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Balance would make this offense unstoppable

Might Johnathan Franklin become another Randall Cobb?


RB Eddie LacyChris from Andrews, TX

I feel Packer nation has a great approval rating on these two running backs that were drafted. There is no looking for old horses to get us through. We got a couple of new ponies that are eager to run and all Packer Nation seems to be behind them. Are you sold, yet?

Chris, no one ever has to sell me on young legs. Had the Packers elected to sign an old running back in free agency and ignore the position in the draft, they'd probably be facing the same need a year from now. Having drafted Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, it's likely the position has been secured for the long-term future. Why would anyone want to do it differently? Nothing beats young legs.

Derek from San Jose, CA

Have you been able to see any of the rookies' first practices? If so, who has stood out thus far, in your eyes?

The media was permitted to attend Friday's practice. I watched. The two seventh-round wide receivers certainly pass the eye test. So do Lacy and Franklin. The big guys are big. That's about all I can tell you because what I watched on Friday was teaching, not playing. The fans want football at this time of the year, so they ask how this guy looked or how that guy looked. Nobody wants to read, "It's too early to really know anything," so I play along and offer the stars of the "Underwear League," but please don't put too much stock into anything that's written in the spring. Nothing matters until the hitting starts. All we can know right now is who moves well. Will they move as well after they get hit? Will they move as well when they get hurt? Are they tough enough to do it every day? Those are the critical questions that can't be answered in the spring.

Tadd from Salt Lake City, UT

Vic, another website is filling this dead zone with static, and they are doing it in the form of all 32 teams' version of Mt. Rushmore. So, for the Packers I put forward Lambeau, Starr, Hutson and Lombardi. Who would you say?

I think you're looking for representation of the eras. Lambeau represents the Hutson era. The 1960s were so big for the Packers that they require two representatives, especially because the "Ice Bowl" has a singular quality to it and Starr is its representative. I would offer Reggie White or Brett Favre as the representative of the '90s, which was a pretty good decade for the Packers, mostly because it was a revitalization of the franchise. I think we're in an era right now that offers the potential to require representation. "Rushmore" might require five heads someday, or one of those other heads might have to come down.

Michael from Fort Lewis, WA

Coach McCarthy seems like he's been very impressed with Angelo Pease. Do you get the feeling this might be a three-way battle for the starting job, or do you think Pease is just competing for the backup spot?

You don't want to get a speeding ticket on an undrafted guy in rookie camp, but Pease sure gave himself a head start on OTAs by being singled out by the coach. Let's make sure we don't lose our balance. It's spring. We're getting closer to real football, but we're not there, yet.

Scott from Libertyville, IL

Drafting Lacy and Franklin got me thinking. Has there ever been an NFL team with two thousand-yard rushers in the same season? Or maybe I should ask what's the most formidable running back duo you can recall in the NFL?

Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris were the first to do it, in the 1972 season. I covered Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier when they did it in 1976. The Warrick Dunn-Mike Alstott backfield combination might be the best I've seen since split backs was replaced by the offset I and one-back sets.

Ron from Rockford, IL

With the move of Bulaga and Sitton to the left side, our offensive line depth sure changed in a hurry. Is Datko even in the mix for RT to compete against Newhouse, Sherrod, Barclay and Bahktiari?

I get the very strong feeling that it's wide open for the other three positions.

Alex from Wautoma, WI

Vic, how committed will McCarthy be to the running game when it comes down to calling plays in games? A notable running game is necessary, but every run is one less pass for one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Alex, I think this is the question of the year. To truly have a running game opponents will fear, it needs to be more than a commitment; it needs to be an obsession. Teams that really want to run the ball never waver in their dedication to it. They can't be schemed out of it, nor will they allow an early deficit to discourage them from using it. This is a pass-first team that wants to achieve balance with the run. In my opinion, to do that it'll have to overcompensate in the early going. To truly convince its opponents the Packers are a run-the-ball team, the Packers are going to have to run the ball when everybody expects them to throw it. Should that occur, there will be dissent. Fans want balance, but very few of them are satisfied with two-yard gains. It's a tug of war, and all teams and coaches that are truly committed to their running games go through it. Those coaches are criticized when the run doesn't work but they stuck with it. The fans want to know why they didn't pass the ball. Then, in December and January, when the weather turns cold and the running game is there when the team needs it the most, all those days of stubborn dedication to the run pay off. Will Mike McCarthy be stubborn enough to run when his heart says pass? I think this is going to be fun to watch.

Jeremy from Oceanside, NY

Any Jack Butler stories?

He played in the first game I ever saw and I was saddened yesterday to learn of his passing. Jack Butler was one of the toughest players of all time, and the historians of the game consider him to be one of the game's all-time best tacklers. You didn't break his tackle. As a reporter, what I remember most about Butler is his 45 years as the director of BLESTO. You could always go to him about a draft prospect and get some information. Those were in the days before personnel departments became the CIA. As a fan of the game, what I'll always remember about Butler was his toughness. His career was ended in 1959 by a gruesome knee injury from which he developed a staph infection. He lived with that staph infection for the rest of his life, until it claimed his life this past weekend. Every day of his life after football was accompanied by intense pain, yet, he lived a full life. Football didn't rob him of his life, it just made it hurt. Should anybody who's played this game expect otherwise? A year ago, a friend asked him if given a chance to do it all over, and given the pain he's had to endure, would he do it all over, again? He said, "Playing football was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. If I could go out today and suit up, I would do it." That, in my opinion, is a football player.

Mike from Chico, CA

On nearly all running plays, Rodgers is very deliberate in extending his arm completely as he hands off the ball to the back. It seems to me this allows the defense to easily read the play. Shouldn't they try to disguise the play a bit more?

You're describing the handoff in the "stretch play." There's no deception in the stretch play. The entire line is running laterally, as a wall of bodies. The intent is to stretch the defense laterally as far and as quickly as possible, to get the defense running toward the sideline so the back might find a running lane and cut back behind his wall of blockers. The linemen moving as one give the play away. The handoff isn't tipping the play. Rodgers reaches to make the handoff because everything about the play is about achieving width.

Richard from Farmington Hills, MI

A question I have always had regards your response to why we drafted Johnson in the seventh round. You said because we could. I understand the drafting for value in the right slot, but how did Ted Thompson know another team hadn't evaluated Johnson similarly and wouldn't draft him in the sixth round?

This is why the grades that are assigned the prospects are so important. You have to get those grades right because they determine a player's value line. If you have a seventh-round grade on a guy and another team picks him in the sixth, then so be it because that's not where his value line is and you don't pick players contrary to their value line. You have to be that disciplined in your approach. Thompson's genius isn't in his picking, it's in his disciplined approach to his process.

Allen from Prestonsburg, KY

Hey, Vic, love the column. It's a very rare and valuable reality check for us fans. Who do you think will end the season with more all-purpose yards, Lacy or Franklin?

I'd put my money on Johnathan Franklin. I think he can become the other Randall Cobb. You don't measure Eddie Lacy's worth in yards, you measure it in impact. Defenses fear power. Can he make defenses fear him enough to drag that eighth defender up into the box? If he can do that, he'll send this offense into orbit.

Jamie from Shell Lake, WI

Datone Jones said he wants to model himself after Reggie White. Have you noticed any similarities between the two?

Easy, Jamie, easy.

Evan from Stevens Point, WI

If Andy Mulumba was drafted number two overall in the CFL, but he chose to go to the Packers, what happens to the CFL team that drafted him? They now have an empty pick?

They retain his rights, should it not work for him in the NFL. Mulumba is a commodity for the CFL because he's a Canadian citizen, and CFL teams must have a minimum number of Canadian players on their roster. When Edmonton was winning all of those Grey Cups, they led the league in Canadian players. It means more to them.

Lukas from Toronto, Ontario

Who do you think will be the most improved player from the Packers this coming season, and why?

I'm going with Nick Perry. I think the "new game" is perfectly suited for him.

Pete from Madison, WI

Vic, I had a chance to watch Johnathan Franklin's first Packers interview, and he seemed poised and intelligent. Do you agree, and if so, how important are those traits for a running back?

Yes, he was poised and intelligent and that'll help anybody at any position. He was also very enthusiastic and he was groomed. That's the only part that's bothering me about preparing these young men for the draft process. I worry that all the preparation might hide their real personality. I worry that we'll never really get to know them. There's a fear of the media nowadays, and I can understand why there's a fear, but I hate to see a young man stiffen when I approach him. The league likes it because it's good for the player and for the league for the player to guard against saying the wrong thing, but in the long run, I don't think it's good for the game.

Matt from Green Bay, WI

Do you see a trend in the way Ted Thompson drafts in the later rounds? It seems to me like he goes for players who have dropped due to injury or that come out early and would've risen had they stayed in college another year, in essence getting more talent than the round suggests. Do you see this as well?

He drafts for value. That's what you're describing, players whose values are higher than their circumstances would allow them to be drafted. If you draft for value and if you've graded players correctly, you're bound to be successful.

David from San Luis Obispo, CA

My question is in regard to the fact that we drafted running backs high in the draft for the first time in a long time. Are we trying to become more balanced as a result of the outside experts' opinion?

I doubt that it's a result of the outside experts' opinion, but in this case I think the outside experts are right. If this offense achieves balance between run and pass, it'll become unstoppable. Balance on offense will make everything about this team better. In my opinion, it would be a difference maker.

Curtis from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Vic, I am more of a baseball fan than a football fan. Do you think there is any QB in the league right now that has a big enough arm to be a pitcher? If yes, who?

Most quarterbacks were pitchers when they played baseball. Dan Marino was drafted to play baseball. I think everybody knows about John Elway. Colin Kaepernick was drafted by the Cubs and is said to throw in the 90s. He's got a little bit of a pitcher's motion in his football pitching arm.

Bevan from Brisbane, Queensland

How are the numbers for each player chosen? Do they have any say in the number allocated to them?

Ted Thompson picks the numbers and he announces them for the draft picks right after they're selected. I've never seen that done anywhere else. I've never known any fan base or media to care what number a player was going to wear that soon after being drafted. This is a big numbers team.

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