After telling us a week ago that linebacker A.J. Hawk didn’t necessarily have a bad season in 2011 despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Green Bay Packers are apparently now trying to quash any competition for Hawk’s spot before it begins.
That competition would come from second-year player D.J. Smith, who outplayed Hawk when he was in the lineup last season.
Well, the Packers are having none of the controversy that might come from someone actually being able to challenge (and probably beat out) Hawk for the starting spot. Just ask Smith, who says he doesn’t even play the same position as Hawk.
Smith has been positioned as the backup to Desmond Bishop at the mack inside linebacker position, while Robert Francois — who you cold argue also outplayed Hawk last season — is the backup at Hawk’s buck inside linebacker position.
“You can say it’s kind of minor, but it’s kind of a big difference,” Smith said. “It’s still a middle linebacker, but one position (Hawk’s) has more responsibility than the other. When it comes to A.J.’s spot, he’s the signal caller. He’s the guy that runs the show. He’s the quarterback of the whole thing. He gets guys lined up, ready to go and makes all the checks when things switch around.”
Really? Bishop says the positions are pretty much the same, completely contradicting Smith’s statement.
“It’s different, but at the same time, it’s pretty much the same,” Bishop said. “I guess you have different responsibilities. They’re interchangeable for the most part.”
So, it’s all clear as mud now.
Actually, we’re pretty sure Smith is just regurgitating a company line. When both he and Francois were in the starting lineup last season, Smith wore the headset and called all the plays. That sounds like interchangeable responsibilities to us.
All the evidence says he should be able to compete for Hawk’s starting spot.
Although defensive coordinator Dom Capers says there will be competition at inside linebacker, everyone has stayed away from saying there will be any competition for Hawk’s starting spot.
This is probably something that will unfold quietly, but our bet is there will come a point in time — either in training camp or during the season — where Smith will start to take snaps away from Hawk.
Obviously, the Ted Thompson regime still doesn’t want to admit A.J. Hawk is a bust, but Smith is likely to force their hand eventunally.