Clinton-Dix, who was drafted specifically to fill and fix a position that, for the Green Bay Packers, has been nothing but pathetic the past few years.
Green Bay has gone through safeties over the course of the past six to eight years like water through a sieve, having tried 17 players at the position since 2006.
That’s a pretty phenomenal statistic, especially in light of the fact that the Packers have been playoff contenders nearly each and every season over the course of that span.
Consider this abbreviated list of names:
But with the drafting of Clinton-Dix, it appears the Packers have hit home on an athlete whose upside is significant.
Ha Ha Clinton Dix mixes it up with Rob Gronkowkski late in the fourth quarter of the Green Bay Packers win over the New England Patriots. Raymond T. Rivard photograph
Though he has missed some tackles and burned in other situations this year, those miscues have been rather insignificant in light of what he has brought to the Packers defense this year.
Starting as a nickel back, Clinton-Dix has worked his way into a starting role opposite Morgan Burnett on the back end of the Packers defense.
He’s become known as a heady player with a penchant for making big hits.
Because of that, he was given a decent grade in a post today by Marc Sessler of NFL.com.
Here is what Sessler has to say about Clinton-Dix:
"Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Packers: (21st overall pick) Mike McCarthy‘s Packers have cycled through safeties in recent years, with 17 players at the position since 2006. We’ve seen Clinton-Dix grow weekly, though, shifting from nickel duties into a starting role alongside Morgan Burnett. He’s given up a handful of big plays and struggled in spots with open-field tackling, but he’s earned a reputation for big hits. “He’s a really smart guy, very athletic. He’s picking everything up really fast,” Burnett told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Some of those lessons have been learned the hard way … Grade: B-"
So far in 2014, Clinton-Dix has only a single interception, but he has made 67 solo tackles and has assisted on 9 more. In other words, the guy sticks his nose into players and has done a good job of getting opponents to the ground – for the most part.
Green Bay Packers free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports photograph
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Clinton-Dix has missed 15 tackles – a statistic that needs to be improved upon.
But if Clinton-Dix continues to improve and contribute, he will be one of several rookies that have had major seasons with the Packers. In addition to Clinton-Dix, the Packers have gotten significant quality snaps from center Corey Linsley, wide receiver Davante Adams, and tight end Richard Rodgers.
Here’s what Aaron Rodgers had to say about the rookies:
"“You talk about young guys being leaders, often the best thing you can get out of young guys is not knowing how good they are, that desire to be a part of something special and not really realizing how good they can be. It’s that hunger and approach that can really start to permeate through the entire team, especially the veterans, as you see these guys who are really starting to get it – Richard Rodgers, Davante, Ha Ha on defense – these guys who are playing big roles for us and doing a great job.“That’s inspiring as much as a play by Jordy [Nelson] or a play by Julius [Peppers] or Clay [Matthews] can be.”"
Clinton-Dix hasn’t made major splashes like some of the other defensive rookies who were selected in the first round, but he’s been solid and should continue to only improve.
Probably his best moments this season came in the game at Lambeau Field against Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Matched up against the veteran touchdown machine, Clinton-Dix not only held up well, but wrestled the ball away on a third down pass in the end zone late in the game.
"” His experience playing college football at Alabama has helped this transition to the NFL. The rookie doesn’t shy from the bright lights, big games on a national stage. Obviously, in the beginning of the season, he was a guy who was rotating and getting limited time. Now he’s fully in there, getting a lot of quality reps, making plays for us, and learning the defense in the process of being in there. It’s been on the run for him, but he’s been picking it up real fast.”"
One thing is for certain – he’s improved a position of need for the Packers defense … a position that hurt the team significantly in 2013.
Here are Clinton-Dix’s statistics for 2014: