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Experience is a powerful thing

Posted May 13, 2017

Rookie RBs earned every yard they gained in college


Pam from Ellenton, FL

What's the difference between skills of a tackle and guard? The Packers often draft one position and move the player to the other.

You deal with more speed outside. While footwork is crucial regardless of what position you’re playing, tackles need to match the explosive quickness seen from most premier edge-rushers. Guards and centers need to be equipped to handle 320-pound defensive tackles barreling forward. That’s the biggest difference in the simplest terms.

Ethan from La Crosse, WI

I agree with Mike, I don't understand the concern at RB right now. We need to keep in mind there is not a regular-season game for 16 weeks. There is plenty of time to get it figured out.

If there’s one position where I’m cool with youth and uncertainty, it’s running back. Last September, I’m not sure how many people had Jordan Howard penciled in for 1,300 rushing yards as a rookie. If you did, tell me who to draft in my fantasy league this August.

Nick from Chicago, IL

Do you think Ty Montgomery and the backfield can turn out a 1-2 punch like Freeman/Coleman of ATL?

Why not? The Packers have to figure out what they have in these three rookies, but they already have one running back locked into that equation with Montgomery. Those rookie backs weren’t handed anything going into the college ranks. They earned every yard they’ve ever gained and they’ll be hungry to show they belong in the pros. Let’s see what they can do.

Craig from Tracy, CA

"In the immortal words of Florence Jean Castleberry, Montgomery will move back to wide receiver this year when donkeys fly." I didn't even know that Flo was a Packers fan! He may not move back full-time, but do you think plays with him starting in the backfield and ending up as a wideout will become more common?

Like they’ve done with Randall Cobb, the Packers are going to put Montgomery in position to make plays. That might require him lining up in the backfield, catching the ball in the flat and maybe even motioning out to receiver at times. The more you can do with Montgomery, the better it’s going to be for the offense.

Will from Julian, CA

Isn't it wishful thinking to say that a somewhat larger DB (say Josh Jones size) is big enough to "match up" with a TE (say Gronk’s or Bennett’s size)? You still have a much smaller player "matching up" with a much larger player. Is the tight end "matchup" the Achilles heel of most defenses?

You’re not going to find a capable 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive back to defend the Gronks or Bennetts, but you don’t have to. Taller and sturdy DBs like Morgan Burnett and Jones can get the job done. That’s why 215-pound ’backers are in vogue right now.

Ethan from Holly Springs, NC

How much do you think our newly added free agents will play this preseason?

The Packers didn’t sign them to sit. I think Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks and Jahri Evans are going to see significant playing time with the offense’s plans for tight end and the open spot at right guard. Davon House and Ricky Jean Francois also will get every opportunity to earn playing time.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

How does a player improve from year to year without actually playing in games between seasons?

Physical and mental maturity. Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and every playmaker on the Packers’ roster faced a learning curve coming into the NFL. Experience is a powerful thing. When second-year players return for training camp, there is a treasure chest of information they’ve gained over the past year. All of that knowledge adds up quickly.

Kalin from New London, WI

Do you feel Kenny Clark is the starter once the season starts? I looked at his stats last year and Kenny did next to nothing until the Cowboys game.

If Clark picks up where he left off in 2016, I’d expect a big season from last year’s first-round pick. Keep in mind – he’s only 21 years old at a position typically dominated by veteran players. Clark has serious tools and they started to show down the stretch.

Liam from Los Angeles, CA

Does Malachi Dupre stand a chance to make the team? I get he has the frame and everything, but at such a stacked position will he even get a chance? Not to mention drafting another receiver before him and Allison and Davis, etc.

I’ll never discount any rookie’s chances at making the roster after Jarrett Boykin earned a spot on an absolutely loaded receiver depth chart in 2012. People often forget the Packers also returned Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel in addition to five established veterans (Nelson, Cobb, Jennings, Jones and Driver). Everybody has a shot. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.

Matty from Durango, CO

Wes, does any coach give a whit about measurables (hand size, 40-yard dash, etc.) during practices and when deciding who to cut and who makes the team? I'm guessing it's all about what they see on the field.

You can have all the talent in the world, but you have to show it on the football field. If a player can put that 40 time or vertical jump to work, the decision becomes a lot easier for coaches and scouts.

Jeff from Brooklyn, WI

Usually the first pick of the Packers draft is the last to sign, so how is it King was signed before the next four picks?

That also came as a surprise to me, but maybe being the first pick of the second round made negotiations easier. It’s not a total stunner in 2017. Deals can be processed faster with the rookie-wage scale.

Jeremy from Kennett Square, PA

Doesn't what the Patriots did with Blount strike you as somewhat foolish? Couldn't that dissuade other FAs from signing one-year cheap deals with them in the future? Doesn't seem worth it.

I pride myself on knowing most of the nuances of free agency and contracts, but this was something I’d never heard of. It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off.

Dave from Sparta, WI

Aaron Rodgers is the second-oldest player on the roster at 33, being only a few months younger than recently signed Jahri Evans. The average player age on the current roster is just over 24 years old. For comparison, the Vikings average 25, Bears 25 1/2, and Lions the same. If younger equals faster, then we're heading in the right direction.

It’s a young man’s game, which is why you hear many teams talk about the value of draft-and-develop. If you draft well, you’ll stand to benefit from having playmakers at reasonable cost for four years. In turn, it allows you to pay those players accordingly once they do it free agency. Rinse and repeat.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

What holdover returners do you favor and which new guys will get a shot?

The Packers finished the year with Jeff Janis on kickoffs and Randall Cobb on punt returns. That would be my starting point until other options emerge. Based on recent history, the rookie running backs and receivers likely will throw their hats into the ring this summer.

Mike from Somerset, WI

The rookie DBs are exciting prospects, but it is unrealistic to expect that they will be playoff-ready this season. The Packers need the guys in the DB room from 2016 to take a step if we have expectations to make a deep run. What year do DBs take their biggest jump?

That’s hard to predict. We’ve seen a lot of rookie cornerbacks jump right onto the scene lately and contribute during their first NFL season. However, it sometimes takes longer. Tramon Williams, Davon House and even Sam Shields came into their own in their third and fourth seasons.

Jonathan from Hednesford, England

Is Brett Hundley as good a backup as Matt Flynn was when AR broke his collarbone?

You hope you don’t have to find that out, but Hundley is talented.  What he did during the preseason as a rookie in 2015 wasn’t a fluke. It’s unfortunate the ankle issue flared up last summer. This will be a big camp for him.

Cameron from West Lafayette, IN

We've all heard whispers of the NFL expanding and adding a franchise in London and maybe even Mexico City. Logistically, how would the current division format be altered? How would playoff seeding work? Right now it seems pretty perfect at four teams per division.

I don’t see the 32-team format changing anytime soon. It’s not broken and I wouldn’t mess with it. The current international model works fine the way it is, but if a team were to relocate overseas or to Mexico, I believe the division and conference affiliations would just absorb the change rather than altering the entire landscape of the league.

Jake from Loveland, CO

With the attention to safety and CBA-induced roster sizes, do you foresee another entrepreneur attempting a football league like XFL was supposed to be? I could see Wes salivating over wrestling-like moves in the gridiron.

I was a fan of the XFL in 2001, but I don’t think there’s a place for it in 2017. Player safety is first and foremost when it comes to how the game is played today and that’s a good thing. Let’s keep the wrestling in the squared circle.

Michael from Orange Park, FL

Sean from Eustis, FL, had a great question. I saw a question last week stating the Packers might get the maximum of four comp picks next year, because of the loss of Lang, Peppers, Tretter and Lacy. Did you forget about Cook and Pennel? Do they not count or do only the top four losses count?

Cook counts towards the formula. Pennel does not because he was released during the playoffs. Even if he would’ve finished the year on the roster, Pennel wouldn’t have counted because he was a restricted free agent.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Wes, I'm hoping you can give me some specifics on minimum salaries vs. veteran minimums. I believe last year the league minimum was 540K for players on the 53. Does this change as the salary cap changes? Also, at what point does the veteran minimum start (Year 2-3)? And, does it vary at all by position, i.e. QB vs. long snapper?

Under the current CBA, the minimum salary increases $15,000 per season. Teams can use the veteran salary benefit on any player who has played four or more seasons. For example, the minimum salary for a player with 10 NFL seasons in 2017 will be $1 million. However, that player would only count as a third-year player ($615,000) on the cap. The provision was created to not price veterans out of the league. It doesn’t vary by position.

Maxwell from Milwaukee, WI

It seems like most of the criticisms leveled at Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson is that they aren't the Patriots. Thirty other teams also aren't the Patriots, and they needed Malcolm Butler's fantastic interception and Julian Edelman's insane catch to win their last two Super Bowls. Bill Belichick has a ton of respect for Mike McCarthy, and he is pretty stingy with his praise.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Nick from Lima, OH

Just for some fun, how many WR do we keep this year? More or less than seven?

Numbers are arbitrary when it comes to forming a 53-man roster, but I’d have a difficult time seeing eight receivers making the roster.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Regarding his Insider Inbox routine, Mike said, "I...shake my head, laugh...and hit delete a whole bunch; and try to find enough good questions to answer before it’s break time.” Is it difficult to find good questions? Would you please share the fatal question flaws that lead to deletion so they can be avoided in the future?

It depends. Some days are better than others. An overabundance of spelling errors and insults will get you a one-way ticket to my trash folder.

Marcus from Greenville, TX

The only problem with scheduling the other AFC teams who finished in the same slot as an NFC team would be there would be three teams and two game slots. It works in the same conference because you don't play yourself.

Good point. And I’m out of ideas.

Braden from Brookfield, WI

Wes, HBO has announced a spinoff series to Game of Thrones. What storyline in Westeros would you like to see?

Robert’s Rebellion.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Wes, why do you call Mike “Michael”?

It’s honestly because of John Bradshaw Layfield…and the fact I work with approximately 50 Mikes. It makes it easier to differentiate.

Ryan from Fedora, SD

Biff, “Major League” or “Bull Durham”?

“Bull Durham” is one of my favorite movies. As great as “Major League” is, I’m sticking with Crash Davis forever and always.

Larry from Colorado Springs, CO

The sesquipedlianistic characteristics of "formulaic" and "incontrovertibly" leave me aghast.

I think our work is done here.


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