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It starts on the ground

Posted Nov 18, 2017

Losing a franchise player tests a team's mettle


Tom from New York, NY

Imagine how good a team that has learned to win without Aaron Rodgers will be with Aaron Rodgers. That's my Yogi Berra and Confucian paradox for the day.

Losing a franchise player tests the mettle of a team and a locker room, but it also can make a team stronger. I think you saw that in Chicago. That victory was the first domino. Now, the Packers need to get the next one on Sunday.

John from Winsted, CT

Your article about Brittany Crosby was incredible and really pulled at the heart strings. I think those type of articles really bring out the best in your writing. Hoping for the best for Brittany and the rest of the family.

Thanks for reading, John. I’m glad they had a chance to stop by at Lambeau Field on Friday. Their courage and positivity are inspiring. This upcoming round of chemotherapy has its side effects, but she’ll only need to go once every four weeks. They’re still planning a trip to Disney World next month with Rees’ parents. Talk about seizing the day.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, what are the best ways for the Packers' offense to attack the sixth-rated Ravens’ defense?

It starts on the ground. As tough as Baltimore has been through the air this season – second in fewest yards and first in interceptions – the Ravens are 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed. Having Brandon Williams back helps them against the run, but it’s still crucial to establish the ground game with Jamaal Williams, early and often.

Josh from Denver, CO

I'm excited to see Devante Mays hopefully get a few carries on Sunday. How has he been looking in practice?

You don’t get a true feel of running backs during regular-season practices, but his tenacity and power stood out to me from the beginning of training camp. His nickname is “Bull.” It’s fitting.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

It looks like Jason Spriggs will soon be added to the 53. I thought in 2016 he looked promising early and in the second half of the season he made significant contributions. In camp and preseason this year he clearly struggled. Now that he's back practicing and the team is on a very limited practice schedule with only once a week in pads and no hard one-on-one drills, how can he be game-ready enough so the coaches can trust him enough to protect Hundley?

We’ll see what Spriggs’ role is once activated. Justin McCray has done an exemplary job considering the circumstances he’s been thrown into, moving from left guard to right tackle and even once to left tackle. It’s going to take a little time for Spriggs to get back up to speed.

Perry from Ishpeming, MI

I loved Brett coming out of UCLA and was very happy when the Pack drafted him and I'm even happier for his first win. So here's my question...do you think his additional reps with the first team the past few weeks have drastically improved his timing with the receivers and led to less poor throws?

Indubitably. Hundley took more first-team reps this preseason, but a majority of his work in August came with the second- and third-team units. Luke Getsy said it on Thursday – he’s starting to learn the body language of Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. That’s so critical for a young quarterback stepping into a starting role.  

David from Madison, WI

Does not every team have a next-man-up approach, if at the very least for positions other than quarterback?

To some extent. Some teams are more apt to sign a veteran rather than promoting from within, though. I’ve always felt it’s better to bring up your practice-squad players. Less of a learning curve, especially on special teams.

James from Madison, WI

Since many of us are not familiar with the Ravens, who are the players we should watch out for? Do they have any weak spots?

C.J. Mosley is as good as inside linebackers get. He’s a true playmaker. Baltimore has an experienced and deep roster of defensive backs, with Eric Weddle among the league’s elite safeties. Keep an eye on the Ravens’ left tackle situation. Starter Ronnie Stanley (concussion) is doubtful.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Joe Flacco is a veteran quarterback, but I wouldn't put him in the caliber of “elite.” What are the weaknesses of his game that the Packers' defense must exploit?

His arm is elite. It’s one of the best in the NFL. He has exposed the ball a lot this year with 10 interceptions and five fumbles. He’s going to give a secondary chances. It’s on the defense to execute and prevent the big plays he’s known for.

Santiago from Rome, Italy

Can you image watching a 2011 Packers game with the Madden cam?

That would’ve been something.

Brian from Springfield, IL

Thursday night’s game, the TV crew showed more of the game from the camera behind the QB. They had to do that a few weeks ago at New England because of fog. I prefer the new view from the old side view. I think it really showcases the speed the game is played at and the tight spaces throws and runs have to go through. I hope they continue to show the game this way and will become the future. What do you guys think?

I’m cool with it. I know the traditionalists probably aren’t fans. I guess I wish you could pick your camera view like Madden.

Joe from Bloomington, IN

A few telling games this weekend. Eagles at Cowboys, Falcons at Seahawks, and Rams at Vikings. The season's not so young anymore. What will these games tell you?

There is a lot of season left, but this is a big weekend in the NFC. I wouldn’t be surprised if several of these games determine division winners and wild-card teams. It’s a very intriguing slate of games.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Does Blake Martinez have any chance of making the Pro Bowl?

Absolutely, but you guys have to do your part. Vote. I think Martinez and Jahri Evans are two guys who quietly have earned the right to be in the Pro Bowl conversation – durable, consistent and productive.

Gary from Davenport, IA

After seeing the Steelers on “Thursday Night Football,” it just dawned on me that the Packers will play three straight opponents who will have had at least three extra days of rest before the game. I'll say it before you do. Life isn't fair.

At least the Packers didn’t get a Week 4 bye this year. You have to count your blessings.

Andrew from Cincinnati, OH

Does the league have any interesting rules regarding non-players using team facilities? For instance, a player is on a practice squad and gets bumped off? I assume in GB the Packers’ weight room is as good as it gets. Can they pay a gym fee to get them in the door during off hours?

That’s a negative, ghost rider. There are elite training facilities throughout the country, though. Many free agents get hooked up with one through their agency.

Tim from Farmington, MN

For every player we pull for to make the active roster, we are effectively rooting against another to lose his spot. That is a tough scenario for the bottom half of any roster as we hope for one player’s dream to come true while simultaneously crushing another. This is a rough business.

That is the hardest part. I’ve said this before – that’s what made the kicking competition between Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio so difficult a few years ago. You have two legitimately good dudes who are competing for one job. It can be heartbreaking to see good people’s dreams dashed.

Joe from Asbury, IA

Long snapper should no longer be an issue, so Vogel has no more excuses. If he doesn't get Goode-er, is he toast?

Why do we always want to fire everybody? No. Vogel is going to be fine. He’s a talented punter having a good rookie season. He just needs to settle in with his holds. Goode’s return should help the operation.

Roger from Indianapolis, IN

With Hundley maybe having a leg issue, did Joe Callahan get some snaps with the first team this week to be ready if Hundley falters?

Hundley was a full participant in practice all week, so I doubt there was much change with how snaps were distributed. Hundley needs those first-team reps.

Anthony from Staten Island, NY

I don't know if this has been answered before, but what if they just schedule the Thursday night games with teams that had the bye the week before? Then they get 10 days on the front end and 10 days on the back end.

The problem is there is a Thursday night game every week of the season. So are you going to start giving teams a Week 1, 2 or 3 bye? I think Mark Tauscher had the best take on this so far – add another bye week and do what you’re saying.  

Gardner from Circle Pines, MN

A bumper sticker for this year – the G logo followed by B-E-L-I-E-V-E! Nothing is possible if you don't believe!

Teamwork makes the dream work…or something.

Robert from Seattle, WA

I like both Harbaughs and think they are both great coaches. Is something wrong with me?

Not at all. Give credit where credit is due. Those two guys can coach.

Jason from Austin, TX

If you have a stud run blocker at left guard, but you want to run right, why not line him up on the right side for that play? It could add another wrinkle to the offense.

Offensive line coach James Campen put into context Thursday the difficulty of moving from one side to the other. These guys take hundreds of reps at their position. It’s not easy to change your footwork midstream. That’s what makes what Justin McCray has done this year so impressive.

Julie from Gresham, OR

Do you think that the touchdown celebrations will become so silly and contrived that they will be banned?

No. I like the freedom of expression. Keep it coming.

Charlie from Denver, CO

I have been hearing a lot of people saying we are still in the wild-card hunt. I still think we are in the NFC North division-crown hunt. The Vikings still have the Rams, Falcons, and Panthers to play (all teams over .500) plus three division games.

The NFC North title has gone down to the wire the past few seasons. I don’t see why this year will be any different. I understand the Vikings have a two-game lead, but I have a hunch those Week 16 and 17 games will determine who stands tall.

Kerry from Margate City, NJ

Wow, and I always thought that players pull their jerseys on themselves.

Stick around Spoff long enough and you’ll learn a thing or two. I know I have. That explanation was news to me.

Scott from Hamlin, NY

I don't understand the hype for Thanksgiving. A day dedicated to food, family and football? Sounds like any other football Sunday to me.

Touché.

Shawn from Kissimmee, FL

Wes, was "Bringo" a reference to Dr. Brule? It was for me and it made my day. Does Mason Crosby seem more relieved now that Goode is back?

You got it, Shrangus. There’s undoubtedly a certain level of comfort between Crosby and Goode. The two have played together for nearly a decade. Plus, Goode has been as steady as they come when it comes to long-snapping.

Dylan from Washington DC

I love Jordy Nelson, but it always seems like his helmet is too tight.

If you guys don’t mind, I just want to give a quick shout out to my dad who turns 56 years young today. I wouldn’t be where I am without his support. Have a great weekend, y’all.


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