Ex-Cal Safety Jaylinn Hawkins Could Be Falcons’ Sleeper Impact Player

Jaylinn Hawkins during the NFL CombinePhoto by Brian Spurlock - USA TODAY Sports

Jake Curtis

Former Cal safety Ashtyn Davis has been getting rave reviews from the New York Jets coaching staff, but Jaylinn Hawkins, Davis' partner on the backline of Cal's defense the past several years, also could be more than just a bit player for the Atlanta Falcons this season.

At least that is the opinion of Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports, who named one non-first-round draft pick from each NFC team who has the talent and circumstances to flourish as a rookie.  For the Falcons, the player he named was Jaylinn Hawkins.

Here is what Trapasso said about Hawkins:

S Jaylinn Hawkins

Impressive stat to know: Nine interceptions in his last 26 games at California

Ashtyn Davis was the Cal safety who received the most hype this past draft cycle, and while watching his film, Hawkins consistently made plays. I love his combination of quality range and quickness in his feet to close on the football in front of him at the intermediate level. He's unafraid to throw his weight around against the run, and is decently effective in the box too.

Hawkins actually has an uphill climb to get on the field with Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen in front of him, but he's one of those players who, thanks to instincts more than anything else, is involved in the action often. 

You may recall that Hawkins was considered a long shot to get drafted at all in the pre-draft analyses, given an outside chance to get taken in the seventh (last) round.

Not only was Hawkins drafted, he was taken in the fourth round, one of the biggest surprises in the draft.  His emotional reaction the day he was drafted was priceless stuff:

Hawkins is listed as a third-team strong safety on the pre-camp depth charts provided by both ESPN and CBS Sports.  However, the two players ahead of Hawkins at strong safety -- Keanu Neal (Achilles) and Ricardo Allen (shoulder) -- have had some injury problems that might limit their participation at the start of training camp this week. That could give Hawkins a chance to show his skills a little earlier than expected.

Neal is the best Falcons safety, but he has suffered season-ending injuries each of the past two seasons -- a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in 2018 and a torn Achilles this past season. Those are both serious injuries.  

Allen is considered questionable for Atlanta's regular-season opener against Seattle. He tore his Achilles tendon in 2018 and had offseason shoulder surgery following the 2019 season.

Allen also may play nickle back for the Falcons this season, which would move Hawkins up a rung on the depth chart at the strong safety spot.

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