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Hawk Has Good Reason To Be Upset

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Hawk Has Good Reason To Be Upset

A.J. Hawk apparently let his head coach know that he wasn't thrilled that he didn't get to play in Sunday's game against the Raiders. Mike McCarthy made light of the situation in his press conference yesterday, but for Hawk it is no laughing matter.

Why? Because he's watching a rookie play, and play quite well, in his place. In fact that rookie, D.J. Smith, seems to be improving with every snap he takes. While it's true that Robert Farncois will most likely come off the field when Hawk returns, it can't be denied that Smith is the best linebacker on the bench on this team - and maybe he shouldn't be on the bench.

One of the worries heading into the game against the Giants last week was determining which defenders would be tasked with wearing the defensive headset. Smith has not only taken over Hawk's duties of relaying the defensive calls, the rookie is playing at a high level while doing so. Smith was everywhere on Sunday, leading the team in tackles and making a big play by intercepting Carson Palmer on the Raiders' opening drive.

Big plays have been few and far between for Hawk and his perceived value has been the fact that he gets guys in the right place, makes sure the defense is never too high or low, and is generally assignment-sure. His teammates have credited his steady demeanor for keeping them focused, even after giving up big plays. It's no surprise then that the Packers signed Hawk to a five-year, $33.75 million contract this past offseason. But the more Smith plays, and the better he looks, the harder it will be to keep him off the field, even when Hawk comes back healthy.

The Packers probably waited too long to get Desmond Bishop on the field in favor of previous starter Nick Barnett. Hawk can see how well Smith is playing and certainly doesn't want the rookie giving the coaches any reason to revisit how they waited too long to get Bishop on the field.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (30) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Jersey Al's picture

Three posts in one day? Do you have the day off or are all the bosses out of town?

Loving DJ Smith...

PackersRS's picture

I was actually worried about the ILB depth this offseason...

It appears TT knows what the hell he is doing after all.

Chad Toporski's picture

"It appears TT knows what the hell he is doing after all."

Who would have thunk it?

;-)

Bob's picture

I thought it was McCarthy who wanted to draft Smith.

RockinRodgers's picture

I guess this is a good problem to have. I would assume that Hawk would start next Sunday, but i'm sure the Packers will watching how he plays.

NJ's picture

Call it a hunch but I suspect Hawk will be released in two years and DJ Smith will be a starter.

I know everybody loves the backup, and Smith is still very young and is still making the occasional mental error(s) but has Hawk ever looked as instinctive as this Smith kid? Has he ever shown as much of a nose for the ball? Maybe, but whatever gap exists between the two it's narrow enough that I don't think the D is really missing him.

Perhaps what stands out the most with this Smith guy is I'm consistently noticing him on the field; whether it's sniffing out a screen or quickly wrapping up a player in the middle of the field. The guy looks like a play-maker on a play-making defense.

tonymission's picture

DJ Smith was born to play linebacker.

Jesse Eisinger's picture

Aaron,

You are right: Hawk should worry. As someone remarked "assignment-sure" is to LBs what "game-manager" is to QBs. Hawk has always played the game as if wearing UGG boots; I thought they should have kept Barnett, his injury history notwithstanding. Bring on Smith!

Barnett has 3 sacks, 2 ints and 105 tackles, compared with Hawk's 1.5 sacks, zero INTs and 60 tackles.

http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/4487/nick-barnett

PackersRS's picture

Disagree. Barnett has been burned so many times this season it's not even close. Both in coverage, but specially in run support. I made the case about him even last year, but Barnett is a freelancer that's not as talented as he thinks he is, and that more often than not pays for his overaggressiveness.

Oppy's picture

Barnett:

He's kind of a twat.

Ct Sharpe Cheddar's picture

2 picks agaist the Eagles Vick in that one game

Ken's picture

Good points Aaron, though I'm not sure any frustration comes from fearing DJ Smith is taking his job.

Not sure why shorter ILBs are overlooked. Look at guys like Zach Thomas -- shorter but make a ton of tackles. Isn't that the point?

MadMan's picture

I can understand Hawks' concern but you can't argue against letting him heal a little longer. What a great chance to see what you have in backups and both LB backups have exceeded even my expectations. Maybe this will put a little fire under Hawks' butt to be more aggressive.

Bercovici's picture

I like A.J. but I think our defense will ultimately be better with D.J. Hawk and Bishop is not a great combination at ILB. They're too similar. Neither can really cover. Of the two, Bishop is by far the better blitzer and a more explosive, instinctive player in general. I don't know what Smith's 40 time was, but he certainly looks a lot faster and quicker out there than A.J. Having two lumbering ILBs wasn't that big a problem when we had Nick Collins out there in center field. Now it is.

Wagszilla's picture

Agree about Bishop + Smith combo.

Both instinctive, great tacklers.

Jer's picture

Guess it's time for AJ to step his game up.

NJ's picture

I think Hawk is pretty much a finished product at this point.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Yep, the man is what he is. His ceiling has been achieved.

Stevelknievel's picture

Good post. Smith>Hawk.

Norman's picture

AJ, DJ, BJ, it's all so confusing to me.

On that topic, maybe we'll see more of CJ Wilson? Maybe a trade in the works for EJ Henderson?

And of course the offense has TJ and another DJ.

NoWayJose's picture

"It's no surprise then that the Packers signed Hawk to a five-year, $33.75 million contract this past offseason."

I was surprised. Never liked this contract, never been a huge Hawk fan. I will say this though, he has shown a bit more ability on the pass rush this year than I've seen in the past.

Otherwise, still seems slow and plays weaker than his size should allow.

POOCH's picture

Waa Waa for Hawk,get out there with your 5 million dollar a year contract and kick ass,quit whining for Gods sake,how many sacks does he have on blitzs???

denniseckersly's picture

I desperately want AJ Hawk to excel for the same reason I desperately wanted Ted to grab Brooks Reed this year. The Blonde Ambition Tour > The New York Sack Exchange > The Hogs > The Steel Curtain.

I mean there is nothing more awesome than rolling out a bunch of jacked up barbie dolls to play linebacker.

asshalo's picture

Not going to happen, but I wonder what would happen if they had packages with Hawk and Smith at ILB and put Bishop at OLB.

Otto's picture

I was thinking the same thing about Bishop to OLB. He's quick (1.59 10 yrd split), but not fast (4.73 40 yrd dash). The question really is, can he get consistent pressure on the QB?

Otto's picture

I've been rooting for DJ Smith since the Packers drafted him. Great story: Too short, too light, too slow, too small a college.

Make the most of your shot, kid!

Wagszilla's picture

Aaron - I think your reasoning is solid and well intentioned, but respectfully, I disagree. While McCarthy makes decisions about who is on the field you don't really "lose your job to injury".

If AJ loses his job it's because he lost it Week 1 through Week 12. The urgency and fire he's showing now should have been shown earlier in the season. You're putting yourself in that position by how you perform.

I'll take Tramon Williams' best day over Al Harris'. I'd take Desmond Bishops' best day over Nick Barnetts', etc. At the end of the day, McCarthy is going to play the one that can make the most plays and the organization is going to keep around the best player.

That being said, I think that if DJ Smith learns how to blitz, I'd say Hawk's time in Green Bay is over.

redlights's picture

Unless Hawk stinks up the joint next summer, he'll stay in GB. They'll create packages to get playmakers on the field, but Hawk will have a place. That being said, he may want to re-negotiate his contract like Grant did in August, guarantee'd spot on roster, but lower number. IMHO.

Starry Barts's picture

Do the Packers ever line up in 3-5-3 sets?

AndrewInAtlanta's picture

Just now reading this. Really good article Aaron. I had the Desmond Bishop example in my head after the Raiders game. I'd be concerned too if I was Hawk

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