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Defense, special teams seeking identities

Soon it'll be time to turn the page


Dan from Houston, TX

Are you surprised at the special teams performance after the changes this spring?

Auditions are continuing. It's evaluation time, not judgment time.

Christine from Cranford, NJ

I have anxiously and excitedly read your work every day this offseason and preseason. You have instilled in me what I now view as an unrealistic optimism this team will win it all this season. Forget the injuries for a moment. The play of the special teams and the defense so far does not mirror a championship team. Please restore my faith and tell me the time left before the opener will be enough to rectify the situation, and my optimism for this team was not brought to a fevered pitch for nothing.

When did I ever tell you to have expectations? You did that on your own. Here's my advice: Stop dreaming about the Super Bowl. Move into the present and enjoy the drama as it unfolds. It is the drama of a team attempting to find its identity. There are no guarantees, only the promise of pursuit.

Scott from Rochester, NY

I hate to say it, but if Cobb is out more than two weeks, we are in serious trouble. So much for a fast start. We'll be deep in the hole again three years straight.

It's not in my nature to live in your kind of fear of the unknown. I don't know the extent of Randall Cobb's injury, but I have every confidence the Packers offense will find a way to deal with it. Here's a thought: Run the ball!

Randy from Bloomington, IL

How indicative is Saturday's first-half defensive performance of what this team is?

That's a valid question, but as I have written many times, the preseason should not be used in any way, shape or form as a preview of the regular season. What I saw was a defense that wasn't ready to play at that pace. I'm not talking about physical conditioning, I'm talking about the mental part of communicating the call, knowing your responsibility and, most importantly, executing your technique. All of that has to be decided before the snap of the ball. It appeared to me the few seconds before the ball was snapped were spent on identifying the formation and its challenges. It was good practice and, as I've written, that's why the preseason isn't meaningless. The preseason is practice and the preseason games are the four best practices of the summer. The Packers defense is better today for what the Eagles did to it on Saturday.

Mike from Richmond, VA

Vic, in your halftime blog you mentioned Chip Kelly had introduced us to the future of football. My question is what is the difference between this spread offense and the Bills' K-Gun offense of the early 1990's? Why do you think everyone will jump on board with this scheme now, when they couldn't do it back in the '90's?

The difference is the Bills' K-Gun was a fast-paced power offense. The Eagles are pure finesse, and that's where the game is going. For those of you who love Madden and scheme football, the Eagles are your team. They push the scheme envelope to futuristic levels, and that makes execution more important than ever. The days of batter and bludgeon are ending. The Eagles are the future of football. More than ever before, it'll become a thinking man's game, which will dovetail beautifully with the player-safety movement.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Vic, when you play the number of plays with the tempo the Eagles play, are fatigue and injuries a concern as the season wears on?

More plays increase the risk of injury, but the Eagles' style doesn't invite physical football. It actually protects them from injury. Now I understand why Chip Kelly has made so many personnel moves. His style of football translates to specific types of players.

Roland from Glen Cove, NY

I thought the young receivers made a statement. Hundley said they were open all night long. What did you think about their performance?

I was not surprised by their play. Wide receiver is the most talent-rich position in the game.

Sherman from Blue Lake, CA

Having seen the Eagles game, what would Coach Vic emphasize in practice this week to get ready for next week?

That game is gone and the preseason is about to end. Actually, it has ended, except for the decisions that have to be made on the young players chasing that 53rd roster spot, figuratively speaking. Coach Vic would go easy on his starters so they might rest physically and mentally for the long grind they are about to begin. They would instinctively know Coach Vic is beginning to turn the page to the start of the real season, and it's time for them to do the same. Maybe we should all spend some time resting for the grind we're about to face.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

It would seem the final roster questions surrounding the third QB and receivers have been mostly answered, but what about at linebacker? It seems we are still waiting for a young impact player to step forward at that position.

I would agree. There will be another opportunity this Thursday for that player to emerge.

Josip from Zagreb, Croatia

Saturday's game gave us some very good to excellent performance of a few players. Can you pick one player from defense who played on the same level as mentioned offensive players?

Carl Bradford caught my eye on a couple of occasions. I'd like to see him do it again this Thursday.

Roger from Auburn, CA

Vic, you said you wanted to see run defense in the Eagles game. The team looked completely overmatched and anything but elite. How do you feel about the team right now?

It bothers me the Packers tend to lose their identity when Aaron Rodgers doesn't play. Yeah, this was just a preseason game, and the Eagles presented a daunting challenge, but I would like to have seen the other two phases up their level of play to atone for the fact Rodgers wasn't playing. That's the kind of identity I wanted to see on Saturday. I won't form an opinion of a team in the preseason. I'll wait until later in the real season, but my hope is defense and special teams will establish their own identities. The Packers have to be about more than Aaron Rodgers. In the second half of last season, I thought they were. I thought defense had become a calling card.

Andrew from West Allis, WI

Is it time to call Rajion Neal our third running back? He's darn impressive every time I see him play.

I think he's won the job, and I think he has upside beyond being just a No. 3 running back. From where I sit, he's competing for the kickoff-return job. I like his burst. I like his toughness and his pass-catching ability. I liked him at Tennessee. I thought he was a plum free-agent signing.

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