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yooperfan  
#1 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 9:16:55 AM(UTC)
Ordered to take off
Packers want Hawk to raise his game
By Greg A. Bedard of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Dec. 10, 2008

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Photo/Mark Hoffman
A.J. Hawk stops Houston running back Steve Slaton on Sunday. The linebacker finished with five tackles, two solo.
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Photo/Mark Hoffman
A.J. Hawk stops Houston running back Steve Slaton on Sunday. The linebacker finished with five tackles, two solo.
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Linebacker:

The comparison - inevitable.

In his first career start at weakside linebacker on Sunday against the Houston Texans, Desmond Bishop had a team-high 11 tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss on a third-and-1 play and forced a fumble at the goal line.

For Bishop, a former sixth-round draft choice in his second year with the Green Bay Packers, it was a career game.

Unfortunately for A.J. Hawk, it brought his career into question.

If Bishop can do that in one start, why hasn't Hawk - the fifth overall pick in 2006 - been able to do the same?

The coaches seem to be asking themselves the same thing.

"That's a legitimate question," linebackers coach Winston Moss said on Monday. "I think in just one game, Desmond was very impactful."

When asked specifically how that relates to Hawk, Moss, in effect, called out Hawk.

"A.J. needs to get going," Moss said.

"We need to get some more production out of him. I think his talent-level and the position that he's in right now, we can expect more, we're demanding more."

On Wednesday, Hawk did not disagree with his position coach.

"Yeah, obviously I would have loved to make more impact plays and do things like that," Hawk said. "So, yeah, I agree with him saying that. I think, obviously, if I started having some impact plays personally in this defense, we can start to turn it around and get this thing going in the right direction."

In his three-year career, Hawk has made 45 starts. His last four have come at middle linebacker, since Nick Barnett went down with a season-ending knee injury.

In 41 starts at weakside linebacker, Hawk has had six games that were on par with Bishop's performance in terms of a variety of impact plays - those that stop drives, put the opposing team in tough down and distances, or produce turnovers.

Curiously, Hawk's big games have dwindled as he gets more entrenched in the Packers' defense. Hawk had three standout performances as a rookie: at Miami, at Minnesota and at San Francisco. He also led or tied the team in total tackles in three other games.

In 2007, Hawk had two big games: at Kansas City (seven tackles, interception and two passes defensed) and at Dallas (14 tackles, two for a loss).

This season, as Hawk missed the better part of two games with a groin injury and has switched positions, only against Detroit (first career two-sack game, seven tackles and two pressures) has he had an impact on defense.

Hawk, who has posted five or less total tackles in three of his past five games, including Sunday's five-tackle performance, said he's at a loss to explain his lack of production.

"I wish I knew, believe me. I have no idea," Hawk said. "Obviously, my approach and preparation hasn't changed. Nothing like that has changed. I think just taking advantage of the opportunities when they're there and make my own opportunities; I need to do that a little bit more."

Moss said Hawk can start by just playing the game. Too often, Hawk focuses solely on his own responsibility during each play, and doesn't see some of the opponent's weaknesses that would allow him to burst through the line and make a play.

"He's extremely focused on being assignment-correct at this time," Moss said. "And that's probably affecting his ability to let loose and make some plays. So as a coach, I'm obviously trying to find that medium between, 'Hey, you need to get your assignment done, but you also have to be a football player. Your talent level and your ability and the positions we're putting you in, go out there and make some plays.' "

Bishop gave a perfect example of how to just play the game. In the second quarter, he came off his man to force a touchdown-saving fumble at the goal line against Texans tight end Owen Daniels.

Hawk said he understands what Moss is trying to tell him.

"Obviously, you have to find a balance between knowing what you're supposed to do, knowing what everyone else around you is doing and at the same time just playing football and not thinking," Hawk said. "What it comes down to is doing what you're supposed to be doing and then just playing. Just like when you were a little kid."

Unfortunately for the Packers, it's way past late for Hawk to be getting this message. With all the injuries they've had, with all the problems the defense has dealt with, the Packers needed their most talented players to help the team get over the hump.

But in losing five of their past six games, the Packers' season is all but over. If Hawk was ever going to just let loose and let his natural ability take over - what the Packers saw when they made him the highest linebacker drafted since LaVar Arrington went second overall to the Washington Redskins in 2000 - now is the time.

"Whatever they give, I'll try to take, obviously," Hawk said. "I'm always trying to find ways to make plays, but I don't know, I'm not going to sit there and press and try to do someone else's job or do anything else."

When you're drafted fifth overall, teams - and especially their fans - expect you to make plays in just about every game and be one of the guys the team can count on to change games.

Hawk has not done that to this point. Until he does, questions are going to continue to linger as to whether or not he was worthy of being the fifth overall pick.

"Obviously, I'm not satisfied with how I've played or how many wins we've had since I've been here. I'm definitely not satisfied with that," Hawk said. "But as far as proving whatever my worth is or where I was picked, that's not really up to me to judge. But I think you can never really do enough. I think as players, we are always trying to do more, make more plays, and I'm no different."
digsthepack  
#2 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 11:37:37 AM(UTC)
Needed to be said. Bishop was called the "heart and soul" of his defense at Cal.....and perhaps we saw why last week. Given time, Bishop could turn out to be a decent starter, and provide the pulse this defense sorely lacks. Bunch of zombies sleepwalking every Sunday.
warhawk  
#3 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 1:37:49 PM(UTC)
I think AJ has gotten bogged down and is not using his talent to be aggressive. When he was at Ohio St. he was on the offensive side of the LOS more than on his own when I watched him. He was all over the field.

It's about time Moss told him to cut it loose. Should have told him that 12 weeks ago.

I think this scheme tends to overload the LB's role and can see why they get caught up thinking too much.
digsthepack  
#4 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 1:45:53 PM(UTC)
Agree on the LBs being overloaded with responsibility.....they all seem slow and tentative. And Barnett looks like a completely different player from last year prior to injury. You wonder if he is in preservation mode now that he has been paid big....all his aggressiveness seems lost.
Pack93z  
#5 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 1:54:31 PM(UTC)
" said: Go to Quoted Post
I think AJ has gotten bogged down and is not using his talent to be aggressive. When he was at Ohio St. he was on the offensive side of the LOS more than on his own when I watched him. He was all over the field.

It's about time Moss told him to cut it loose. Should have told him that 12 weeks ago.

I think this scheme tends to overload the LB's role and can see why they get caught up thinking too much.


How really is this scheme more taxing on the backers?

Granted, they are asked to cover in man up more than most defenses, but we aren't a team of elaborate blitz packages or asking the backers to read the play then drop into a 15 yard zone... They play the backers about 3.5 yards off the line, Hawk dropped a little deeper Sunday.. so they aren't sucked up to far.. IMO.. 3 yards deep should be adequate to either attack the run or be able to properly adjust to a passing route.

Should we drop the Backers into a zone, potentially.. but they have to be able to take the correct angles and drop a player with a sure tackle.. something Hawk, Poppinga and Barnett struggled with all season.

If you are saying that we are asking to much of this group based on their skill sets.. that I completely agree with.. other than Chillar maybe, we don't have the speed or quickness to play a man up defense with these backers.. that falls on the coaching staff (Sanders and Moss) completely.. not putting your players in a position of strength to win their matchup.

The player in Hawk I watched Sunday.. was a playing playing on his heels, a beat late in reading the play and not sticking his nose into the fray.. ala Barnett.

So it is either the players skating not playing up to potential or the DC and LB coach not putting the players into a position to win based on their abilities.

Personally.. I think it is a combination of all the above.
bozz_2006  
#6 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 2:06:05 PM(UTC)
" said: Go to Quoted Post
Needed to be said. Bishop was called the "heart and soul" of his defense at Cal.....and perhaps we saw why last week. Given time, Bishop could turn out to be a decent starter, and provide the pulse this defense sorely lacks. Bunch of zombies sleepwalking every Sunday.


true. AJ Hawk is like a 440 Hemi 'Cuda, stuck in second gear.
digsthepack  
#7 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 2:33:39 PM(UTC)
Hey Bozz.....the Hemi was a 426 ci, the 440 was conventional head design. Shoot me, I am a gear head.
bozz_2006  
#8 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 2:36:45 PM(UTC)
damn it.
digsthepack  
#9 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 2:46:04 PM(UTC)
Hey there, God-Boy....no damning from you!! Leave that to us sinners!!! LOL

How's things?
bozz_2006  
#10 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 2:51:54 PM(UTC)
things are going well. I'm doing my required internship this year, going from August til August, at Zion Lutheran Church. It's in the country, 15 miles south of Detroit Lakes. It's exciting and terrifying. Everything it's supposed to be. Just found out on Saturday that my wife is pregnant. That'll be kid #1. Really thrilled about that! Keeping busy, having a good time, and screaming at the Packers just about every week. How are you doing? Had the top off your Bug lately? lol
bozz_2006  
#11 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 2:52:16 PM(UTC)
p.s. I sin.
digsthepack  
#12 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 3:05:13 PM(UTC)
But you go to the front of the line for absolution, I bet!!

Congrats on the kiddo!! Must be extremely exciting for you.

Drove the bug lots this summer, currently working on a 1953 Willy's Jeep Station Wagon....the original SUV. Chevy 283 mill, HD 4 speed manual, and Scout II Dana 44 axles. Just finished the body and getting ready to start drivetrain. Found it in a junk yard 20 YEARS after I sold it to some dude in college for tuition dough. My first restoration came back to me to be done right now that I have the budget and skill to do so....still titled and signed over in my name!!

Beyond that, quit yelling at your TV...not worth the headaces. Let;s see how the team addresses the situation in the off-season.
bozz_2006  
#13 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 3:17:02 PM(UTC)
that's awesome about the Willy's. I'm beginning to mellow a bit. I'm an excitable guy though, so it takes will power to stay quiet during the game. I'm working on it! And, YES, I'm so stoked about having a kid.
porky88  
#14 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 5:24:27 PM(UTC)
It's interesting that Bishop was able to do so well on the outside. I think the three best linebackers on the team are Barnett, Bishop, and Hawk. Maybe it's time to start talking about either moving Barnett to the strong side or Bishop. My guess is Barnett is better suited. None the less I think the Packers have to get these three on the field together next year.
digsthepack  
#15 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 5:40:59 PM(UTC)
Yeah, but Chillar has been all over the field this year as well.
MassPackersFan  
#16 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 6:13:52 PM(UTC)
I'm beginning to think we were underestimating Barnett at MLB, considering not only his past seasons, but also how Hawk and Bishop have performed there this year.
warhawk  
#17 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 6:44:26 PM(UTC)
" said: Go to Quoted Post
" said: Go to Quoted Post
I think AJ has gotten bogged down and is not using his talent to be aggressive. When he was at Ohio St. he was on the offensive side of the LOS more than on his own when I watched him. He was all over the field.

It's about time Moss told him to cut it loose. Should have told him that 12 weeks ago.

I think this scheme tends to overload the LB's role and can see why they get caught up thinking too much.


How really is this scheme more taxing on the backers?

Granted, they are asked to cover in man up more than most defenses, but we aren't a team of elaborate blitz packages or asking the backers to read the play then drop into a 15 yard zone... They play the backers about 3.5 yards off the line, Hawk dropped a little deeper Sunday.. so they aren't sucked up to far.. IMO.. 3 yards deep should be adequate to either attack the run or be able to properly adjust to a passing route.

Should we drop the Backers into a zone, potentially.. but they have to be able to take the correct angles and drop a player with a sure tackle.. something Hawk, Poppinga and Barnett struggled with all season.

If you are saying that we are asking to much of this group based on their skill sets.. that I completely agree with.. other than Chillar maybe, we don't have the speed or quickness to play a man up defense with these backers.. that falls on the coaching staff (Sanders and Moss) completely.. not putting your players in a position of strength to win their matchup.

The player in Hawk I watched Sunday.. was a playing playing on his heels, a beat late in reading the play and not sticking his nose into the fray.. ala Barnett.

So it is either the players skating not playing up to potential or the DC and LB coach not putting the players into a position to win based on their abilities.

Personally.. I think it is a combination of all the above.


I think where the added responsibility comes in is that the DL is asked to maintain their gaps and keep OL off the LB's to make the tackle but there is that split second where they have pass responsibility at the snap.

The LB's have to wait a second to make sure it's not play action and then respond to what's going on in front of them and make the right read on the runs and get up to the line fast and in the right spot because the DL's primary mission in this scheme is not necessarily making the tackle.

I think AJ's reads on whats going on in front of him is coming a split second to slow and he's getting caught up in a block or letting the back hit the spot he's supposed to be in with a full head of steam.

I also see Bishop with more speed out there to recover on runs to the outside where he get's the right angle and when AJ is over there he gets caught inside and ends up chasing. AJ has to react faster because he doesn't have the speed to make it up like Bishop.

I think that's what Moss is talking about.
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