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Hit what you see and see what you hit


Kalani from Kula, HI

What do you think is the bigger fault area in our defense, the defensive line or the secondary?

The defensive line took too much blame for the lack of a pass rush. In a 3-4 defense, defensive linemen are run stuffers; the linebackers are the pass rushers. Teams must be vigilant in addressing their two lines because the big guys are so hard to find, but I don't think the defensive line was the main problem area on defense this past season. The Packers need to improve their pass rush and their pass defense, and the responsibility for those areas of the team fall primarily on the linebackers and on the secondary.

Patrick from Hopkins, MN

In reading your article about Courtney Upshaw, you said a scout told you there will be a good depth of running backs and corners. If it comes to the Packers' pick and there is a corner and a running back of equal grade on the board, who do we take?

I can't speak for the Packers, but it has been my experience that ties are broken by need and by the value of the position, and every scout I know puts a greater premium on cornerback than on running back. That would break the tie for me. For a best available player team, the draft is first and foremost about value.

Eric from Mountain Home, AR

I was wondering what the status is on Nick Collins. Is it clear if he will ever play again?

Mike McCarthy said Collins must undergo a medical examination in March before Collins is able to decide on his future. In a neck-fusion procedure, the bone graft must fuse to the levels above and below. At that point, a decision can be made.

Frank from Burlington, ON

Have you heard any news regarding the progress of Derek Sherrod? Will he be ready for training camp?

I saw Sherrod recently and he was walking with the aid of a cane. A long time ago, I covered a cornerback who sustained a catastrophic broken leg that involved surgery and rods and screws. He returned to action the following season and went on to play the best football of his career. I'm talking about a cornerback, a guy for whom speed was everything.

Adam from Sun Prairie, WI

With all the talk about moving Woodson, what's the main difference between cornerback and safety?

Safeties have to be good tacklers; cornerbacks have to be able to flip their hips and run with wide receivers. If a player has the speed to range from the middle of the field to the sideline, is a sure tackler, possesses instincts that allow him to sense run or pass, can communicate coverage calls to his teammates, and can catch the ball when it falls into his hands, he can be a top safety. Charles Woodson is a natural for the position.

William from Jacksonville, FL

In previewing the game on radio, Herm Edwards praised the 49ers defense for their tackling. He said they have a lot of guys that "tackle with their eyes open and when you find guys like that, you keep 'em." Was I correct in thinking right away about human confrontation?

Edwards is describing players that like contact, and it's players that like contact that make for the best tacklers. They don't close their eyes when they hit somebody because they like the way it looks when the other guy goes down. There's an old coach's saying: Hit what you see and see what you hit. Good running backs and good tacklers have one thing in common: They keep their eyes open at all times. When I see a picture of a guy with his eyes closed and grimacing as he's getting hit or hitting someone, I can't help but wonder about his fondness for contact.

Jason from Austin, TX

I couldn't help but feel bad for the 49ers organization with the way they lost. Do you feel the best two teams are playing in the Super Bowl?

I believe the Patriots and Giants deserve the right to call themselves the two best teams.

Dennis from Indianapolis, IN

I just read a report that said the Steelers are going back to their blue-collar, run-first offense. It seems they want football to stay a running game, first and foremost. It sounds like a nice thing to try, but something that is likely to fail. Your thoughts?

They'll certainly be swimming upstream. It is not the way the league wants the game to be played and they have tilted the rules to discourage it.

Tim from Ashland, WI

Love Tom Clements. Do you think he'd make a good head guy?

I absolutely do and here's why: He is what I call the keeper of the quarterback. He's the guy that works directly with the most important player on the team. If you want your coach to be effective with any player on the team, the quarterback is the guy, and Clements has a strong track record of being effective with quarterbacks. Beyond that, I believe Clements is a leader of men and a communicator.

Trisha from Waupun, WI

What do you look for in a draft pick, besides size, ability and smarts?

Speed, baby. Speed, speed, speed, because football is first and foremost a speed game.

Steve from Larsen, WI

On this tackling thing, the Packers have a lot of takeaways. Are they concentrating too much on tackling the ball at the expense of making a sure tackle of the player?

I think every team has become so obsessed with taking the ball away and conducting drills that emphasize stripping, that they have to a degree compromised their tackling technique. I also think the mania for having players stay on their feet in practice, to avoid injury, has also contributed to the decline of tackling technique. Tackling is something that requires players to go to the ground. It's also something that requires the runner to be the target of the tackle. When the target is changed, the attempt to tackle the man is compromised. When players practice not going to the ground, they tend to practice not bringing the runner to the ground. As I've said, in today's game, I don't think good tacklers are made, they're born good tacklers.

Thomas from Palm Coast, FL

I totally understand and agree with your statement of never forget the human confrontation element.

Do you think Billy Cundiff misses that field goal attempt if Sunday's AFC title game had been a preseason game? No way. That miss was all about the pressure of the moment, and that's the human confrontation: man against other men and, sometimes, against himself.

Brandon from Tampa, FL

I read an article about Kyle Williams, the 49ers punt returner with two fumbles in the NFC title game, receiving death threats via Twitter. I would love to read your opinion on this.

At the South Senior Bowl practice on Monday, I came across a friend of mine, a coach who was fired this past season. The Senior Bowl has always been somewhat of a job fair for out-of-work coaches. I asked him, "Do you have anything?" He said he didn't. At that point, he took out his cell phone, asked for my cell number and then dialed it. You see this happening over and over at the Senior Bowl. I have his cell number now so I can call him if I hear of a job opening up. This was a coach who was vilified for the poor performance of his players this past season. He was ripped on message boards and made to be the reason his team was losing, but that's not the guy I saw on Monday. I saw a guy in Mobile at his own expense, looking for a job so he can pay the mortgage and give his family a good life. That's why I say football is a tough game for tough guys. Anybody who thinks otherwise won't make it in this business very long.

Mark from De Pere, WI

I am surprised to hear there are no award banquets at the end of the season. Really? All the players just pack up their lockers and leave? When do they get their participation trophies?

They get them 17 times during the season. They're called paychecks.

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