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Inside linebacker has replaced safety as obsession position

Posted May 13, 2014

Do you think this year’s draft class can have last year’s impact?

Fred from Waterloo, WI

When the draft was over, I felt there must have been a lot of very similar draft boards this year. Mike McCarthy said as much. Could it be we are getting parity in the drafting process, too?

Yes, I think we are, and I think it’s easily explained. We have so much turnover in coaching staffs and personnel department people these days that the league is becoming homogenized. Look at the bios of coaches and scouts around the league. They’ve worked for multiple teams, which means they all bring a little bit of each of those teams with them. I think those ideas have been blended into one universal idea, and I think the same can be said of playbooks and technique. I don’t see much difference from one team to the next. In terms of drafting, everybody appears to be doing it the same way: Address need from the top of your board, or move to where you can address need from the top of your board and recoup the value of your original position.

Gary from Celina, TX

Vic, with the draft pushed into May, I think we will see less impact overall from these classes due to less practice to get NFL ready. A team like the Packers should benefit because of the way they gradually introduce players into their system. Most of these players the Packers drafted are set for the future, not now. Would you agree?

There were more rookie starts leaguewide in 2011 than there were in any previous year in league history, and this was in a lockout year when rookies didn’t have an OTAs season. I can remember Derek Sherrod, the Packers’ first-round pick that year, being the left guard on the first offense on the first day of training camp. The cap gets the credit and the blame. You can’t afford to have “dead money” on the bench. It happens because not all players progress at the same pace, but you need to push them as hard as they can tolerate. In that respect, the Packers are no different than any other team in the league.

William from Newark, NY

Do you think Carl Bradford will get a shot at both the ILB and OLB positions?

No, I don’t. Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Brian Gutekunst each made it perfectly clear this past weekend that Bradford is a pass-rushing outside linebacker. I expected a we’ll-see answer to the question about where Bradford would play, so when you get something as definitive as we did on Saturday, I think it’s obvious the Packers have a particular role in mind for Bradford. I don’t know what the Packers’ plan is for their linebacking corps, but I think it deeply involves Julius Peppers and Dom Capers’ plans for using him.

Jeff from Kenosha, WI

Do you think it could become an issue from a PR standpoint if Abbrederis gets cut?

No, I don’t because good football fans understand that making it in this league is all about rising above the competition. Jared Abbrederis wasn’t drafted because he’s from Wisconsin. He was drafted because the Packers believe he has talent that can improve their roster. He’ll be given every opportunity to prove he’s worthy of the roster and, based on what I’ve seen of him, I think he will.

Logan from Colorado Springs, CO

Your lack of coverage is about as uninspiring as that comb over you are rocking. Your senile sarcasm is beyond annoying. Time to hang it up!

OK.

Dmutri from Knoxville, TN

Hey, Vic, I enjoy reading your comments. I know C.J. Mosley would have been the ultimate prize at inside linebacker, but what do you think about the Adrian Hubbard signing?

You’ll never see an undrafted free agent that passes the eye test better than Hubbard does.

Harry from Rochester, NY

Vic, what’s your opinion of the Rams taking Michael Sam in the seventh round?

I don’t believe there was prejudice against Sam for his lifestyle. I think teams were afraid of the media circus that would follow him and the possible distraction it could cause. Jeff Fisher is in a tough spot. He has to have a plan for dealing with the media attention that’s going to descend on his training camp. I’m not talking about a bunch of football writers, I’m talking about having “Good Morning America” in your parking lot. St. Louis is the perfect place for Sam, and I think it was critical that this man be given a more than fair chance to succeed. The low-pick status will be helpful to him. The pressure is off. Also, in St. Louis, he’ll be among supporters. He’ll be among friends. He’ll be more comfortable. I’m really rooting for this guy because he has a chance to break down an invisible barrier that’s stood for too long. If he’s successful, 50 years from now they will write of his achievement as they write today of Jackie Robinson’s.

Steve from McIntyre, WI

As a 53-year-old male with gray/white hair, I wonder if you ever tried to dye your hair.

OK, I confess. This isn’t my natural hair color.

Robert from Coupeville, WA

How can a consortium of draftniks rank Shayne Skov of Stanford (ILB) and Antonio Richardson of Tennessee (OT) at 57 and 40 overall respectively, and neither even gets picked up as an undrafted free agent?

Maybe there’s something they don’t know.

Thad from Chesterfield, VA

With Coach McCarthy’s big-letters statement, is that a general statement, a notice to the defensive players or a notice to the defensive coaching staff, or all of the above that things will be better?

At the owners meetings in Orlando, I did a video interview with Coach McCarthy during which I asked him about the question I asked him last June about his team’s running game. He responded then with the “big letters” promise that it would be improved, which turned out to be the defining moment of OTAs. Well, I don’t think Coach McCarthy was ready to do the big-letters thing when I asked him at the owners meetings about his defense this year, but I was thrilled on Saturday that the coach volunteered his “big letters” statement; he didn’t even have to be asked. What does it mean? It means he’s committed to improving his team’s defense, just as he was committed to improving his team’s running game a year ago, and it was a message to the fans. He’s tired of hearing about it and he’s going to do something about it. I love it when he gets like that.

Matt from Vero Beach, FL

Competition in pads will answer. Do you see a Hyde, Clinton-Dix combo? It’s Burnett’s job to lose and he probably starts the season, but Hyde will be tough to keep off the field. Your thoughts?

Now there are too many safeties? I thought there was a desperate need at safety.

Clifton from Nasa, TX

Did you not receive my question regarding Jeff Janis? I called it, Vic.

I got it. As soon as the Packers picked Janis, I thought to myself, Clifton called it.

Lewk from Davenport, IA

Vic, do you think moving Clay Matthews to inside linebacker is completely out of the question?

Lewk, please tell me, what possible insanity would be accomplished by moving Matthews to inside linebacker?

Ray from Antigo, WI

In Ted’s interview in your column, he makes the statement that the Packers don’t draft to fill a need. Well, what are they drafting for? I understand drafting strong football players, but say you have eight starter-quality wide receivers, for example, and only four or five see the field. Isn’t that a recipe for a frustrated player that will seek new employment? Also, I was really hoping to see us acquire an inside linebacker and was a little confused to see us grab outside guys. Are we comfortable inside and why the surplus outside?

I get it. The desperate need at safety has been resolved and now we need a new obsession, so we’ve turned our attention to inside linebacker. OK, on three, let’s all squeeze real hard and worry. One, two, three, squeeze.

Michael from Orange Park, FL

When the Packers’ first pick came up, thinking of BAP, I thought the Packers should have taken Darqueze Dennard instead of Ha Ha. To me, there is not that big of a difference, but I was just wondering what you and Tony thought. To me, the Packers chose need over value, but it was pretty close.

It’s what we don’t know that is the real issue. Was Dennard even a consideration for the Packers? Maybe it was between Ha Ha and someone else. We can’t know unless Ted Thompson tells us, and you can forget about that. It’s the mystery of the draft, and because they won’t tell all, they allow us to speculate and, in my opinion, that’s only fair. It’s that won’t-tell mystery and the debate it causes that drives the draft’s popularity. I think Dennard’s a good player; Tony Pauline feels the same way. Being that I’ve always believed a good corner to be more valuable than a good safety, I was leaning toward Dennard, but my thinking is old school and might be outdated. Time will tell.

Ryan from Columbus, WI

If all these draft analysts are so smart (Mel Kiper), why are they not GMs calling the shots?

Mel would have to take a massive cut in pay to become a general manager. After all, he is the creator. The picks aren’t nearly as important as the show.

Ken from Honolulu, HI

What was the best human interest story you heard during this draft?

The Marqise Lee story took me back to Jim Plunkett. How do these men triumph as they do in spite of their hardships? They are amazing.

Alex from Waunakee, WI

What do you think the large number of receivers mean for the current roster, both this coming season and next year as several contracts expire? In particular, what do you see in Boykin’s future?

I see another challenge in Jarrett Boykin’s future. It’ll likely be that way his whole career because he came into the league as an undrafted free agent. Having an abundance of talent at any position means you’re stockpiled at that position, and being stockpiled at a position provides salary cap flexibility.

Joe from West Bend, WI

SB Nation gives the Packers an A. The only other team they have equaling that mark is the Houston Texans. The other 30 teams are all given draft grades less than that mark.

I am so relieved.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

Vic, did you ever think you’d live to see the day the University of Texas did not have a player drafted (first time since 1937)?

If your favorite college team is underperforming and you’re not sure why, the NFL draft will tell you what the problem is. If a lot of players are picked, you’ve got a coaching problem. If nobody is picked, you’ve got a recruiting problem.

John from Dallas, TX

Vic, how much impact will this draft have for the Packers?

Last year’s draft had a dramatic impact. This year’s draft can do the same. Will it? I’d be lying if I said I knew. What’s your opinion?


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