Packers' Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Garners Praise from SI's Doug Farrar

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar reviews the coaches film on new Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and comes away impressed.

Save for injury announcements, early July brings little in the way of NFL news as it falls between the end of minicamp and training camp. For many in the sportswriting world, this is the time of the year to take a vacation and, you know, acknowledge the existence of your family members (hi mom!).

But for dedicated film junkies such as Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar, this is the perfect time to dive into the tape for Packers first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Farrar rightly notes that much of the Packers' defensive struggles in 2013 fell on shoulders of safeties M.D. Jennings and Morgan Burnett. While Burnett receives a partial pass due to the hamstring issues that plagued him all year, Jennings was an unmitigated disaster. Yet due to the dearth of alternatives, "The Doctor" started all of the Packers' 17 games including their Wild Card weekend matchup against San Francisco.

With Jennings departed and Clinton-Dix expected to replace him (though Micah Hyde will get a chance as well), Farrar spoke glowingly of Green Bay's rookie safety.

"Clinton-Dix has the two things every NFL free safety needs -- great feet and impressive quickness. He backpedals and redirects smoothly and with little trouble, which allows him to stick and stay on all kinds of routes. And he's remarkably quick when it comes to driving down in run support and moving to either sideline. He gives maximum effort on every play, and though he will occasionally whiff on tackles, an inevitable result of his breakneck style, he's never really out of position. Most importantly -- and here's where he perfectly fits the paradigm of the modern elite safety -- Clinton-Dix does all of this from every part of the field. From deep single coverage to two-deep, half-field responsibility, to the slot, to the box and when blitzing, Clinton-Dix can do it all at a plus-level.

"Based on the tape, he should be a marked improvement over what the Packers put on the field in 2013."

Farrar's description matches what most of us have seen. Clinton-Dix covers an incredible amount of field. While his 40-time (4.58 seconds) may have caused him to drop on draft day, his tape shows a player uninhibited by his speed. He may not be able to chase down receivers from across the field the way Nick Collins once did, but few can. In all other areas, Clinton-Dix shouldn't experience any issues with speed.

Farrar also notes that perhaps Nick Saban misused Clinton-Dix during his senior year at Alabama.

"If Clinton-Dix has one area of improvement, it's in his deep coverage, and that's more a schematic issue than anything else. He was often tasked to read run in Saban's defense, which left pockets open for quarterbacks to exploit. If the Packers ask him to stay put in a two-deep shell, or retain him as the last line of defense, I think that will pay dividends."

This goes back to Clinton-Dix operating as the "quarterback" of the defense. While it's a good thing that he has that capability, he won't have that responsibility in Green Bay. Consequently, when the Packers play him high in Cover 1 and 3 or when they go with a Cover 2 look as Farrar mentioned, he'll be better able to keep a lid on opposing offenses.

Farrar's piece includes a bevy of great insight regarding Clinton-Dix. It's highly recommended that anyone interested in understanding the finer points of the rookie's game go and read the entire article.

Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He also serves as a contributor at various publications. His work has previously appeared on Hook’em Headlines, Beats Per Minute, and Lombardi Ave.
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