AJ Hawk: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

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Packers inside linebacker AJ Hawk
AJ Hawk

1) Introduction: Despite being the highly touted 5th overall draft pick in the 2006, many have considered Hawk a bust in the sense that he never lived up to his lofty draft status.  While a solid player, Hawk never did show much penchant for making the big play and many fans were hopeful that Hawk would be released in the 2011 season.  Much to their dismay, the Packers did release Hawk, but only to resign him literally moments later to a 5-year $33.75 million contract.

2) Profile:

Aaron James (AJ) Hawk

Position: ILB
Height: 6-1
Weight: 247 lbs.
AGE: 27
Career Stats

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Moderate; fans seemed to be resigned in the fact that Hawk would never become anything better than just a solid player; while he directed the defense in terms of play calling, many felt that he never could be the leader on the defense.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Hawk’s highlight game was against the St. Louis Rams in week 6 where he recorded 1 sack and 9 tackles in the game.  Hawk’s lowlights undoubtedly were when he was injured during week 13 and 14 and had to watch his backups make multiple interceptions, which Hawk has none.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: If anything Hawk seemed to have regressed a little bit in 2011.  More often than not, Hawk was a liability in coverage (which is understandable for a linebacker), but also seemed to be used more as a diversion for Desmond Bishop when pass rushing.  Hawk was fairly consistent against the run with 84 tackles recorded but still had his usual issue of being a fairly poor tackler for an inside linebacker.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: While Hawk recorded 3 tackles in the game against the Giants in the playoffs, but more importantly it did seem like communication was off during the entire game; especially in one instance where the secondary was still calling out assignments when the ball was snapped.  While that might be more an indictment of the secondary, blame still falls to Hawk, as he is the primary play caller on the defense.

Season Report Card:

(C) Level of expectations met during the season
(C) Contributions to team’s overall success
(C-) Player’s contributions in the playoffs

Overall Grade for the year: C


Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.


  • Ron LC

    So you drew the short straw Thomas.

    Lack of tackles, an abundance of missed tackles, couldn’t cover a tight end if he was velcrided to him and lack of sacks are all characteristics that should equate to an “F.”

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Well, we’re doing this by position and as I’m doing LBs I naturally have to evaluate Hawk as well. I’m not going to say he’s a good player, simply average. I’m not entirely sure why people are so angry with Hawk, is it because he never lived up to his draft status? I always did think that was a little weird since he was drafted as a 4-3 OLB and not a 3-4 ILB, also by the second contract, I would think the team cares very little about his draft status.

      • im a packer fan since 1966.i strongly feel we need 2 DE and trade A.J. Hawke for someone who cares about making tackle,also Raji played well but had no support in stopping the run.Clay had too much responsibility with no support from other LB”s On Draft day,the main focus should be on DEFENSE

        • Thomas Hobbes

          The question is who would trade for a ILB with a huge contract? Also keep in mind there would probably be a huge cap hit for trading him the year after signing him.

          • JimR_in_DC

            The Eagles. LOL!

            • Thomas Hobbes

              LOL, maybe last off-season but I have a feeling they are rethinking their “dream team” plan.

  • Cones

    How you can have 84 tackles, no big plays, and a C all in the same review is mind boggling… 84 tackles for an inside LB is sad…. D!

  • JimR_in_DC

    Thomas, you are going to be skewered for having to rate Hawk. I’m just guessing, but unless you gave Hawk an F-, you probably wouldn’t get much agreement from the folks here. His backup was an upgrade, so that pretty much tells everything we need to know about Hawk.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Yah, I knew there was no way I was going to have an evaluation that everyone liked with Hawk. Honestly, Hawk is incredibly average in just about everything, and I do truly believe that, so that’s why I gave him an average grade

  • If judging based solely on his contract, his grade is an F. Makes little to no impact in every game. And being “assignment sure” does not move the grade from a F to a D.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Perhaps, but contract did not factor into our grading criteria (although that would be very interesting for Jermichael Finley). Assignment sure is also far more important than you probably give credit, I mean look at Jarrett Bush.

    • Oppy

      Player has no say in his contract (unless you expect them to ask for as little money as possible), they are going to take what they can get.

      Contract has NOTHING to do with player production. If you want to start grading by contract, you’ve got to save that grade for Ted Thompson and Russ Ball, not for the player.

  • While not unexpected, the level of disdain for Hawk is a bit much. According to Pro Football Focus, Hawk had 15 quarterback pressures, third in the league among inside linebackers. he was also rated 14th in the league in pass coverage. Sure he’s only average, But to call him a complete failure, which is what an F would imply, is completely irrational.

    • Oppy

      Voice of reason!

      Hawk is a victim of expectations based on draft slotting and contract.. he has never been judged purely on his on the field production alone.

      Is he over paid? Sure.

      Did he live up to his #5 overall draft status? No way.

      But neither of those things really have a lick to do with what he does or doesn’t do on the field.

      Hawk is average. People need to direct the disappointment and anger at TT and Russ Ball, not at Hawk.

  • Pete Kliman

    I can’t think of one player on this D that improved or remained at the same level ,with the exception of maybe Picket.It was a group effort or should I say debacle. However, his poor tackling is unforgivable.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Desmond Bishop

  • ELo

    D would be appropriate. Al – his # of pressures was also related to our D not being able to get off the field. (more snaps for opposing offense can bolster individual defensive stats). The big disappointment with AJ is he always seems to be the 3rd or 4th guy to the ball carrier. When he does tackle – he seems to lack punch and often gets dragged for a few yards. We need playmakers.

    • Nobody can argue with any of that – but that doesn’t make him an F. I think a C or C- at worst is appropriate. And BTW, he had 6 more pressures than Bishop, so you can’t use that argument…

      • JimR_in_DC

        Al, isn’t a pressure just an “almost” knockdown or sack? IMO, Hawk is just an “almost” ILB.

        • A player who did nothing would be an F. That’s all I’m arguing. I think Thomas’ grade is fine. At worst, I may have gone C-.


          • JimR_in_DC

            I agree, although I stick to my original contention that most people would only being satisfied with an absolute rock bottom rating for Hawk. He’s like diet soft drinks, Lite beer, decaffeinated coffee, etc., he serves a purpose but really doesn’t satisfy.

            • Thomas Hobbes


            • Oppy

              Hawk > fan fav Zombo and Walden. (perhaps not by much, mind you, lol)

              Yet, people have spoken fondly of these two guys and absolutely HATE hawk.

              That seems skewed to me.

              • JimR_in_DC

                Zombo has a cool name for a football player. Z-O-M-B-O!

              • Thomas Hobbes

                Well with Zombo and Walden, there was no where but to go up after being undrafted/free agent acquisitions. Plus everyone likes the “underdog” story where someone comes from nowhere and makes a huge play (see Vic So’oto)

  • JimR_in_DC

    BTW, even though there’s a lot of banter about what the grades “should’ve been,” I really appreciate you guys (Thomas, Adam, etc.) taking the time and trouble to go through this exercise. It’s great!

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Thanks a lot, but we writers have a lot of fun talking to you guys too

  • Thanks! The discussion is half the fun. You’ll get your shot at me when the OL has their day…

    • JimR_in_DC

      Can’t wait to rag on you, Al! 😀

  • Mojo

    I’m going to cull some of Thomas’s words from his evaluation above in describing Hawks play this year: “bust”,”dismay”,”resigned”,”Hawk has none”,”regressed”,”liability”,”usual issue-fairly poor tackler”,”communication was off”,”blame still falls to Hawk”.

    Does this sound like a player who deserves a “C”? He did not meet the level of expectations coming into this season, especially when you factor in his high salary.

    If he’s getting paid, in large part, because of his great communication skills, then we’d be better off employing Abe Lincoln who’s been dead for over a 146 years. Not only was Abe a great communicator, but when he saw a pile he would chop it into smaller pieces, while Hawk just stands around it.

    • JimR_in_DC

      ROFLMAO! 😀

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Sure but can Lincoln rock the hair like Hawk can? I think not 😀

      • JimR_in_DC

        As far as rockin’ the hair, Hawk is just an “almost” Matthews!

  • Dan

    Hawk was an average player before the over paid contract he received. Nothing special, not a big play guy, just an average tackler. Below average in coverage and pressuring the QB.So why in the Hell did TT pay this guy so much? I think Ted is gay for hawk

    • TT always places a higher value on the guys he knows over those he doesn’t. I believe the old expression goes, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t'”

    • Thomas Hobbes

      While I wouldn’t say Thompson is “gay” for Hawk, you do have a point that Hawk was drafted by Thompson personally, so Thompson probably feels confident about Hawks ability and role with the team, say as opposed to Nick Barnett.

  • Justin Morrow

    We should’ve let Hawk go and signed Nick Barnett instead who plays with a lot of intensity, speed, and can tackle. Hawk is too slow for an inside linebacker and should be the best tackler on the D for his position. Hawk should’ve been taken out of the game on 3rd down or any obvious passing downs as he couldn’t cover a turtle!

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Barnett just hit the dreaded 30, and Barnett had his issues as well, Barnett was injured quite often.

  • I believe our tacking problems can be on the lack of coaching in this area.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      What can you do, you can’t tackle without pads and you can only be in padded practices a handful of times (I seem to recall around 11). Add to that the limitations placed by the new CBA during the off-season and teams might not be able to coach tackling in any real capacity at all.

  • Justin Morrow

    Barnett had 130 tackles, 1 forced fumble, & 3 interceptions this year with buffalo and can cover a tightend.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      One thing I will mention is I’m not entirely sure how much you can put on tackling statistics when there are two inside linebackers. I know Hawk and Bishop could play either inside linebacker position, and it might be more useful to look at combined tackles of both players rather than just one. For instance, the other inside linebacker for the Bills is Kevin Sheppard, and he had 70 tackles.

  • Shavager

    C’mon guys, lighten up, Hawk was 23rd in tackling out of 133 LB’s in the National Conference. Of the estimated 450+ defensive players in the NFC, Hawk was #34 in tackles. He’s not Matthews but he’s better than the rest on the roster outside of Bishop and Matthews. I’d give’em a C, only because he has the same virus rest of team has, NO wrap up tackles. Unless Packers draft a faster ILB, he’s likely the starter next year short of injury.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      With the emergence of the tight end receiver, you may have a point that teams are going to start looking for faster linebackers (or bigger safeties) that can cover the Jermichael Finley’s of the world.

    • Zack

      O.o if he wasn’t getting paid as much as he is without doing ANYTHING special over his career i wouldn’t care as much. he’s still a weak player but i wouldn’t be as angry. AJ is one of the top paid defensive players in the NFL at his position. and the argument about him being 23rd in tackling in NFC doesn’t mean anything to me. almost half of those tackles came from assists… which pretty much means that someone else tackled the runner and AJ jumped on him afterwards. not to mention he is the MIDDLE linebacker… supposed to be the backbone of the defense and the one, on average, in the best position to make a play on the ball per play so really he should only be compared to other middle linebackers. With his salary he should be at the top of the list.

  • Zack

    Wow a C is generous.

    Hawk would be an outstanding leader and an athletic, intense, and prolific player among the best 2 or 3 in the league. A great sense of the game with unbelievable instincts and sound impressive decisions.

    tackling= great A+
    pass rush= great A
    speed= good B
    coverage= good B-
    football intelligence= A+
    leadership= A

    A slow, indecisive, below average football player with poor leadership abilities and mediocre tackling (AT BEST. I say mediocre being very generous).

    tackling= C
    pass rush= F-
    speed= D (probably an F. it’s hard to tell if he misses open field tackles because of his shabby indecisive decision making or because he’s just plain slow)
    coverage= F
    football intelligence= C
    leadership= C

    I would have given this guy a D- if I was grading. ted thompson should have his head examined for paying AJ anywhere near that number… 5mil a year????? That is just the most boneheaded decisions I’ve seen in recent football history. It’s not like AJ played amazingly for his career… he has been below average consistantly since he came in the league. And you pay him almost as much as Woodson or as the 49er’s pay Patrick Willis? Good lord, and mostly I’m a TT supporter but you really dropped the ball on this one. Take your emotion out of business TT. AJ is a likeable enough person but just because you have a softspot for him does not mean spend half your salary cap on him…
    5mil/ year for a player that NEVER turns the tide of the game? never makes a big play, never does anything to turn the momentum of the game, plays average at his best and below average at his norm… after years in the league???? AJ’s career is the linebacker equivilant of Ryan Leaf. (ok maybe not quite that bad but close)

    • Zack

      oops, got that wrong… he gets paid more than 6mil a year. wish i could get paid that for doing a below average job at my place of business.

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