GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 2: B.J. Raji #90 and A.J. Hawk #50 of the Green Bay Packers sack Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field on October 2, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Matt Ludtke /Getty Images)
On Wednesday, Green Bay Packers inside linebacker A.J. Hawk was on ESPN Milwaukee to discuss the upcoming season. He was candid about his assessment of his own performance and the defense as a whole, and he seems confident in the unit's ability to turn things around and improve upon their struggles in 2011.
First, here's Hawk discussing his own performance:
I definitely think I left some plays out there. I’m not really a big stat guy, but I’m sure my stats didn’t really match up as well as they had in the past. But I just try to take advantage of any opportunity I can get.
That sounds to me like a guy who knows he needs to work hard to improve his play this off-season. Now for Hawk on's comments on the lack of pass rush last season:
I think it definitely wasn’t something that we sat there and thought about every day or brought up every day, that we need to get more of a pass rush. But as a defense, if you look at all the great defenses in the past, they’re getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback — not only just sacks, but making the quarterback get out of the pocket and move around and throw with guys in his face. We didn’t do that enough this year.
Hawk's never been a big pass-rushing presence, especially since moving to inside linebacker when the Packers switched to a 3-4 defense. He has only 2.5 sacks since 2009, and Desmond Bishop has been the more effective of the two ILBs when blitzing anyhow. I don't expect that to change, but hopefully getting more pressure on the outside can open up the inside blitzing lanes and make the inside backers more effective.
There's more to come after the jump.
Hawk on the defense's 2011 statistics:
A lot was made of how many yards we gave up, but as a defense we could care less about yardage, we only care about points. But the truth of the matter is we gave up too many points as well…We’ve been hard at work now for a couple months trying to figure that out and we’re definitely going to get it going in the right direction.
And finally, on the unit's problems tackling last season:
I think (tackling) was definitely something that kept coming up. We worked on that a lot last year and worked on it a lot this year already. But when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what we do in practice, we’ve got to find a way to take it to the game field.
I seem to remember Hawk and Charlie Peprah being a few of the most egregious offenders when it comes to missed tackles last season. (Tramon Williams gets a pass from me due to his shoulder injury.) Here's hoping that an added emphasis on tackling fundamentals helps Hawk individually and the defense as a whole.
Finally, let me give a hat tip to Sports Radio Interviews for their transcript of Hawk's interview.