After Sunday’s Green Bay Packers victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, I incorrectly assumed Packers inside linebacker A.J. Hawk started the game before giving way to Brandon Chillar.
Afterwards, assuming he had been on the field and I had missed him, I questioned where Hawk was. He didn’t record a single stat and it turns out, that’s because Hawk didn’t play a single down on defense.
Hawk is technically the starter at inside linebacker next to Nick Barnett, but he gives way to Chillar when the Packers run their nickel or dime defense. Against Philadelphia, that’s all the Packers did.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers opened with the nickel package to combat a Philadelphia passing attack that features three potentially big-play receivers in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and tight end Brent Celek, as well as a running attack that features the speedy LeSean McCoy. The goal was to limit big plays by the Eagles offense and for the most part, the strategy worked.
The move could be a sign the Packers are finally phasing the mediocre Hawk out of their defense, but linebackers coach Winston Moss insisted Hawk was still in the team’s plan against Philadelphia.
“He was aware we were going into the game with a certain plan. He was still set to play. I made the decision once the game developed to stick with the guys that were in there. From how the way the game flowed and how way Nick Barnett and Chillar were playing, I decided to keep that same rhythm going.”
Chillar played particularly well, finishing with seven tackles, which tied Clay Matthews for first on the team.
It will be interesting to see how the Packers use Hawk moving forward. He isn’t going to be a factor in the defensive sub-packages because he’s terrible in coverage, but he may see the field against a team like the Buffalo Bills, the Packers next opponent, because they’re a run-first team.
However, if Chillar keeps playing well, it’s going to be hard for Capers to take him off the field. That may relegate Hawk, the former No. 5 overall draft pick, to the bench for good.