Secondary is primary concern for McCarthy
Morgan Burnett remains entrenched as the Green Bay Packers' strong safety but the job at free safety is undecided.
The battle between Micah Hyde and rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be decided over the weekend after they audition a final time Thursday night against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field.
It appears to be a close competition.
“I don't think it will make that much of a difference who's out there as long as we're getting a style of play,” safeties coach Darren Perry said Monday. “After this game we'll make the best decision for the team.”
Unlike 2010, when Burnett was positioned immediately with the No. 1 defense after being drafted in the third round, coach Mike McCarthy placed Clinton-Dix behind Hyde.
That has been the order for almost all of training camp. Clinton-Dix has had extensive reps with the 1's next to Burnett, but the Packers almost have never paired Hyde with the Alabama rookie.
Burnett knows the defense better than the other two and has been the most consistent of the safeties, according to Perry.
“As long as you've got one guy out there that knows it pretty good you're going to pretty much be where you need to be,” said Perry. “That's the good thing about having a guy like that (Burnett).
“We're looking for consistency. We've got to be great tacklers. We can't let them get out the gate. You don't want to see those plays.”
Perry was referring to the 40-yard touchdown run on third and 2 by Oakland's Maurice Jones-Drew Friday night in which Hyde, regarded by some scouts as the Packers' best tackling defensive back, fanned at the line of scrimmage.
“Micah's got to make that play,” Perry said. “You're not going to arm tackle Jones-Drew. Those other guys had blocks.”
According to Perry, Hyde has a comparable level of understanding as Clinton-Dix when it comes to knowing the defense. Hyde has been in the NFL for a year but his rookie season was spent at cornerback.
“We'd be na´ve to think they've got it all figured out after three preseason games,” said Perry. “When we go up to Seattle those bullets will be flying and we've got to be on point.”
Hyde, 23, is a full two years older than Clinton-Dix, who departed the Crimson Tide after three years.
It's much too early, said Perry, to know where Clinton-Dix's career might be headed.
“He's disciplined almost to the point where you say, 'Hey, sometimes you've got to go play,'” Perry said. “Not be too cautious.
“Sometimes young guys don't want to make a mistake. They don't want to take a chance and give up something. He's still thinking. When he wants to go he goes.
“I think he's got a chance to be a really good player, I really do. But he's still young.”
In the 4-1-6 defense, Clinton-Dix has taken the majority of snaps alongside Burnett, with Hyde moving nearer the line as dime back.
Competing for the fourth berth at safety are Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo. Richardson was limited to 11 games in his first two seasons by a cervical injury.
“Sean's been consistent and has probably had the most splash plays of anyone in the group,” said Perry. “He's playing with a lot more confidence than I've ever seen him have, and he's playing with lower pad level. When you're a big safety like that and you stand tall you look a little slow.”