A.J. Hawk's disappointing performance this past season is an enigma and one that Packer fans have been debating for the past few months. Were Hawks' injuries to blame for his noticeable slip? Did the move to the middle linebacker spot throw him? What exactly happened? Because it was clear to anyone and everyone that his play took a major nosedive.
Pete Dougherty's piece looks to the new defensive scheme and Hawk's place in it for his revitalization. It's a great idea and every Packer fan hopes it comes to fruition, but the real problem Hawk has won't be so easily solved. There's a reason Ted Thompson loved Hawk coming out of college. Mainly, he reminded him of himself with a boatload more talent. Hawk was assignment sure, all about the team, and he ate, slept and breathed football. And while this is all great, it's the 'assignment sure' part that is Hawk's main problem. He seems almost incapable of playing with abandon. And no, this isn't a technical critique, obviously. It's purely observational.
Hawk needs to get pissed.
Throughout his three years in the league, Hawk has been everything a coach could ask for when it comes to the mental aspect of the game. But Hawk needs to find a way to let out his aggression, especially now that he won't have two defensive tackles protecting him from bull-rushing offensive guards. We've all seen how Hawk dances and then latches onto blockers whenever he rushes the passer. He is simply horrible when trying to get off blocks but that's something he's going to need to figure out in this new system. I honestly think he needs to find his inner rage when confronted, as he inevitably will be, with lineman in his face. He's already undersized for the position he's being asked to transition into. He needs to look to the best in the business like Ray Lewis and James Harrison for their harnessing of raw emotion and channeling it onto the football field. Do I expect Hawk to become and dancing-in-his-intro extrovert overnight? Hardly. But I do think it's something that he can consciously address. He won't become the type of player the team and fans thought they were getting back in 2006 until he does.
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