The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their 2019 mandatory minicamp practices on Thursday and tackle Jerald Hawkins was able to participate in them in some capacity this year after not being able to do so a year ago because of a torn quad that he had suffered during an OTA practice. Not only did Hawkins get to participate some in this year’s OTA and mandatory minicamp practices, he also reportedly did so at multiple positions.
According to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Thursday, Hawkins, who was originally selected by the Steelers in the fourth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of LSU, not only practiced some at both tackle spots during the team’s offseason practices, but some at guard as well.
“Wherever they want me at, I’m gonna be there,” Hawkins said Thursday, per Adamski. “If they want me, I’m going in there. I’m not going to tell them ‘no.’”
The news of Hawkins working some at guard this offseason might come as a surprise to several reading this post, but it doesn’t to me. In fact, I’ve been writing and talking about him potentially kicking inside ever since his rookie season and right after former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley mentioned that the LSU product might be a future guard prospect.
“Jerald Hawkins, that we got from LSU, is a good-looking tackle prospect, potentially a guard prospect,” Haley said a little more than three years ago. “A guy that’s played at a high level. We are excited about him as a guy we all liked a bunch.”
Even former Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak hinted that Hawkins could be guard-capable right after the team had drafted him in 2016.
“To find players who you feel can play the left tackle or right tackle spot and to have that versatility, a lot of times tackles, as you get later in the rounds, can play right tackle or go inside,” said Munchak when he talked to the media following Hawkins’ selection. “We feel this guy can come in and learn from the guys we have, push the guys that we have and now it’s just a matter of how quickly we feel he can contribute as we get him in here for OTA’s.”
Obviously, Hawkins’ NFL career hasn’t gone smooth at all to date as his entire rookie season was lost to a shoulder injury that required surgery. While Hawkins did play a little bit in his second season with the Steelers, he was mainly used like an extra tight end on the end of the line. In fact, he only logged roughly 50 total offensive snaps during the 2017 season. Last season, Hawkins entire year was wiped out by a torn quad suffered during OTA practices and he’s still not full recovered from that injury come the close of this year’s mandatory minicamp.
While Hawkins obviously hopes to compete for the starting right tackle spot this year during training camp, he’ll have a tall task beating out fellow offensive linemen Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor for it. In short, Hawkins will likely be battling for the right to be the team’s backup swing tackle this year.
The Steelers will take a lot of tackles with the to training camp this year and if Hawkins isn’t fully healthy when he arrives in Latrobe, he’ll likely start off on the team’s Reserve/PUP list. Regardless of whenever Hawkins does start practicing at Saint Vincent College this summer, I fully expect him to get some time at guard as well as tackle. If he can show some great position flexibility between now and the start of September, it will greatly increase his chances of making the initial 53-man roster this year.