A.J. Hawk: It. Is. Time.


A.J. Hawk, the Green Bay Packers inside linebacker, the franchise’s all-time leading tackler, has given the team nine years of service, has given his blood, sweat and tears to his brethren and fans and will be remembered as a Super Bowl champion.

A.J. Hawk. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

But A.J. Hawk isn’t the same A.J. Hawk of nine years ago when the Packers drafted him fifth overall in the NFL Draft. He’s not the same player who stepped up to help lead his team to a Super Bowl championship. He’s not the same player who in the past has taken on blockers in the hole, shed them and made the tackle.

And for A.J. Hawk, his contributions to the team – if you read the writing that was placed on the wall last week by defensive coordinator Dom Capers – will decrease. In all, Hawk played fewer than 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps last Sunday – most of it in the team’s base 3-4 defense.

However, the team plays mostly the nickel – a defense where Capers utilized Sam Barrington and sent Hawk to the bench.

In a piece published yesterday, Green Bay Press Gazette writer Pete Dougherty said that it’s time for Hawk to come in off the bench and be at the ready in the event of an injury.

Hawk can still contribute, Dougherty said, but it’s time for the Packers to move away from relying on Hawk to make plays that he is incapable of continuously making anymore.

Here is some of what Dougherty said:

"At 230-235 pounds, he’s anywhere from 10-20 pounds lighter than his playing weight for most of his career with the Packers. He never was one to take on blockers, but at the lighter weight he’s still not explosive enough to go around or beat them to the spot."

It’s time to move on.

Frankly, I was shocked when the Packers decided to neglect the inside linebacker position in last spring’s draft. It was a position of need, but Ted Thompson decided to forego drafting players who might be ready to step in and contribute.

The plan was to go with Brad Jones and Hawk.

That plan failed from the get-go with Jones; now things have caught up with Hawk, who is probably on his way out of Green Bay’s plans.

It was only when Capers moved Clay Matthews to the inside did the Packers show any improvement in their run defense.

Capers continues to tweak his defense and said this week that his plans for Hawk may continue to change, but that sounds like he’s only covering up the fact that Hawk isn’t in their long-term plans.

A.J. Hawk. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

More from Dougherty:

"But in reality, it’s almost impossible to see how Capers could play Hawk ahead of Barrington in the nickel, or for that matter, ahead of Brad Jones. The Packers’ nickel run defense improved dramatically when they moved Clay Matthews to inside linebacker, and improved again last week with Barrington replacing Hawk. How could they go back?"

That’s a good question …

The answer is that they can’t go back to relying on Hawk like they used to.

If used correctly, Hawk could continue to contribute to this 2014 edition of the Green Bay Packers … but when looking down the road, Hawk will have to be phased out.

It. Is. Time.