Packers Lions Film Study - What Was He Thinking? (Casey Hayward)

I've always liked Casey Hayward, going back to the 2012 draft. A few weeks before the draft, a friend who does scouting for NFL teams hinted to me that the Packers really liked Hayward and so did my friend. He also gave me what would become the book on Hayward - he's a slot corner only, but with a little twist. He thought Hayward could make a successful conversion to free safety, as he is best with the play in front of him, taking good angles in zone coverage.

Fast forward to 2015. Hayward has been inconsistent at best, especially when forced to play on the outside. He has looked tentative at times, almost confused, and has been guilty of giving way too much of a cushion to receivers. And that's what precipitated this article.

There was an unfortunate example of this in Sunday's horrendous loss to the lowly Lions. Note, I am not implying Hayward is responsible for the loss, so many other things went down that were bigger factors and they never should have found themselves in this situation.

In any case, the play I want you to look at is the TD pass to Lance Moore at the two minute warning. (Note the Packers let the clock run down to two minutes instead of using a timeout after the 1st down play with 2:24 on the clock. It was a decision that was unpopular with Aaron Rodgers, who was shown on TV looking with exasperation in the direction of Mike McCarthy and making the "T" time out motion with his hands). But I digress...

Here's the setup. Lions have a 2nd and goal at the 4 yard line. Calvin Johnson is wide right and the Packers have a straight double team on him (Randall and Hyde). Gloden Tate is wide left and Shields has him man-to-man. Chris Banjo is responsible for the tight end if he should release, but instead he stays in to block. That leaves Hayward one-on-one with Lance Moore with what admittedly is a large amount of space to cover.

No doubt, it was a well designed and well executed play by the Lions. The Lions run play action, which keeps Matthews and Palmer at home and doesn't allow them to drop back into the passing lanes.

Hayward is playing outside/in, trying to effectively cut the amount of space available to Moore in half. As the ball is snapped, Hayward steps back and gives Moore room to execute his route and release to the inside.. Never tries to get  a hand on him or disrupt the route in any way. 

 

 

Here is a freeze frame taken just before Moore makes his cut. Hayward is in no position to disrupt the route in any way.

This begs the question "What was he thinking?" for three reasons. First, the location. On your own goal line is not the place to be playing soft. Second, the game situation. Late in the 4th quarter of a game the Packers are desperately trying to get back in to. Third, the flow of the game. In what was an anomoly in today's NFL where the refs are actually allowing the DBs to be agressive and "handsy" with the receivers, how do you not take advantage of that? As you can see in the image below, the outside receivers are all seeing tight coverage. Hayward is already beaten. What's worse, it's to the side he wanted Moore to go to. So why not get up close and personal with Moore?

One possibilty, of course, is that Hayward just made a bad decision. or perhaps the tentativeness showed up in a big spot. Or possibly he's playing the way he's been coached to play. Whatever the case, it left me wanting to toss something at the TV. How did Mike Mccarthy feel about it? Well, here he is checking out the scoreboard replay and trying to make sense of it himself.

Mike McCarthy - What do you suppose he was thinking?

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"Jersey Al" Bracco is the Editor-In-Chief, part owner and wearer of many hats for CheeseheadTV.com and PackersTalk.com. He is also a recovering Mason Crosby truther.  Follow Al on twitter at @JerseyalGBP

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Comments (13)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 19, 2015 at 08:21 pm

No DB actually jams the WR at the LOS. Randall bumps Calvin Johnson a couple of yards off the LOS (knowing he had help from Hyde). I have complained about this many times before. It looks to me like the DBs are coached this way.

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JerseyAl's picture

November 19, 2015 at 08:27 pm

I'm starting to lean in that direction also...

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Dan Stodola's picture

November 19, 2015 at 10:13 pm

This was reported last year before the beginning of the year, no what I think, what I read mind you. The Packers (for the most part) when playing man coverage, give the CB the choice of how to play his man. Can be press, off or something in between.

Its clear and given his lack of vertical speed generally wise, that Hayward much prefers to play off man coverage. This allows him to use his eyes and see plays develop, which is a supposed strength of his, and make plays on the ball depending on his read.

Shields on the other hand, is very fast, very athletic and has a generally slight frame. Its pretty clear that he likes to line up in press, but not engage which plays to his strengths (speed and athleticism). Also having a WR background, he's very good at anticipating and knowing when the ball is coming to his coverage.

Now lets look at Randall. He doesn't he doesn't have nearly Shields speed and athleticism, nor Haywards instincts. He has good speed not great, some quicks, not Haywards great quicks, but he has a good build. So it makes sense for him to use his better strength and good speed to play press and actually engage the receiver at the LOS.

Now given that generally, the Packers give the CB the choice of coverage you can see why each plays how he does. In regards to how Hayward in particular played this particular play, he had the choice since both Shields and Randall were in press, while he was off.

This approach allows the CB to play to his strengths, which clearly seemed to be the case here. However, some plays they don't have a choice and are required to play a certain way. To some degree it counts on the CB to be situationally aware and cover in a certain manner. For Hayward in this case, he made a bad choice playing off (soft) coverage. With no help on the play. Hayward first should have played an inside technique to force a more difficult throw to the outside (where he could use his quickness to break on the ball), Second, he should have pressed the WR at the LOS, to throw off the timing.

With no safety help in the middle, allowing a free release inside to a WR at the 3 yd line is just plain poor football IQ and situational awareness.

You might be able to say Hayward should have been FORCED to play press in this case as well. But for the most part, it was a terrible decision and poor awareness by Hayward to play that coverage in that situation. He's supposed to have a high football IQ, but he certainly didn't show it in this case.

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Bearmeat's picture

November 19, 2015 at 11:02 pm

That might just be the best thing you've ever posted. Well done Stroh.

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Dan Stodola's picture

November 19, 2015 at 11:23 pm

Most of it isn't anything that I haven't said before. Maybe the first time putting it all together like that. But each point is something I've said before.

I've stated since he was drafted Hayward really has no business playing outside CB. He deserved the opportunity to try this year, but Randall was going to become the starter outside sooner rather than later.

Will be interesting to see if the Packers try and are able to re-sign Hayward next year to play strictly inside. I tend to doubt it since Rollins is a virtual clone of Hayward, just more physical.

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WKUPackFan's picture

November 20, 2015 at 05:56 am

Hey Bear! How is the semester going? The lacrosse coaches at Transylvania tell me my freshman's grades are excellent. That's a relief, as he's also joined KA, a lot of partying involved with that.

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JerseyAl's picture

November 20, 2015 at 09:40 am

everything you said here makes perfect sense. Well done.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 20, 2015 at 10:48 am

I agree Dan. Very good summary.

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croatpackfan's picture

November 20, 2015 at 03:20 am

I'm specially dissapointed with how Casey Hawyard plays this year. He is the weakest link in Packers D. Also, I do not understand, when you have that situation why not play trully pressure CB Packers has - Gunter! I bet Moore will not bew able to run one yard for whole play!

When we are talking about Sam Shields and Damarius Randall, they can let some space to WR, because they are fast and they are chalange for the QB. Casey Hayward is just chalange for the Packers D...

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packerfan9507's picture

November 19, 2015 at 08:41 pm

Casey Hayward is an awful cornerback. He's an acceptable safety hybrid in Dom's scheme but that's about it.

Just like with the Lions, he will always let the receiver inside because he doesn't have the strength or stature to force them outside.

It may sound like I have a bone to pick with him, I don't. I'm just annoyed because playing soft is his forte and the coaching staff tried to tout him out there like he was a legitimate outside corner.

If anything, I'm pissed at the coaching staff for their ineptitude on both sides of the ball all season long. It's the same top-down delusion and arrogance that is getting Rodgers blasted every week and producing a flaccid, unproductive offense.

The chickens are coming home to roost, Bobby Boucher!

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zoellner25's picture

November 19, 2015 at 09:08 pm

I think he was thinking "Man, I suck this year. I'm in way over my head.....gotta play better....oh SH$T!!!!!"

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WKUPackFan's picture

November 20, 2015 at 05:33 am

I think your scout friend was right Jersey Al. Casey seems like he would be an excellent free safety. Playing the slot his rookie season he was always around the ball, leading me to think he was going to be the second playmaker on D.

Perhaps all the hamstring injuries have him at less than 100%

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Razer's picture

November 20, 2015 at 06:58 am

Unfortunately, Hayward has become a liability and teams know it. Keep putting him out on the field and you will keep getting the big play against him. We are better to give others a chance, to see if someone can step up.

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