One the biggest losses for the Green Bay Packers during the 2013 season was the injury to cornerback Casey Hayward. The former second-round pick from Vanderbilt burst onto the scene in his rookie season of 2012, posting six interceptions, 21 passes defensed and one forced fumble. Yet, last season he played only 86 snaps due to injury, robbing the Packers defense of one of its most important playmakers.
However, Hayward has made great strides this offseason and at this point he appears to be fully healthy because according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Packers’ secondary coach Joe Whitt, Hayward is not being held back at all during the team’s OTA sessions.
“I don’t think about it at all,” Whitt said to the Journal-Sentinel. “That’s his injury. He better have his body in condition, ready to go. I am not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV, so that is his deal. But I know when he is out there working, he has looked really good.”
Another good sign for the Packers is that Hayward is back to playing his old nickel position, where he covers the slot receiver on the inside, while Sam Shields and Tramon Williams play on the outside. This gives the Packers a very talented trio of corners, possibly as good as any in the NFL, which is a big reason why if Hayward can stay healthy, the Green Bay defense can expect a resurgence in 2014.
“He has proven that he can get the ball,” Whitt said of Hayward. “As many guys on the field who can make splash plays, it’s better. He has proven that he can pull the ball off of people. And not only does he pull the ball off people — you would think he’s a guy who gives up a lot of completions — but his completion percentage is really, really good. He does not give up completions even though he’s an off guy and might not smother as much as some guys.
“But he does a nice job of not giving up completions, not giving up touchdowns, not giving up vertical throws.”
Getting players like Hayward, Clay Matthews and Bryan Bulaga is going to be a key to Green Bay making a run at the Super Bowl in 2014 and at least in Heyward’s case, his return is off to a promising start.