Casey Hayward

Casey Hayward has been a spectator during the regular season. The Green Bay Packers leading interceptor in 2012 has been dealing with a hamstring injury and we all assumed he’d resume his role as the slot cornerback when he returns.

Well, maybe not.

Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt says Hayward has to earn his spot back when he returns, which could very well be next week.

“When he is healthy, he’s going to have to show he’s deserving to get into the mix with the other guys,” Whitt said. “I’m not just going to put him in there over what he did last year. You have to be deserving and the guys who are playing the best will play.”

Those guys are Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Davon House.

Shields, who’s clearly become the Packers No. 1 corner, is playing shutdown football. Williams isn’t going anywhere and has taken over Hayward’s role in the slot, at least for now. House, meanwhile, is the nickel back, but he’s covering the outside receiver and doing a pretty good job of it.

So where does Hayward fit?

Well, you have to think the Packers need to get him on the field in some capacity. He’s a playmaker, plain and simple. And without Clay Matthews, who’s out for three or four weeks with a broken thumb, the Packers are in short supply of those.

So who goes?

The obvious answer is House, but the Packers like his height on the outside receivers. That tells us it might be Williams.

That’s not to say Williams won’t remain a starter, but we could see him rotating out in the nickel and Hayward covering the slot. He excelled in that role last year. That would leave Shields and House on the outside on passing downs.

It’s a pretty good dilemma to have, but Williams is the old man of the group. It seems like time to let the young guys play.

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