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Ask Vic

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Tight end will be position to watch during training camp

Posted Jul 2, 2014

One breakout second-year player on each side of the ball could really help Packers

The regular writer of "Ask Vic," packers.com editor Vic Ketchman, is out of the office. Staff writer Mike Spofford is temporarily filling in to answer your "Ask Vic" questions.

Dan from Herriman, Utah

Mr. Spofford, level with us. Vic is on his way to Brazil to take in the final weeks of the World Cup, right?

And we’re off … so we might as well get going.

Nick from State College, PA

Last season, you said left tackle would be the position to watch. Do you have any early predictions on what might be the position to watch this year?

On defense, it’s safety, given Micah Hyde’s position change in the spring and the drafting of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. On offense, it’s tight end, which also appears to intrigue Brandon.

Brandon from Virginia Beach, VA

Vic, in my opinion the only position on the offensive side of the ball with question marks at the moment (besides O-line depth) is tight end. Quarless and Bostick both have experience; however, I do not see either of them becoming the game-changing weapon we would prefer at tight end. However, Richard Rodgers and Colt Lyerla both have the physical potential to be what we hoped Finley would have been. In your opinion who is going to be the No. 1 tight end of the future? Is he on the roster? Who will contribute the most this year?

I did my best to correctly punctuate your double usage of however in the same passage, and I think the depth up front is improved when a player of Don Barclay’s caliber is currently slated as the sixth man. But, getting back to the tight ends, there’s a lot to sort out with this group. I’m reserving judgment on Rodgers and Lyerla until the pads go on. Quarless has a career-changing opportunity in front of him. So does Bostick, to whom Ryan from my hometown of Platteville gave a shout out. Both showed flashes last year in Finley’s absence. Stay tuned.

Hugo from Lodi, CA

Huge Packers fan from California, Vic. Was away for a bit rooting for Mexico in the World Cup and can't help but say I was devastated far more than how the Packers lost in the postseason. Football is every year, the World Cup is every four years...

If American football ever had the equivalent of a penalty kick, Vic wouldn’t have lasted four decades covering the sport. More like four minutes.

Dan from Houston, TX

So a study in New Hampshire found that the new overbuilt facemasks may "cause neck fatigue that could lead to a more head-down posture during contact and can provide a false sense of security during tackling." Is this the first step to shrinking the helmet in order to prevent neck and head injuries?

A number of you asked about the new rule banning oversized facemasks. I think technology will change the helmets, not any rules, but this rule certainly points toward discouraging the use of the helmet as a weapon.

Jan from Nijlen, Belgium

Go Belgium! I immediately thought about you after tonight's soccer game. The U.S. soccer madness can stop now and Vic won't have to leave his country to avoid all the soccer hype. You are welcome. Question: As a soccer fan, I have difficulties with the duration of football games and all the commercial breaks. It just takes too long to finish a game. Is this perceived as a possible problem in the U.S., too? Or do I just have to get used to it?

Get used to it. NFL games aren’t getting shorter. What I don’t get is why overtime, or extra time, or whatever you call it, isn’t sudden death in soccer. That makes no sense to me.

Mitch from Moline, IL

I know it is a while back, but looking at top performances in the combine, Jeff Janis seems to be in the mix for nearly every drill. I am excited about his athleticism, yet he was drafted in the seventh round. What was it that kept him from being sought out earlier in the draft?

Film against Division II competition only gives scouts so much to go on, and he must not have made a strong enough impression at the Senior Bowl against the top D-I prospects to warrant a higher grade. He did get drafted from D-II, though, which says something. He takes another step up in competition when he lines up across from Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House, etc., in training camp. Once that starts, it doesn’t matter when he was drafted.

Mike from Pulaski, WI

What happened to the "Psycho” package defense that we saw a few years ago? I would assume it was simply ineffective or we'd still be seeing it. What was its downfall? Love the column VK, thanks!

The “Psycho” package flooded the front on third down with linebackers to get the quarterback guessing as to who was rushing and who was covering. The Packers rarely had enough healthy linebackers last year to get through a game, let alone employ that package. Maybe it will reappear.

Scott from Rock Hill, S.C.

Eddie Lacy really stepped up when Rodgers got hurt and put the team on his back when needed, and had an outstanding rookie season. If all stay healthy on the offense, could you see him breaking out as a dominant top-tier RB if he isn't already there?

He’s pretty much there, with maybe one more step to take. When I did a one-on-one interview with Lacy earlier this offseason for a feature story in the Packers Yearbook (which heads to the printer soon), his immediate response when I asked what he wants to improve on in his second season was “second-level running.” So I took a look, and remarkably, Lacy averaged 4.1 yards per carry last season, yet only three of his 284 carries went for 20 yards or more – a 37-yard run at Baltimore, a 56-yarder vs. Chicago and the 60-yarder at Dallas. Corey from Davenport pointed out Lacy’s bad ankle the final month, and that certainly played into the lack of big gainers, but if he starts making more guys miss on the second level, to steal a line from Vic, look out.

Ryan from Southaven, MS

Vic, my brothers and I wanted to get my dad some excellent seats for his 60th birthday, but before spending that kind of money, can you tell me which side is the Packers sideline (section 119 or 120)?

The even-numbered sections are on the Packers sideline. Don’t dismiss the odd-numbered side, though. When you view the game from there, going home and watching the TV replay is like seeing a new game again.

Lewk from Davenport, IA

Mike, I think you're too professional to do anything out-of-line in the press box, but if you were forced to stay home, would you cheer when the Packers scored?

I’d be too busy figuring out what question I’d want to ask the scoring player after the game, and I’d be intently awaiting the replay to get a closer look at what made the play work, because both could become a key part of my story afterward. The job controls the mind, even when you’re not on the job. Look, I’ll say one thing Vic hasn’t about this topic, even if he doesn’t want me to and if other beat reporters would criticize me for it – this job is more fun when the team is winning. I’d much rather spend my time around happy people. But whether the team wins or loses doesn’t change how I do my job. It can’t.

Sawyer from Clemson, SC

Vic, I'm going to be competing in my first disc golf tournament this coming Sunday. Have you ever competed in a golf tournament and if so, do you have any advice for me?

I competed in golf tournaments on my college team. I always made sure I counted my clubs before I went to the first tee so I wouldn’t be penalized. I’ve never played disc golf. How many clubs do you get?

David from Buffalo, NY

Hey Vic. What second-year player do you think will have a breakout season?

I’ve failed miserably at these types of predictions before, but I’ll say the best thing for the Packers is if the answer to your question is Datone Jones on defense and JC Tretter on offense.

Landon from Coeur d’Alene, ID

How far back has the 2012 draft set the Packers? Other than Daniels the draft class was filled with washouts, and three guys who have spent more time injured than making a difference. Did Ted really damage the future with that selected group?

Injuries have damaged that class, no doubt, but the real evaluation comes in looking at all those trades. Thompson traded up three times in that draft, spending seven picks total to select Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward and Terrell Manning. We all know Hayward is a player, but the jury is still out on Worthy and Manning is long gone. That’s why trading up is risky, because if it doesn’t work out, it becomes really expensive.

Bram from Colorado Springs, CO

Vic, since you still love the running game, do you try to watch high school football games? There is still true young man-to-man confrontation on Friday nights.

That’s what I miss about my newspaper days more than anything else – Friday night high school football in the fall. I always watched games and kept my own stats from the sidelines.

Gary from Tompkinsville, KY

Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren get a lot of credit for making the Packers playoff contenders again. The one person I think gets overlooked is former Packers President Bob Harlan. Your thoughts on this?

I don’t think Harlan is overlooked, and you’re right, he shouldn’t be. He hired Wolf and put full control of the football operation in the GM’s hands and no one else’s. That was a major change to how things had been run post-Lombardi.

Sam from Millville, PA

Vic, is there any chance that Donald Driver's number will be retired?

Sorry to disappoint you, but given that one former Packers player who is in the Hall of Fame wore No. 80, and Driver’s chances of induction are slim to none, no. Vic has harped on this before – there needs to be perspective on the whole retired number thing. When Favre has his No. 4 retired and goes into the Hall, the Packers will have 22 players in Canton and six retired numbers. That’s the perspective that can’t be lost.

Travis from Fort Walton Beach, FL

Vic, I enjoyed Mike's article on Barclay. I've always liked rooting for the underdog. Are there any other low-draft or undrafted players that you feel have consistently played at a higher caliber than anticipated? Shields is the other Packer that comes to my mind.

I’ve been here since the day Tramon Williams walked through the door as a Texans reject who waited nearly three months just to get a practice-squad spot, and chronicling the growth and progress of his career from the beginning has been a treat.

Zach from Hemlock, MI

Which Packer that was not on the team last year are you most excited about seeing in pads as training camp approaches?

Veteran? Julius Peppers. Rookie? Richard Rodgers and Davante Adams.

Joe from River Falls, WI

Vic, does Brian from Costa Mesa get into the Hall for "conductive criticism"?

I wondered about that, too. Jeremiah from Nashville can present him for induction. He has deduced that conductive criticism must make a “polarizing person” a “lightning rod.”

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