"Forgotten Man" Josh Hawkins Primed to Contribute

Packers' second-year cornerback Josh Hawkins made the 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie. His odds are better in 2017, but he's not out of the woods yet.

Josh Hawkins' feet planted into the synthetic turf at Lambeau Field, just milliseconds before Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford snapped the ball.

His target, Marvin Jones, was matched up opposite the undrafted free agent Hawkins. It's probably the reason Stafford immediately looked his way along the right perimeter.

Hawkins failed to track the ball, lost his footing and briefly stumbled; had he avoided this, he likely would've been able to contest the pass. Instead, Jones made an easy catch and Hawkins missed the ensuing tackle. The result: a 73-yard touchdown with 32 seconds left in the first half of the week three home opener in Green Bay.

It didn't do much for the Lions, as they were then down 31-10 as opposed to 31-3. However, that singular play stood out above all else for a player such as Hawkins, and not because he got beat for the touchdown.

It was the last time he'd see the field on defense for over two months.

Hawkins was the forgotten man amongst the Packers cornerbacks. A group that was decimated on a weekly basis with injuries, including the mid-October groin surgery for starter Damarious Randall. It not only slowed an already weakened group down in terms of stability throughout the season—leaving them with a 31st-ranked pass defense by January—but it also made many question the sudden disappearance of Hawkins.

Like rookie wide receiver Trevor Davis, who muffed a punt against the Titans in week 10 and didn't return a single kick or punt for the rest of the season, it would almost leave one to assume that rookies—especially undrafted ones—have a much smaller margin for error. It could be why the Packers shelved Hawkins until their 12 matchup with the Eagles on Monday Night Football.

That game in Philadelphia would be the first time Hawkins recorded a single tackle in his limited action all season. He followed up that small, promising glimpse into his athletic arsenal with two more tackles the next week and two more the week after that.

As tumultuous of a season as it was for the Packers' secondary, Hawkins never fully earned the opportunity to be a "savior," nor did he exactly seize the chance when he was given those opportunities. It's just what you'd expect from an undrafted cornerback.

Quinten Rollins (right) works on Josh Hawkins (left) during Packers OTAs. (Photo: Mark Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports)

There's hope for Hawkins. He joins a previous long-running line of serviceable undrafted corners in Green Bay and holds similar measurables to Sam Shields, one of the aforementioned undraftees to suit up under cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr.

Despite his porous regular season resume, his pre-season one isn't disappointing by any means. In fact, it's a major attribution to him making the final 53-man roster last September. He recorded four tackles in three games along with two interceptions.

"I'm actually pleased with what I put out there; I'm pleased with my resume," Hawkins said after the Packers' 17-7 loss to the Chiefs in their final pre-season game. "I just need to better myself on special teams."

Hawkins improved enough on special teams to play for 20.8 percent of the special teams' snaps in 2016. His 8 defensive snaps stood pale in comparison to his 92 served under Ron Zook, his special teams coach.

"I'm just beyond blessed to have this opportunity because there's honestly a certain percentage of guys who get this opportunity and I'm one of those guys," Hawkins said. "I'm just beyond blessed to be in a locker room with these guys, with a whole bunch of legends. I'm just going to wait around and see what God has in store for me."

Almost a year later and Hawkins seems like a dark horse candidate to crack the Packers' final roster once again. The only downside is that all speculation in June is just that: speculation. He'll still need to compete to earn his job—which is all but solidified—just like the four undrafted rookie corners currently stowed away on the team's roster.

Despite the accolades that come with being one of the 53 men named to the Packers' roster in September, Hawkins' demeanor remains the same. His daily tweet, which reads "Beyond blessed to be able to see another day," even serves as a testament to his humble, grateful character.

His greatest blessing, however, would seemingly be to continue serving in Green Bay and making his case for more snaps.

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (15)

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

June 27, 2017 at 09:49 pm

I really hope this guy makes the team. He's got wheels, determination, work ethic, and a gratefulness borne of understanding his situation. Pure class, all the way.

Another great article. Hawkins could be just the athlete we need as a 3rd outside CB.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

June 27, 2017 at 10:28 pm

Hey, he did it once, who's to say he can't do it again?
As always, thanks for reading, Andrew.

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ejr450's picture

June 28, 2017 at 05:04 am

I totally agree Andrew. I wanted to see him more last year - because really it wasn't going to be worse - and I hope he makes some noise again in the preseason this year. Perhaps I drink too much of Zach's Kool-Aid but I like the potential with this young man and I am glad to see he's got the right attitude to go with the athleticism evident in his testing numbers. Another one to watch in a month...

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

June 28, 2017 at 11:02 am

I think this is the third piece I've written on Hawkins. We should have a damn Kool-Aid water fountain by now.

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Lphill's picture

June 28, 2017 at 06:29 am

We are expecting miracles from another undrafted , under sized corner ? I think he is on the cut list.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

June 28, 2017 at 11:04 am

And I quote a comment I received on the piece I wrote on Hawkins 370 days ago: "Wow another 5'10 guy who is probably closer to 5'9. Whoppee!"

Not expecting miracles. Just sticking to my guns and believing Hawkins can be a contributor in the near future.

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nostradanus's picture

June 28, 2017 at 07:17 am

Hawkins is a fast and aggressive "ballhawk", he will always be prone to giving up the big play, however, he will also make a few big plays i am sure. Tackling and special teams will be key for this young and talented player. A lot can happen from training camp until the regular season, lets see how it plays out, I give him a 50/50 shot at a roster spot. How's that for going out on a limb with a super safe prediction :)
NostrDANus

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marpag1's picture

June 28, 2017 at 08:37 am

"Tackling and special teams will be key"

He certainly didn't distinguish himself last year as a special teamer. Nineteen Packer players logged more ST snaps than Hawkins did (92).

And as bad as the pass defense was, the Packers refused to put Hawkins on the field until they almost literally had no other choice. He logged EIGHT snaps. No other defender played as few snaps from scrimmage as Hawkins (except Jordan Tripp, Makinton Dorleant, Chris Bango and Jermaine Whitehead, none of which spent more than a few weeks on the roster).

Maybe there's a reason why Hawkins is "the forgotten man."

I agree that he's borderline, at best, to make the roster. I think what people love is his 40 time. I don't know how anyone can love his performance or production, since there really isn't any.

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Handsback's picture

June 28, 2017 at 07:23 am

I'm not a coach, but have to wonder how good the Hawk is if he couldn't beat out Gunter?

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

June 28, 2017 at 11:06 am

Gunter already had the edge over Hawkins with that extra year under his belt. I don't care who you are, that already put Hawkins at an odds for playing time. And when he did get that playing time, he whiffed. I'm expecting a little more of a sample size, hopefully.

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 28, 2017 at 07:55 am

I'm looking forward to seeing if and how big of a step Hawkins takes. If he takes a step in year 2 he definitely will be in the mix at CB.

Hawkins has really good ball skills. He impressed me last preseason. He is a guy that could take a big step with a full offseason. To be fair he is a player that could be cut from the 53 though too.

I am looking forward to seeing how Hawkins looks this year.

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Razer's picture

June 28, 2017 at 08:46 am

Packers draft King in first round and bring back Davon House. Randall and Rollins recover from health issues and maybe show up. Gunter given many opportunities at key secondary positions. Even Herb Waters is being praised by coaches. If Zach doesn't write about Hawkins, few will even consider him for a role in the secondary. He better be good on special teams.

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marpag1's picture

June 28, 2017 at 08:51 am

"He better be good on special teams."

He isn't.

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JDK52's picture

June 28, 2017 at 09:14 am

Let's slow down with the comparisons to shields. Yes, some of Hawkins' measureables are similar, but two very key ones are significantly different. Shields had Elite speed and excellent short-area quickness & agility. Hawkins has good speed and average short-area quickness & agility.

It's easy to look at a sub 4.40 s 40-yard time and say "wow, this guy runs like Shields", but I think that's incorrect. Shields was the fastest guy on the team, bar none, the entire time he was here. In fact he was often the fastest guy on the field in any given game.

If Hawkins can perfect trail technique and use his good vertical leap and ball skills to contest passes, he can be good. But we should stop comparing him to Shields.

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penorton's picture

June 28, 2017 at 05:33 pm

I was thinking the same thing after looking at the stats in the link. The difference between Shields and Hawkins is 0.09 seconds. This may not seem like a lot but there are a number of people that say Gunter is too slow to play pro football at 4.65 which is 0.35 slower than Shields. That 0.09 is about 25% of the difference.

I have nothing against Hawkins and I'm not saying he isn't fast or fast enough. It just seems like a real difference to me.

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