Clinton-Dix gets aggressive

Clinton-Dix gets aggressive

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix says he has forgotten it. But that’s not really the truth.

He’s put it behind him, sure. The Green Bay Packers first-round pick didn’t dwell on the play, but he sure learned from it.

In his NFL regular-season debut, the rookie safety missed a critical tackle against Seattle wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, approaching reticently and whiffing as a result. He wasn’t aggressive, he was afraid to make a mistake, and that’s exactly what he did.

“I felt bad about it. [But] I learned my lesson and moved on,” Clinton-Dix said Friday. “I mean, I don’t really care if people think about it. I forgot about it after it happened. So that’s all that matters – as long as I forgot about it. Make sure it doesn’t bother me at all, then it’s all right.

“When I came back and watched film, I saw a couple key things I should have done to make that play. After I learned from it, I moved on.”

And since then, Clinton-Dix has been on a steady rise that will likely have him making his second straight start at safety Sunday night at New Orleans. Last week against Carolina, he started and played every one of the Packers’ 69 defensive snaps. After splitting time with second-year cornerback-turned-safety Micah Hyde, it’s possible their job-sharing arrangement is over and Hyde will spend most of his time as one of the slot corners in the dime defense instead. If injured starting safety Morgan Burnett (calf) can’t go – he’s listed as questionable – against the Saints, Hyde and Clinton-Dix would presumably start alongside one another.

“Every game, every practice, he’s getting smarter and I think that comes with making mistakes,” Hyde said of Clinton-Dix. “We’re all still making mistakes, but I think that rookie year, coming in and making those mistakes, you learn a lot quicker just because it’s so fresh and new to you. He’s doing of a good job of learning.”

That’s certainly what he’s doing since the missed tackle against Seattle. Against Miami, he came up in run support on a run by halfback Lamar Miller, who had broken through the first level, and made sure it didn’t turn into a big play.

Even though he missed a tackle against Carolina’s Jerricho Cotchery last week, he did so by being aggressive – which is exactly what safeties coach Darren Perry wanted him to learn from his mistake on Lockette.

“You’re going to miss some, that’s the National Football League. You go up against great backs, and good wide receivers – they’re taught to make people miss in space,” Perry said. “But the one thing that I do see is when we miss, we’re missing aggressively, we’re missing to our leverage, and that’s the one thing that you like to see in a football player. He’s not being timid, he’s not being hesitant. He’s making a decision and he’s pulling the trigger, and so you can live with that.”

That said, there haven’t been many instances of it with Clinton-Dix. Pro Football Focus has him for three total missed tackles this season in 363 defensive snaps – with two of the missed tackles coming against the Seahawks. (PFF did not charge him with one on Cotchery last week.) He enters Sunday night’s game against the Saints with 32 solo tackles (39 total) with an interception, a sack, and four pass breakups.

“I just kept getting comfortable each week, getting a lot more comfortable back there with the plays and having other guys back there pressing me, and I felt like I was progressing each and every week,” Clinton-Dix said. “I kept gaining their trust, and I’m just going to keep moving forward.”

Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.

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