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Ask Vic

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This is the year for defensive linemen

Posted Feb 11, 2013

If you need one, this is the year to get one


David from Chuluota, FL

You’ve talked about how players in the past didn’t look like they were carved. I think some people interpret that to mean they were less athletic, slower, weaker. I recently saw some footage of Don Hutson; that dude could fly. I don’t know if they measured 40 times back then, but he appeared to be every bit as fast, if not faster, than any modern receiver I’ve ever seen. Being cut and being athletic are two completely different things.

I never said the players in the past weren’t carved or cut. Some of the most athletic-looking bodies I’ve ever covered came from the teams I covered in the 1970’s. Jack Lambert was cut. L.C. Greenwood had the hard, lean body of a wide receiver. Weightlifting isn’t new to the game. The players of the past did plenty of weightlifting. The difference between the players of the past and the players of today is that the players of the past looked like they lifted weights, the players of today look like they ate the weights. The players of yore were every bit as athletic and fast as the players of today. Please, don’t tell me about 40 times. There was no combine back then; no sprinters starts or time training for an event that would be timed electronically and run on an indoor surface. Gale Sayers got his 40 time on a football field while wearing a football uniform. I had a scout tell me Tony Dorsett is the fastest player he ever timed and they could never get a true time on Dorsett because he eased up at the end of his run. Why? Because it was a way of protecting his 40 time for when he got older and lost a step. How would they know? Paul Warfield, Lynn Swann, Bob Hayes, Homer Jones, Roger Carr, Bobby Mitchell, Jim Brown, etc., could run with the best of them from any era, but to be successful in today’s game, they would’ve had to become bigger and stronger, and they would’ve. Hutson would’ve been a great player in any era.

Liz from Madison, WI

You say wide receivers are a dime a dozen, while the big guys on the line are much rarer. It seems the receivers get big bucks on their contracts but the linemen get much less. Is that really true and, if so, why is it?

Wide receivers are important. You can’t win in today’s game without having play-making receivers, and that’s why the good ones are paid handsomely. What I mean by dime a dozen is that you can find those guys in the later rounds of the draft. The top left tackles, however, are at a huge premium and they make quarterback money. Left tackles are paid so much that they lift the franchise tag for all offensive linemen, which includes the other four lesser paid positions, to nearly $10 million. That’s why you rarely see an offensive lineman franchised that isn’t a left tackle. Big guys are at a tremendous premium; any GM would confirm that fact. In a draft heavy with tackles, they go off the board in panic picking. For example, the 2008 draft is the great tackle draft. Eight were selected in the first 26 picks, including Jake Long, Ryan Clady and Brandon Albert. You can find centers, guards and right tackles in the later rounds of the draft, but history suggests you better get your left tackle early.

Tadd from Salt Lake City, UT

Vic, you talked about the AFL back in the day planting teams into growing markets where the NFL was absent. Do you think the NFL will ever do this kind of thing in the future?

I don’t think there are any new frontiers in the continental United States. Before the AFL, there were wide expanses of open territory not exposed to professional football. The Redskins, for example, were the team of the South. There was no other NFL team south of the Redskins, which is one of the reasons college football has always been the game of the South. I think Europe is the next frontier for the NFL.

Eric from Lubbock, TX

Vic, I always like seeing guys that don’t fit the mold getting the job done in the NFL. Do you see any prospects that have bad measurables that show a knack for getting it done?

There aren’t many players in the game today with bad measurables. You might find a guy who’s a step slow or a little undersized but, for the most part, the guys in an NFL locker room look the part. It’s called having an NFL body. If you don’t have one, you won’t hang around for long. The Don Nottingham days are over.

Terry from Springfield, MO

As a former Wisconsinite, I appreciate a good snow blower. Were those regular khakis, or the all-weather type with flannel lining?

I assure you, Terry, I am not a flannel-lining khakis kind of guy. That’s where I draw the line.

Jerry from Palmetto, FL

Have you seen Fred Taylor’s son Kelvin Taylor play? Do we have another Fred Taylor coming?

I’ve seen tape of the kid. He runs just like his dad. I have one question: Can he catch a football better than Fred? If he can, Fred might find himself in Canton someday presenting his son for induction.

Derrick from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, nfl.com posted an article stating their top five picks at each position. I noticed they don’t even have John Jenkins on the list. Did you see something they didn’t?

When I look at defensive line prospects, I’m looking for 3-4, hold-the-point guys, for the obvious reason that I cover a team that uses the 3-4 scheme, and those usually aren’t the guys that top the rankings. The rankings are usually heavy at the top with 4-3 linemen that offer pass-rush potential. That’s not what a 3-4 guy does. Linemen in a 3-4 defense are two-gappers; they’re human plugs. Jenkins has the kind of squat girth that makes him a natural nose tackle. That’s easy to see. What I also saw at the Senior Bowl is a prospect with the quickness to pursue down the line and to be used in a surprise penetration scheme. Hey, the more things you can do, right?

Jim from Menomonee Falls, WI

I did some checking. The average weight of the offensive line in 1942 was 239 pounds. In 1963 it was 245 pounds. This year it was 315 pounds. Are we growing bigger, weight training, diet or what?

I think the explosion in size can be traced back to the advent of the cheese nacho.

David from Whitesboro, NY

Am I mistaken or were you blowing snow off your pool/backyard patio?

My boys need some privacy.

Daniel from Central Valley, CA

Giovani Bernard and Eddie Lacy seem to be the two best running backs in the draft. Which one’s game would benefit the Packers most? What are the pros and cons of each?

Bernard has legit game-breaking ability, but he carries injury concerns. Lacy is a true power back, but he’s a straight-line runner. I like Stepfan Taylor.

Alan from Buckinghamshire, England

I have been watching the NFL since 1989 and feel the best team of each season usually doesn’t win the Super Bowl. Do you agree and, if so, why?

I would agree the best team in the league doesn’t always win the Super Bowl and it’s because we’ve reached a point of parity that, frankly, every team is the same except for the quarterbacks. They draft the same way, they train the same way, they run the same plays, they play on the same high-grade fields, have similar indoor facilities wear the same equipment, etc. It’s difficult to find uniqueness from one franchise to the next. In the old days, that wasn’t so. When I went from covering the Steelers to the Jaguars, the difference was huge. The Steelers ran nine-on-sevens ad nauseum; the Jaguars’ practices were passing camps. The game has reached the point of perfection. Nobody does it wrong anymore. So why do some teams lose? Because they don’t have “The Man.”

Samuel from Cedaredge, CO

I think the Packers need to draft a left tackle first. What do you think?

I think 51 sacks are too many and that has to be addressed, one way or another.

Kris from Las Vegas, NV

Vic, I was looking over the 2012 Packers salaries. My question is why do they still have to count players on the cap that are no longer on the team?

Teams must account for every penny they spend. If you don’t want dead money on your cap, then don’t pay signing bonus, which is divided evenly over the life of the contract, pay roster bonus which, in most cases, is declared in full in the year it’s paid. Roster bonus is, in effect, salary, which disappears from a team’s salary cap the moment the player is no longer on the team. A conscientious team, such as the Packers, structures its players’ contracts with a blend of salary and signing bonus so one protects the other. For example, if you’re afraid an older player might not make it to the end of his contract, then spike his salary in the final year, which then creates a cap savings when balanced against his signing bonus amortization. It’s a way of prepaying on your cap and it’s smart business. If teams were permitted to dump bonus amortization when they cut a guy, teams would be pushing money out beyond their players’ life expectancies and the cap would be a meaningless figure nobody would have to respect.

Ben from Milwaukee, WI

It seems this class is loaded with defensive talent. A great defensive lineman is bound to fall to 26, but is the pool deep enough to get an impact lineman at the Packers’ spot in the second round?

Yes, I believe it is. If a team has defensive line needs and they don’t address them in this draft, they’re going to regret it. You have to take what the draft gives you, and this is the year to take defensive linemen.

Jack from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

I can tell you are not too high on Ahmad Bradshaw, but I can’t help but love the guy.

Good, then find the next Bradshaw. It’s how you stay young and it’s how you protect your salary cap. The health of a team’s salary cap is every bit as important as the health of the team’s quarterback. I’m going to continue banging away on cap questions between now and the start of free agency because I want everyone to understand that if you don’t know the salary cap, you don’t know pro football. The cap runs your team.

Jay from Leo, IN

Vic, do you see any difference between a tough guy and a cheap-shot artist? I think the Lions’ Suh is a cheap-shot artist who ultimately hurts his team with penalties, but some might view him as simply tough. I want tough but not cheap. How about you?

I’m a forgiving person.


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