Well, we knew this day would come. It didn’t happen how we thought it would, but D.J. Smith has now officially passed A.J. Hawk among the Green Bay Packers inside linebackers.
We figured Smith would take the underachieving Hawk’s job (and yeah, I see you A.J. Hawk apologists, but you’re not saying anything) after a hard-fought training camp battle. Smith would pair with Desmond Bishop to form one of the best inside-backer tandems in the league.
Then Bishop tore up his hamstring and Smith was forced to step into his starting spot alongside Hawk. As expected, Smith has outplayed Hawk.
He’s going to be the lone linebacker in the Packers nickel package.
“He’s got good command of the huddle, he moves well and is a physical guy,” said defensive coordinator Dom Capers. “He’s got good instinct in there. If they want to run the ball he’s going to show up in the right place.”
Interestingly, Robert Francois has also worked ahead of Hawk in the dime. That’s not to suggest Francois is also ahead of Hawk, who struggles in coverage.
Hawk is still working with the No. 1 base and nickel defense.
Smith has clearly emerged as the Packers preferred option as an every-down player though.