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Tennessee Titans Football

Hawkins’ Return is a Win-Win for Titans’ Offense

Posted by Mike Keith on February 14, 2012 – 12:17 am

The announcement of Lavelle Hawkins’ new contract late last week was significant in two ways.

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.

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