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The onus is on everyone

Posted Nov 10, 2017

Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL


Dan from Saint Louis, MO

Insiders, what I'm hanging my hat on as a fan is that the Packers have a lot of talented young players – A. Jones, J. Jones, King, Martinez, Clark – and I'm going to have fun watching their development. That being said, is the onus on the veteran players to find a way to get win No. 5?

The onus is on everyone. That was the overwhelming sentiment inside the Packers’ locker room Wednesday and Thursday. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a 10-year veteran like Jordy Nelson or a fifth-round rookie draft pick like Aaron Jones. Everyone has to raise their level of play. It’s the only way to pull out of this thing.

Braden from Aurora, CO

I remember in high school getting injured and how it actually sent me into a depressed state due to not being able to play. How do you think Rodgers is handling this? Rodgers mentioned needing to get his head right in CA, and being on the sidelines watching your team struggle cannot be an easy task.

I think Rodgers is good at keeping things in perspective. He admitted there was a brief grieving period, but the rehab seems to have re-energized Rodgers. He’s a goal-oriented individual. Injuries are nothing different.  

Kenneth from Bentonville, AK

Martellus Bennett gets a mysterious shoulder injury. He looked like he was disinterested in playing for us. Then all of a sudden gets waived from the team. And picked up by the same team he just left from, mind you, with an "injury." Am I the only Packers fan that thinks something really, really stinks about that whole thing?

I’m reserving judgment until we get the whole story here. Any NFL team could have claimed Bennett. It’s a part of the process and doesn’t necessarily mean he intends on playing. If he does, then Bennett also would have to pass a physical. Let’s see what happens.

Kyle from Osceola, WI

With Bennett gone and McCarthy wanting to be smart with the remaining TEs, do you think we might see more from Ripkowski henceforth? I'm a big fan of two-two.

It wouldn’t surprise me. McCarthy always talks about how he views tight ends and fullbacks one in the same. Ripkowski is a gamer. He’ll be ready for whatever extra opportunities might be afforded to him moving forward.

Steve from Pearl City, HI

When I heard that the Pack had picked up Bennett and Kendricks I was pretty surprised. I didn’t think Bennett would be a good fit and figured Kendricks would be underused for his talent. I loved watching Lance at UW and am pretty excited to see him take on a bigger role.

I am, too. He’s obviously not the blocker Bennett is – few tight ends are – but Kendricks has the ability and can slide easily into multiple spots in the offense. Kendricks and Richard Rodgers have played a lot of football. The two have only combined for a little more than 200 snaps this year. They’re hungry for the opportunity.

Roger from Gillette, WY

This whole thing these days of “identity” is a load of you-know-what. It's football, the individual has to go out and beat his man, whether it’s blocking, pass rushing, coverage, running, passing, you name it. Let's get on with it and play football like it should be played.

To the outside world, trying to determine a team’s identity is like discussing all the possible outcomes of Batman versus Superman. It makes for great debate, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s about execution and getting things done. If a team feels it has developed a particular identity along the way, all the better.

Dave from Lake Bluff, IL

Biff, I'd like to engage you in some constructive dialogue about the team and our prospects for turning this season around. However, there is a fine line between optimism and willful ignorance. Telling fans they shouldn't give up hope or that they should believe merely because disbelief isn't to your liking isn't particularly insightful or useful; rather, as someone closer to the team day in and day out, informing us why you continue to believe this team can improve would be thought-provoking. So I ask: can you please give me three tangible reasons why the team can overcome the loss of Rodgers and very poor defensive play to make the playoffs this season?

As I wrote after Wednesday’s locker room, the 2013 season provides some clues for how the Packers can overcome Rodgers’ absence. They had several role players step up and received enough help from the NFC North to stay in the division race. While Minnesota is a legitimate contender with that defense, I still don’t see the Vikings running away with anything. For this conversation to be relevant, however, the Packers need more from every position on the roster. It starts Sunday. The coaching staff was masterful in emphasizing Matt Flynn’s strengths four years ago and need to do the same now with Hundley. I will point out there, too, is a fine line between disbelief and condescension. If that’s your song, carry the tune carefully.

Jacob from Beloit, WI

I thought it was run to open up the pass, not pass to open up the run. Chicken or the egg?

Yes.

Matt from Verona, WI

I suspect it won't, but it would be nice if this season put to rest some of the offseason clamoring for free agents. TT's dip into free agency isn't really going according to plan.

There’s always been this belief among fans there is no risk involved with free agency, but it is a mixed bag. For every Woodson or Pickett, there is a Haynesworth or Asomugha. Look at the Giants, who had initial success with their defensive additions last year, but have taken a step back this year. That’s the NFL. There are no guarantees.

Brad from Lexington, KY

Why does Brett Hundley chomp on a wad of gum through the whole game? 1) It would seem to interfere with play-calling in the huddle. 2) It has to disrupt his timing (can't chew gum and walk at the same time). 3) I'll bet some psychologist would say it is a mechanism to mask other insecurities, like not being as confident as he describes himself. If I were coach I would tell him to lose the gum. 4) Safety issues – he could choke on it after a hit.

1)   Doubtful.

2)   Myth.

3)   Jordan chewed gum.

4)   Not many quarterbacks wear mouth guards. I think swallowing gum is probably the least of Hundley’s worries after getting hit.

Craig from Temperance, MI

Please go back to a 4-3 defense. You can get so much more out of the pass rush and stop the run. We draft people and try to convert them into something they are not. Defensive end is an end, not outside linebacker.

I think too much gets made out of 4-3 and 3-4 in 2017. There really isn’t much difference between the two, particularly when it comes to sub-packages. Really, the Packers have brought back a version of their 4-3 with how they’ve been playing Clay Matthews off the line the past few weeks. Pass rushers are pass rushers.

David from Los Angeles, CA

The purpose of a backup QB is to step in and keep the team competitive when the starting QB is injured or out, right? So now we are 0-3 as we identify what Hundley’s strengths and weaknesses are and he gets accustomed to the pace of play in NFL games that count. If this is the QB to succeed Rodgers, it makes sense. But it probably isn’t. So a journeyman QB whose strengths and weaknesses are already known was probably the better approach to the backup QB position?

A journeyman doesn’t guarantee production, either. There still is uncertainty with a veteran quarterback. Look at what Miami and Tampa Bay are working through with that. Even established players such as Jay Cutler, Matt Moore and Ryan Fitzpatrick have to get up to speed, so it made total sense in my mind for the Packers to develop a young quarterback behind Rodgers.

Nathan from Baltimore, MD

Which is more surprising – that Justin McCray has seen so much action already this year, or he's done so well for an undrafted guy?

McCray has played well for a former undrafted free agent who was out of the league completely in 2016. However, it’s probably more surprising he’s played upwards of 400 offensive snaps this year, especially with most of that work coming at right tackle after the injuries to Bulaga, Kyle Murphy, Jason Spriggs and Don Barclay.

Craig from Cedar Rapids, IA

Will the release of Bennett help in the next draft compensation?

It will not. You only get a compensatory pick if a player signs elsewhere after his contract expires.

DJ from Brookfield, WI

The Packers hired Vince Lombardi is 1959. Vince Biegel arrived in 2017. Has there been another Vince in the between those two?

Vince Young?

Garrett from Hugo, MN

The Jordy "penalty" should NOT have warranted a flag. Are we really that feeble now that we want ticky-tack calls to move the ball for us? The way I saw it the ball landed about 3-4 yards towards the inside of the field from No. 87. Instead of breaking towards it, he hopped up and down trying to draw a flag. Jordy is the last guy I would expect to do this. Was he being touched? Sure, but not grabbed. He made no real attempt the make the catch, so no flag in my opinion.

All I want to know is what the officials do if that’s a first- or second-year cornerback covering Nelson and not Darius Slay. That’s all I’m saying.

Bob from Marinette, WI

Is it time for A-Rod to address the team as a whole, telling them you guys are better than this? We know the team looks up to him and I am sure he has talked to individual players but “the team " needs the fire rekindled.

This team doesn’t need a “Win one for the Gipper” speech. It just needs to play better. That’s it.

Jeff from Green Bay, WI

Definitely something that needs to be identified and corrected, but the zero blitz is not a bad call on defense on occasion and is not indicative of a bad scheme. When four or five players can't get a hand on the QB, you have to take some chances late in the game. They had nothing to lose when already down two scores. No excuses if trends show Capers is predictable at times (and needs to be accountable), but the players have to execute for any DC to look good.

I know it’s natural to want to lay the blame at one party’s feet, but everyone has to work together. That’s when the scheme is its most efficient and the players are playing the fastest. You have to take chances sometimes on defense. The Packers just got caught on that one.

Kyle from Los Angeles, CA

Would you guys even be allowed to publish something that suggested a personnel or roster change? I don't believe I've ever seen either of you suggest one. A) You genuinely haven't ever thought there should be one; B) your editing staff keeps you from publishing such things; or C) you are avoiding the supremely awkward scenario in which you call for the replacement of a player/coach only to have to look him in the eyes and ask him questions about his job the next day. I'm not suggesting any changes in particular, merely curious if our two full-time Packers writers were allowed to. P.S. – I liked your line "I'm a sparring partner, not a punching bag" so much that I googled it. The results? A link to the Packers website and NOTHING ELSE. Impressive.

I had a conversation recently on this topic with another NFL beat writer who covers a struggling team. We both agreed it’s not our place to speculate on those matters. Even when I was at the newspaper, I feel it’s my task to provide information and perspective. What you want to do with that analysis is up to you. It’s natural for fans and aggregators to want to bang that drum, but I think it’s irresponsible for a beat writer to voice his or her opinion on something as sensitive as that. Frankly, I think it makes you look foolish.

Ramiro from Mira Loma, CA

What is your midway analysis of the performance of Packers players being paid elite contract money (Clay Mathews and Nick Perry)?

Fine, but need more. I think they would tell you that.

Barry from Hayward, WI

Have the Bears been playing with their new quarterback long enough already to be able to run the same timing patterns that the Packers couldn't beat Monday night?

First, Matthew Stafford made some insane throws. That was the starting point for Detroit’s offense. I don’t think I’ve ever been more intrigued to see a game plan than I am Sunday. Trubisky threw only seven passes against Carolina two weeks ago and then 32 against New Orleans.

Doug from Miami, OK

How about that run D? R-E-L-A-X. Go Pack!

That was something for the defense to build on, especially going into this showdown with Chicago’s seventh-ranked run offense.

Jeff from South Grafton, MA

If our four-man rush isn't getting home, and blitzing isn't helping, why not just rush three and flood the passing lanes? I realize a team will try to run the ball down our throat into that front, but Detroit doesn't have that type of running game.

It’s dangerous because it leaves you open to checks and adjustments at the line of scrimmage. When you’re going through a rough patch, it’s important to stay true to your preparation. The only way to turn this thing around is to work at it, not doing something drastic.

Michael from Eau Claire, WI

After the recent Eric Bledsoe to the Bucks trade, and seeing as it involved two protected draft picks, it left me wondering about the NFL. I know in the NFL conditional draft picks are common, but has there ever been protected picks traded in the NFL? Do you think there's a chance we see them work their way into the NFL or used there more often?

I don’t recall ever hearing of such a thing in the NFL, and honestly, I hope it doesn’t work its way into the league. Personally, all the confusion around trades, free agency and sign-and-trades has turned me away from the NBA.

Ryan from Madison, WI

Might be the wrong time to ask a question like this, but which conference has the more exciting trio of young quarterbacks? NFC (Dak, Wentz, Goff) or AFC (Carr, Watson, Mariota)?

NFC.

Ben from Denver, CO

Wes, I just want to genuinely apologize for my comment on Sunday. I was feeling pretty fired up at the time and got a little carried away with my venting. Your comment about being a sparring partner, not a punching bag, actually resonated with me, and you're right (obviously I think you are credible since I continue to read). Anyways, I hope you read this.

We’re cool, fam. I think we were all fired up.


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