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It's an unconventional way

Posted Jun 15, 2017

There's so much involved in pass protection for the backfield


Logan from Lino Lakes, MN

Do you think the pace of the game is what sets football apart? Not too fast, not too slow with plenty of action during the fast parts. And enough time to grab a couple cocktail weenies during the slow.

Football is made for TV. Run a play, show the replay, and the next play is coming. That’s an oversimplification, obviously, but it’s a rhythm for television no other sport enjoys.

John from Littleton, CO

I hope the league never “fixes” the preseason games. Preseason is not meant for the fans to see great football. It’s about the coaches evaluating the players and about players making their case for being selected to the team. Also, there is time needed to learn the playbook (changes to it for veterans) and learning the skills needed to play. I, for one, hope the NFL stays with four preseason games and no more than 16 regular-season games.

I see the value as well, but I think three preseason games is enough, frankly.

Tim from Woodbury, MN

Who ya got winning the U.S. Open? I like Rickie with the green and gold bag.

Nice touch by Fowler. Can we get him paired with Roy McAvoy?

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi Mike, I understand that excusing the veterans from "mandatory" minicamp makes sense, but I think extra reps with our schemes and nomenclature would be very helpful for the veterans that became Packers for the first time. Don't you think the work under a new coaching staff would help them, or is it mostly work on the fundamentals that they understand all too well?

They’re veterans, and they know what they need to do to be mentally ready for training camp, which they can accomplish without the extra physical work three months before the opener.

Greg from Belvidere, IL

I know it’s early but now that he's in Year 2 what are your thoughts on Dean Lowry? I watched him play during his high school days. Was very excited when the Packers drafted him.

Coach McCarthy was very complimentary of Lowry on Wednesday, and I had an interesting conversation with the Northwestern alum after practice about his mini-transition to lining up more on the interior of the defensive line in the NFL. I’m planning a story for sometime in the coming days (shameless tease). Wes and I have been keeping some interviews in our back pockets for stories to post over the next few weeks while the players are on hiatus. Stay tuned.

Ben from Denver, WI

Your article on Brandon Jackson and Ty Montgomery was very interesting to me for one specific reason. Every time I hear Jackson's name, the one thing I think every single time is "pass protection." That's the main reason he even had an NFL career, no matter how brief. My question is what separates backs when it comes to pass protection? It seems 97 percent have the ability. I truly don't understand how Adrian Peterson is known for being bad at protection, or how Ty has said this is the hardest part of his transition. What it is about pass protection that makes it so difficult when all these guys clearly have the physical ability to do it?

For a running back being attacked by a blitzing linebacker, there’s so much involved – reading the defense, technique, footwork, balance, timing. Mess up your assignment and there’s a free runner. Lunge too far and he runs around you. Sit back too far and he runs over you. One false step and you have no chance. All can lead to your QB being a dead duck. What was so impressive about Jackson in his time here is he was probably the worst performer in the blitz pickup drill as a rookie in ’07. He worked at it diligently and it became a strength of his game, which is a credit to him and his position coach at the time, Edgar Bennett. It’s not easy, and very few backs come out of college as polished pass-protectors.

Ethan from La Crosse, WI

The answer to the Ty Montgomery number question needs to be stitched on a pillow, too.

Too many stitches, but yeah.

Michael from Santa Cruz, CA

Packer fans readily acknowledge how lucky we are that Favre was followed immediately by Rodgers. I feel almost the same way about the LT position. Other than a 2012 season in which Newhouse started every game, that position has been manned since 2000 by Clifton and now Bakhtiari. “Cliff” was the consummate reliable pro and Bakhtiari still hasn't hit his ceiling. Just another reason to be a grateful Packer fan!

I don’t have time to research it, but I’d be curious how many other teams have developed a pair of Pro Bowl left tackles in the last decade or so without using a first-round draft pick on either one. It’s an unconventional way to get a franchise left tackle, let alone two.

Luke from Toronto, Ontario

When a team makes their final cuts, are the selections based off BAP like in the draft, or is it more like signing free agents, where you are addressing specific needs?

Not every team does it the same, but the Packers’ approach has generally been to have bare minimum numbers at each position, and after that, they keep the best football players who prove they belong. That’s why some years the Packers have kept anywhere from eight to 11 offensive linemen, two to five tight ends, etc. So the process is need-based to fill the basic quotas, then BAP to the extent the roster can afford it, with special-teams ability given extensive consideration in those final, BAP decisions.

Paul from Madison, WI

With the Packers deep in certain positions (WR for one) it got me thinking of other teams looking closely at who we cut to snipe them. Do teams scout other teams?

All the time. That’s what the pro personnel department is for, and why good preseason game tape for a prospect can be an audition for the entire league.

Gary from Hope Mills, NC

I am not a big fan of hearing the best team didn't win the Super Bowl last year or any year. To me, the best team always wins because part of being the best is winning when the pressure is on and there is no tomorrow. Would you agree at all with this?

The champion has the trophy. The rest have excuses.

Rich from Prospect, KY

If given the opportunity, what would you change about the current home uniform?

Nada.

Derk from Chippewa Falls, WI

If you had the means to attend a big event (e.g. Aaron Rodgers at the NBA Finals) what would it be?

Rodgers was at the NBA Finals? Wow, the internet must have missed that one.

Josh from Brandon, MS

In regards to Dean from Leavenworth, IN, I hope the NFL never gets rid of the Roman numeral Super Bowls. Super Bowl 74 looks so plain and boring, whereas Super Bowl LXXIV catches your attention and looks cooler. Agree or disagree?

I was hoping when they went with 50 instead of L two seasons ago the Roman numerals were going away.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

In regard to short RB careers, do they wear down, or is the skill needed such that losing just a bit of your skills is that significant?

It’s about the pounding absorbed diminishing explosiveness, compounded by aging. Once the burst is gone, it’s gone, and no back is the same without it.

Tom from Eichstatt, Germany

Hey Insiders, pundits have a tendency to say that the jump from Year 1 to Year 2 is the biggest and most important, but in recent years we have seen Packers players struggle in Year 2 due to injury (Adams, Rollins, Randall). How much do you think that affects their overall development?

It slows down their timeline, but it’s no death knell to a career if the player fully recovers. No one gets to pick when an injury will strike. If it happens early in a career, it can be an invaluable learning experience.

Chris from Minneapolis, MN

I was reading about OBJ returning to camp, and how player holdouts have become quite rare. Who was the last Packer to really hold out of camp? The last one I remember was Javon Walker.

The best story was the next year, when Nick Barnett was sitting in his car across Oneida Street watching practice out the window while his agent was negotiating the final terms of his deal. In 2009, B.J. Raji missed the first two weeks of camp or so, if I recall.

Neal from Chicago, IL

The Packers’ replacement for John Kuhn having a red beard wasn't just a coincidence was it...?

“With the 206th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select … a fullback, preferably with a red beard.”

Jerry from Kansas City, MO

A certain beat writer referred to team websites as a pox on NFL coverage and doesn't consider them real journalism. I personally prefer the coverage of this website versus the alternatives. Is this the bitter musing of one individual or is it reflective of a larger divide in sports journalism as a whole?

I’ll just say you can’t do this job well without journalism skills, and I’ve gotten along with plenty of writers on the beat, including the one you’re referring to. Am I completely unburdened by the First Amendment in how I go about my job? No, but no one tells me what to write, either. Some issues are sensitive and might be treated with kid gloves, but I’d like to think I have an audience because my analysis has some credibility. If a few limitations make me a pox, so be it, but I’ve got a family to feed. And as a former prideful member of the unfortunately shrinking world of newspaper reporters, I’d prefer to do so without having to completely shift career gears, and I won’t apologize for it.

Andrew from Fort Collins, CO

I keep hearing about Randall Cobb having a contract that outweighs his production. I understand fans' desire for consistent stats, but Cobb seems to play best when he's needed most. Come December I'd prefer to have a savvy veteran like Cobb on the roster over 90 percent of the receivers in the league. Isn't that what value is about?

I’ve always felt it’s about health for Cobb. His health woes can’t continue for his career’s sake, but his performance against the Giants last January after Nelson exited speaks to his value more than anything. He’s as dynamic with the ball in his hands as any Packers player, and his health seems to dictate how often he gets, or deserves, the ball within Green Bay’s group of playmakers.

Bryden from Centerburg, OH

Joe Whitt said Damarious can catch the flash of the ball. What exactly does that mean?

It’s the moment the ball is in the player’s field of vision, which for a cornerback can be when he turns his head at the last instant and the ball is right in front of him.

Butch from Brownsville, MN

Aaron Rodgers in my opinion has to be the best quarterback I've seen at extending a play. Who in your opinion is even close to the feel he has for pocket awareness?

I don’t think they’re the same thing. Brady has tremendous pocket awareness, and his subtle sidesteps are incredibly effective, but he doesn’t often extend plays. Roethlisberger and Wilson are two of the better play-extenders, but one uses size to avoid sacks, the other speed. Rodgers’ comprehensive abilities in this realm are the most feared in the league.

Paul from Northampton, England

Is there any chance of the Packers playing in U.K. in the near future?

I have no inside knowledge of anything, but based on suggestions Mark Murphy has made and the current stadium issue in L.A., my educated guess is either the Packers’ road game vs. the Rams in 2018 or the road game vs. the Chargers in 2019 will be in London.

Greg from Ann Arbor, MI

“Why can’t two great players just be great?” Wes laments. “Why does one individual always have to be better than another?” One explanation for the persistence of debates like Brady vs. Rodgers may lie with essential contestability, a concept first described by the social theorist W.B. Gallie and more recently refined by the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah. According to these thinkers, a question may be essentially contestable when it lacks a single, objective, empirically verifiable answer. Hence, the question can always be contested, argued over. But even though they lack objective answers, essentially contestable questions are still meaningful, since they inspire public debates that allow us to see the subjects of such questions more clearly. For example, when we debate the question, “Who’s the best QB in the NFL right now?,”  we may end up talking about certain values (arm strength, accuracy, mobility,  “clutch-ness,” number of rings, etc.) attempting to define them, ranking them relative to one another, and so forth in a way that clarifies our sense of what the modern QB position really is and what it really requires, even if we don’t ultimately end up agreeing with one another. In other words, when done well, essentially contestable debates make us better, smarter fans. And it's hard for us to unlock the clarifying power of the debate without first forming an opinion in response to the question.

This is a pox on the Inbox.


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