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You need those guys on your team

Posted Dec 7, 2017

Defensive linemen can't take their TD opportunities for granted


Cam from Springville, UT

I watched Jamaal Williams at BYU and he was very, very energetic. Do you think his pregame dances have had an effect on the team? Could he be one of the leaders on offense?

That’s Jamaal Williams for you. I talked with a few folks in Provo, Utah, after the Packers drafted him in the spring. It’s what he does. He’s been the hype man for the Packers during pregame warmups this season and brings that high energy whether it’s on offense or special teams. I’d also put Jeff Janis and Demetri Goodson in a similar category, revving up the home crowd before the defense comes on the field after kickoffs. You need those guys on your team. They bring it on every single play.

Brady from Dubuque, IA

People are already looking to the Carolina game, and getting Rodgers back. We can't do that, and I'm sure McCarthy is telling this to the team, as well. A winless team like Cleveland will be pesky, and with their backs against the wall, the Packers can't afford to do that.

The only way this whole Carolina thing becomes a meaningful conversation is if the Packers win on the road against an unfamiliar opponent Sunday. The Browns are playing for pride at this point and have nothing to lose. Their defense allows them to play teams tough. You can’t look past them.

Shaun from Oak Creek, WI

The scout team works against the first team in practice right? Therefore will the first-team defense be better this week having to play against Rodgers?

If training camp has taught us anything, it’s that Aaron Rodgers never turns it off. He gives it everything he’s got whether he’s with the starters or practicing with the scout team during the summer. It should be a good primer for the defense working across from the best player in the game this week.

Scott from Janesville, WI

I really like the defense right now. They may be giving up chunk plays randomly throughout the game, but they are also getting sacks and turnovers right now. Do you think they are only getting started?

Sunday showed what was possible. The blend of consistent pressure, solid man-to-man coverage outside and takeaways were positives to draw from. The defense didn’t bottle up the run like I expected and were susceptible to chunk yards on screen plays, but it did what was needed to win that game against Tampa Bay. Cleveland is 29th in the league in turnover margin (minus-12). The Packers need to keep taking the ball away Sunday.

John from Apopka, FL

I liked McCarthy's answer in the press conference: “There are no average players in the NFL.” We have to remember that they are the best of the best. The NFL draws the best players from college and only the best of them make it into the NFL. I think we need to remember that when we comment on their abilities and mistakes. Your thoughts?

Mike McCarthy mentioned this early in the season. We all get enamored with ranking and analyzing players, but I think it’s important to remember the high level at which these players are competing. You don’t make it to this level without doing something right.

Dylan from Oshkosh, WI

How nice is it for the Packers to have a surging run game with a potentially rusty Rodgers coming back?

A surging run game this time of the year helps any quarterback. It doesn’t matter if it’s Rodgers or Hundley. If Rodgers returns, he should take solace in the fact it won’t all be on his shoulders. Jones and Williams are perfect fits for this offense. Together, they’ve put up 727 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 162 carries (4.5 avg.). It’s been an up-and-down year for the running game, but it’s definitely peaking at the right time.

James from Valley Village, CA

How would you rate Coach McCarthy at plugging holes in the offense and defense units? Is he one of the best?

I think you have to give McCarthy and Dom Capers a lot of credit for how they’ve made do over the years with injuries. They made the NFC Championship Game last year despite having a never-ending line of injuries in the secondary. A tornado hit the offensive line this year and yet they pressed forward with Lane Taylor and Justin McCray filling in at tackle. The next man up has to be the best man up.

Scott from Hayward, WI

So I hear Cleveland has a pretty good run defense. I also know we have a QB that has proven to be pretty shaky under pressure, especially without a running game. Seems pretty obvious to me we need some quality play-action passes to open up the short passing game. This strategy will build Hundley's confidence and rhythm in the passing game and simultaneously open up our run game for huge bursts later. That opens up the field for the home-run pass. Am I ready for my spot in the game-planning coaches’ meeting?

That first series is important for so many reasons, but generating early explosive plays in the passing game is high on my list. It doesn’t have to be a pass sailing 30 yards in the air, either. You saw how the offense moved the ball after the quick pass to Randall Cobb against Chicago. Points are paramount on those early possessions, but building confidence for Hundley is just as valuable.

Jessie from Chino, CA

Who does Aaron Jones remind you of when comparing his skill set?

I’m not quite sure. I’ve said since May that Jamaal Williams kind of reminds me of James Starks in that he’s a tall, lean back who runs with power despite not being a 230-pound grinder. Jones isn’t the biggest back (5-9, 209), but he’s so darn shifty. Yet, natural gifts are weaponized by his vision. That’s what’s enabled him to make such an impact so early in his career. I’ll keep working on coming up with a comparable player.

Adam from St Hubert, Canada

The first player that comes to man when I see Adams juking a defender, running his routes (especially slants) and getting off the line is Chad Johnson. Their suddenness is just above everybody else’s.

That’s a good comparison. Adams’ footwork is ridiculous. That stop-and-go route he ran against Pittsburgh is highlight material. He’s extremely sudden.

James from Ottawa, Ontario

I still firmly believe both Montgomery and Mays will have an impact at the RB position in the future and that they have a lot to offer to make the group even more dynamic. That being said, do you see any similarities between the 1-2 punch of Williams and Jones and that of Lacy and Franklin? It seems that this duo is able to complement each other in a way we never fully had the opportunity to see four years ago.

It’s a shame we never got to see the Lacy/Franklin backfield come to fruition. Franklin had issues holding onto the ball at times, but his talent was undeniable. Not many running backs have a 100-yard game the first time they’re given the football. There is more difference in the Williams/Jones combo than Lacy/Starks, which intrigues me. That could present a lot of challenges for defensive game plans in the future.

Johan from Pembroke, ON

Sunday seemed like the first time in a while that Capers employed the NASCAR package. Do you think we'll see more of that in the next several games?

Possibly. I’m sure it’s been on the defense’s ready list all season. I think it made sense because it gives you faster rushers to chase down Winston should he escape the pocket. I have wondered this week if keeping the defensive linemen out of that dime package helped them stay fresh and productive rushing in the base and nickel defenses.

Mike from Novato, CA

With the emergence of the two rookies, and Hundley leaning on the ground game, do you think there's any shot at seeing an old-fashioned two-HB, one-FB backfield? I know it limits the WRs, but all three backs have shown themselves to be decent receivers, so the offense wouldn't necessarily be too limited.

The Packers ran a variant of the full house a few weeks ago with Randall Cobb serving as one of the two halfbacks. Joe Kerridge is back on the active roster, so it’s possible to have a full house with two fullbacks, too. I don’t know if we’ll see Williams and Jones in the same backfield, though.

Taylor from Amarillo, TX

What happens behind the scenes for an organization to mishandle the Eli situation as bad as it did?

At this point, you just need to pick yourself up and finish the race. Steve Spagnuolo is the right guy for the job. He was with Manning and the Giants when they won their first Super Bowl in 2007. We’ll see what happens after the season, but it made sense to install him as the interim HC.

Richard from Madison, WI

Vogel punting out of his own end zone. How do they compute the distance on that? From the line of scrimmage? The goal line? The line where his foot contacts the ball (non-existent in the end zone)?

Line of scrimmage.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Having watched the replay of Dean Lowry's return of the fumble, I have three observations. 1) He displayed quick reaction time, plucking the ball out of the air. 2) He displayed surprising speed in the open field. 3) He didn't slow down until after crossing the goal line. Many an NFL player could learn something from his example of keeping the jets engaged until after reaching the end zone. Nicely done, Dean! Keep up the great work, Insiders!

Lowry wasn’t going to be shortchanged on that fumble return. He smelled the end zone from the moment that ball landed in his arms and kept pushing until he crossed over for the touchdown. When you’re a defensive lineman, you can’t take those opportunities for granted. You never know if they’ll happen again.

Dan from Marshfield, WI

Wondering why Lowry’s touchdown was not called an interception.

It wasn’t a forward throw.

Brian from Urbana, IL

I agree on the field-goal situation. There's a lot of hype in the media about coaches needing to be more aggressive with field-goal and PAT situations, but the truth is your decision communicates confidence or lack thereof in your players' ability to assert their will. Metrics and statistics are part of the equation, but it goes beyond that in a game that is indelibly human.

I’ve found there to be a lot of backseat drivers out there, but it’s different when you’re behind the wheel and responsible for which direction the car is traveling. The human part of the game is the most fascinating because the popularity of a decision is almost always tied to the result.

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

Well, that stinks. Kevin King is placed on IR. I guess his shoulder was worse than what was advertised.

I think it was obvious to the media covering the team what King was dealing with. It’s a credit to him he fought through it for as long as he did. Now, he’ll get a chance to get right before Year 2. There were some definite positives to draw from his rookie year, but a press-man cornerback needs to be physical. The shoulder was taking away one of his greatest strengths.

Brian from Springfield, IL

With all the questions and comments on the non-blocked blocked punt, I have a quirky story to share. I was in middle school watching our high school game. Our punter kicked the ball straight up. Everyone but the punter ran down the field like a normal punt. Our punter caught his own kick, and ran it for a first down. The refs took a bit to conclude it was a legal play, but the play stood. The rules can make for some funny plays.

Now that’s a funny story and yet another reminder of how anything south of the offensive line of scrimmage is fair game.

Mark from Seattle, WA

The Nov. 27 edition of Time magazine had a feature on the best 25 inventions of 2017. One invention was a "stronger, safer football helmet" called the Zero1. It's made of flexible polymer and works much like a bumper works on a car. Each helmet costs $1,500 dollars and 18 NFL teams are already using it. This sounds like a big step in the right direction to limiting concussions.

A lot of progress has been made regarding helmet technology during my six seasons covering the NFL. The SpeedFlex helmets (with the indent on the front of the helmet to absorb contact) have become almost as popular as the traditional helmets in many NFL locker rooms.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, here's a random question. Imagine the gunners are racing down the field toward a punt returner who signals for a fair catch. Clearly, they cannot touch him and have to give him space. Do they ever yell at him to distract him? Are there limits on what they can or cannot say?

Also fair game, but I’m not sure how much of a factor it would be inside a stadium with 70,000 screaming fans.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

The Browns seem to be a conundrum for sure as an expansion team that inherited a relocated team's history. When you look back to the almost-great Browns teams of the 1980s, do you associate those more to the Browns or Ravens? Certainly the new Browns have been unable to create the rivalries the Ravens took with the players to Baltimore.

History lies where history is created. A U-Haul truck doesn’t change that. That’s why I’ve always equated the Braves’ World Championship in 1957 with Milwaukee, not Atlanta.

Graham from Green Bay, WI

Today at lunch, I grabbed what I thought was a chocolate chip cookie from the grocery store. Turns out, it was a mislabeled oatmeal raisin. Now, I don't think the person labeling the cookies should be fired, nor should their boss for hiring them. And while it might not be as good as those chocolate chip cookies you get in Boston, it was still a delicious dessert. At the end of the day, I'm just happy I got a cookie.

I would have taken an hour of PTO, driven back to the grocery store and returned it at the customer service counter. Raisins? I don’t need no stinking raisins.

Andrew from Huxley, IA

Enough is enough, guys. I submit a question almost every day and then the first thing I do when I open the inbox is search for “Andrew.” There are always a few Andrews, the problem is none of them are Andrew from Huxley. What does an Andrew have to do to compete with Lori? (This is in good fun. I love the work you guys do!) Happy Holidays!

Congrats on being the “Andrew of the Day,” Andrew. Keep being you.


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