Tramon Williams, AJ Hawk Taking Advantage of Opportunities
It’s well documented how decimated the Packers have been by injury in 2010. Al Harris, who many expected to return as the team’s number two corner has just been released without playing a single down this season. Will Blackmon, a solid contributor last year on defense and special teams, never got over his injury and was released as well. Morgan Burnett had a promising rookie campaign cut short, and Derrick Martin went down shortly after.
The Packers young defensive secondary has responded in admirable fashion. Tramon Williams, in particular, has made the most of his opportunity. Teams have been avoiding Charles Woodson, coming off his 2009 DPOY campaign, which has put pressure on Williams to perform.
To his credit, he has; admirably. Tramon Williams is tied for the league lead (with DeAngelo Hall and Asante Samuel) in passes defensed at 15. His 38 total tackles is good for fifth on the team, and his three INTs is tops. Williams’ biggest asset to this defense doesn’t show up in a stat line. As the Packers number two cornerback, he is not relegated to covering the opponent’s number two wideout; he has been able to cover anyone. Because of the the team’s confidence in him, Charles Woodson has been allowed to play all over the field, the way he did last year.
The linebacking corps has been banged up all year as well, with Nick Barnett, Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga all hitting the injured reserve list, an opportunity arose for AJ Hawk to step back into a leadership role. Over the offseason, fans and writers alike were questioning Hawk’s place on the team. Hawk’s play during his first few seasons in the league can best be described as tentative, and certainly not up to the caliber of play the Packers’ expected out of their 5th overall pick of the 2006 draft.
This year, in contrast, Hawk has looked quick, and his tackling has been sure. Forcing defenses to take him into blocking consideration has been crucial in providing Clay Matthews with some of his big play opportunities. Prior to this season, it looked as if Hawk was regressing, going from 120 tackles in his rookie season to 105, 89, then 86 last year. This year, he projects to get back to the 120 tackle mark. With two INTs and six passes defensed, Hawk has been the best LB in pass coverage for the Packers this season.
Neither Tramon Williams or AJ Hawk are true impact players, but their improvement and consistency have, and will continue to provide opportunity for playmakers like Woodson and Matthews. These types of players may never get the recognition they deserve, but are crucial to a successful defense.