Packers 2016 Recap: FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
- Started 16 games
- 80 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 5 interceptions
- Pro Football Focus: 83.5/100 (18 of 91 qualified safeties)
Expectations going into the season: High
Expectations were: Exceeded
Analysis: A special season for a sensational superstar at safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
If you were skeptical of anyone being able to step into the role former free safety Nick Collins, know that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is having the last laugh. 2016 was a breakout season for the third-year free safety.
When watching Clinton-Dix this season, he played with a level of aggression the Packers haven’t seen from a safety since Darren Sharper. Much like the interception-happy Sharper, Clinton-Dix tied for the NFL lead among safeties with five interceptions.
His position coach, Darren Perry, credits Clinton-Dix’s evolution to this season to acting on his instincts. “I think the thing you probably see now compared to his first couple years is he’s not afraid to make a mistake,” Perry said. “If he sees something with his eyes out there on the field, he’s going to trust it and he’s going to go with it. He’s not going to be right every time but he’s going to be more right than he is wrong.”
The free safety’s best performance of the season came against the Chicago Bears in Week 15. With 20 family members in attendance, Clinton-Dix intercepted quarterback Matt Barkley twice. Early in the third quarter, Chicago was down 13-10 and Barkley had the team on the move. An overthrown pass landed right in Clinton-Dix’s hands, and the ensuing Packers drive resulted in a touchdown to extend their lead to 20-10.
On the following drive, Clinton-Dix once again intercepted Barkley on a pass in the deep middle of the field. His 27 yard return gave the Packers great field position on the Bears’ side of the field. Two plays later, running back Christine Michael bolted in for a 42-yard touchdown and the Packers led 27-10.
Much has been written in celebration of the young safety’s breakout season. He was named to his first Pro Bowl and was a second-team All Pro for his position. A conversation with former Packers cornerback Charles Woodson at the preseason Hall of Fame game gave Clinton-Dix the right motivation heading into his third season.
“In your third year, there’s nothing else that can hold you back. You see that play and you go take it,” Clinton-Dix said Woodson told him, courtesy of Jason Wilde. “You see those one or two formations that you’ve been studying the entire week, I don’t care what the play is, you go do it. There’s no, ‘I wish I’d have done this’ or ‘I should have done that.’ Just take advantage of it.”
Alongside fellow safety Morgan Burnett, Clinton-Dix has helped solidify the secondary in a challenging year. Green Bay lost cornerback Sam Shields for the season with a concussion in Week 1, and second-year pros Damarious Randall and Quentin Rollins spent a better part of the season fighting injuries that kept them off the field.
Clinton-Dix was a steady presence throughout. It was a poor statistical season for the secondary, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers has shown a propensity to care more about turnovers and points allowed and less about yards allowed. Capers’ free safety did him proud this season, and has become one of the league’s elite presences in the back half of the field.