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Ask Vic

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There's a new quarterback in the NFC North

Posted Jul 28, 2011

Nick from Minneapolis, MN

I'm a little worried at the thought of going up against Donovan McNabb twice a year. Fourth-and-26 aside, I did some digging on Donovan vs. Green Bay. In seven games, he's 5-2 with one loss being a 6-3 baseball-type score. He's 140 of 256 for 1,857 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions, not to mention three rushing touchdowns. He plays above his career average passer rating of 85, posting an 88 career passer rating vs. the Packers. Do you see him continuing his success against us, or will we see more of a decline, assuming he starts?

You sound worried. That’s what a veteran quarterback of esteem can do for a team and to that team’s opponents. He automatically gives a team credibility and gets that team’s opponents’ attention.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

I was looking through some of the Lambeau Field records on the website. I found it interesting that Paul Hornung was also an accomplished placekicker, in fact, one of the top five in Packers history.

He was the jack of all trades and the master of one: scoring touchdowns. When the Packers got inside the 20, the ball went to Hornung. He had a nose for the end zone.

Lee from Jarrell, TX

What is the latest on Daryn Colledge? Rumor is he will be released. Who do you think will pick him up if released?

Colledge is an unrestricted free agent. The Packers no longer own his rights, therefore, they can’t release him. Colledge is free to sign with any team in the league, which includes the Packers.

Matt from Bloomer, WI

Vic, what is the maximum number of players a team can take to camp?

The training camp roster limit has been increased from 80 to 90 for this season only.

Nathaniel from Pittsford, NY

Does Donovan McNabb make the Vikings a contender in the NFC North?

Yes, he does. A strong division just got a lot stronger.

Luke from Temecula, CA

I like the idea of getting a big boy to stuff the run. Who on the free-agent market do you think would be an ideal fit?

Chris Hoke; he’s been stuffing the run for a long time and he might have another year left in him.

Steve from Fredonia, WI

If we lose Jenkins, is Neal able to fill the position? Do the Packers feel they have enough young talent to help in that area of need?

Mike Neal immediately becomes a very important player on this team, should the Packers lose Cullen Jenkins in free agency. Neal was a second-round pick last year. He is the heir apparent. He is the draft-and-develop answer to having to replace Jenkins. Hey, it’s a game of replacement; this is what I mean by that. Neal was a three-technique tackle at Purdue. He was a quick-twitch, penetrate-and-disrupt type of lineman. In the 3-4, he has to change his style more toward that of a two-gapper, which is to say a lineman that plays on the head of the tackle, takes on the block, holds the point, sheds and makes the tackle. Dom Capers told me Neal has the strength to do that, but Neal has that quick twitch in him that makes him wanna run around blocks and go get the ball, and that’s not assignment football if the assignment is to hold the point. He’s now in the development part of his career. How quickly he develops in his role as a 3-4 end will go a long way toward determining the level of success the Packers defense achieves against the run this season.

Chris from Fort Worth, TX

I disagree with the point about talent being the most important thing. Chemistry is definitely the most important. Look at the Bengals last year; tons of talent, no chemistry, crappy record. Scott Pioli, the man who put together the Patriots’ dynasty, once said: “I want the right 50 players, not the best 50 players.”

OK, now show me a team with a lot of chemistry and no talent. I’ve covered them. The 1995 expansion Jaguars were one of the closest, most spirited teams I’ve ever covered; they won four games. Here’s my response to Pioli’s remark: Take Tom Brady away and how “right” are those other 49? I’ll give you the answer: Until Brady was made the starting quarterback, the Patriots were 5-13 under Bill Belichick and Belichick was on his way to being fired. I guess Brady fixed the chemistry, huh?

Greg from Orlando, FL

A wise man once said, “You find football players where you find football players.” How important is that in this post-lockout, undrafted free agent frenzy?

Undrafted free agency is no more important this season than it is in any other season. The difference this year is that teams had to wait until nearly three months after the draft to sign undrafted players. My naturally cynical reporter’s instinct causes me to believe that not all teams avoided contact with undrafted players. That’s the difference this year. This year’s undrafted class involves an element of intrigue. Wait a few years; the stories will surface.

Fred from Warrenton, VA

Ninety players during training camp, really? Has the practice squad number been expanded under the new CBA or does this mean more cuts to get down to the previous practice squad limit?

I get the feeling you consider the practice squad to be a kind of attachment to the regular roster. It is not. You do not own the rights to the players on your practice squad. They are free agents; they can sign with any team at any time. This year’s roster of 90 players will require that 10 more players will have to be released to get down to the final 53. After all of the cuts in the league have been made, then teams are free to sign those players that cleared waivers to the teams’ eight-man practice squad. They can be guys you released or guys other teams released. They’re all free agents. Let me put it as clearly as possible: The players on your practice squad are not on your team.

Jeremy from Marshall, WI

With the new CBA, it's being talked about that the lack of hitting and practice will increase players’ careers, thus making it harder for younger players to break into the NFL. If this is so, would you project that before the next CBA there will be expansion?

Other than Los Angeles, I don’t see an American city that makes sense in expansion. More expansion isn’t the answer; 32 teams are plenty. We’re going to see relocation to Los Angeles. It’s amazing that the league hasn’t had a team in the country’s second-largest market for the last 16 years. That’s mind-boggling and it will soon end. I don’t know what team it’ll be, but some poor town is going to lose its team, and it might even be two poor towns, and that could trigger a chain of events. Don’t worry about old players keeping young players out. It won’t happen. The good franchises know it’s a young man’s game and they’ll always be vigilant in finding young talent and making a place for it on their roster.

Brandon from Saint Paul, MN

I am constantly hearing how Dick LeBeau is the best defensive coordinator in the league and arguably in history, and I am not in disagreement, however, Dom Capers was the defensive coordinator that installed the 3-4 defense in Pittsburgh in 1992 before LeBeau took over after Capers became head coach of the Panthers in 1995. Why is LeBeau the one being praised so much more as defensive coordinator? Am I missing something?

Yeah, you are. First of all, it was Woody Widenhofer who installed the 3-4 in Pittsburgh and Woody did it long before Capers or LeBeau joined the Steelers. Secondly, I don’t think LeBeau has gained any more attention for his success with the 3-4 than Capers has. I was covering the Steelers when both men joined Bill Cowher’s staff in 1992. What a defensive braintrust that was. Also on that defensive staff was a young linebackers coach named Marvin Lewis. Capers and LeBeau are the two most prominent and successful defensive coaches of the last 20 years. I don’t see one as above the other. I delighted in watching Capers and LeBeau shape the zone-blitz scheme. I couldn’t have more respect than I do for those two coaches.

 
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