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Three steps to a better defense

Posted May 12, 2017

There's more to the free-agency picture than comp picks

Jamie from Brooklyn, NY

What is your Insider Inbox routine? Mine is I get a handful of chips, put them in a bowl, and read a third of the Inbox before getting up for a second bowlful of chips and the second third of the Inbox. Then for the next sixth it's an apple on a good day, chocolate on a bad, and the Inbox ends with chocolate.

I fill up a couple of water bottles; shake my head, laugh without spitting out my water, and hit delete a whole bunch; and try to find enough good questions to answer before it’s break time.

Dave from Sparta, WI

Who is your most intriguing athlete on the team returning from 2016? Ty Montgomery is mine. Prior to him being injured during his rookie campaign, there was something about him that made playing football look so natural. Now at running back, he still looks incredibly fluid with such a short time lining up behind No. 12.

No argument with that choice. If I were to pick another player on offense, I’d say Davante Adams. On defense, Damarious Randall.

Charles from Louisville, MI

Who do you think will stand out most during the preseason, whether it's a rookie or other players such as Hundley, Ringo, etc.

Preseason will be all about Hundley and the rookie running backs for me.

Christian from Champaign, IL

On paper, the word “formulaically” is one of the worst ever assembled.

Incontrovertibly.

Zach from Minneapolis, MN

Wow. Thanks for putting together the list of players selected with compensatory picks next to the players who left and gave the Packers those picks. It's not good, though. With the exception of Mike Daniels, every one of those players is worse than the guy that left.

It’s not fair to look at Wes’s fancy chart that way. It doesn’t take into account the pending free agents who were re-signed or whose contracts were extended because the money wasn’t spent on the guys who were let go. That’s a much more important part of the picture than who the comp picks were.

Joel from New York City, NY

The Patriots reportedly used a May 9 tender on Blount to keep the compensatory pick formula in place if another team signs him. Could you provide more details on this tender? Rotten or smart move by the Patriots? Why don't more teams use the tender?

I wasn’t even aware of this obscure rule until I heard about it with Blount. It’s a smart move by the Patriots, but I can’t print how I imagine Blount feels. They only had to tender him 110 percent of last year’s salary to still count him in the comp pick formula, and Blount’s 2016 salary was basically veteran minimum. Now, he counts in the formula if he signs elsewhere before July 22, and if he doesn’t, New England has exclusive negotiating rights with him until Week 10. We don’t see it more because this is such a rare case, a veteran free agent who rushed for 18 TDs on a $1M salary. He’s obviously looking for far more than $1.1M for 2017, whereas most veterans who last this long in free agency are considered overpaid the prior year, therefore the original team is not interested in making a 110 percent tender offer that the player would almost certainly sign.

Troy from Milwaukee, WI

Yesterday's answer regarding UDFAs at crowded positions had me thinking. Maybe it says something about Allison, Brice, and Gunter's competitiveness and confidence that they signed with a team despite a loaded depth chart at their position. I know all of those guys had other teams interested. Ever ask these guys what the heck they were thinking?

As we’ve discussed before in this space, the Packers’ reputation for giving undrafted rookies a fair shot plays into it. But you also answered your own question.

Mike from Hartland, WI

Insiders, thank you for giving Don Barclay some credit yesterday. I think a lot of folks' negative opinions of him are shaded by his rough stretch at left tackle. Fine, that's not his position. Let's not forget before his knee injury he was probably the best backup lineman in the league. He probably would have started for almost any other team; we just happened to have Pro Bowl-caliber guards. I'm rooting for his success.

No reason not to, and I mostly agree with your take. Barclay started 14 games at right tackle in 2013 and more than held his own. The knee injury from 2014 clearly affected him throughout 2015. James Campen and Aaron Rodgers both think very highly of Barclay, and that goes a long way for me.

Connor from London, UK

When healthy, who starts opposite Nelson in a two-WR set? Cobb or Adams?

I think it depends on the play call and how the tight ends are being utilized.

Tim from La Crosse, WI

Going into this season we have a WR converted to a RB who hasn't played a full season yet, and three rookies. With a coach who wants balance between the run and pass, are you surprised we didn't keep someone who has at least experienced a full season at that position?

No. Did I not mention James Starks, 2010, last week? I don’t get the constant angst over this.

Donald from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Defense still wins championships. You can have a really good defense but still need turnovers to win. The Packers had that element down the stretch last season; however, the final game not so much. I know turnovers are an elusive stat, but do you think we will be a better defense this year? We were ranked 11th out of 12 playoff teams last year.

To field a markedly better defense, the Packers need good health, improvement from their second- and third-year players, and impact from at least a couple of rookies. In that order, if you ask me. Meaning if Kevin King, for example, takes the world by storm this year, I don’t think the Packers will be a whole bunch better without the first two items already in their favor. I look for rookies to be pieces, not saviors.

Daniel from Copenhagen, Denmark

When Peppers enters the Hall of Fame, will his name be joining the other Packers Hall of Famers in the bowl of Lambeau, or was his tenure too short?

Great question. I really don’t know how the powers that be will feel about that when the time comes. He played great, but not at a Hall of Fame level, in his three years here, and the Packers did not win a title with him. It’s vastly different from the White and Woodson cases.

Alex from Skokie, IL

Insiders, I was back at my parents' house and going through some of my old sports cards for the first time in a long time. I have full pages of Packers players (including Dorsey Levens, Robert Brooks, Antonio Freeman, and an entire page of Brett Favre cards). To my surprise, I even found some cool rookie cards the likes of Tom Brady and Jerome Bettis. Did you collect sports cards growing up? What are some of your favorites?

I was baseball cards all the way, all the time. As a kid, I took a lot of pride in my early ’80s rookie cards – Ripken, Boggs, Gwynn, Sandberg, Mattingly, Puckett. My favorites are probably my Yount and Molitor rookie cards, but I acquired those when I got older.

Monty from Hazen, ND

I can't help but be optimistic about this year. In my opinion, none of the teams in our division made significant upgrades to their rosters. Which division opponent looks to be the greatest challenge to back-to-back champs and why?

Maybe I’m underestimating Detroit, but I’m going to say Minnesota. The Vikings addressed their offensive line, which was the only unit preventing them from being a playoff team last year, in my view, plus they’ve given Bradford a running game with the additions of Murray and Cook.

Toz from Golden Bay, WI

There's some really good banter going on between you guys, as writers, at the moment. The way you talk about each other in your responses almost plays out like a daily sitcom, by correspondence.

Wes is one of the few people in the world I allow to call me Michael.

Josh from Chippewa Falls, WI

Do you believe the Packers are truly sold on keeping Ty Montgomery at RB or is there a chance they would move him back to WR and keep all three RBs we drafted?

In the immortal words of Florence Jean Castleberry, Montgomery will move back to wide receiver this year when donkeys fly.

Robert from Safford, AZ

I saw an article rating MM as the No. 1 overrated coach in the NFL. Although the writer had valid points, I believe the argument could be made either way. Do such articles have any impact other than on a Packer news seeker such as myself?

Let me guess, a “valid point” was that he has one of the best quarterbacks in the league, so he’s already guaranteed 10 wins per year. I shudder at the brilliance of the analysis. Rate McCarthy however you want. I can tell you from what I know around the NFL, if he were to suddenly become unemployed, he’d have another head job by the time he walked downstairs to start his car.

Douglas from Cambridge, MA

Hello, "How to create an equitable rotation I’ll leave to the mathematicians." I'm not a mathematician, but you could use the same formula that they use now for the NFC division games we don't play. Play the first-place team of the two AFC divisions we don't play this year and didn't play last year. Just a thought.

Works for me, though to address other comments submitted, I’m not advocating for nor predicting an 18-game schedule coming soon. I just throw it out there as something the owners might bring back to the negotiating table if the players take a hard line on a stance they don’t like.

Gretchen from Dousman, WI

Have the OTA or minicamp practices open to the public been announced yet?

Yes.

Dave from Tucson, AZ

Mike, what street did you grow up on in Platteville? Have fond memories of my days on Pitt Street, across from Hill Field. Played sports from dawn to dusk which tended to minimize the amount of trouble I engaged in. I said minimize, not eliminate!

Grew up on Hathaway Street, went to Westview Elementary, and played the bulk of my high school baseball career at Hill Field. My old house is a duplex now. I’ve always wondered if the pool table is still in the basement.

Dale from Kettering, OH

With the new practice rules and so on, how deep into the season do the coaches say, "OK, this is what we got. What can we do with it?"

They’ve had more than five years to get used to the practice rules in the current CBA. I think all good coaches say those exact words as soon as they have a good idea what their depth chart looks like for a given season.

Mark from Amarillo, TX

Insiders, I understand the excitement about Josh Jones, but it seems as if the Packers faithful has already lost appreciation for what Kentrell Brice brings to the table at safety. When he hits someone they go down, and they go down hard. I never get tired of watching him lay out Cole Beasley in the divisional game last year.

I love the way Brice plays.

Dave from Savage, MN

Wondering what you think about this. I am surprised the league or the teams haven't pushed to have a special roster exemption for QBs. Set it at three. It's fun to think about a WR or FS playing QB when the only two QBs are hurt in a game, but can you imagine the uproar if it was an important game or, heaven-forbid, a playoff game involving a high-profile team? Why not be proactive?

They had it and did away with it. Game-day rosters used to be 45 active players, with a third QB on the inactive list designated as available, with certain restrictions. Teams preferred to do what they wished with the 46th spot, so now it’s to each his own.

Andrew from San Diego, CA

Spoff, I knew I liked you. Tell me you're an IPA guy.

Only at 60 IBUs or less, though. If that makes me a wimp, so be it.

Amy from New Berlin, WI

The Inbox comments section has such a wonderful fan culture; some of us feel it's part of our family. Recently some of the “family” (aka mods) lost the capability to help keep this culture growing by losing their mod status. Can you explain what's going on with that?

We are changing procedure to employ only moderators who work for the Packers. We aren’t taking anything away, just bringing it in-house. Rules for the comments section are currently being finalized.

Anthony from Baraboo, WI

Good morning, Mike. The general consensus seems to be that TT has been very uncharacteristic this offseason in his approach to rebuilding the roster. Yet when you break down the details of each move, I don't really see anything that doesn't fit his MO. Is it just the number of moves he's made that set this year apart from others, or am I missing something?

You don’t lose seven unrestricted free agents every year, and the last time it happened (following Super Bowl XLV), the caliber of the departed was nowhere close to this offseason.

Tony from Eden Prairie, MN

Am I the only one concerned that King has been anointed as a shutdown No. 1 corner as a rookie before ever playing a down? He wasn't even considered the best corner on his team. When is the last time a CB drafted after the first round was a shutdown corner in his rookie year?

I haven’t seen anyone label him that since the draft. To some, he had that status in college. Does he have that potential in the NFL? Sure. But calling someone a shutdown corner then vs. now are two different things.

Jan from Hanover, Germany

I really like our pre-injury roster. Forget roster cuts. Let’s start praying for health and durability.

Amen.


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