A.J. Hawk, Linebacker
IN 2006, Hawk made the All-Rookie team, with 120 tackles, 3½ sacks and two interceptions from an outside linebacker spot. In the three years since he has been unable to exceed any of those numbers. In moving to the inside in 2009—his first season in coordinator Dom Capers's 3--4 scheme—Hawk had only 89 tackles and one sack for the league's second-ranked defense. Asked to assess his season, Hawk, 26, says, "I think it was just like our defense as a whole—at times able to make plays and at times not as consistent."
There are reasons to believe Hawk is headed for a turnaround. The first: Packers coach Mike McCarthy believes that Hawk has been having his best camp as a pro. "I've liked his approach," McCarthy says. "His conditioning is at the highest level. He's always been a highly conditioned athlete, and I think he's taken it to another level this year. He's been very productive out here."
Another reason: The 6'2", 247-pound Hawk will be more accustomed to Capers's system, which is known for the variety of its pressure packages. From March to August, Hawk says Green Bay went through four installations of the playbook to better master its complexities. For a unit whose last meaningful game was a 51--45 playoff loss at Arizona, attention to detail in 2010 will be essential. "As a defense, we know that wasn't us," Hawk says of the unit that allowed the Cardinals to run wild.
"I look at a lot of the same faces [in the huddle] I've seen since I've been here. You can't put a stat on how important that is. We're trying to see what kind of a run we can put together. We know if we're not winning, it's on us."