For the Titans, the re-signing of Hawkins ensures that they will have one more veteran in their wide receiver corps, another player who will know the offense the minute that the team steps back onto the field in April. Because of the way Hawkins played last November and December, that is a good thing.
For Hawkins, the rationale in why he wanted to re-sign with the Titans shows his continuing maturity, a maturity that is evident on and off the field.
That is significant because that maturity wasn’t always evident.
After a 2009 practice, Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was frustrated with Hawkins’ play. That frustration was obvious in one particular segment of practice, as Heimerdinger thought Hawkins might have some opportunities to contribute during an approaching game. Hawkins’ work on the practice field, however, did not inspire confidence in the veteran coach.
In our weekly production meeting with Heimerdinger, I asked the coach about what happened, trying to gain some insight into his view of Lavelle Hawkins.
Heimerdinger smiled the frustrated smile that many of us do as parents.
Heimerdinger liked Hawkins. It’s virtually impossible not to like the affable Hawkins. Heimerdinger wanted to see him succeed. He saw potential in the former California Bear. He saw the flashes of Hawkins’ talent.
But to paraphrase Heimerdinger, he could not trust Hawkins to be where he was supposed to be on certain plays. And so from 2008-2010, Hawkins only got on the field enough to catch 19 passes.
In 2011, a season-ending injury to Kenny Britt moved all of the receivers up one spot. That meant chances for everyone, including Hawkins. Sensing that this was his big moment, Hawkins made the most of his chance.
Hawkins caught at least one pass in the Titans’ final 15 games. Of his 47 catches, 23 went for first downs. 207 of his 470 receiving yards came after the catch. He scored his first career touchdown against Cincinnati.
Lavelle Hawkins had proven to be reliable.
In our final production of meeting of 2010, offensive coordinator Chris Palmer praised several of the Titans’ receivers for their improvement during 2011. Palmer heaped lavish praise on Hawkins because of number 87′s improvement throughout the season.
Chris Palmer was proud of Lavelle Hawkins. Mike Heimerdinger would have been, too.
Hawkins’ 2011 season was four years in the making.
He gets what it took to get there and clearly understands what it will take to build on it. That’s why he re-signed with the Titans.
Hawkins could have rolled the dice and chosen to head into free agency next month. Maybe some team would have offered him a bigger contract and a bigger role. Maybe not.
But instead of spending the next month wondering where he might be in 2012, instead of taking trips in March, instead of seeing if he could get an extra couple hundred grand in salary, instead of trying to learn a new offense—Hawkins made it clear that he wanted to stay with the Tennessee Titans.
Impressive. A player who realizes that the grass—and the money—isn’t always greener somewhere else.
More impressive, a player who realizes that he needs to keep working if he’s going to reach his potential. His rationale in making the decision leads one to believe that he’s going to keep getting better.
Here’s what we know about NFL receiving corps—you need as many good players as possible. Guys are going to get hurt. Guys are going to get double-teamed. Guys are going to have off-days. The more good players that you have in the group, the better off that you are.
Ask the Giants. It wasn’t their star wide receivers who made the big catches in their two recent Super Bowl wins.
Not only did David Tyree have the miraculous, hold-the-ball-against-helmet catch to set up the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII, but he also caught a touchdown pass earlier in the game. Tyree caught four passes for 35 yards during the 2007 regular season and never caught another pass after that Super Bowl.
This year’s Super Bowl hero, Mario Manningham, is much more accomplished than Tyree, but he was an unlikely hero on the game’s final drive for the Giants. His phenomenal 38 yard catch to spark Big Blue overshadowed an injury-plagued season that saw him catch just 39 passes and lose his starting spot.
It takes a bunch of receivers to make it work. It takes stars and role players. It takes fast guys and guys who know who to run routes. It takes five or six good football players who do different things.
Hawkins has proven that he is a good football player. He did it with hard work. He earned it.
The Titans may well add more talent at wide receiver through free agency and/or the draft. One more guy with extreme speed certainly would not hurt the Titans offense. I think personnel people call them “weapons”. Another “weapon” couldn’t hurt.
But Lavelle Hawkins’ decision to stay with the Titans and the Titans’ decision to bring him back is a win-win for the Tennessee offense right now.
Tags: Lavelle Hawkins
Posted in Keith's Corner | 7 Comments »
As afternoon turned to evening on November 26, 2006, you could have located no man, woman or child who would have ever believed that Eli Manning would later win two Super Bowls, outdueling one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history in both.
At that moment, Eli Manning was barely hanging on to his job as the New York Giants quarterback.
The Giants had just blown a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead at LP Field, losing to the Tennessee Titans in dramatic fashion, 24-21. In the game, Manning was incredibly shaky, especially in the fourth quarter. He threw for just 143 yards in the game and his two interceptions in the final fifteen minutes were crucial to the amazing Titans comeback/Giants collapse.
At that moment, Eli Manning wasn’t a bust, but he seemed close. His signalcalling draft mates from 2004, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, both appeared to be much better quarterbacks.
In the sports megatron that is New York, Eli Manning could find few friends.
Today, barely more than five years later, he is now “Mr. Fourth Quarter,” a mix of Willis Reed, Derek Jeter and Joe Namath — a two-time Super Bowl winner who has beaten Tom Brady head-to-head twice and outplayed him in both title games.
What a game, this NFL football.
In the latest Harris Poll that asks Americans “What is your favorite sport?”, NFL football ranked #1 again. It has been that way every year that Harris has asked the question since 1985.
There are lots of reasons to love the NFL, but two come to the surface.
First, any team truly can beat any other team on any given Sunday. The NFL is predictably unpredictable. We love that.
Second, all that really matters is the Super Bowl.
Life is complicated, we have very little “simple” in what we do. The NFL is simple — win the Super Bowl and nothing else matters.
Giants fans had to keep that in mind on December 11, when they trailed the Cowboys, 34-22, with 5:41 left in the game. Big Blue was on its way to its fifth straight loss and was going to miss the playoffs again. If you believe what you read and heard, Tom Coughlin was going to get fired. Eli Manning’s one Super Bowl win was just that, one Super Bowl win.
But Manning rallied the Giants and they won that Sunday night game in dramatic fashion. Two weeks later, they handled the hated Jets. The following week, they eliminated the Cowboys and made the playoffs.
You know the rest of the story.
Any given Sunday.
Super Bowls are all that matter.
And a team that was dead at 10:15 p.m. on December 11 is the World Champion on February 5.
What a game, this NFL football.
November 26, 2006 was a nightmare at LP Field for Eli Manning and the Giants. After that crushing loss to the Titans, few would have ever believed that Manning would become what he has become.
But he has and it is hard not to be pleased for the youngest of the Manning brothers. We will probably get tired of the story quickly, as we will be awash in “Eli Love” for the next few days and weeks. Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian will get a break.
For Manning and the Giants, this is the end of the season. For everyone else in the NFL, it is a beginning.
Welcome to the 2012.
You can dream any NFL dream that you wish, starting today.
As Eli Manning and the Giants have learned, your past — both distant and recent — doesn’t matter any more when the page is turned.
Posted in Keith's Corner | 2 Comments »
But you should.
The Falcons are one of a handful of teams capable of getting hot, winning the rest of their games and giving Green Bay all that they want in the NFC playoffs. We’ve seen that potential in spots this season.
Atlanta is 5-4 because of mistakes that they didn’t make during their 13-3 campaign of 2010. Case in point…
- * In 2010, the Falcons turned the ball over just 17 times and had a turnover ratio of +15. This season, Atlanta has already committed 14 turnovers and has a turnover ratio of +1.
- * Last season, Matt Ryan was sacked 23 times. This season, Ryan has already been sacked 20 times.
- * In 2010, Atlanta had 58 penalties for 598 yards (4 for 37 yards per game). This season, the Falcons already have 58 penalties in their first nine games and are averaging 6 penalties for 54 yards per game.
None of these numbers is particularly negative; they just aren’t as good as last season when Atlanta won 13 games. The numbers make it clear that while the Falcons haven’t played great so far in 2011, it does not mean that they won’t end up being a great team. Fact is, if Mike Smith’s team cleans some of this up in the next seven weeks, it would not be shocking to see them as a very dangerous 11-5 or 12-4 entry into the NFC playoffs. And remember: Atlanta is 22-4 at home with Matt Ryan at quarterback. If they can get at least one home game in the playoffs (especially after learning from last year’s playoff experience), they become even more of a threat.
The Titans are facing a really good team this weekend. Ignore the record and look at the potential.
Posted in Keith's Corner | 2 Comments »
Normally, by mid-week, it’s hard to tell if the Titans won or lost the preceding Sunday. Professional players move on to the next game because that’s the nature of the beast. You play 16 games and no one wins them all.
But this week around Baptist Sports Park, there has been a different feeling. Last Sunday’s defeat has remained an open sore.
The loss to Houston left a mark and the team took it very personally. On the front end, you say that’s a good thing. The Titans should not forget the disappointment of last Sunday. It should be a huge motivator.
But there’s a flip side to that.
When a loss leaves a mark, there are can a residual effective in the next game. That’s why making a big play early will be such a key on Sunday against the Colts. Huge key, bigger than normal.
The Titans need to find a spark from somewhere — offense, defense or special teams — -in the game’s first five minutes. For some reason, it’s a defense that often makes that sort of play. And the Titans defenders have talked all week about “being due.” While the offense is tired of hearing about the run game, the Tennessee defense is over being reminded that they have just one sack and one takeaway in the last two games.
They could end that talk before 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
For the Titans’ sake, the earlier in the afternoon, the better.
Posted in Keith's Corner | 1 Comment »
For all of the talk about Pittsburgh, the Tennessee Titans’ biggest challenge is just to keep going. Because we all got started in this thing as AFC Central members, all of us soon-to-be old-timers — that cannot be true, but I think that it is — want to get very excited about the rivalry that exists from the first days of the NFL’s existence in the Mid-South.
Of course, we have to remind ourselves that this is the 10th season of the AFC South Division (yes, it was formed in 2002). The last time there was an AFC Central, the current Titans rookies were barely in middle school. In other words, all of the old rivalry talk doesn’t mean much to the players. They know Pittsburgh. They know Pittsburgh has won two Super Bowls in recent years. They know Pittsburgh is one of the best teams in the NFL. And really, that’s all that they need to know.
The current Titans know that if they go to Pittsburgh on Sunday and play poorly, they lose. If they play well, they win. Their job on Sunday is just to keep going, no matter the opponent. And let those of quickly becoming old-timers talk about the game in way that makes it more than it is.
Posted in Keith's Corner | 6 Comments »
Matt Hasselbeck was great in two playoff games for Seattle. Since joining the Titans, Hasselbeck has put up excellent numbers for the Titans in three regular season games. 2011 agrees with Hasselbeck. In five games during this calendar year (counting the January playoff games), Hasselbeck has hit on 65% of his passes (126-193) for 1462 yards with 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His passer rating in the five games is 102.3. Another key stat: Hasselbeck has only been sacked seven times in the five games played in 2011.
Posted in Keith's Corner | 2 Comments »