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Green and Bold: Josh Hawkins Nails His Audition

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Green and Bold: Josh Hawkins Nails His Audition


In the Green Bay Packers' Week 2 preseason bout with Washington, cornerback Josh Hawkins, an undrafted agent in 2016, was thrust into a starting role at cornerback due to injuries to Davon House and Damarious Randall. 

It was a tall order for a player who saw mainly special teams action in 2016, thanks largely to a disastrous lapse in coverage that allowed Detroit's Marvin Jones to score a 73-yard touchdown in Week 3. 

But a new season is a clean slate, and Hawkins took his challenge in stride, putting together an impressive performance against Washington. It was so impressive, in fact, that head coach Mike McCarthy said Hawkins received the highest grade of all the Packers' corners in that game. 

Slotting in as a starting corner meant that Hawkins was facing Washington's first-string offense—including quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight end Vernon Davis, wideout Terrelle Pryor, and running back Robert Kelley—and he shut down a handful of plays meant for them. 

Hawkins was all over tight end Davis, whether he was breaking blocks to bring down running back Kelley or flat-out denying Davis his own receptions. 

He also covered sideline-to-sideline as he prevented running back Chris Thompson from a big gain off a pass from Cousins, earning an appreciative slap on the back from Clay Matthews: 

Image courtesy of NFL GamePass

Image courtesy of NFL GamePass

In all, Hawkins finished his night with three passes defensed (a team-high), including one in the end zone on a touchdown pass meant for Davis, and five tackles.

The Packers have 11 corners on the offseason roster and tend to keep six, sometimes seven (especially if the seventh is a hybrid defensive back) on the final roster.

After Randall, House, Quinten Rollins, and Kevin King, Hawkins is a likely bet to round out the group, especially as LaDarius Gunter's camp hasn't been anything to write home about. (UDFA Lenzy Pipkins, who has put together an excellent preseason, could very well be the sixth.)

At 5'10", 183 pounds, Hawkins doesn't offer the size that some of the other Packers' recent additions to. But his goal is lofty, and it involves another Packers undrafted free agent.

"They were telling me about how Sam Shields came in here as an undrafted rookie and started and played and been a tremendous player," Hawkins said, per ESPN's Rob Demovsky. "Some of the guys, they called me 'Little Sam Shields.' I'm just trying to play like him."

Hawkins needs to learn to walk before he can run. But he's already showing incredible improvement over last year's efforts. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (17) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Lphill's picture

3 passes defended in one game is a big deal because I don't think any Packer corners accomplished that all last season. Let's hope all the Packers corners take s big jump this season and stay healthy .

RCPackerFan's picture

I really like how aggressive and physical Hawkins has played so far this preseason.

The saying is to not get to high or to low on anyone especially in training camp/preseason games. But its not hard to really like what Hawkins did against Washington. The most impressive part to was it was against their starting caliber players. It wasn't against 2-4th string backups.

With the way Hawkins played he has earned a roster spot. Now he needs to earn playing time. Another good game this week he could earn some serious playing time.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Hawkins's long arms let him play like a 6-footer, and his speed lets him be aggressive without terror over getting burned.

This is a valuable young corner with developing skills. Good to see.

JDK52's picture

Totally agree, and he really does have some Sam Shields in him. The recovery speed and ability to stick his hand in to defend a pass is a very welcome sight.

dobber's picture

He's potentially a good 4th/5th CB. With the depth and versatility the Packers have at S, he shouldn't see the field much except for ST, but another year practicing with the team and another off-season, and maybe he moves up next year.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Probably, but with the fact he has outplayed some higher ranked CB's, I wouldn't be surprised to see him getting a fair number of defensive snaps this season.

After all, performance has to matter at some point.

Finwiz's picture

Well I clearly saw Hawkins had the best game of all CB's, as indicated in the game day chat. I'm so excited the coach agreed with me. LOL - I guess he knows something about defensive football after all. That being said, 5' 10" CB's have a big uphill battle to make it in this days NFL. Not to mention it's probable he'll get run over by some "beast-mode" type in run support and end up in the concussion protocol for 3-4 weeks. (channel Sam Shields) Seems like we've seen this movie before.
But heh, you can run him out there until he gets his "bell rung" a few times, and he's better than Gunter. Maybe that buys you 2-4 games before he staggers to the sidelines with the predictable head trauma. (sorry - can't help the sarcasm)

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Don't write his epitaph just yet. He has long arms, is built like a rock, and from what I saw at camp, he's the stickiest cover man on the team.

Kid is green, but he can play.

dobber's picture

Yep. There are quite a few good 5'10" CBs out there.

WKUPackFan's picture

Those game day chats always contain the most intelligent analysis.

Packer Fan's picture

This is a good thing. Great to see a second year CB take a step forward. House and King are shoe-ins. Rollins and Hawkins seem to be making statements for alot of playing time. Randall will be there. But from all of the press, he is not doing as well as hoped. I rather have an ascending Pipkens than a slow Gunter. I bet there will be five safeties kept. From what is said, the Pack needs to have Jones playing on the field. Either 6th DB or slot.

baldski's picture

Great to see him play well. We'll need it since our pass rush is non-existent.

Since '61's picture

If Hawkins continues to impress and I hope he does, I would start House (if fully recovered), and King on the edge with Rollins in the slot. Hawkins would be my first backup on the edge with Randall (when recovered) the backup slot CB. Pipkins would be my 6th CB. Put a 7th CB on the PS and we're good. 6DLs, 7 LBs, 6 CBs, and 5 safeties. 24 defenders would mean that we could keep an additional WR, RB or a 3rd QB (Hill) on the 53. 2 preseason games to go. Let's see what happens. Thanks, Since '61

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I like that, though I might start Hawkins over King early on--that stupid college rule really set King back.

Another option is starting Rollins outside and Randall in the slot.

Bottom line: I sure like this group more than last year's. And you're spot on with dropping Gunter. He's a gamer, but he's just too limited athletically to keep up with this group.

Fordham Ram's picture

Randall I think will still be out. If Hawkins can come up with a repeat performance against the starters in this next preseason game, will he surpass Randall on the depth chart. The best treatment for a concussion is time. With Randall sitting out will this give Hawkins enough tape to show that he really may be little Sam Shields, a repeat performance with an interception sprinkled in would certainly start to turn heads.

flackcatcher's picture

Well, in this league you can never have enough quality DB. And Hawkins improvement has been noticeable. For a young player who's footwork was crude at best, the improvement is dramatic. Now Hawkins need to show that he is assignment sure like Gunter, and can play in multiple slots like Gunter. That probability is not too high right now. But god given talent like Hawkins does not come along too often. If he can stay 'football healthy' he should see the field.(Depending if he doesn't annoy Joe Whitt again:) Nice article Michelle.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I think Hawkins has firmly supplanted Gunter in the depth chart. It isn't close.

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