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Packers 2016 training camp preview: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix enters pivotal third season

After two years of progress, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix appears ready to fully fill the shoes of the retired Nick Collins.

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Approximately four seasons have passed since Nick Collins last suited up for the Green Bay Packers. In the time since, the team has mostly struggled at the safety position, running out the likes of M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian to fill the void created by Collins' career-ending neck injury.

However, the wait for a true successor may come to an end soon, as a rising third-year safety appears primed to make the leap to stardom.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, No. 21

6-foot-1, 208 pounds
3rd season
College: Alabama

Recognizing that Dom Capers' defense couldn't operate without a rangy centerfielder, the Packers selected Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Though he technically didn't start immediately, Clinton-Dix took on a starter's workload from Day 1, becoming a key cog to a defense that helped propel Green Bay to the NFC Championship that year. The safety continued to progress as a second-year player, committing fewer mistakes and making more plays -- he tripled both his turnover and sack count from a season earlier.

Still, the question remains whether Clinton-Dix can elevate his play to the All-Pro level Collins displayed during his run in Green Bay. Clinton-Dix certainly doesn't lack for physical tools, and the coaches have praised him for taking on a larger leadership role in the defense. If he can take the next step, the Packers should have the missing piece to their secondary.

Morgan Burnett, No. 42

6-foot-1, 209 pounds
7th season
College: Georgia Tech

Though not as physically gifted as his counterpart Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett plays an important role for the Packers. Capers likes to utilize single-high safety looks, and Burnett and Clinton-Dix regularly flip responsibilities to keep the offense guessing. Burnett's a willing tackler who plays the run adequately. The Packers know what they have in him, which is enough.

Micah Hyde, No. 33

6-foot, 197 pounds
4th season
College: Iowa

A jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none defensive back, Micah Hyde has played free safety, slot cornerback and even some linebacker for the Packers during his three seasons in Green Bay. With Clinton-Dix and Burnett manning the starting safety spots, Hyde can expect to back up both positions and play closer to the line of scrimmage otherwise.

Chris Banjo, No. 32

5-foot-10, 207 pounds
4th season
College: SMU

The Packers hope that Chris Banjo only plays on special teams this season. However, if forced into action on defense, Banjo can probably hold his own. He plays much larger than his 5-foot-10 frame suggests, and his tenacity makes him an asset on the field, albeit a limited one.

Marwin Evans, No. 25

6-foot, 210 pounds
College: Utah State

Making a 53-man roster as an undrafted safety comes down to versatility as much as potential. Fortunately for Utah State's Marwin Evans, he possesses much of both. He offers some of the best athleticism of any player at his position in the 2016 draft class, which helps explain why the Packers pounced on him after the Seattle Seahawks decided not to sign him following a tryout.

Kentrell Brice, No. 29

5-foot-11, 200 pounds
College: Louisiana Tech

Many of the same hurdles facing Evans concern Kentrell Brice. Brice doesn't quite match Evans in terms of athleticism, but he does possess great straight-line speed and a track record of making plays -- seven tackles for loss, five sacks, four forced fumbles and three interceptions over the past two years.

Jermaine Whitehead, No. 35

5-foot-11, 196 pounds
College: Auburn

Jermaine Whitehead spent the entire 2015 season between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens practice squads. Ultimately, the Ravens waived him in May, and the Packers thought enough of his potential to bring him onto the 90-man roster. Whitehead faces significant challenges from the team's two undrafted free agents at the position, but his year of NFL experience could help bridge the gap.

Jason B. Hirschhorn is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and covers the NFL for Sports on Earth and SB Nation. He also serves as the senior writer and editor for Acme Packing Company, a Green Bay Packers blog.