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A.J. Hawk Got Benched… Kind Of

A.J. Hawk

Now we know exactly what was going on with A.J. Hawk.

Hawk has been a starter at inside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers for what seems like forever. Against the New England Patriots, he was announced as a starter, but then we saw very little of him.

Hawk finished with only one tackle on the day. That’s largely because he wasn’t on the field.

Instead, the Packers used the combination of Clay Matthews and Sam Barrington inside for the majority of their defensive snaps. Matthews was announced as a starter at outside linebacker.

And that’s technically how it was. The Packers’ base defense was Julius Peppers and Matthews outside and Hawk and Barrington inside.

The thing is, the Packers played very little of their base defense. They primarily played subpackages — nickel and dime.

In the nickel, it was Barrington and Matthews inside. In the dime, it was Matthews alone.

Obviously, the Packers don’t trust Hawk to cover anyone. We have to wonder what took them so long.

Of course, the answer is Matthews, in part. Sunday also marked the first time Matthews played inside in the dime. He’s usually rushing the passer from the outside in that package.

So will this finally begin the slow phase out of A.J. Hawk? Will the dream finally become reality?

We can only hope.

For his part, Hawk is being a good soldier, but we’d expect nothing less. Hawk has always been a class act. He’s just not a very good linebacker.

“I know going in what our plan was going to be,” Hawk said. “It’s nothing I haven’t done before coming on and off the field like that. I just wanted to make sure I was ready when packages I was in were called. Whatever they want to do, it’s not my job to question anything. But I think our defense played really well today.”

For the record, it should be noted that the Packers held the Patriots to 236 net passing yards and 84 net rushing yards with Hawk mostly out of the lineup.

They would probably take those results every week and yet, they achieved them against the No. 1 scoring offense in the league.

Monty McMahon

Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.



  1. Packer Bob December 1, 2014

    For once you’ll get no argument from me. Hawk’s days are hopefully numbered. Ted Thompson has revered Hawk since he took him in the 5th round in 2006. I think he should have admitted taking him that high was a mistake and cut him years ago. Better late than never, I guess.

    1. Cheese December 1, 2014

      I can’t tell if you’re joking, but if you aren’t…. Hawk was the 5th pick in the first round.

  2. Chad Lundberg December 1, 2014

    Ye, by the Gods can it truly be??? A decision LONG past due. This may in fact be his last year. If TT or MM benches Hawk in favor of more Matthews/Barrintong packages, I will forgive his decision to pass on Chris Borland.

    1. Neder December 1, 2014

      Gah, I couldn’t agree more about Borland. We needed someone in there who can play, soooo bad. I think we picked Khiri Thorton or Richard Rogers instead. Neither has done much. Borland isn’t going to let Bowman have his job back. I really want to root for Borland but I just can’t. Bummer.

      1. Fritz December 3, 2014

        borland is too small/short and too slow to be a long time LB i bet he won’t last nearly as long as hawk has, altho he may, like hawk, finish his career as a sub/part time ST. my guess is that hawk will fill some role into a double digit year career w/pack.

  3. Deepsky December 1, 2014

    Nothing exposed Hawk’s weakness more than having Matthews play the same position and performing an order of magnitude better.

  4. Jtmax December 1, 2014

    Well. Got to admit the fans were ahead of the coaches on this decision for a long time. Maybe now that MM got a contract extension he can do what makes sense rather than worry about his boss’ ego

  5. gort December 1, 2014

    AJ has been a solid, if not spectacular, performer for quite a while. The Kyle Rudolph reception early in the game at Minnesota last week really exposed his declining speed for coverage. He can still tackle pretty good though, and we need guys who can tackle. I don’t know if the stats that I found are completely up to date and include the Pats game, but he is in the top 3 for tackles this season. He lead the team in 2013 and was 2nd in 2012. His performance has justified his roster spot and it would have been a huge mistake to cut him “years ago”. He has served us well, but his tank may be almost empty. Nine seasons, 19 sacks, 9 picks, and over 900 tackles (solo and assists combined) may be his career, especially as a starter, but maybe he can teach some tackling skills. Thanks AJ.

  6. Matt December 1, 2014

    You are some of the dumbest people on the face of the Earth. Hawk has been a tackler for GB since 2006. He was the top tackler on GB for most of his pro career. You need at least one reliable tackler in a defense. Hawk is also a ball hawk in the middle of the field, good against the run, and good in coverage. Hawk was never a pass rusher. That is his only weak spot (as a Mike LB, you are not the primary pass rusher by design idiots).

  7. Fritz December 1, 2014

    To throw another bone your way, note that none other than the eminent jim nance mistook no. 52 for hawk on that run stuffer in 3rd Q. But then he also mistook the packers for the pats TWICE! Maybe too many hot toddy’s before game tailgaiting?
    Also am surprised some fans don’t know TE 89 last name is same spelling as no. 12, RODGERS NOT ROGERS.

  8. Pack December 2, 2014

    AJ has been an awesome Packer. Obviously not a HOF linebacker but certainly serviceable for many years. Almost never injured. He was always there. But I do agree he has slowed down last season & this season. Smart the way they are using him now. He will retire a Packer I am sure.

    1. Fritz December 3, 2014

      he may eventually wind up as a LB coach, hopefully with the pack. he is married into an nfl family after all…

  9. Hud December 5, 2014

    Hawk has cost the Packers a Super Bowl or two. He has been an awful MLB, and the main reason teams have run against us as though we were a Pee Wee League team. One set of downs with Barrington, where he made two thunderous solo stops of the running back, including Blount head on and shoved him back, exposes how truly awful Hawk has been. When’s the last time Hawk made even one play like that? Anyone? Why he was ever allowed on the field is the biggest sports mystery I’ve ever seen. Watching him hop along, pile on, dive, fall… just pathetic. Hope he never sees another down.