The Green Bay Packers ended another season too short as they lost in the divisional playoff round for the second year in a row. While the Packers dealt with a lot of adversity, they were still able to have a successful regular season.
The Packers were able to go 11-5 and win the NFC North despite a rough 2-3 start to the season. With so many players injured, the Packers were able to slot players in key positions to keep winning.
Perhaps the biggest emergence in the Packers defense was due to the injury to Sam Shields. After Shields went down, the Packers decided to put Casey Hayward in his place.
And what a year Hayward had.
Before the injury to Shields, Hayward was able to get his first career interception against the Indianapolis Colts. He was covering Reggie Wayne when he was able to get inside and intercept Andrew Luck's pass.
After that game, Hayward began to go in more, and broke out against the Houston Texans. He was able to pick off Matt Schaub twice in the game and held his own against opposing receivers.
After the injury, Hayward became a reliable player in Dom Capers' scheme. He was able to keep opposing receivers in check and grab a few more interceptions. His ability to read opposing quarterbacks was a big assist to a defense that allowed the most passing yards ever in 2011.
Hayward had a great season statistically. He had six interceptions on the year, which was the most by any rookie and was even tied for fifth in the NFL. Along with the interceptions, he also had 53 total tackles and a forced fumble.
Other rookies like Chandler Jones and Janoris Jenkins are being considered for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, but Hayward should be the clear favorite. He was able to fill in for a solid corner in Shields, and the team didn't miss a beat. His interceptions while guarding solid receivers give him even more credibility.
Regardless of how the voting goes, it is clear that Hayward had an impressive season. With Charles Woodson aging and Tramon Williams under-performing, Hayward is making a good alternative in the secondary. With more time, he could potentially become a consistent Pro Bowler, and maybe even a Defensive Player of the Year.