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Sometimes guys just belong

Posted Feb 16, 2018

Veterans who play well into their 30s tend to have one thing in common

Mike from Somerset, WI

Across your years with the Packers, which undrafted player turned your head early on and followed up with a successful career? What was the play that made you take notice?

Lane Taylor. I remember talking to a few people around the league to find out who might be a possible gem in that 2013 undrafted rookie class. Each one said Taylor was the guy. Still, that doesn’t guarantee anything. Once training camp rolled around, however, I felt Taylor looked the part. He’s smart, strong as an ox and more athletic than people think. Sometimes guys just belong regardless of where they’re taken, or in Taylor’s case, not taken.

Tom from Westfield, MA

Did Joe Philbin have play-calling duties when he was here last? 

Mike McCarthy has always called plays other than the first three months of the 2015 season. However, McCarthy has lauded Philbin in the past for his role in the game-planning process. I’ve said this before, but I believe Philbin is the Goose to McCarthy’s Maverick.

Michael from Maple Grove, MN

With both the new OC and DC having proven tracks of excellence at their respective coordinating jobs, both having tried head coaching and realized it wasn’t their thing, both coming out of it knowing better how to support the head coach in his job, does that give us the holy trinity of coaches? Does any other team boast a top coaching setup like that? Plus, I can see all three of them sticking around for a very long time.

The Packers have experience in their coaching ranks that goes beyond Pettine and Philbin being former head coaches. Frank Cignetti and Jim Hostler have been offensive coordinators in the NFL, as well. With Green Bay rewriting its playbooks, it can’t hurt to have some extra outside perspective.

Sean from Boulder, CO

Wes, I know a vast majority of Packers fans grasp and understand the dichotomy of the NFL, but emails such as Eric from Oshkosh passed along continue to rile my temper. How could letting an elite receiver like Davante Adams and a center like Corey Linsley sign elsewhere possibly keep the Packers above water? You can't improve the following season by depreciating during the offseason. Do they really think the Packers need to get worse before getting better? There is no such thing as status quo in the NFL, only getting better and getting worse and the Packers letting them go would only make two other teams better. Simple business.

I’m not calling for everyone to pile on Eric. He raises a good point that makes for a compelling discussion. However, I think you hit it on the head – you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. Nobody stays the same. Maybe that happens in the NBA or other sports where the smaller roster sizes enhance the value of superstars, but there are so many moving parts in the NFL.

Rob from Brookfield, WI

While being an NFL player is incredibly difficult, is there a particular offensive or defensive position that a rookie or draft pick can have a more immediate contribution, because it isn't as big a jump from college to the NFL as some other positions?

Running back and cornerback probably top the list. The Packers also have had luck finding offensive linemen who stepped into the starting lineup as rookies with Bryan Bulaga, David Bakhtiari and Corey Linsley.

Adam from Montreal, Canada

Players like Reggie Gilbert and Chris Odom were DE coming out of college but converted to OLB with the Packers. In Pettine’s scheme, will they go back to their original position, play off the line, or be the hybrid guy that’ll put his hand in the dirt when switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 like Perry is expected to do?

Pettine’s system is tailored to the rusher’s strength, so it probably will come down to preference. The Packers made some waves with the introduction of hybrid “elephant” rushers in 2013 and 2014, but it’s becoming more commonplace to use either the two- or three-point stance. Ahmad Brooks did it last year for Green Bay. Gilbert mostly stood up in his two games but has similar versatility.

Ron from Rockford, IL

Do you think a quality pass rusher will emerge from the group of young linebackers that include Biegel, Fackrell, Gilbert and Odom? Should the Packers re-sign Brooks?

Brooks was productive when healthy, but that nagging back injury complicated things. Fackrell made some strides. The athleticism is where you want it to be, but he still needs to work on his body and playing more physical. Biegel, Gilbert and Odom are young. It’s tough to say at this point.

Joe from Loyal, WI

What are the chances of the Packers giving Tramon Williams a chance to come back and play?

I have no earthly idea, but props to Williams. He balled out last year in Arizona at 34 years young. I remember my old colleague Pete Dougherty always talked to me about how the receivers and defensive backs who play into their 30s tend to have one thing in common – springiness in their legs. Donald Driver had that and Williams seems to possess those abilities, too. Williams also is one of the best guys you’ll ever meet. A true gentleman of the game.  

Dan from Muskego, WI

Seeing the many questions about current Packer players or players ready to become free agents and only one tight end currently signed for the upcoming season, what do you think about the possibility of moving Jason Spriggs to TE? He is big, 6-6, can block and would be athletic enough to catch the ball on occasion.


Shane from Iowa

I believe that on-the-field production in college is becoming a less accurate translation of NFL success than other factors (especially on defense). Many players have padded stats based on coaching schemes. Big-play ability and plays in key moments stand out to me. What key factors do you look for when scouting players?

It depends on the position. For a quarterback, what kind of arm strength and accuracy do they display on film? Do they climb the pocket and stay in their progressions? Micah Hyde will get mad at me for saying this, but I think the NFL Scouting Combine is a good litmus test for where prospects are athletically. It’s not the whole story, but it is a necessary part of the process.

Nate from Minneapolis, MN

You've previously written firmly against a switch for Ty Montgomery back to WR. Don't you think with both his inability to stay healthy as RB, and our depth at RB, albeit young, combined with the uncertainty of Cobb returning in the slot, now is the time to switch him back to WR?

I don’t know how many more ways I can say it – I don’t care which position Montgomery is playing, just get him on the field. He’s had an education at receiver and running back. That counts for something. He can be a weapon whether he’s split wide or in the backfield.

John from Flanders, NJ

Really just a comment. I recently watched a replay of last year’s Dallas game and am amazed at how optimistic I can be after a 7-9 season.

I think the wins over Seattle (225 total yards, nine points allowed) and Dallas (Aaron Rodgers’ 122.9 passer rating and Aaron Jones’ 125 rushing yards) showed what this team was capable of. Everything is hypothetical now, but you can’t help but wonder what might have been if Rodgers stayed healthy. There were some imperfect teams in the playoffs this year.

Walker from Loudon, TN

Read that Johnny Manziel is going to restart a comeback season in the Spring League. Never paid attention to this scouting league. Has anyone of fame ever launched their career from there?

This past year was its inaugural showcase. I’m not sure how many players were signed to NFL teams after it. The Packers didn’t add anyone from what I recall.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Is the Spring Development League something in the same vein as the failed veteran combine, or is it something else?

I’ve spoken with a few agents who have players participating in the showcase. It’s a longer process than the veteran combine, which was only a couple days during the NFL owners meetings. The Spring League runs about three weeks in its entirety and gives veteran players a chance at getting game reps and film. I hold my breath on all these “minor league” ventures until one proves solvent, but Manziel and Kellen Winslow Jr. are giving it a shot.

Steve from Middletown, KY

I like all the improvements the Packers have made around the stadium and community. Just like the team continuously trying to upgrade the players, do you know of anything else that's currently in the process or being planned that we might not be aware of as fans?

The biggest renovation is the new turf inside Lambeau Field. That’s pretty much it this offseason other than the continued growth of Titletown.

Jeff from Kenosha, WI

As I recall the Packers received a third-round draft pick as compensation for Greg Jennings. Didn't T.J. Lang sign for more money than Jennings did?

Correct, though salaries have increased throughout the league over the last five years. Still, I think Lang’s pay and performance could warrant a third-rounder.

Zach from Clarkfield, MN

Asking for a friend. What is a compensatory pick?

It is compensation teams receive for losing an unrestricted free agent (a player whose contract expired) to another NFL team the previous offseason.

Tim from La Crosse, WI

With all the hype and expectations Andrew Luck had coming out of college, would you say for his career so far, he's been a bust?

Not by my definition. Luck did some amazing things during those first five seasons on some Colts teams that maybe weren’t the most talented in the NFL. Luck went to three straight Pro Bowls to start his career and threw 40 touchdowns at 25 years old. The rest is still unwritten.

Matt from Kula, HI

How would you rank Kirk Cousins among today’s QBs? I keep reading about how much potential demand there is for him among teams in need of a QB. But if he’s that good, why in the world is Washington letting him walk? With the constant talk about finding and keeping “the man” this situation seems odd.

I’d say Cousins is probably a top 10 or 12 quarterback in the NFL, which might be enough to make him the league’s highest-paid quarterback with how rarely established starters hit the free-agent market. Washington evidently wasn’t sold on Cousins being “the man,” but he could make several teams better the moment he puts pen to paper.

Aaron from Point Pleasant, MD

I've heard several draft pundits express concern over Josh Rosen's unique personality/character. When teams make their draft boards, does personality/character get factored into a player's grade? Or is the grade only based off football and the character judged more arbitrarily?

I don’t know much about Rosen’s situation, but I have heard of teams taking players off their board entirely due to personality and character concerns. I’ve also seen players who get a bad reputation for the wrong reasons and surprise. Teams have their official interviews at the combine and 30 pre-draft visits to get a feel for players. They’ll also be on the phone talking to football people with knowledge of those players. Outside perception doesn’t always match what NFL teams actually believe.

Mario from Montevideo, Uruguay

Has anybody ever seen Matt Patricia writing anything with his "ear" pencil?

I haven’t. Not sure if Mike Reiss or any of the former Patriots writers can speak to that. Maybe it’s just for fashion…pencil fashion?

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

What are the chances of meeting y’all and other Packers staff at the scouting combine? Also, if you would like to see Wes cry, take him to St. Elmo's and get him a shrimp cocktail with that fresh cocktail sauce.

We’ll be talking with Mike McCarthy and Brian Gutekunst sometime early in the week. I’ve actually been to St. Elmo’s before. I did the shrimp cocktail once and immediately regretted the decision.

Joshua from Grinnell, IA

I am a huge Green Bay Packers fan and love them to death. But we need to get Rodgers another Super Bowl, otherwise he is going to be gone. What do you think can get us to another Super Bowl victory?

There’s a “Billy Madison” joke in here somewhere, but I’m just going to move on.

Dayv from Hustisford, WI

The Super Bowl, the NFL Draft. We don't want those in Green Bay. What GB really needs is the Pro Bowl.

If the Pro Bowl were played in Green Bay, the NFL might need Spoff and me to fill out the rosters.

Col from Ludlow, UK

Happy Friday, Wes. In the early days of the league, a player changing position would simply remove and turn upside down any numbers that would work. So even in Ray Nitschke's day, had he moved to the D-line, he would have instantly been 99. For a long time this was a cost-saving measure but is still used today for environmental reasons. If you look very closely you can see that Montgomery has in fact done the same thing. Makes perfect sense. Mystery finally solved once and for all. Just ask the ladies in the sewing dept. You’re welcome.

And now you know the rest of the story.


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