Cory’s Corner: Temper expectations for A.J. Hawk

Packers release AJ Hawk

I will admit that I haven’t always been the biggest fan of A.J. Hawk.

Granted, the expectations of living up to a fifth overall selection are pretty enormous. With that high of a pick, a good player just isn’t good enough. A team needs a dynamic body that can disrupt the running and passing game — in other words, a game changer.

Hawk had a decent year last season. After Week 3 he played the majority of defensive snaps for the rest of the season — including all 49 at Minnesota, all 77 vs. Chicago at Green Bay, all 62 vs. Philadelphia, all 67 at the Giants, all 83 at Detroit, all 74 at Dallas, all 60 vs. Pittsburgh at Green Bay and all 64 in the playoff loss to San Francisco at Green Bay. But of those games, he only had a positive performance in two according to Pro Football Focus.

And that continued last week at Seattle. He only played 48 of the 70 snaps but looked overmatched when he was called upon to stop the run. And it was the same story when attacking the quarterback, since he only tallied one quarterback hurry.

The 30-year-old isn’t nearly as quick as he was when he entered the league in 2006 and he has trouble shedding blocks when he is called upon to stop the run. But, since Brad Jones is so much worse, and dealing with a thigh injury that may put him out for Sunday, Hawk gets the benefit of the doubt.

But Hawk doesn’t deserve any benefit. His best season was in 2012 when he was the 21st-ranked inside linebacker, which was a year before he dropped to 47th — the lowest ranking of his career.

So, it’s not that we may see a slide from Hawk, we are actually in the middle of it. He has proven he cannot be called upon to guard athletic tight ends and he isn’t the best at stopping the run.

The Packers have him under contract through 2015 before he becomes a free agent in 2016.

That’s a lot of time to live with a guy that has been less than adequate. His poor coverage ability puts more strain on the secondary and his inability to stop the run puts more strain on an unproven defensive line that would love to have B.J. Raji this week.

Hawk may not play like it, but he is the leader of the defense. He is great at getting people in the right position.

Just don’t expect anything great from him, because you’ll be sorely disappointed.


Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn


11 thoughts on “Cory’s Corner: Temper expectations for A.J. Hawk

  1. Once you pull the trigger and acquire the rights to a player, HOW you have acquired him becomes irrelevant. The only things that matter from that point on are “Play” and “Pay” (and in some cases, “Potential”). Everything else is meaningless.

    A good GM will never keep a player simply because he was a high draft pick. A good GM will never dump a player simply because he failed to live up to draft expectations.

    Does his “play” justify his “pay?” Do you have (or can you get) some other guy who can give you more “play” for less “pay?”

    It just isn’t helpful even to consider that AJ Hawk was once the 5th pick of the draft many years ago. It’s irrelevant. Put it out of your minds. Personally, I think he has been a better player than most people give him credit for, even if you would certainly like to have someone better.

  2. He’s an adequate ILB. No more. No less. He has been for years. It’s not going to change. Either Lattimore or Barrington will step up this year to replace Jones and we draft Hawk’s replacement next April, or neither step up and we draft Jones’ replacement next April. Both won’t step up because AJ is not getting bumped from the starting 11.

    ILB play is what safety was last year. We are left hoping that young guns step up. And that’s about it. DT is not much better…

  3. I may be wrong, but this is how I see the situation: You can not have the best player in the league at every position. You makes play plans toward your strength and towards your weaknesses. If you have 3, 4 top players on defense (lets say just for discussion Clay, Julius, Sam Shields, Casey…) you will be pleased that you have good players on other positions you can count what they will do in the game. Players who will be healthy and produce just good o their position! Why? Because you know exactly what you will get, and accordingly you will be able to prepare good play plans. When you have several players (as, unfortunately Packers has – like Brad Jones e. g.) from whom you can not predict how they will play (good, just OK or terrible), your plans my fail. Because of that A. J. Hawk is valuable player for Packers, better then some of those up & down players from the roster.

  4. A.J. always reminds me of John Anderson, another first round lb for the Pack in the mid 70’s. Just steady players nothing fancy.
    I would hope this season is it for A.J.. It’s time to move on. We simply need more out of his position. I would roll the dice if they lose tomorrow and put in Barrington and Lattimore the rest of the year. Both are more impactful players. I don’t get why Capers plays so scared.

    1. I don’t know that Barrington is a more impactful player. How many regular season snaps does Barrington have at ILB to base this conclusion on?

      I’m willing to see what Barrington brings to the table, but the kid hasn’t played. Who knows what he really brings to the table when the lights are on.

    2. Interesting comparison, Ted… although IMO I would definitely say that Anderson was better. Anderson is a Packer’s Hall of Famer and was part of the NFL’s “All Decade Team” (second team) for the 1980s. Can’t really see Hawk rising to that same level.

  5. AJ Hawk got a huge rookie contract because for some inexplicable reason he was thought to be the 5th best player in the 2006 draft — not just by TT either.
    No big deal there, talent evaluation mistakes happen all the time and Hawk was never a complete bust.

    What is unforgivable is that TT lavished a huge second contract on Hawk in 2011 when he did not deserve it (and let Cullen Jenkins go for far less money). Indeed, that contract was so bloated that Hawk had to take a pay cut last year. Yet, he still remains wildly overpaid (7th highest cap hit on the team this year).

    What is also unforgivable is that the coaching staff has apparently taken TT’s hint that Hawk is deserving of some sort of special consideration and treat him as if he is untouchable. Not only was Hawk the 47th ranked inside linebacker (out of 55) by PFF last year, he was the 2nd worst in week 1 this year — only ahead of the immortal Brad Jones.

    Hawk was never a big hitter. He has always been a liability in pass coverage (anyone else remember he was benched for the opening game of the 2010 season against the Eagles– how’d the Pack do that year?). He is now >30 and his play will only continue to decline from its, at best, pedestrian level (and I thought the Pack got rid of >30 players what makes AJ so special?).

    As for the author’s statement that “Hawk may not play like it, but he is the leader of the defense. He is great at getting people in the right position,” all I can say is wow. If he is the leader of the continually woeful D that is an indictment of Hawk. And getting people in the right position? The Pack’s D has lacked communication and been out of position for years. Did AJ lead the communication in Seattle when the D had 10 players out on the field on the Lynch TD run?

    The time for making excuses for AJ is over. He has been paid over $40 million to perform like a scrub. The sooner he joins his fellow overpaid running mate Brad Jones on the bench the sooner the Packers can start fielding a legitimate NFL defense.

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