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There's a built-in benefit to the break

Posted Oct 31, 2017

The best players match their tools to the moment


Al from Green Bay, WI

Let's not underestimate the healing powers of a bye week. I'm anxious to see the Lions come to town with the Packers having a healthy offensive line, with Morgan Burnett back in the lineup, with the addition of Vince Biegel, and with a rested and refreshed team that really needs a win. Is it too optimistic to believe the best is yet to come?

There’s a built-in benefit to the break. We’ll have to see who’s available this week, but there’s no question this team will be significantly healthier thanks to the week off. There’s also a mental aspect to this, too. It’s a chance to step away after going hard for three months.

Jake from Fairfax, VA

Mike Daniels continues to impress me and I really like the players that Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez are becoming. However, the pass rush hasn't been all that it needs to be thus far. In the coming weeks the Packers will play Trubisky, Flacco, and Kizer, to name a few. These are all guys that we can force into making mistakes with pressure, which will in turn keep us alive in those games. How can Capers turn up the heat with blitzes without risking big plays in the secondary?

I think the key is not pressing. Like I said Saturday, the Packers have been inches away on several sacks this season. It’s bound to happen if rushers stay in their lanes, trust their fundamentals and win their one-on-ones. We often hear how sacks come in bunches. I assure you they’ll come.

Mike from Bel Air, MD

I agree the NFL is the best regular-season professional sport, but what is best postseason? I think baseball and hockey give football a run for the money. If you include all sports, college basketball is up there too.

College basketball and the NFL offer the best postseasons in my opinion. Everything rests on that one game. It doesn’t get any better than that. That’s how legends are born.

Don from Cedar Rapids, IA

When watching games on TV, I often yell out, "Turn around! Turn around!" to the defensive secondary when a long pass is in the air, heading towards a receiver. When are players coached to “turn around”? What separates the best players from the others in that regard?

It depends on the technique, but a lot is based on instincts, fundamentals and an ability to quickly process information. The best players match their physical tools to the moment. That’s true across the board, but it really seems to separate the truly elite defensive backs from the great ones.

Bill from Ocala, FL

What will Aaron Rodgers’ role be, if any, with his injured-reserve status? Can he be on the field to help coach?

Rodgers is allowed to be around the team. He just can’t practice. So once he’s back to Green Bay, he’ll be able to talk with Brett Hundley on the sideline between series.

Robert from Pflugerville, TX

Why is a kickoff in the end zone placed at the 25 and a punt in the end zone placed at the 20? Consistency?

The NFL repositioned kickoffs at the 25 to entice more returners to take a knee in the interest of player safety. The general consensus is kickoffs are a more dangerous play than punts, which is why punt touchbacks are still at the 20.

Jeremy from Elkhart Lake, WI

I realize we are only halfway through the season, but it seems to me that Aaron Ripkowski hasn't been a huge part of the game plan thus far. Do you think it's just because of certain packages that McCarthy has wanted to use? Or do you think there is some other reason No. 22 hasn't been on the field much this season?

Ripkowski is still a big part of the offense, but the Packers have incorporated more packages with multiple tight ends this year and running with a single back. He’s averaging roughly a dozen offensive snaps per game, which is about six snaps off his average last year. His workload will ramp up as the temperature drops. It’s a game of seasons.

Nathan from Okabena, MN

While watching the Patriots game on Sunday, I was astonished at how well the Patriots used two-RB sets. Do you see the Packers copying them to help Hundley out?

I’m not sure we’ll see any pro sets, but they run plenty of plays with a running back and Ripkowski or an H-back in the backfield. I could see Ripkowski having a bigger role going forward to help Hundley’s cause, though.

Kent from Lewiston, ID

Special teams are considered one-third of the team game. The Packers’ punting game is much improved, but the rest of ST play looks below par. Rarely is it mentioned. What is your take on this year’s performance?

I don’t agree. Yes, the Packers need to cut down on special-teams penalties – and that’s been an issue league-wide – but there are several positives this year. They’re currently third in punt coverage, 14th in punt return average and 11th in kickoff returns. Plus, Mason Crosby is one of the best at his position. That’s an ace in the hole.

Graham from Green Bay, WI

True or false: the next two games will, for good or ill, be the games that most impact the rest of the season.

I don’t know. The Packers went through a rough patch midway through last year and the team rallied during the “run the table” stretch. It’s hard to say what games will have the greatest impact on a season until it’s over.

Carlos from Pasco, WA

Mike, you said, "When your quarterback is up and down, you will be up and down." So what you’re saying is we're down and out?

No. Not at all. I think what Spoff is saying is a rising tide lifts all boats.

Richard from Yankton, SD

What happens to Brett’s trade stock if he finishes the season strong? I'm thinking two first-rounders? Am I wrong?

We’ve been talking about Hundley’s trade value since his rookie year. Honestly, I couldn’t care less right now about anything other than this season. The Packers need Brett Hundley to be the best Brett Hundley he can be. If that leads to future compensation, all the better. But right now the Packers need wins, not draft picks. 

Randy from Colleyville, TX

In your opinion, do the Packers have the level of defense needed to be able to shut down opposing offenses so the Packers’ offense doesn't have to score 28-plus points to win? The Vikings have the championship caliber D to support an average O. Thoughts? That said, I am excited to see how Brett does.

I think the defense the Packers put on the table against Seattle showed what it’s capable of when healthy. Unfortunately, they’ve had to go without some important pieces over the past few weeks, namely Morgan Burnett. So yes, I still believe the potential is there.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

What areas of Lions' vulnerability showed up in their game against the Steelers?

I think Detroit’s red-zone offense (ranked 25th) has been an issue this year and it showed against Pittsburgh (0-for-3). I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a game where an offense has thrown for more than 400 yards and not scored a touchdown. The Packers, conversely, are still tops in the league in red-zone offense at 73.9 percent.

Billy from Petersburg, VA

Can a seasoned QB come in and learn the system any better than a 2½-year backup in Rodgers’ absence?

I think it would be difficult. Even when the Packers did sign a veteran quarterback in 2013, Matt Flynn had four previous years of experience in McCarthy’s system.

Andrew from Dayton, OH

I think the main reason football has the best regular season is because of the limited amount of games with nearly half of them being against division opponents. Other seasons are too long. Too many games means some games simply don't matter or mean as much.

The NFL also has the best playoff structure. Thirty-two teams competing for 12 playoff spots. That’s the perfect structure. Every Sunday is important in this league for different reasons. While the best teams are competing for a bye, the rest are scratching and clawing for a spot.

Eric from Minneapolis, MN

On “see it, flag it” damaging the game: I agree, but do you have any indication the sentiment is shared by more people than some displeased fans and editors?

I think there are a lot of players and coaches who agree with that sentiment, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I just think there needs to be a little more of the “swallow the whistle” mindset in key situations. There are legitimate penalties and then there are borderline calls.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Agree with you that officiating seems to be disruptive to the game. Any chance we see a simplification during the offseason? Less whistles is better.

I don’t know what the answer is. Officiating is a complicated business. Whenever they get back to the discussion, I only hope we don’t complicate things any further. Sometimes when we try to simplify things, it only clouds the picture more (i.e., removing probable from injury designations).

Andrew from Oklahoma City, OK

Is Montravius Adams going to play this year?

He played a few snaps last month, but he’s still getting more comfortable in the defense after missing nearly all of training camp. Plus, defensive line is one of the positions where the Packers have been healthy this season.

Jason from Fort Wayne, IN

You said to Brian from Baltimore, "But I don’t see how you can draw that conclusion based on a former fifth-rounder’s ability to fill the shoes of a two-time NFL MVP." There are no excuses. That's how I draw that line. If a coach is top-caliber, or a GM is one of the best, we should be able to win no matter who's in there. “Just win, baby.” However, to get to the Super Bowl, more times than not, you need a great quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is great, but at some point; you have to stop the excuses and demand performance.

Sure, but I fail to see how anyone’s legacy is tied to Brett Hundley. I mean, does anyone judge Vince Lombardi based on Zeke Bratkowski?

Jim from Chippewa Falls, WI

In overtime, you lose the coin toss and the other team elects to receive. Can you then onside kick, recover and win with a field goal? Or would the other team still get a possession?

You could attempt the onside, recover and kick the field goal to win because the other team was given an opportunity to possess the ball. The game would be over.

Blake from Orlando, FL

What's the deal with Devante Mays? Any chance we can see him getting involved in the run game soon? I find his size/speed combo to be interesting and think he would be a great complementary RB to Aaron Jones’ running style.

I like Mays a lot, but there’s a numbers element to all of this. There are only so many touches and so many snaps to go around. Whenever Mays’ opportunity comes, he has to take advantage of it. That’s how Aaron Jones went from a healthy scratch in Week 1 to the NFL rookie of the week twice in three weeks.

Matt from Hartford, WI

I am old-school, but I like that the NFL allowed for team celebrations and personalized cleats without fines. What rule might be adjusted next?

Increased protections for quarterbacks outside the pocket?

Tom from Columbus, GA

Been reading some discussions on the Vikings QB decision to be made after their bye week, including their coach’s comments. Why? Wouldn't you ride the hot hand? Here is to the Vikings making the wrong decision. GO PACK GO!

Independent of Keenum’s performance, I think it would be tough for Teddy Bridgewater to go from not playing for more than a year to starting a game. I wouldn’t rule out anything, but you cannot overstate how important practice time is. Keenum has been doing this since April.

Bill from Menominee, MI

Were you surprised at all by how often Big Ben was just unloading deep passes? Once you see the camera angle from behind, it looks like he's just throwing 50/50 bombs. It makes sense in today's penalty era I suppose.

He definitely took some chances, but there’s a lot of experience and recall going into those passes. He has shown a lot of faith in his young receivers.

Jonnie from Detroit, MI

What is your take, and what is the league's take on overturning the touchdown call on the play Zach Miller got injured? In order to overturn the call on the field, isn't there supposed to be incontrovertible evidence to rule against the call on the field?

I was so focused on Miller and his leg, I forgot about the catch. Based on how he rolled at the end, I just figured it was a touchdown. I guess not. I’m not sure what the referees were looking for on that play.

Chris from Jackson, WI

I'm glad to see “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” getting some love in the Inbox. Watching it on Thanksgiving morning is one of my favorite traditions.

That’s a Hodkiewicz family tradition. I watch it every night before Thanksgiving. When the Packers play in Detroit, I bring the DVD with me. I upgraded from VHS years ago.

Brian from San Francisco, CA

I enjoy reading the column every day! I'm going to my first Packer game with my family this Monday night. Any tips?

Take it all in.


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