Although Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk got a lot of criticism as the team’s defense struggled last year, his position coach says he had a good season — sort of.
Packers inside linebackers coach Winston Moss says that play in and play out, Hawk was fine in 2011. But he also acknowledges that teams need players to step up and make big plays, and Hawk didn’t do that often enough.
“His year was just quiet,” Moss said. “When he got in, there wasn’t a lot of tackle production and there weren’t interceptions so you look at his stat line and you say, ‘Well, what the hell did he do last year?’ A.J. is not a problem. A.J. is not an issue. A.J. didn’t play poorly last year. He just didn’t make those impact plays. I’m fine with what A.J. is doing. But on the flipside of that, you want your guys being impactful and making plays. He didn’t do it last year and I’m sure he’s not satisfied. He’s going to respond accordingly.”
The lack of impact plays was particularly noticeable in pass coverage, where Hawk declined from 10 passes defensed and three interceptions in 2010 to three passes defensed and zero interceptions in 2011. Hawk acknowledges that.
“The year before I think I had three picks and got my hands on a lot of balls,” Hawk said. “Last year, for whatever reason, I didn’t even get my hands on many. That’s a difference.”
Of course, a starting linebacker might play 1,000 snaps a season, so the difference between 10 and three passes defensed, or three and zero interceptions, represents a difference on maybe 1 percent of the plays on which Hawk was on the field. Moss says that on the other 99 percent of the plays, Hawk was the same player in 2011 that he was in 2010.
Then again, sometimes one impact play can be the difference between winning a game and losing a game. Those impact plays are what the Packers need from Hawk in 2012.