SLB-MLB David Hawthorne, #57
New Orleans Saints
Height: 5-11 7/8 Weight: 246 Speed: 4.74
Notes: Signed by the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2008 after serving as a 3½-year starter at TCU. Saw action primarily on special teams in 14 games as a rookie, recording 12 tackles. Stepped into the starting lineup for an injured Lofa Tatupu at the MLB spot in ’09 for the final 11-of-16 games, recording a team-best 117 tackles, four sacks, five pass breakups, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Moved to the strong side and started all 16 contests in ’10, finishing with 75 tackles, four pass breakups, an interception and three forced fumbles. Moved back to his more natural "Mike" position in ’11 and started 14-of-15 games in which he played, recording 115 tackles, six pass breakups and three interceptions, one of which he returned for a 77-yard TD. Signed by the Saints to a five-year contract with a $19 million max value. Started the first three games for New Orleans on the weak side before tearing his right hamstring against the Chiefs and missing five games. Returned to the lineup on the strong side following the return of Jonathan Vilma from suspension, and has recorded 24 tackles in seven starts.
Positives: Outstanding work habits. Extremely tough and competitive. Plays hard. Is aggressive filling downhill and strikes with some thump as a tackler. Good straight-line closing speed. Above-average eyes and instincts. Smart and accountable and takes the game very seriously. Leader by example. Will battle through pain. Excellent weight-room worker. Good special-teams effort and production.
Negatives: Lacks ideal size and has short arms that limit capacity to shed blocks. Is tight-hipped and overly muscled and it shows in his movement and affects his lateral agility and ability to break down in space and make open-field tackles. Average playing speed — can be outflanked to the perimeter and get hung up in traffic. Has limitations in man coverage and struggles staying in phase against tight ends down the field.
Summary: A solid, workmanlike, functional football player with the toughness, competitiveness and focus to earn a roster spot and fight his way into a starting role. Was at his best in Seattle when he played on the inside, yet alongside an overcrowded crew of MLBs featuring Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma — both also best suited for the middle — Hawthorne has been forced to play on the outside since arriving in New Orleans. Began the campaign on the weak side and shifted to the strong side upon the return of Vilma and noticeably looks out of position. Lacks the length desired to play over the tight end and the speed and fluidity desired on the weak side. Is at his best when he can be protected to flow to the ball on the inside.