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Reggie White types don't come along often

Posted May 26, 2011

Donald from Vienna, VA

Hey, slick Vic, can you please explain the mysterious Wonderlic Test. What does it test and what is the final score breakdown?

It’s a 12-minute, 50-question aptitude test that claims to determine someone’s deductive-reasoning power. For example, the test might ask that if one train leaves Chicago headed east on the same tracks that a train has left New York headed west, where will they collide? The answer is obviously Cleveland, right? So you put down Cleveland and that’s one point for you. At the end of the test, they count up your right answers and that’s your score. Quarterbacks usually score in the 20s or higher, then come offensive linemen, wide receivers, running backs, defensive backs, linebackers, defensive linemen and sportswriters.

Agustin from Buenos Aires, Argentina

First of all, I would like to congratulate you for this incredible column. I agree with you that rainy or snowy games are the best. It always makes my day to watch a snowy football game.

There’s something about football and snow that make for a dramatically perfect visual. A picture of a football game in the snow is the closest thing sports can offer to a painting. I am drawn to pictures of football games played in the snow. It’s as though I want to count the snowflakes.

Mark from Madrid, Spain

Loved your explanation of the 5-2, 4-3, 3-4. How do nickel and dime packages factor in?

In nickel, a fifth defensive back comes onto the field and a linebacker usually comes off. In dime, a sixth defensive back comes onto the field and either a defensive lineman or a linebacker comes off the field. You would only play dime when you have the offense in a must-pass situation because dime is extremely vulnerable to the run.

Jason from Burbank, CA

Kurt Warner wasn't left-handed and we weren't talking about switching defensive players, we were talking about left-handed quarterbacks having the best blocker on the left side. Even if the defense switches its best pass-rusher to the other side, he is at a disadvantage because he trains to be a right end not a left end.

You are absolutely right. There aren’t a lot of players special enough to switch sides and perform with equal effectiveness. Yes, there are those special players, as Reggie White was, that can play the run and rush the passer with equal effectiveness, and they don’t care which hand they put on the ground or which leg they drop back or who’s blocking them or if they’re “clubbing” or “swimming” with their right arm or their left arm; they are so incredibly gifted that they can do it all and from multiple positions, but start counting those guys and let me know when you run out of fingers. The sacks rankings are loaded with front-side pass-rushers: Clay Matthews, LaMarr Woodley and Robert Mathis immediately come to mind. Kevin Greene and Reggie White were front-side guys. I covered a game Charles Haley dominated from the front side. Again, most rushers are right-handed and they are most comfortable coming from the right side, but when you find a premier pass-rusher that likes coming from the left side, you have a guy that will often present a mismatch for a right tackle that isn’t as gifted a pass-blocker as the left tackle is. That’s what you’re looking for, matchups. Creating matchup advantages is much more important than the hand with which the quarterback throws.

Andy from Abbotsford, BC

Which Packers players do you see making the biggest jump in their performances from years one to two?

I think Bryan Bulaga is an obvious candidate. Offensive tackles are always big-jump candidates because the position requires learning some tricks of the trade, so to speak, and Bulaga did his learning last season during the late-season rush to the Super Bowl. I would expect him to become a real force up front for the Packers this season.

Daryl from Portland, ME

Your videos make public-access TV look like Academy Award-winning programming.

Thank you. Hey, do you have a picture of yourself you could share with us?

Loftur from Columbus, OH

I really enjoy your discussion about the evolution of the defenses. What do you see as the next big switch when it comes to base defenses? With the added emphasis on the passing game, do you see a 3-3 or a 4-2 defense where you remove a linebacker and add a third corner?

That’s nickel and teams are using it more and more as their base defense, meaning they open the game in it and use it for a higher percentage of plays than the alignment that is generally considered to be their base. What we need to know before we look into the future is what the league intends to do with the rules. There was serious talk last season about outlawing three and four-point stances. Will that talk resurface? Is there a chance that might actually happen? If it does, it’s a game-changer. Outlawing three and four-point stances would result in the most dramatic changes the game has ever seen.

Michael from Baltimore, MD

What do you think of the modern players or teams that trash-talk excessively? Even though I'm a diehard Packers fan, I also root for the Baltimore Ravens since I live in Baltimore and I really think their bravado hurts them at times. I really prefer the Packers’ mindset better, which seems to be a supreme, quiet confidence. I think arrogance and ignorance are closely correlated. Hope you can share on this point.

Just win, baby. That’s my thought on the subject. I don’t like all of that big-talk stuff, but if you can make it work, go ahead and do it. The Ravens didn’t make it work. They had the lead and they were talkin’ it up pretty good, but they folded at crunch time. The Jets are another big-talk team and they’re a legitimate Super Bowl contender, too, but they wouldn’t be much without Darrelle Revis and you don’t see him putting on a show, do you? I couldn’t figure out why Rex Ryan would tell that ridiculous story before last season’s AFC title game. Why would he go out of his way to tell a story about laughing at a player that got knocked out? How does that help your cause, especially heading into a hostile environment? So what happened? They got the ball run down their throat. That’s embarrassing.

Daniel from Brooklyn, WI

It's a copy-cat league, so please explain why teams don't copy the 1985 Bears’ “46” defense?

Because it’s players, not plays; that’s why. When you have the cast of players the ’85 Bears had, you can play any defense you want. Put that team in a 3-4. Put “Refrigerator” Perry at nose tackle, with Steve McMichael at one end and Dan Hampton at the other end. Now stand up Richard Dent as a linebacker, along with Wilber Marshall, Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson. Do you think they would’ve been pretty good in a 3-4? I’ll tell you what, turn that bunch over to Dom Capers and they might’ve gotten even more sacks. Daniel, don’t fall into the video-game trap of believing you win with plays. You win with players.

Ryan from Irvine, CA

In your video about the 3-4, why did you go out of your way to specify that it was a nose guard, not a nose tackle? My dad and grandpa call it a nose guard and I have to admit it sounds better, but nowadays I hear it as a nose tackle. Same difference, right?

Yeah, it’s the same thing. In a “52,” the lineman over the center is referred to as a nose guard because you already have two defensive tackles; it’s just nomenclature. In a 3-4, that player is called a nose tackle because he’s the only tackle on the line.

David from Richmond, IN

I loved that picture of a muddy Jim Taylor running to daylight. That's football.

I can’t remember the last time a picture got to me as that one did when I saw it on the site yesterday. It’s beautiful. It’s art. It’s the work of Vernon Biever, the Packers’ legendary photographer, who passed away last fall. Packers.com is blessed to have access to Vern’s work and I am thrilled that you enjoy it, as I’m sure a lot of other Packers fans do, too. That, David, is a classic picture of what Taylor saw as he ran to daylight. You know, I look at that picture and I feel sorry for the people who are bored by the running game. I pity those that can’t see the simple beauty in that play and in that picture.

Ted from Madison, WI

What's your take on why Jerry Kramer hasn't been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? To me, his situation seems similar to Andy Russell's. Are the HOF voters overlooking these guys because they played on teams with many HOF inductees already?

They’re not overlooking them, they’re just refusing to vote them in because they believe those two teams have reached their quota. I had a member of the selection committee tell me that if another guy goes in, then the coach has to go out because how good of a coach do you have to be to coach a team with those many Hall of Fame players on it. He was being facetious, of course, but I got his point.

Wayne from Lakeside, AZ

How about a 2-5 defense? It would replace one down lineman with a mobile middle linebacker that could spy on the quarterback and increase pass-defense while still providing fast response to plug the run.

Why not 0-0-11 instead of prevent? Why bother wasting rushers? They’re not likely to sack the quarterback and why do you wanna hurry him anyhow? Let him stand back there all day; the clock is running, isn’t it? Put 11 defensive backs on the field and show me where the open receiver is.

Sean from Leeds, UT

Darn it, Vic, when are you going to answer one of my questions?

Right now.

Randy from Longview, TX

I think we hear the talking heads talk about how tight ends are a mismatch against any defense. They have the speed of a wide receiver, the quickness of a running back, the size of a lineman, making them impossible to cover, so fans take that and run with it. What makes a great tight end and who would be your No. 1 tight end?

You have to create mismatches and putting five tight ends on the field at the same time is going to create a lot of mismatches that’ll favor the defense. It’s nonsensical but I have no doubt some tight end-crazy offensive coordinator will do it someday. In my opinion, a great tight end is one that can block and catch with equal aplomb. In my opinion, players such as Mike Ditka and John Mackey define the position; the Kellen Winslow and Shannon Sharpe types are wide receivers disguised as tight ends. Today’s game is a game of formations. We have blocking tight ends and we have pass-catching tight ends and they are used accordingly. What we don’t have are a lot of traditional block-and-catch types. Andrew Quarless has a chance to become one of those block-and-catch guys; he has the skill set for it. What makes those guys special is that their ability to perform both functions allows you to do more with less, meaning you can do more out of the same formations, and that’s a play-caller’s delight. Where, however, are you going to find those block-and-catch guys? Their ranks are dwindling more every year, because of the proliferation of spread offenses on the college level. You might find tight ends coach Ben McAdoo’s comments on the subject interesting.

 
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