Hyde embracing jack-of-all-trades role with Bills

June 14, 2017 - 11:35 am
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One of the phrases Sean McDermott likes to use when describing what he values in players is “position flexibility.”

The new Bills head coach is building a roster - on both sides of the ball  - with players who can do multiple things and help in multiple ways.

Wide receiver Zay Jones can play outside receiver or in the slot. Offensive tackle Dion Dixon can play both tackle and guard. The same can be said for Vlad Ducasse. First-round pick Tre’Davious White can play outside or in the nickel spot. Mike Tolbert is a fullback and ball-carrying running back. Even the team’s undrafted free agent punter, Austin Rehkow, can also kickoff and handle field goals.

Then there’s the team’s top free agent addition this offseason, Micah Hyde. Through his first four years in the NFL, all with the Green Bay Packers, Hyde played outside cornerback, safety, and a hybrid nickel CB/LB role. He also returns punts. But it’s that defensive position flexibility that will allow McDermott to move Hyde around and use him in different, valuable roles.  

As defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, McDermott often ran a package referred to as a “big nickel” or, ironically now that’s he’s the Bills head coach, “buffalo nickel." That’s using a hybrid safety/linebacker-type player in the box, close to the line of scrimmage, to line up against bigger tight ends or receivers, but also help in run support.  McDermott often used linebacker Shaq Thompson in that role with the Panthers. At 6-foot, 197-pounds, Hyde isn’t as big as Thompson (6-2, 231), but he’s better in coverage.  

Right now, through OTAs and minicamp, as the players learn the new system, Hyde says he’s strictly playing safety. But he knows once the entire defense gets installed, he could be in line for that big nickel role.  And he confidentally says he can handle it.

“I’m playing on the back end right now,” he said Tuesday after the team’s first mandatory minicamp. “But at the same time, I’m trying to learn the whole defense. I’ve played nickel in the past and I understand what (McDermott) has done in the past, so I’m trying to learn as much as possible. If they put me in that position, I’m going to try to help the team out. That’s all I’m here to do. If not, somebody else will step in and play that as well.”

The 26-year old even had some fun with the idea, saying he embraces the opportunity to go against some of the, well, bigger people near the line of scrimmage. “I love it,” he said.  “I love it, man. Get up there, talk junk to the fat guys. Try to beat some blocks and make some plays. I love to get a sack every now and then.”

The Iowa product was well aware of what may be expected of him when he signed with the Bills almost immediately after the free agency period opened in March. At his introductory press conference after inking a 5-year, $30.5 million contract, he talked right away about his versatility fitting in with the new Bills’ defense.

“They know I’m a versatile guy and I can do a bunch of different things, whether it’s return, safety, corner, nickel position, or whatever it may be,” he said. “I think it’s a blessing and a curse. I may say, or whoever may say, just because it’s a blessing if somebody is hurt, I can play a different position. But it’s a curse because some people think that I’m not great at one position. Where it started – I’ve done it my whole life. Growing up (in a) small town, playing every position on the football field in high school, not coming off the field, and then that kind of translated into college. Playing corner and being a returner and then in the League, I’m kind of doing the same thing. It’s not new to me. You guys might see it as something I’ve developed over the last couple years but it’s something I’ve done my whole life.”

Fans and media may not have noticed Hyde playing as a jack-of-all trades in Green Bay.  But his former teammates certainly did. And that’s why several of them were vocal in wanting the Packers to retain him.

“Get him back,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said via ESPN back in January. “He’s a great player, man. He’s available all of the time. He competes. He can play all positions. I’ve never seen him complain, quit, give up. His effort is unbelievable. He’s very talented, a guy that I watch. Since I’ve been here, it’s a guy that I had to compete with in order to get this starting spot that I have now, and it’s still amazing to see him play each and every week. I would definitely love him back.”

That didn’t happen. He’s now with the Bills. And fans will be seeing him everywhere.

Follow me on Twitter @SalSports

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