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It starts with defining the core players

Posted Dec 25, 2017

The importance of the upcoming draft cannot be overstated


Steve from St. Charles, MO

Just been reading the comments to your Sunday editorial. All that venting must reduce that of Monday's Inbox, right? Are you that smart? Merry Christmas.

It was a good try. Merry Christmas.

Peter from Minneapolis, MN

Your reaction to the Vikings game in one word?

Uninspiring.

John from Flanders, NJ

Guys the injuries this team has suffered is almost not to be believed! That said why do we seem to be beaten at our own game even at home? The dropped passes, missed tackles, blown assignments and questionable calls, and last, even our footing were all done better by our opponent. The Vikings are a quality team and maybe Super Bowl-bound but we're talking fundamentals here.

Green Bay’s defense looked rather out of sorts in the first quarter, allowing the 10 points. From there, the Vikings appeared in game-management mode, and the Packers utterly failed to take advantage of numerous chances right in front of them. The game-day roster with which the Packers were trying to beat a playoff team was outgunned, but that doesn’t excuse the fundamental errors you mentioned. It didn’t feel like the Packers made the Vikings bring their game up to playoff-caliber, because Minnesota didn’t feel threatened.

Jeff from Elk Mound, WI

MM is like a parent. No matter how bad your child behaves (plays) you will love them no matter what. After that miserable performance Callahan should've at least received a chance to play, if only to hold Hundley accountable.

I’m not going to say Hundley played great and shouldn’t be held accountable for his performance. He was way too inconsistent again, which has been the problem all along, and the interception in the red zone was awful. But I’m clearly in the minority here, judging by the Inbox and other media evaluations, to say he doesn’t deserve as much of the brunt as he’s taking for the offensive failures Saturday night. Nelson dropped two passes, Kendricks dropped two, Allison dropped one. All of those would have gained first downs, three of them in scoring territory. These weren’t sideways, no-yardage-anyways drops. They were drive- and momentum-killers by players held to a much higher standard. On top of that, Davis didn’t even reach out, let alone dive, for a deep ball that looked catchable (when Cobb on the next play absolutely laid out for one that was not nearly as close). Clark made a nice debut, but he missed two opportunities on back-shoulder fades, one that was perfectly thrown and would have been a touchdown. Hundley is not Rodgers, and he needs all the help he can get. That’s obvious. But he didn’t get any, and he’s not playing well enough to compensate for everyone else’s mistakes.

Jim from Horsham, UK

I'm not a Hundley basher. I genuinely think he's done about as well as any rookie QB could do, given the situation. However, the QB position is so critical that I think there's a strong argument to have a reliable veteran backup behind No. 12 while also developing new blood in the position. Perhaps we could learn a lesson from the Eagles’ approach this season?

That will be one issue, among a laundry list of issues, the brass will have to discuss in the offseason regarding roster construction.

Sam from Eau Claire, WI

I don't envy the intrepid Insider who has to dig through the Inbox today. That said, I liked what I saw from the pass rush last night even if they were a bit late too often. What did you think of the young guys who filled in?

Michael Clark, Reggie Gilbert and Lenzy Pipkins showed they’ll be in the running for roster spots in 2018, but that’s as far as I’ll go. Counting on them to suddenly be mainstays next season would be misguided.

Cam from Jimboomba, Australia

This isn't a players, coaches or Insiders witch hunt and there's not "but" in this future. The Rodgers-at-100-percent-led Pack were 4-1 and have since gone 3-7, with two shutouts at home and staring down the barrel of a clean sweep by two division rivals. Is the latter a more accurate representation of our talent pool? If so, what's our critical offseason first step towards closing the gap on the league leaders? Something manageable too, please don't say get healthy. Injuries are inevitable and beyond our control. Thanks guys.

Adams and Linsley are must re-signs in my book. After that, they have to take a look across the roster and define who are core players moving forward, and who are not. Decide on your core, find another Jahri Evans-type or two in free agency to fill an obvious need, and then draft well. At the end of the day, it comes down to that. With the number of picks and draft slot the Packers will have, an offseason of potentially difficult decisions with contracts and the cap, and Rodgers now 34, the importance of this upcoming draft cannot be stressed enough. The Packers have to hit and hit big.

Steve from Lake Stevens, WA

In Green Bay, it seems like we're always waiting for players to emerge. Davante Adams and Damarious Randall, for example. The problem with this is, while we are waiting, other players leave, get injured, or end up past their prime. Fans scream for heads to roll or for the team to spend money like a drunken sailor in free agency. It's frustrating. Father Time waits for no one. From an Insider perspective, what is the fix for this team?

I don’t see the team abandoning its draft-and-develop foundation, nor do I think it should. The points you raise are valid, though the “waiting to emerge” in your examples is due to injury. I think it comes back to what I just said – needing a home run of a draft. The Packers have had drafts where they’ve scored on top picks (Rodgers and Collins in ’05, Hawk and Jennings in ’06, Raji and Matthews in ’09, Clinton-Dix and Adams in ’14) and others where they’ve found multiple strong pieces in the middle rounds (Finley and Sitton in ’08, Bakhtiari and Hyde in ’13). They need one where it all comes together. Seattle in ’10 found Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate and Kam Chancellor in the same draft. Think about that. The Vikings in ’15 got Trae Waynes, Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs. Those are the drafts that change a franchise’s fortunes.

Steve from Pickerington, OH

When was the last time the Packers got shut out twice at home in a season?

2006, with a QB named Favre.

Daniel from Los Angeles, CA

Insiders, if I took anything away from that game it’s that K. Clark and Bakhtiari are our two best players outside of Aaron Rodgers. It looks to me that Clark is taking another huge leap forward at the end of the season into the next. Bakhtiari meanwhile should hopefully be voted All-Pro.

I concur on all counts.

Mike from Exeter, PA

NFL owners are calling for the Packers to release Aaron Rodgers because he wasn't supposed to be put back on IR without sustaining another injury. Is this a rules violation and do you think it would realistically happen?

It may be against the spirit of the rule, but we’ll see if the league even looks into it, because the time to step in was when the move was made. The league has control and approval over the transaction wire, and McCarthy said the Packers followed procedure. Regardless, the Packers won’t be forced to release Rodgers. Shakespeare wrote a play about this. It was called “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Nathan from Tiffin, OH

Hey Insiders, did Vic ever work in the food service at Lambeau Field?

Congratulations, you are the first-ever Christmas day inductee into the Insider Inbox Hall of Fame.

Walter from Long Beach, CA

Dear Santa, I bet it is cold in the North Pole. All I want for Christmas is a clear, concise, and easily applicable catch rule for the NFL. It’s not just for me, but for everyone involved in football in any way. Happy Holidays!

Try again next year, but I doubt it’ll do any good.

Ken from Harker Heights, TX

How is that TD call at the end of first half in the Pats-Bills game reversed!? It took the officials almost five minutes to make a ruling. At some point the official needs to say, “OK, I’ve seen every angle twice with no solid evidence that it should be reversed. Call stands.”

The call on the field either matters or it doesn’t. The league doesn’t know how it wants its own rule to read.

Freddie from West Valley City, UT

Do you think technology will one day take the refs out of the game?

No, but it could continue to make them less relevant.

Peter from Eagan, MN

What is the reason/excuse for the Packers' defense allowing 100 percent scoring in the red zone?

Factually, the reason is the opposing offense has not had a turnover or missed a field goal in the red zone, and the defense has not gotten a fourth-down stop. But I’m sure you knew that.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

Did everyone enjoy listening to the Viking fans cheering at the end of the game?

The invasion of purple was like nothing I’ve ever seen at Lambeau. Seeing and hearing the “Skol” chants at game’s end, the Packers got a taste of what it’s like for other teams to listen to “Go Pack Go” in their own stadiums.

Chris from Matthews, NC

I've read your responses multiple times that the defense needs more talent, however there are two former Packers defenders on the 2017 Pro Bowl team whose talent did not stick out while on the Pack (at least not to the same degree it does now). Isn't this more evidence that it is coaching and scheme than talent?

We’ll probably never know for sure, but I can’t help wondering if that will be taken into consideration in the forthcoming (and ongoing) evaluations.

Randy from Jonesborough, TN

Question relating to next year's schedule. Aside from our divisional foes, we already know that the Packers will play the AFC East teams and the NFC West teams, plus the corresponding finishers in the other two NFC divisions (second or third place). Do you know yet which of the games will be at home? Is that determined by a formula?

It is, and the Packers will host the corresponding team from the NFC South, and travel to the opponent from the NFC East in ’18.

A.C. from Jasper, MO

It looks to me like we are going to be pretty solid at RB next season. I know a lot of hard work and effort has been put in making Ty a RB but, I think returning him to WR next year is best for all. What are your thoughts?

I think we’re going to be saying the same thing about Montgomery’s position next year that we were saying about his number this year. It doesn’t matter. What does is the Packers are going to find ways to get him the ball.

Luc from St. Thomas, Canada

I'm not normally a stats guy, but I can't help but feel for Davante that he might not get a 1,000-yard season under his belt. He deserves it after how well he's played this year and with how hard he's worked. Here's hoping he can make it back for Week 17 and at least have a chance at it.

I hear you, but I’m not sure risking a third concussion in a span of 3½ months (and a fourth in 14 months) would be worth it. If he clears the protocol, I guess that decision is up to Adams.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

TT made a wise decision to flood last year's draft with multiple RB picks. Do you think he could use that same strategy for pass rushers?

Absolutely. I thought he was going to do so last year, if you read all my draft preview work. It makes it all the more likely now, given the current state of the position. He’ll have a ton of picks, giving him the ability to move where need and value meet if he chooses. The Packers will have several priorities and the ammunition to address them.

Doug from Eugene, OR

Don't beat yourself up about answering questions with questions, guys, it worked pretty well for Socrates.

So I got that going for me, which is nice.

Darrell from San Antonio, TX

I love Coach and believe if he left the Packers he would have another job within a week. However, there comes a time when maybe you've been on a particular job for too long and a change of scenery for all involved is the best thing. Do you think it's time for a Packer divorce and a change in leadership?

One subpar season with the QB hurt since Week 6 and you’re ready to move on? The thought is absurd, and I posted this only because it’s shared by way too many in the Inbox. Another job within a week? Trust me, McCarthy would have multiple offers by the time the elevator hit the ground floor.

Todd from Brownsville, WI

Mike, if the NFL doesn't adopt the college rule for targeting to eliminate the illegal hits maybe they can do this. Give each team a one-time challenge to request a review of a particularly violent blindside hit. If the NFL can take 5 minutes of replay to determine if a catch is a catch, why not spend the same amount of time to review the illegal hits? That way maybe the offending player can nervously wait see if he is about to be ejected from the game and get a HUGE fine.

There’s no need for a challenge system. The officials already have the authority to stop the game and have a player removed for evaluation of a head injury. Give them the authority to call for review of an egregious hit, too. It’s pretty simple.

John from Little Rock, AR

If suspensions increase in coming years, do you see teams trying to push more money into salaries instead of bonuses for players with histories of suspensions in order to further incentivize “good behavior”? Losing a game check doesn’t hurt as much when a huge chunk of your take-home pay is signing bonus.

I don’t see that. Contracts are structured as they are for salary-cap purposes more than anything. That’s not going to change.

Adam from Washington, MO

Hi Mike/Wes. Vic often detailed the experiences and memories that helped develop his passion for football. For example, lying across his father's lap wrapped in a blanket during a high school game, listening to the crowd noise from across town and guessing the score, the bright colors at his first professional football game (Steelers and Giants, I think). What events or memories stick with you enough for you to classify them as turning points leading you to pursue your passion for football? Merry Christmas to you!

When you’re five days shy of your ninth birthday watching the Badgers upset the Buckeyes at Camp Randall, and then you feel the entire upper deck start to shake during the Fifth Quarter, you’re in for life.

Daniel from North Kingstown, RI

It has been a great year watching the Packers and reading the Insider Inbox. Just wanted to thank you guys for giving us insights every day and entertaining us with your wit and humor. Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, folks.

 

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