The second year is supposed to be the year in which you make the biggest jump in your career, or at least that is the logic trotted out on an annual basis. The logic is sound, of course, even if it doesn’t always apply smoothly across the board.
So far, it is not looking like that is going to be the case for Jerald Hawkins, the second-year offensive tackle that the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. An underclassman, there were—and are—high hopes for his future, but his training camp this year so far has been disappointing.
That is in contrast to seemingly everything that led up to it. Training camp reports about him during his rookie season were more than favorable, and he looked good in his lone preseason appearance during the opening game, but he suffered a shoulder injury that landed him on injured reserve after that.
That is why many were really excited to see what he would offer in his second season. There was even some chatter during the contract negotiations of Alejandro Villanueva that Hawkins could be a factor and a sticking point in the process. Maybe they want to see what they have in the LSU product before giving Villanueva a long-term deal.
That was probably never the case, but even if it were a factor, he has done nothing this training camp so far that would have made the front office balk at getting a deal done with their starting left tackle. Hell, perhaps Villanueva’s asking price would have gone up had they gotten to training camp and it unfolded as it has.
It is certainly worth pointing out that with Villanueva not participating in the opening preseason game after sustaining an apparent head injury earlier that week during practices, the coaches called upon Chris Hubbard, and not Hawkins, to start the game at left tackle.
It was a while before the second-year man got in the game, though he did play the majority of the game. And he did not particularly shine while he was in. He certainly had a better showing in his preseason debut as a rookie than he did last week.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the young man is not going to continue to develop and become a good player and contributor. Perhaps at some point he will work his way into the starting lineup down the road. Still, whatever the future may hold, the reality is that he has disappointed so far in his second training camp.