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Some Green Bay fans weren’t unhappy to say goodbye to HaHa

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Is the new Redskins safety the player that Redskins fans thought they were getting, or is he an unmotivated, selfish, hot-dogging malcontent?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Pete Dougherty wrote an interesting article published on PackersNews.com after the trade between Washington and Green Bay for Safety HaHa Clinton-Dix.

Dougherty says that the success that Clinton-Dix enjoyed in his Pro Bowl year of 2016 ended up hurting his career.

Coming out of high school in 2011 he was among the bluest of blue-chip players in the country. According to Rivals.com and SuperPrep magainze, he was the No. 1 prospect in Florida, which ranks with California and Texas as the premier states for producing college players. Rivals.com also ranked him the best safety prospect in the country that year.

He signed with the nation’s dominant, talent-saturated college program, Alabama, where he played as a backup as a true freshman, started the next two seasons and twice played in the national championship game.

And then he was a first-round draft pick in the NFL, No. 21 overall, by the Packers in 2014.

In other words, he’s always been The Man.

Maybe that’s why he assumed he was in for a big pay day and failed to realize that the drop in his play last year made a new deal a non-starter going into 2018.

In other words, Packers fans saw Clinton-Dix as a bit of a Diva — a guy who played well, but then thought he had earned a big contract and stopped working.

The Redskins have had their share of players with similar, if not identical, issues. Baccari Rambo apparently didn’t study film until he was cut by the Redskins and signed with a new team. We heard regular reports about Preston Smith in his rookie year that he didn’t know how to be a professional — that he was inconsistent and often lazy. Bashaud Breeland was reported by some to have been miffed when Josh Norman was signed, feeling that he was the Redskins #1 corner. The name Breeland, and the word “attitude” were often stitched together in the same paragraph.

Some players recover from such issues. Some never do.

But, what, exactly, is it that Packers fans are complaining about with Clinton-Dix?

It’s true that Clinton-Dix has his moments of excellence, like his impressive interception of Buffalo rookie quarterback Josh Allen in Week 4 this year. On that play, Clinton-Dix held his deep zone until Allen threw outside, then made a strong break on the ball and knocked receiver Kelvin Benjamin out of the game while making a tough, physical interception.

But then there are the big plays where he freelanced and gave up points.

In Week 2 against Minnesota he sat back hoping for an overthrow interception rather than stepping up to pick up Laquon Treadwell on a 14-yard slant for a touchdown.

In Week 3 against Washington he gave up a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder even after cornerback Tramon Williams pointed to alert him to a possible slant coming his way.

In Week 5 at Detroit, he gave up an eight-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones when he blatantly abandoned his zone in quarters coverage looking to make a big play.

And who can forget how he mailed it in during the last game of 2017, with the Packers out of the playoff race? That’s not the way to play if you’re looking to get paid.

He’s just so incredibly inconsistent,” said a high-ranking scout for another NFL team.

The comments from a few Packers fans recently indicate that HaHa started thinking that he was more important than the team; that he was forgetting about assignment football and freelancing too much; that he was hot-dogging in search of personal stats instead of team success.

But after a Pro Bowl season in 2016 he lost his edge, fell in love with the idea that he’s a playmaker and turned into a gambler at a position that punishes gamblers.

He thought he’d arrived, but all he did was play his way out of town.

I don’t know if all that is true, but I’ve seen it from a few different sources, so let’s assume for a minute that this is an accurate portrayal of HaHa Clinton-Dix as a member of the Green Bay Packers. It would explain, in part, why the Packers were wiling to deal him away for a 4th round pick while they are fighting for the division lead in the NFC North.

Is there any reason to think that he might be different or better as a member of the Redskins?

There are probably a few:

Oh, shit!

First, it has to be shocking for a player to get traded under these circumstances, even if the trade itself was expected — and HHCD’s comments in the days prior to the trade indicate that he was expecting to leave Green Bay — via trade in October or free agency in March. But the circumstances would still be a bit of a slap in the face. HaHa Clinton-Dix was the first round draft choice of the Packers 5 years ago. He has started for the team since his rookie year. He made the Pro Bowl in 2016. The Packers exercised their 5th year option to keep him on the team. Clinton-Dix has been compiling stats, and was ranked as one of the top safeties in the NFL in 2018 by PFF. HaHa seems to have had his eye on a big payday in the coming free agency period.

But his team just traded him away for a mid-round draft pick. That’s gotta sting at least a little bit.

There were reports that Rambo changed his work habits after he was cut by the Redskins, and that he described getting cut as the catalyst that was needed to make him understand that he needed to change.

Clinton-Dix has enjoyed a lot more success than Rambo ever did, and being traded is not the same as being cut — especially when the fan base of the new team is so obviously enamored with the player.

But I think there’s a second, and much more powerful set of forces at work: the pressure Clinton-Dix will face in the Redskins locker room.

The D.J. Swearinger effect

Firstly, there is D.J. Swearinger. He has been the heart and soul of the defense (or at least its mouth) for the season and a half that he’s been here. He was voted captain in his first season with the Redskins.

D.J. went through four teams before he finally settled in with Washington. He describes this as ‘home’ now, and talks openly about how happy he is to be in the same system for a second consecutive year, and how it helps his play.

Swearinger is a vocal leader who backs up his mouth with his play on the field.

D.J. and HaHa spent the off season working out together. They are great friends who have spent a lot of time this week talking about “brotherhood” and “love” between them.

Swearinger talks a lot about accountability with the Redskins, and comments from teammates and coaches indicate that it’s not just a topic that he rolls out when a reporter sticks a microphone in his face.

The pressure of playing together with his ‘brother’ D.J. Swearinger will ‘force’ HaHa Clinton-Dix to be responsible, to play his assignment, and to never take a play off.

Small Fish, welcome to the Big Pond

Secondly — and I’m so happy to be able to say this with a straight face — the Redskins defense is a talented group that is playing together like an elite unit. Clinton-Dix is just one of many players with a first-round draft pedigree. Ryan Kerrigan, Jonathan Allen, and Daron Payne were all first round picks, and all of them are among the hardest workers on the team.

D.J. Swearinger, Zach Brown, Ryan Anderson, and Preston Smith were all second round picks, and Fabian Moreau, taken in the third round, was considered a first-round prospect prior to a combine injury.

And this team has plenty of pro-bowl players: Josh Norman, Zach Brown, and Ryan Kerrigan.

Pernell McPhee has a superbowl ring.

In other words, Clinton-Dix will be surrounded by accomplished pros who are having success. The team is 5-2 and in first place in the NFC East. The Defense is ranked 4th overall in the NFL.

The pressure will be on HaHa not to fuck it up.

Roll Tide

Finally, and most importantly in my mind, is that HaHa Clinton-Dix went to Alabama, and he’s walking into a locker room filled with Alabama players — and especially Alabama defensive players.

Jonathen Allen, Daron Payne, Ryan Anderson and Shan Dion-Hamilton are all young players who take pride in the culture of hard work and discipline they brought with them from Nick Saban’s program to the Washington Redskins. I have no doubt that these younsters — a little closer at this point to the experience of being Crimson Tide players — will be reminding ther older brother HaHa what it is that makes Alabama players special.

The pressure will be on HaHa to live up to expectations.

Final thoughts

I expected Clinton-Dix to be brought slowly into the mix with the Redskins. At least one journalist thinks otherwise.

HaHa Clinton-Dix is undoubtedly a talented player — no one disputes that. However, a lot of Packers fans have felt like he got a bit lost along the way, and forgot what was important, and what was necessary to stay on top.

Going to the Pro Bowl after the 2016 season might have been the worst thing to happen for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s football career.

One of the great mysteries of the 2017 and ’18 Green Bay Packers is what happened with Clinton-Dix. He went from the verge of stardom to an underperforming, discontented player the Packers had no qualms trading to Washington this week for a fourth-round draft pick.

At age 25, Clinton-Dix should have be hitting his peak as an NFL safety, yet he has regressed to the point where the Packers considered the former first-round draft pick part of the problem, not part of the solution, to their defensive issues.

And much of it traces back to Clinton-Dix’s Pro Bowl two years ago. He came away from that honor thinking he was a great player entitled to a huge contract. His work ethic and attention to detail suffered, and his quest to make big plays prevailed at the expense of doing his job.

Anyone who has watched the Packers regularly the last 1½ years has witnessed his incredibly uneven play. Though he intercepted six passes going back to 2017, he also gave up far too many plays by gambling in coverage and missing tackles as the last line of defense.

We’ll have to see how Clinton-Dix’s career goes from here. Maybe this will be the jolt he needed to get back on track and make the Packers regret the deal. But based on what we know to date, Brian Gutekunst, the team’s general manager, did well to get a fourth-round draft pick for him.

The Packers wanted to get rid of HaHa Clinton-Dix. The only way this trade works for Washington is if the player reverts to the successful habits that made him a blue chip prospect, a 2-time BCS National Champion, a consensus All-American, a first-round draft choice, a pro-bowl player and second-team all pro.

Fortunately, like the Adrian Peterson situation where all the stars seemed perfectly aligned, the situation in Washington may be exactly what Clinton-Dix needs.

The Redskins could certainly use a 25-year-old safety with his skills in the prime of his career.

It feels like a marriage made in Heaven. Hopefully it’s not the road to Perdition.

Poll

What do you expect out of HaHa Clinton-Dix as a Redskin?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    With his skills and pedigree, he should very quickly become a starter, and a star on this team
    (224 votes)
  • 56%
    He’ll be a good addition to the defense
    (403 votes)
  • 10%
    I think he’ll underperform because he’ll do exactly what Dougherty said he was doing in Green Bay. He may even cost us a game along the way if he’s freelancing instead of playing assignment football
    (72 votes)
  • 2%
    Bust.
    (18 votes)
717 votes total Vote Now