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Hawkins Hoping to Be the Ball-Hawk the Packers Need

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Hawkins Hoping to Be the Ball-Hawk the Packers Need

Of all the plays made by the Packers' second-year undrafted cornerback Josh Hawkins Saturday night against the Redskins, one, in particular, stood out and set his tone for the rest of the game.

It was as early as the Redskins' first offensive possession. Tight end Vernon Davis, whose familiarity with the Packers is no secret, was positioned in the slot. Hawkins staring him down from a yard away: Davis was his assignment.

On a wheel, Davis beat Hawkins to the end zone and Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins likely thought he had a red zone touchdown. It wasn't until Hawkins quickly recovered and used his 31-5/8" reach to disrupt the process of Davis' catch, resulting in an incompletion.

Josh Hawkins (28) breaks up a pass intended for Redskins tight end Vernon Davis (85). (Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)

It meant about as much as a pass breakup in a week two exhibition game could, but to Hawkins, it was just the beginning of what would be an important night in terms of him possibly securing an early spot on the Packers' 53-man roster.

Hawkins didn't have much to say about it after the game. In fact, it was just the usual sportsmanlike roundabout. "It was just a good-thrown ball. He got a good release on me and I just batted the ball down." 

A "good play," he called it. And a "good play," it was.

Hawkins entered the game as one of the three starting cornerbacks alongside rookie Kevin King and the third-year Quinten Rollins, and all three of which contributed in their own special way en route to the Packers' best defensive performance in what has so far been a short preseason.

Still, it's a big stepping stone for a defense who was responsible for six of the Packers' 12 total inactives Saturday night. You can add safety Jermaine Whitehead (hip), cornerback LaDarius Gunter (concussion) and linebackers Jordan Tripp (concussion) and Derrick Matthews (concussion) to those six wounded players as well after suffering injuries during the game.

The Packers were also going up against the Redskins' first-teamers with their own first and second-team squad for the entire first half.

By the end of the night, it would be Hawkins who led the team in both tackles (7) and pass deflections (3). Thrown into the fire against a team who shredded the Packers' secondary in their meeting a season ago, sure, but Hawkins and co. prevailed.

"As a whole, the defense looked pretty good," Hawkins said. "Of course, there are still some things that you can do better and we're definitely going to do that in practice this week to prepare for this game coming up."

Hawkins is playing with confidence this August. Whether he found that through learning from his own deficiencies a season ago or through the work he's put in over the offseason, it's beginning to remind many that the Packers have a skill set worth developing in the former East Carolina Pirate.

Perhaps the fire of motivation was lit within Hawkins when seemingly week-by-week in 2016, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. would enter games with a list of his starting group, only for Hawkins to find himself at the bottom of each of those lists. Likely due to the slip-up he had guarding Lions receiver Marvin Jones in the Packers' home opener.

"I just try to keep working to get towards the top, but I was blessed to make the 53 and do a lot on special teams. Some of the guys were saying 'they're throwing you in the fire early,' because a lot of secondary guys went down and then I was playing a lot of special teams. So I moved up the charts kind of quick.

"I'm just trying to feed off a little bit from last year to make this year an even better year for me."

Hawkins cited the extra work he did with his trainer over the offseason, including running through two-a-days. The work he's put into making a jump in his second season is undeniable, even to head coach Mike McCarthy.

If his numbers this preseason don't stand out, Hawkins had the highest grade of the Packers' cornerbacks against the Redskins according to McCarthy. Apparently, the film doesn't lie either.

While it would take a lot for Hawkins to see the field in the secondary this season—presumably something similar to the injury bug that reared its ugly head in during the 2016 season—his contributions on special teams would be just enough to help him avoid being one of the team's 37 cut-downs between now and September 2nd.

Even despite his impressive performance the last two weeks, a roster spot won't be handed to Hawkins on a silver platter based off of numbers on a stat sheet or the fact that he made the 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie last year. 

Players such as Raysean Pringle and Donatello Brown are also hoping to make their case, Pringle even more so as of late.

Hawkins will likely be tested again next Saturday against the Broncos. How he follows up his strong outing in Washington could likely be the deciding factor in whether the Packers want to move forward with this developmental piece or cast him off when the time comes.

Talk is talk, but now it's time for Hawkins to truly show that the aforementioned work he's stressed over the offseason can make an appearance consistently in live-game action. Consistency will get you far in Green Bay.

"I just tightened up some screws that needed to be tightened up from last year, just bettering myself as a person, trying to be consistent so these guys can trust me. So these veterans can trust me and Dom [Capers] and Joe Whitt can trust me out there with the ones.

"Hopefully, I've proven that and they just want to see if I can do it again."

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (10) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Kevin Ven's picture

Gunter did not have a concussion. He was cleared

Zachary Jacobson's picture

I know. Only Tripp/Matthews tested positive. But that was why Gunter left the game.

The TKstinator's picture

Tony Mandarich never tested positive either.
But he did contract some odd illness from drinking water out of a river while hunting in Canada once.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

#themoreyouknow

Tundraboy's picture

Ah Mandarich, what a perfect example of not only a wasted pick but also a perfect example of failed expectations and complete disappointment. Without the roids he turned into the Pillsbury Doughboy. Wonder what shape he is in now?

RCPackerFan's picture

Hawkins really played well Saturday night.

The part that kind of surprised me was his physical play. He came up with some hard hits and had some great timing hits to knock balls away.

Hawkins play Saturday night pretty much makes him a lock for the 53. And honestly if he continues to play that way, he will be earning some serious playing time.

The thing I still don't get with him, is why after he missed a tackle on Jones, did he not get anymore playing time? When they were desperate for CB's they never used him.
Perhaps that served as motivation for him this year and in then end could be one of the biggest things that helped him become a better player. But it still makes me question why.

Since '61's picture

It's only preseason but I would prefer to keep Hawkins as our 5th CB after House, King, Rollins and Randall than go with Gunther again. Hawkins just brings more natural talent to the position than Gunther. His speed and his footwork are much better. Let's see how well Hawkins plays over the next 2 preseason games. Thanks, Since '61

PatrickGB's picture

It's still early but right now Hawkins looks to be better than Randal. Others have often reminded me that Randal has been playing hurt last year yet I think it's more than that. It's great to have UDFAs play well yet sad when high draft picks do not.

L's picture

Hawkins has been someone who I've been rooting for since last year's OTAs. Happy to see him coming along and making more of a name for himself finally. I hope he makes the 53 over someone like Gunter, but of course that depends on him building on the performance he gave Saturday.

donnyanderson44's picture

If Randall doesn't bounce back soon I could see this kid supplanting him. His tackling must improve or else.

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