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Packers CB Josh Hawkins in Line for More Snaps

He's still got a long way to go to be considered a starting-caliber cornerback in the NFL, but last Thursday night was a good indicator in where the undrafted Josh Hawkins stands.

Under position coach Joe Whitt Jr., the Green Bay Packers have a tendency of converting undrafted cornerbacks into starters. Much like Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, Hawkins can only hope to be at least half of the player they were. All of his measurables, coincidentally, seem eerily comparable to that of Shields'. 

Whitt's track record is good news for Hawkins, who registered a career-high five tackles in the win over the Chicago Bears. In fact, those were the first recorded tackles on defense in his young career. That's even after playing in 11 games last year, however, Hawkins' role on defense was virtually nonexistent after surrendering a 73-yard touchdown in the week three win against the rival Detroit Lions.

Special teams is where he found his niche and ultimately his value on the team. For the rest of the 2016 season, that value certainly didn't reside on defense even despite the influx of injuries suffered in Whitt's unit.

In his second year, Hawkins saw just 10 defensive snaps through the first three weeks of the season after a strong pre-season. Specifically against the Washington Redskins in which Hawkins started against the Redskins' first-team offense. He demonstrated his ability to compete with top-notch NFL talent and an evident jump fundamentally from year one to year two.

The plan was likely to keep Hawkins out of the regular season line-up unless a drastic situation called for it.

Against the Bears, that drastic situation was 2015 first-round pick Damarious Randall being benched.

While he pouted on the bench, Hawkins stepped in his place en route to playing 40 defensive snaps, tallying three pass deflections along with his aforementioned five solo tackles. He was the more underrated part of the Packers defense that night, despite them recording two interceptions -- their first of the season -- from Bears quarterback Mike Glennon.

That likely won't be the last of the action for Hawkins, either. At least according to Whitt it won't be.

"He got an opportunity this last game and I think he did really well with his opportunity, so he'll probably get more opportunities," Whitt said during Thursday's series of pressers from the position coaches, breaking it down as simply as possible. "That's what happens when you play well."

Hawkins was a surprise roster addition a year ago when the Packers decided to keep five cornerbacks, and as expected, a year with Whitt did wonders for his development as a player.

"I thought he went out there, stayed with his technique and challenged at the line of scrimmage. He had three pass break-ups up the field and he tackled well; I was pleased with how he played with those 40 snaps that he got."

Hawkins' former defensive coordinator at East Carolina University, Rick Smith, would know what the Packers have in Hawkins about as well as anyone. They spent Hawkins' final two college seasons with the Pirates together, helping Hawkins lead the team with five interceptions during his junior season. He was also a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award for his impressive play.

"Josh is a great kid, I love him to death," Smith said just before Hawkins' final collegiate game. "When he's focused, he's as good as I've coached."

Hawkins, now with the successful transition from walk-on to a scholarship player under his belt, is now potentially in the cards to start a regular season NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys.

There's no telling what the Packers plan to do with Randall after his benching sparked an "internal issue," as coach Mike McCarthy likes to call it. There's very much a chance Hawkins could be starting on Sunday opposite rookie cornerback Kevin King. If so, it would be his toughest test yet.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV and a contributor/analyst for the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (26) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ibleedgreenmore's picture

I like the kid and yes he needs work, at least he is near the receiver and makes an effort to bat the ball down.

RCPackerFan's picture

I am impressed with how much Hawkins has improved since last year. The biggest area that I have seen his jump is his toughness. He is much more physical and has improved as a tackler.

I hope he continues to get playing time because I think he could be good with more experience.

dobber's picture

Some people here have a track record of beating on TT for fielding "small CBs and cheap UDFAs rather than drafting big CB". I think what it comes down to is that the Packers have been able to find guys like Shields, TWill and Hawkins that have made the most of their opportunities--more than maybe the guys with more prototypical H/W numbers have. If anything, CB is a position league-wide where those UDFA CBs make rosters and play.

Randall is a clear example of a guy with prototypical measurables who has been outplayed by the "smaller" guy. Maybe Randall didn't merit a first round pick, but he would've been drafted in the first two days by someone...and he's been outplayed.

RCPackerFan's picture

Randall has all the physical tools. I think his issues are all in between his ears. If he gets the mental part figured out he could be very, very good. He has flashed his potential. Just needs to figure out the mental part.

CB is a position that is extremely hard to play and to find great talent. With the rules it makes it tough being a DB. To be fair good CB's can come from anywhere. From 1st round to 7th to undrafted. Richard Sherman was a 5th round pick. Shields was undrafted.

In all honesty how many truly great shutdown types of CB's are there in the league? 5?

Archie's picture

Actually TT gets high marks from me for Williams and Shields. It's the guys he has drafted in the secondary that have caused me to beat on him. Also, I'm still not happy he let Hayward go in FA. Even letting Micah Hyde go was questionable though the Bills paid him big bucks. Both Thompson cast-offs led the league in INTs their first year with a new defensive coordinator. In fact, one made the Pro Bowl and the other might do so too. Suggests Thompson's drafting is not only problem i.e., Packers' defensive coaches and scheme aren't maximizing the productivity of the talent on the roster. Bad combo.

Finwiz's picture

You're first figuring this out now?
Welcome to the party pal.
Start with the DC, and work down from there.

Packer Fan's picture

I like what the coaching staff is doing with this. Rollins and Randall are struggling again. The Pack will be able to see if King and Hawkins will develop over the season. There will be bumps along the way. Let's see if Hawkins and King can overcome them. Because the whole thing is putting the best on the field to make the playoffs and then make a run.

dobber's picture

I have no doubt the Packers are going to need the likes of Rollins and, yes, Randall before this season is out. Hopefully they can find a way to use them in a way that allows them to be successful.

NitschkeFan's picture

Hope your are wrong. Randall and Rollins stink. Plain and simple. They are really awful CB's. If the Packers are going to need them then in any significant way, the season is lost.

dobber's picture

Hawkins played 2/3 of the defensive snaps against the Bears last week but, with Davon House practicing in full on Thursday, I see him picking up a boatload of Randall's snaps. With the Packers liking what they have in their safeties, I just don't see Hawkins playing that awful much so long as King and House are available and don't melt-down. I think he's likely to play about 1/4 of the defensive snaps.

RCPackerFan's picture

While I agree, the Cowboys will run more 3 WR sets then the Bears. And the Cowboys have better WR's then the Bears. So I do think we will see more 3 CB sets compared to last year.

It will be interesting to see who the Nickel CB will be when they go to it.

flackcatcher's picture

Whitt in his presser with the beat reporters said Randall was in the correct coverage, and did not get beat. He also said Randall must mature as a player. Still, the Packers did not release him. Randall has a long way to go to earn back the players trust according to Jason Wilde. The other player on the hot seat is Brice. Playing SS does not mean a player gets to be an unguided missile on the field. this is the second week in a row he has freelanced and left his boundary coroner naked. Last time he was replaced with Evans, till he got hurt. I think if Evans is good to go, then Brice is on very thin ground with Perry. What will be interesting is not only the Nickel, but their Nitro with Thomas who has an ankle injury. I think we will see Hawkins spelling House. And both Randall and Rollins in Dime, and their Nitro packages. The big question, who replaces Thomas as the coverage LB in the packages.

dobber's picture

" this is the second week in a row he has freelanced and left his boundary coroner naked. "

This is an episode of Quincy I won't be pulling down off Netflix.

flackcatcher's picture

HA! (Spent 5 minutes in the bathroom cleaning myself up after your comment. Missed my notebook by a split second :0)

Since '61's picture

Another cookie for dobber! Thanks, Since '61

Finwiz's picture

Don't tell me you're buying this BS?
If Randall was in the correct coverage, and did not get beat, then WHO was in incorrect coverage and/or DID get beat?
Because the GD receiver was wide open.
Does he think we don't watch the games, and we're all inherently stupid?
Don't believe anything these guys say publicly. They tell the press nothing and outright lie on most days.

flackcatcher's picture

Combo coverage with Brice over the top and Randall in the trail. Randall broke down, but Brice never slid over to cover. Yeah it was blown on Brice's part, an outright mental mistake, you could see it and hear it as he came of the field. Randall face and body expression, it looked like he had been gut punched. I believed it, cause I saw it thursday night on the sideline. (It may be the only time where the view was better than seeing the game on TV. Up close you can really see how big and strong and fast these guys are. I felt a damn gnat. But TV gives a 3D view, you lose a lot of that on the sideline :)

Finwiz's picture

Well, well, well....then IF that's the case, I DO NOT BLAME Randall one bit for being upset with the D giving up the TD.
That's competitiveness, the FIRE to care, and it would manifest itself in the form of anger if it were me too.
That's passion, and you need that to play sports.
You hold each other accountable for mistakes - peer pressure.
He was probably embarrassed because it looked like it was his mistake because he was closest to the receiver.
I didn't bag on Randall, but a lot of other people did.
I think some people may owe him an apology.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Quotes from Capers and Whitt:

"Capers said the defense was in man coverage at the time with a blitz called. Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt added that Randall did not blow coverage on Wright." "The only thing I will say is, I've read a couple things about him blowing a coverage," Whitt added on Thursday. "Which is weird to me, if you don't know what the coverage call is, how you can write that he blew a coverage? Which he did not blow a coverage. Other than that, everything else, we're ready for Dallas." Definition of a blown coverage is not knowing what the coverage is, or "not being where you're supposed to be."

By the latter definition, Randall did not blow the coverage because it looks like Randall lined up where he was supposed to. He just got beat. But if he thought Brice was supposed to provide help, well, Capers said it was man to man with a blitz. 6 players rushed the passer.

When the ball was snapped, there is no one in position to provide help to the outside. It is obvious. Randall should have known he had no help outside, that there was no possibility of anyone "sliding over" regardless of whether he was supposed to have such help. There is no evidence that Brice blew the coverage.

RobinsonDavis's picture

If the coaches are providing conflicting comments, does that reflect on the scheme and/or communication as to responsibilities? Regardless, anybody that has played the game, knows that coaches make mistakes too. Players are sometimes placed on an island and need to do their best, but you NEED to recognize if a teammate is out of position & have some situational awareness too.

Duke Divine's picture

About. Damn. Time.

Archie's picture

House was looking a bit ragged to me before his injury so I prefer finding out what we have in Hawkins. We all knew House wasn't the long-term answer. He adds depth.

dobber's picture

House has played almost no football this season...virtually no preseason snaps to go with his injury early in the regular season. least when he does play, he'll be fresh.

Since '61's picture

It's very early but I like the way Hawkins has played so far. He makes tackles which is nice to see from a Packers CB. King and Hawkins both are better tacklers than we had for a while at the CB position. Play Hawkins, use House for depth or maybe as the slot CB. Thanks, Since '61

Packer Fan's picture

So if Randall was playing the right coverage, who blew it? Should there have been a safety over the top of the three receivers. If so, then the safety was on the wrong side of the formation to provide help over the top. But I also noticed that Randall bit hard towards the middle of the field and towards the line of scrimmage like he was cutting off a short crossing pattern. The receiver never moved towards the middle but upfield and cut to the outside. Randall was totally out of position. It seemed to me that Randall anticipated something that didn't occur and was left totally out of position. And if he was in the proper coverage, why was he benched? I don't know, but it just seemed like he didn't perform that well on the play.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Yes, that is the way I see it. Maybe the blitzer was supposed to provide help over the top but free-lanced. Seems that if Randall had simply turned his head he would have realized that his help was inside not outside. It was completely obvious that he had no help outside: what does he do prior to the snap?

Brice's missed tackle the play prior led to an extra 25 yards for Chicago's TE.

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