The Green Bay Packers have been slammed by injuries but at least they’re getting healthier in the secondary.
For a second consecutive day, cornerback Casey Hayward was listed as full participation and he appears set to make his season debut on Sunday night at Minnesota.
Hayward missed the first few weeks of training camp with an injured hamstring, then aggravated the injury during his one and only preseason game.
To prevent another setback, the Packers have brought Hayward back slowly. Two weeks ago, he practiced in limited fashion twice. Last week, he was limited at all three practices.
While Green Bay’s defense is an ascending unit, it has missed Hayward’s ballhawking talents. Hayward, playing outside and at nickel, led all NFL rookies with six interceptions last season and finished third in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. The Packers, perennially at or near the top of the list in interceptions, have picked off just three passes this year.
With a full complement of cornerbacks, the Packers have some decisions to make. Tramon Williams and Sam Shields have started every game, with Shields emerging as the unit’s top performer. Davon House is coming off his best game in the NFL with one interception and excellent coverage when matched against Browns star Josh Gordon. Rookie Micah Hyde has added a physical presence as a run defender and blitzer, so he might still have a role, but has made too many mental errors in coverage.
Because of House’s strong play and Hyde’s up-and-down play, the team has used House and Shields outside with Williams at nickel for the past few weeks. Against Cleveland, the Packers debuted a dime package with Williams at nickel and Hyde at dime in place of safety Jerron McMillian.
So, where does Hayward fit, and who’s on the field in the nickel and dime packages?
“People are competing every day,” coach Mike McCarthy said after Thursday’s practice. “They’re competing every day to be a part of a package or to get reps. Also, the defensive personnel that you’re going to play in a particular game, their offense has something to do with that, too. How many times are they going to play in regular or base offense will probably dictate what kind of defensive personnel we’re going to (use). How it shakes out, that’s really why you play the game.”
Packers injury report
Out: TE Jermichael Finley (neck), OLB Clay Matthews (thumb). Did not participate: WR James Jones (knee), LB Nick Perry (foot), TE Ryan Taylor (knee). Limited: LB Brad Jones (hamstring). Full: CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), RB James Starks (knee).
The only change was Brad Jones going from full participation to limited, though McCarthy said his snap count was close to being categorized as full.
Vikings injury report
Did not participate: RB Matt Asiata (shoulder), TE Rhett Ellison (ankle), QB Josh Freeman (concussion), WR Rodney Smith (hip). Limited: DT Sharrif Floyd (back), LB Chad Greenway (wrist), CB A.J. Jefferson (ankle), K Blair Walsh (left hamstring). Full: DE Jared Allen (ankle), T Matt Kalil (low back), RB Adrian Peterson (hamstring), DT Kevin Williams (knee).
The Vikings figure to go with Christian Ponder at quarterback due to Josh Freeman’s concussion, but the Packers are covering their bases by preparing for Ponder, Freeman and Matt Cassel.
“I understand what’s going on,” McCarthy said. “You just look at the playoff game, Christian Ponder, you thought he was going to play and we saw Joe Webb. That’s part of it. They have three quarterbacks that have played this year. It’s all on film. We’ve broken that down and we’ll be ready for any of the three.”
-- No decisions will be made this week on any of the players on the physically unable to perform list. Derek Sherrod started practicing last week, while Jerel Worthy, Sean Richardson and J.C. Tretter have not been cleared to practice. Richardson is an interesting case as he recovers from a spinal injury that required surgery. McCarthy said the team received “great news” on Richardson this week, but wouldn’t go into any detail other than to say Richardson was “getting close.”
-- Typically, the team works in pads on Thursday but chose not to this week. Teams are given 11 padded practices for the first 11 weeks; it practiced twice in pads following the bye so it needed to go pads-free for a week.
-- The Packers are 12/1 favorites to win the Super Bowl, according to odds released by online bookmaker Bovada. Denver is 3/1, followed by Seattle at 9/2, New Orleans at 8/1, San Francisco at 17/2 and Green Bay and New England at 12/1. Chicago and Detroit are 50/1, and Minnesota is 500/1. Bovada’s over-under on Adrian Peterson’s rushing attempts is 20.5. He rushed 21 times for 210 yards at Lambeau Field and 34 times for 199 yards at Minnesota in last year’s regular-season games.
-- The Buccaneers signed Aaron Rodgers’ brother, Jordan, to the practice squad. Jordan Rodgers played quarterback at Vanderbilt but went undrafted in April.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.