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Now Begins the Real Challenge for Josh Hawkins

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Now Begins the Real Challenge for Josh Hawkins

Every year post-draft, Packers general manager Ted Thompson rounds up a cluster of undraftees to tack onto the expanding roster. His hopes are to find the next hidden gem who didn't hear his name called through the seven rounds of the NFL Draft.

The names of the lucky 20 or so players over the years include current safety and special teams standout, Chris Banjo, backup guard Lane Taylor and backup tackle Don Barclay. John Crockett, Jayrone Elliot and Mike Pennel among others.

Gamebreakers? Not exactly. But every so often, you stumble across a player such as Sam Shields. Shields, a cornerback who was part of the Packers' 2010 UDFA wrap-ups, helped make a household name of himself just nine months later in the Super Bowl run.

In 2016, one of the UDFAs bares a striking resemblance to Shields in his younger days in more ways than one.

Josh Hawkins so far has the measurables and the physicality to play a domineering role in guarding the opposing team's best receiver. Coming to East Carolina as a walk-on, Hawkins eventually progressed his way from a third-stringer to manning down the outside receiver. 

NFL Media draft expert Chad Reuter spoke highly of the undersized corner.

"His five interceptions and 11 pass breakups showed off his outstanding athleticism and tenacity in coverage (even if he gives up size and strength to larger receivers), but Hawkins' toughness also shows in his ability to play the run."

It helps Hawkins (5'10", 189 lbs) that he had a similar showing at his Pro Day in comparison to Shields' (5'11", 184 lbs) in 2010.  Both clocked in with a 4.3 40-yard dash, with a slight nine-hundredths of a second advantage to Shields who played wide receiver before being transitioned to a full-time cornerback. Hawkins takes the edge with a 40.5-inch vertical jump while Shields rests not far behind at 39 inches - a smaller corner's bread and butter. 

Although Pro Day numbers don't mean a thing when making a leap to the NFL and churning your way through a professional training camp, beating out other UDFA hopefuls for a roster spot and getting accustomed to the big leagues. But for Hawkins, having a cornerbacks unit mentored by a former undraftee-turned-veteran in Shields must provide a source of motivation.

Unfortunately, there isn't all praise for Hawkins. 

Like Shields, who presumably fell in his draft class due to a misdemeanor drug charge, Hawkins struggled with his own focus and personal demons at ECU.

Late in a loss against Southern Florida, Hawkins blatantly shoved a shoulder into Bulls running back Marlon Mack after he had already stepped clear out of bounds. Ultimately netting USF an extra 15 yards, a first down and another opportunity to milk more time from the clock that was already deteriorating. 

Ruffin McNeill, ECU's head coach, knew without that unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on the senior corner, the Pirates would have a chance to cut the 22-17 deficit and win the game.

"We knew we'd have enough time," said McNeill postgame. "We did the math. If we don't get the unsportsmanlike penalty - which is inexcusable there to give them more time - then we have time to make the long drive."

While Hawkins showed the occasional expertise you'd expect from a senior cornerback, there's also been times where he's given up big pass plays at inappropriate times. A factor that plays into his temperament and that inconsistent focus.

ECU defensive coordinator Rick Smith knew this and didn't hold back when speaking on the topic prior to Hawkins' final game - a game where Hawkins was denied the start for the second week in a row.

"Josh is a great kid, I love him to death. When he's focused, he's as good as I've coached. But for three years he's been up-and-down with the focus, and he's one of those kids you have to keep your thumb on him."

Keeping a "thumb on him" should be no problem for Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, whose unit has registered a 78.7 opponent passer rating since he took over in 2009 - an NFL best.

Despite the culminating weeks of his tenure at ECU not ending exactly the way he had planned, Hawkins spared no grief and no pity when speaking of his time at the school. 

"It's been a great journey, an awesome journey coming from being a walk-on to a scholarship player. Experiencing that, experiencing Division I football was just amazing to me. It's always been a blessing to be here. I could be somewhere else, but I'm just blessed to be where I'm at. I never asked for anything more from the Lord. I'm happy that I had the years that I did have and that I was able to play football here."

The next journey is just beginning for the former Pirate, and he'll have quite a road to tread in making the roster. With Demetri Goodson showing an excessive lack of skill and a four-game suspension looming to open up the 2016 season, the time couldn't be better for Hawkins. 

__________________________

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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (43) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

You mean 9 one-hundredths, not 9 tenths. Shields ran a 4.30 and Hawkins ran a 4.39 forty yard dash. Nine tenths more than Shields would put Hawkins in OL territory for the forty yard dash.

The big difference is in the 3 cone: Shields ran a 6.79 and Hawkins ran a very unimpressive 7.22.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

Whoops. Dumb mistake on my end. Thanks.

Hematite's picture

I don't have much faith in this guy making the 53.
Perhaps practice squad material.
At least he's getting a shot.

Ferrari Driver's picture

Looks like a "real" long shot to me.

He better be an "off the charts" special teamer.

lucky953's picture

Very similar player to Makinton Dorleant, udfa from Northern Iowa (5'101/2' 185 lbs, 4.39, 39" vertical). Did anything stand out from either player during OTAs?

The TKstinator's picture

@Zachary: "Goodson showing an excessive lack of skill" LOL!

ray nichkee's picture

Huber points to the loss of Nelson in that article. I will not fault anyone for the lack of production but say the offense sucked as a whole. I don't see how the article backs up your cowshit comments. All it does is back up our opinion that you are an ass.

Spud Rapids's picture

All the article you posted did was point out his stats on 3rd down... it doesn't tell the entire story of whether he was pressured right out of the gates or receivers didn't get open. What is your basis for the arrow pointing down, one season? That's ridiculous because 2014 he was league MVP... get off your horse of "what have you done for me lately."

ray nichkee's picture

What does your dumb ass antagonistic comment have to do with this article anyways?

Bedrock's picture

I get Rodgers wasn't at his best. But what is exactly your point, Cow? Is GB supposed to get a better QB? Who? Put a name out there, Cow, that GB can legitimately get, right now. Let's stack their stats and try to compare apples to oranges. We'll use your logic...other QBs have not played in GB with these players. Rodgers has not played for other teams. You're suggesting an apples/oranges argument. Hot air.

Bedrock's picture

Why wouldn't the blame go on Rodgers? Hasn't he said he needed to play better? I remember many throws during the season thinking "that's a throw he usually makes" and "man, he seems off".

But as much as he's to blame for "wrecking the entire season," I'm giving him credit for entertaining me tremendously throughout it all.

Do yourself a favor and don't take the game so seriously. There are more important things in life.

Nick Perry's picture

I don't know Cow, you have to take what Huber says with a grain of salt. I subscribed to that site for about 4 years and finally stopped because most of the pieces are done in a one minute video's. In that article I thing it also points out in 2015 Lacy averaged 1.5 YPC and in 2014 he averaged 2.9 YPC on 3rd down carries, that's a huge difference. You also aren't accounting for all the drops.

I don't think anyone disputes Rodgers wasn't himself and if he does it this year again then I may tend to side with you a little. But to more less say the guy is a "BUM" a season after a MVP in 2014 is what is referred to as a reach, a big ass reach!

I will agree with you on a point in another comment, LESS Golf, LESS Red Carpets, and LESS Hollywood.

Spud Rapids's picture

What Rodgers can't have a life? For god sakes Manning did SNL and no one beat him up over it. You, Cow or I have no idea how hard he works or doesn't but do you think he got to be a 2 time MVP based on talent alone? You sound like Skip Bayless....

4thand1's picture

You don't know shit. This is nothing but speculation. When he totally rips it up this year you'll be eating your usual serving of crow and welching as always.

Spud Rapids's picture

What could possibly suggest is fire might be out? If his fire was out he wouldn't have battled back to make a game of it with Carolina he would have quit. Same with Detroit, same with the playoff loss.

Spud Rapids's picture

Thank you for conveniently pointing out "offseason" after the fact.... however, I still don't understand "getting ready doesn't seem to be priority #1 anymore." What is your basis for this? Do you know his daily routine? I just think it's unwarranted and unfair for you to throw that out there without any substantial support.

Looks like Brady has lost the fire too: http://nesn.com/2016/02/tom-brady-doing-some-skiing-as-part-of-his-offse...

As for the offense being pathetic those games it has nothing to do with my point of despite the awful start he battled back to get the Packers in position to have a chance to win.

Amanofthenorth's picture

Cow plays cheesehead tv like a fiddle

4thand1's picture

Oh yeah, he gets off on this. We all know it but WTF else is there to talk about. He sucks and loves it lmao.

Lphill's picture

So according to Cow , all the injuries to the receivers and a fat Eddy Lacy had no effect on the offense last year ?

ray nichkee's picture

Quit dropping your cowpies. Nobody said Rodgers is not at fault. Starks fumbled at the worst times, lacy was out of shape the TE group was not that impressive, the OL was playing with crutches, the WRs were horrible at getting open and were banged up, and FB was basically nonexistant. Yes Rodgers had a subpar season but to say he's done playing at a high level is cowshit. Give it up. You're always wrong when you talk shit. I don't believe that you believe what you post. You're just here to be an ass.

4thand1's picture

AAwwww, he's just shooting for 20k

Spud Rapids's picture

Cow you have repeatedly said that every receiver on the roster is marginal at best outside of Nelson. So which is it? You can't run around on this thread and bash Rodgers and blame only him then go to another post and break down how bad the receivers are.

4thand1's picture

If I had to take one of these guys to replace AR right now, it would be Newton. The only reason why is because he's young and improving. But as all Qb's who run a lot, there careers are short. So I'll stick with the best for now, AR. Newton didn't fair any better against that Denver D than any other QB. By the way, like the Bears............YOU STILL SUCK!

Spud Rapids's picture

That's your comeback? that's all you got?

Rodgers was 10-6 last year... this wonderful list you put together has only 2 QB's who had a better record than Rodgers... Newton and Brady. So I don't know what your point, Rodgers had put more wins up than most of these guys so what is your expectations for doing more? Not to mention only Brady, Wilson, and Newton won a playoff game like Rodgers.

Brees Record: 7-9
Rivers Record: 4-12
Brady Record: 12-4
Tannehill Record: 6-10
Cousins Record: 9-7
Winston Records: 6-10
Wilson Record: 10-6
Carr Record: 7-9
Newton Record: 15-1

Curry Rambeau's picture

Yawn.

al bundy's picture

Wow another 5'10 guy who is probably closer to 5'9. Whoppee!

Curry Rambeau's picture

Exactly.

dobber's picture

Perfect to defend all those 6'1" WR who are probably closer to 5'11"...

ES 1957's picture

Oh yes Mr Cow, it's completely hopeless. We all should've written the Packers off forever at the mid-point of 2009. They were 4-4 and had lost twice to the Favre-led Vikings (your team right?) The Packers have only won 70 percent of their regular season games since then and 7 of 13 playoff games. Only New England has a solid case to say they're better and only Denver and Seattle have an argument. But now the whole league has discovered Rodgers Achilles heel (press coverage) so we obviously have no reason to believe that any of this should continue. It just sucks to be a Packer fan. But idiots like me just continue to like our chances.

ES 1957's picture

if I was what you represent yourself to be... A diehard Packer fan... And I had as negative an attitude as you do about my consistently competitive and at times elite team... I'd be tempted to just jump off the Frigo Bridge. But for some reason I get the feeling you'd prefer to stay under it.

Dustin Evans's picture

Could any other quarterback in the league have made those hail mary throw. Maybe big Ben but still doubt it. Arron arm talent is out of this world. He needs to practice his fundamental and not rely on just his arm strength. Which I'm sure he knows and is working on fixing it. This season is a rebirth year baby!! Arron's gonna have one of his best seasons ever if he doesn't get injured.

dobber's picture

""Could any other quarterback in the league have made those hail mary throw(s)?"

Um... every single qb in the NFL (starter and non starter) can throw the ball that far. Those aren't skill plays. Those are luck."

NOW you're just being antagonistic. That hail mary ball in Detroit was a phenomenal throw, not just in terms of distance, but also in terms of trajectory and touch. Maybe a handful of the QBs in the league could make that throw...not Brady and definitely not Wilson.

dobber's picture

To quote the Cow...You're kidding yourself.

NOT every QB in the league has a 70-yard arm...not every starter and certainly not every backup.

Now look at that throw, the one you said they can all make. Why don't they? Why don't they throw balls that drop 3 yards deep in the endzone? Why don't they put air under them so they drop out of the sky and give their WR a chance to high-point? Why DO they hem their WR against the end line and throw a ball so flat that many just get knocked down?

dobber's picture

I stand by what I said: there's maybe a handful of NFL QBs, if even that, who could have made that throw.

Go back to the video and watch that play. Watch it over and over again. Just because it's called a "hail Mary" doesn't mean that there's no skill involved, no roles for the WR to make room for each other to catch the ball, no need to throw a specific kind of pass to give that play a reasonable chance at success. If you're so dead set that there was no skill in how he put that ball where he put it, then there's no reason for this discussion to move forward.

(For the record, I didn't dislike your post)

marpag1's picture

To me, the throw against Arizona was the more difficult by far.

Against Detroit he had escaped the pocket, didn't have a lot of pressure at the time of the throw and got a good running start at it. I think there are plenty of QBs who could have gotten the ball to the end zone, although probably not many could have gotten that kind of trajectory... and that's important.

The Arizona throw, on the other hand, was thrown falling away with a dude pretty much right in his face. I don't think many NFL QBs would have made that throw nearly as well.

Cow is right that a good number of fans are "brainwashed" ... he just doesn't realize that he is one of them. The only difference is that some fans are wired to the positive (Rodgers can do no wrong), and some fans are wired to the negative like Cow (We can never win again with Rodgers). But sensible people know that Cow is overstating to the negative side every bit as much as the fanboys are overstating to the positive side.

croatpackfan's picture

I have one HOF QB who can not throw longer than 40 yards - Peyton Manning!

Tundraboy's picture

Exactly. The trajectory and touch was otherwordly. The only luck was RRodgers being the only one in position to catch it.

ray nichkee's picture

Cow, you are simply out of line, even by your own standards. Admit it, apologize, or go away.

holmesmd's picture

Dude, that's complete BS and you know it! Lol. Bridgewater couldn't have thrown the ball half that far. Please don't even mention back ups and most other starters. Now you just sound silly.

PETER MAIZ's picture

No chance for this guy. He's just a camp body. He can't focus and we have cornerbacks already.

dobber's picture

I tend to agree...maybe he shows something and ends up on the PS.

But when I read this article, you can almost generalize it out to any UDFA trying to make an NFL roster and what they're facing, where they've come from. They've had some success but have some warts that left them undrafted.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

Yep.

Icebowler's picture

Goodson would probably have been better off financially, playing basketball in Europe somewhere.

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