A play inside the mind of A.J. Hawk, the Packers' defensive 'traffic cop'
A.J. Hawk, the Packers' first round draft pick in 2006. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
CREATED Sep. 10, 2013
The Green Bay Packers may not necessarily have a signal-caller on defense with the all-world pedigree of his offensive counterpart, Aaron Rodgers.
However, inside linebacker A.J. Hawk - the veteran of the Packers' "back eight" of linebackers and defensive backs - has proven to be a more than capable leader in being like a coach on the field, especially at times which seem like mass pre-snap confusion.
One example which drew laughs on "Packers Live," which airs weekly on TODAY'S TMJ4 and NBC26: a play during the Packers-49ers game Sunday where the Niners have the football at the Packers' 36 yard line.
With just slightly more than 3.5 years of experience for each of his teammates in the "back eight" on this particular snap, Hawk's eight years of experience play a key role in helping him decipher offenses.
"You've got some kind of sign language, you're like a traffic cop," joked host Larry McCarren. "What the heck is going on there?"
Hawk is standing directly four yards in front the center in a 2-5-4 alignment where his defensive linemen are nearly head-up over the guards.
As the 49ers go in dual motion in the pistol formation, Hawk starts pointing toward his right, directing traffic for his defenders.
At this moment, Hawk does seem more suited for wearing orange stripes around his torso at 3:00 p.m. in a residential neighborhood helping keep children safe as they cross the street.
But it's for a purpose.
He shifts Micah Hyde from the left toward the right side of the defensive formation and shift Brad Jones to the left, four yards in front of the 49ers' right tackle.
"If you look at the 49ers, a big part of their game is that they line up in a certain formation. They would almost 'explode shift' to where they're moving five or six guys at a time, and they want to kind of keep you on their heels and keep you guessing and try to almost get you to forget what your job (is)," explained Hawk on Packers Live.
After a third man goes in motion to the Packers' defensive right, Hawk shifts himself near the 49ers' left tackle and gestures with his right hand.
"I'm just trying to get some basic things set up on where to set our outside rusher, where to set the defensive line and at the same time trying to figure out the coverage from the back end."
The result: Hawk and Jones drop back in covewrage while the Packers bring five rushers including Mike Neal, B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Clay Matthews and Micah Hyde.
It's all one-on-one blocking vs. rushing on this play, and Clay Matthews beats his guy, the left guard, and drops Colin Kaepernick into the grass at Candlestick Park for a sack.
Such is the success the Packers hope for from their defensive traffic cop.