“I’m always happy,” were the words that came from Green Bay Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix following the conclusion of Green Bay’s third preseason game this year. Although he was referring to the newly reconstructed coaching staff under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and the return of his former mentor, cornerback Tramon Williams, Ha Ha certainly has a lot more to be excited about after the strong showing he’s put on so far this year through four regular season games.
Last year, he couldn’t quite say the same.
In 2017, Clinton-Dix had the most difficult season of his five-year pro career. Through sixteen games he recorded 65 solo tackles, 14 assists and just three interceptions and had the second-most missed tackles (13) in Green Bay. All this just one year following his Pro Bowl season where he racked up five interceptions in regular season play to help propel the Packers to the playoffs and into the NFC championship game.
Defensive backs have traditionally been a weak spot for the Packers, so it was no surprise when Green Bay opted to extend the fifth-year option to Clinton-Dix for $5.957 million, a decision that was made following that Pro Bowl 2016 season. That move gave him one more year in Green Bay to prove he was worth a number one pick, the 21st overall selection in the 2014 draft. So far in 2018, Clinton-Dix is doing just that, making a good case for getting a contract extension in Green Bay when he enters free agency at the end of this season.
Through four games, Clinton-Dix has already racked up three interceptions, to tie his total number of interceptions in 2017, sixteen tackles and three assists. By comparison, safety Earl Thomas, who was arguably the best in the league at his position before receiving a season-ending knee injuring against the Cardinals on Sunday, had sixteen tackles, six assists and three interceptions.
Clinton-Dix still struggles from time to time, however, particularly with taking bad angles, tackling, and overall physicality. For an example, see this bad read on Laquon Treadwell that ended in a touchdown for Minnesota:
Still, he has shown some improvements in Pettine’s defense. Clinton-Dix is a risk taker, which helped him to have a good performance against Buffalo where he racked up four solo tackles in addition to picking off Josh Allen after colliding with Bills’ receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
Despite a few missed tackles in week one against Chicago, Clinton-Dix made an excellent stop on Bears’ TE Dion Sims on a third-and-one to prevent a big first down conversion at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Rodgers hit Davante Adams for a big 51-yard gain just two snaps later.
Clinton-Dix also intercepted Kirk Cousins off a deflection in week two and continued his hot streak by intercepting Alex Smith on a nice read in week three.
It’s clear that when Clinton-Dix is tuned in he has an ability to be a big-time playmaker and can make a significant impact in the Packers’ struggling secondary. If he can continue his improved play, it’s possible he could even receive a mid-season contract extension to keep him in Green Bay a few more years.
In his four-plus years since being drafted, Clinton-Dix hasn’t missed a regular season game and at 25 years old, he still has plenty of years left ahead. He’s already shown he can fit well in Mike Pettine’s scheme and continuing to showcase his playmaking abilities throughout the next few games will only add to his case for a long-term extension in green and gold.