An inside linebacker taken in the top five of the NFL Draft has certain expectations to meet.
The position isn’t usually taken that high, so a team is expecting to get a player that will ideally contend for Pro Bowls annually; a player they can plug in the middle of their defense and leave him there for a decade.
At the very least, you expect the linebacker to play every down.
It’s a cruel business, but Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk is starting to fall short of expectations.
As Green Bay transitions to a 3-4 defense, the Green Bay Press-Gazette writes that Hawk is looking likely to lose most of his snaps on passing downs. That would cut the 2006 number five pick’s snaps in half if it happened.
The Packers beat writers have been hinting at this story for weeks, noticing that Hawk often played with the second-team nickel defense. His snaps with the first team were reduced to nothing by Monday. The return of starter Nick Barnett to practice has likely expedited the process.
Barnett has to prove he’s fully recovered from ACL surgery, but it sounds like he’ll be a three-down player when he’s healthy again. Brandon Chillar is also excellent on passing downs, and Desmond Bishop has opened eyes this preseason.
“Brandon’s a great player for the nickel,” Barnett said. “It’s one of
his strengths. He can cover. I’ve been playing nickel my whole career.
I don’t know if it’s going to be A.J. or me, I’ll let you guys figure
This is a good problem for the Packers to have. Most teams don’t have enough linebackers when they switch to a 3-4 defense and Green Bay may have too many to keep everyone happy.
Still, the loss of reps would be a disappointing career step for Hawk, who has generally received acceptable, although not overwhelmingly positive reviews thus far in his career. Green Bay’s coaching staff are the only critics that matter in the end, and they will say how they feel about Hawk with playing time.