I had a 900-word post drafted about what D.J. Smith has to do to overtake A.J. Hawk as the Packers starting ILB alongside Desmond Bishop, but I scrapped most of it.
Why? Because what Smith has to do to win the job is simple.
He needs to tackle.
If I’m D.J. Smith, I wouldn’t even wait until tackling drills in training camp to start tackling people. If Smith is standing on the field waiting to stretch and an undrafted free agent RB is walking by with a ball, Smith should tackle him.
If the equipment manager is moving a bag of footballs from one part of the field to another, Smith should run him down, wrap him up and take him to the ground.
If Smith’s best friend is walking to the fridge to eat the leftovers from dinner, Smith should light him up.
Only starters and immediately family members should be off-limits. Otherwise, Smith needs to tackle anybody that comes into his line of vision between now and the start of the regular season. Player or non-player. Big or small. Male or female. If they have a football, Smith is tackling them.
It’s not going to be anything fancy that helps Smith overtake Hawk. All he has to do is prove that he’s a vastly superior tackler.
We’re all tired of watching Hawk bouncing off ballcarriers or getting dragged for extra yards whenever he does make a tackle. I’m sure the coaches are tired of it too. It’s time that the job went to the player who can make the greatest impact through the most basic and fundamental part of football — tackling.
The general consensus is that Hawk is favored because of his leadership, intelligence, and familiarity with the Packers defense. That’s all fine and good, but Smith didn’t exactly look like a deer in the headlights when forced into action last season. He also seems smart and more than capable of becoming familiar with the defense.
What’s wrong with getting some production and playmaking ability to go along with leadership and intelligence?
Obviously, Smith is far from a sure thing. He shouldn’t be penciled in as an automatic replacement for Hawk.
All I’m saying is that the competition in training camp and the preseason should be more about tackling and less about intangibles like leadership and intelligence.
Linebackers that tackle anything that moves lead by example and are usually pretty damn smart.
The Packers didn’t draft Smith because he was super big, strong or fast. They drafted him because he was a tackling machine at Applacian St. (525 tackles in four seasons). If he shows signs of being a similar player at the pro level, it’s time to make the move.
The Packers waited too long to insert Desmond Bishop into the starting lineup. If the team thinks Smith can improve the defense’s tackling, they better not make the same mistake with him.——————
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .