The Green Bay Packers were dealt a reasonably large blow this afternoon as head coach Mike McCarthy confirmed in his Wednesday press conference that cornerback Casey Hayward will miss the season opener with a nagging hamstring injury.
Hayward suffered the injury back in July during a work out pre-training camp. It was classified as just a pulled hamstring, but it took Hayward over a month to get back to practice. Hayward re-aggravated the injury in the third preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks and hasn't practiced since.
Hayward was a finalist for the rookie defensive player of the year award after racking up 53 tackles and an impressive six interceptions, which was fifth in the NFL last year. Hayward played predominately in the nickel as the slot corner last year, however, the Packers had high hopes for Hayward this season and expected him to compete for the CB2 position behind Tramon Williams.
Hayward's inability to stay healthy this offseason is a bit alarming and Packers fans know just how annoying hamstring injuries can be. Clay Matthews suffered a hamstring injury last season and missed three games in the middle of the season. Former Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings also suffered a worse hamstring injury than Matthews and Hayward and missed eight games after undergoing surgery when it was revealed to be a hernia. Hamstring injuries are one of the most tedious injuries a player can suffer, as the time table for a return is so blurry and the injury is usually handled on a player-to-player basis.
Hayward will be no different.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hayward finished the 2012 season as the Packers highest-rated cornerback with an overall rating of +21.2. Not only will he be missed when it comes time to matchup with 49ers stud tight end Vernon Davis, he will also be missed in run defense, especially against the 49ers' brutal attack. A season ago Hayward earned a +2.2 rating against the run and was solid in the two match ups against the 49ers in 2012, according to PFF.
McCarthy said there was no timetable for Hayward's return to practice, but admitted he was making progress. One would think that he is set to miss a few more games than the 49ers game. Like I previously stated when he suffered the injury originally it took him over a month to return to action. What will the outlook be after re-injuring the hamstring? A month and half? Two months? The Packers will need to get Hayward healthy as he is a vital component to an improving defense. Hopefully the injury won't cause Hayward more than the month of September.
The Packers will turn to rookie and training camp stand out Micah Hyde to fill the hole left by Hayward's absence. Hyde has been really good in training camp and during the preseason games earning a +3.4 rating from PFF. Hyde will be tested by the physical and talented 49ers offense all game Sunday — the 2013 fifth round draft choice will have to be on his A-game Sunday, or the Packers could be in trouble.
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