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I'm sold on the secondary


Augustus from Humboldt, CA

Vic, I wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts on preseason. This is one of my favorite times of the year because I love watching the rookies (especially the undrafted ones) evolve from the first preseason game to the fourth. That being said, any notable undrafted players I should keep my eyes on this year?

It appears to me the group of undrafted players is led by linebacker Dezman Moses. I still like the undrafted offensive linemen, but things changed when the pads went on. They've struggled at times in pass-blocking/pass-rush drills, as would be expected. I spend time every day watching that group. In my opinion, identifying off-the-wall linemen and committing to their long-range development is critical to achieving depth at that position. You can't do it with high picks alone. Evan Dietrich-Smith is the classic example. He was an undrafted guy in 2009 and is now a source of great security at the center and guard positions. Is there a Dietrich-Smith in this year's camp? Shea Allard? Don Barclay? I'm watching.

Ted from Crystal Falls, MI

Newhouse should stay at left tackle. Your opinion?

Absolutely he should stay at left tackle. Marshall Newhouse has had a killer start to his training camp. He's been dominant in pass-blocking/pass-rush drills. All of the Packers' starting offensive linemen have been dominant. The wins for the defense have largely come against the young offensive linemen. Newhouse is in just the third year of his career. He's only seen one year of action. The expectations for him were unrealistic last season. Left tackles seldom go sackless in their first season of play. They don't even begin to enter their prime years until year four of their career. To have a player of Newhouse's quality at left tackle, and to have a first-round pick in Derek Sherrod behind Newhouse is a fantastic luxury. Any team would love to have that kind of quality, youth and depth at the position, not to mention that Bryan Bulaga and T.J. Lang are each capable of playing left tackle. Based on what I've seen so far in camp, Newhouse is in the process of establishing himself as a fixture at left tackle.

Ross from St. Paul, MN

How has Lawrence Guy looked so far? I haven't heard or seen anything about him. Is he still injured?

I made this remark to Mike Spofford as we watched practice on Monday: "Lawrence Guy showed some quickness on that one." Guy is practicing and I'm seeing a lot more from him this summer than I saw last summer. He's a different man. He's got a good first step and he's light on his feet. He's one of the young defensive linemen who are making that area of the team competitive.

Joel from Madisonville, KY

I know everyone who follows the Packers knows the defense has to improve if the team wants to go far. Other than playmakers Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, who is another player to watch on the defensive side of the ball?

Davon House began his move in the spring and has played as well or better so far in training camp. He had a sensational practice on Monday. Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush and Casey Hayward have all had their moments at cornerback. Rookie defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels have announced themselves with their energy and bombast. Coaches like that because players that talk big have to play big; it's a way of challenging themselves to play up to the level of their demeanor and, at times, they have. B.J. Raji has been fantastic. I have to believe he's in the best shape of his career. D.J. Smith has impressed me with his ability to drop into coverage. I didn't expect that of him. I saw him as a banger, but he's much more than that. He's a motion linebacker and those guys will make plays. M.D. Jennings has ball instincts and good hands.

Dennis from Indianapolis, IN

I attended an Orioles game at Camden Yards last week and realized another difference in how baseball treats its history. When a football team builds a new stadium, it's usually modern and glitzy, like in Dallas. When baseball teams build new stadiums, they tend to try to make them look like the old-time parks. It was a nice place to see a baseball game.

Baseball is the train. Football is the space shuttle. Lambeau Field includes elements of both. I like that.

Rick from Appleton, WI

Vic, last season we saw players on the Packers practice squad turn down offers from other teams to join their regular rosters and stay put here. I am wondering this: If a team assures a player he will be re-signed to its practice squad after the final cutdown, can that player refuse any other team's bid to sign him before he clears waivers?

If a player is eligible for the practice squad, then he can be but probably is not a vested veteran, and if he's not a vested veteran, then he's subject to the waiver process. For any team to sign a non-vested player to their practice squad, he must first clear waivers. At that point, he becomes a free agent, and all practice squad players are free agents.

Matt from East Greenwich, RI

Vic, are you as worried about the secondary as I am? The offseason mantra in Green Bay of the pass rush will fix the secondary doesn't do it for me.

I'm sold on the secondary. I think it's the strength of the defense. My concern is for the pass rush and it will continue to be a concern until I see evidence that it's been fixed. When might we see evidence of that? In the preseason games, at the earliest. I don't think a team's pass rush can be accurately evaluated in practice. Drills are meant for teaching technique. Players face each other so often they're able to identify each other's weak spots and, once that happens, we tend to get a recurring result. We need to see Nick Perry and Worthy and Daniels and Moses, etc., in live pass-rush situations, against a quarterback with a "clock" in his head and in coordination with a secondary that needs to hold its coverage long enough to allow the rush to get home. In my opinion, if the Packers fix their pass-rush problems, the pass-defense and the defense's overall ranking will improve dramatically, but I won't pronounce the pass rush fixed until the games tell us it's fixed.

Terri from Newport News, VA

When a player is injured in training camp, what if they subsequently get cut from the team before they are healed from the injury? Do they still get paid?

If an injured player is released, he must be categorized as "waived injured." That announces to any team interested in claiming that player that he has an injury. If a team claims an injured player, they accept responsibility and liability for that injury. If the player is unclaimed, then he returns to the team that released him and it may either assign him to injured reserve or do an injury settlement with him, at which time they can release him permanently.

Richard from Lake Havasu City, AZ

I have heard it said you win Super Bowls with the bottom half of the roster. If that is the case, then how is the bottom half of this year's Packers roster shaping up?

The Packers have a strong roster, but you win Super Bowls with the quarterback, as evidenced by the fact that five of the last six Super Bowl MVPs – I think it should be six of the last six – are quarterbacks. Here's the good news: The Packers have the best quarterback in the game.

Chris from Beaver Dam, WI

Do coaches ever take an offensive lineman and convert him to tight end or fullback? Seems like a good way to get some big bodies out on the field.

Usually it's the other way. One of the best tackles I've covered, Larry Brown, began his career as a tight end and caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.

Jim from Tucson, AZ

I was wondering if you could do a short piece on the history of the two-minute warning.

The original intent of the two-minute warning was to alert the teams that two minutes remained to be played. The official time was kept on the field by the officiating crew in those days and time left on the clock, so to speak, was often a surprise. Then came the 1960's and the arrival of television as a major player in the game's presentation, and even after the official time was moved to the scoreboard clock, the league kept the two-minute warning because it provided a perfect break for a TV commercial and a deep breath for a dramatic finish.

Eric from Tenvik, Norway

Vic, there´s a lot of chatter about the rookies we acquired and the impact they need to have, especially on defense. What intrigues me as much as anything is the switch at center. Saturday is a seasoned veteran, but is it a given he´s going to come in and function within our offense and with Rodgers, to the degree that Wells did. How difficult is it to switch centers, and what have you seen so far with his transition?

If there's been a bobbled snap between Saturday and Rodgers, I haven't seen it. I mean this as no offense to Wells, but Saturday is acknowledged as having been a better player at his position throughout his career. The only question is: How much does Saturday have left in his tank? If it's just one more year, that might be good enough.

Grant from Honolulu, HI

Doesn't a team's explosive offense that scores at will actually cause its defense to perform worse?

That's pretty much what Ted Thompson was saying on Monday. It's called setting the bar, and the Packers offense sets the scoring bar higher for its opponents, and the opponents usually respond with a more aggressive posture on offense. Nothing about the Packers offense is intended to take time off the clock and keep the team's defense off the field. Yes, that kind of offense puts pressure on a team's defense.

Darrick from Green Bay, WI

Vic, to make preseason games more meaningful to the casual fan, what's your take on letting the preseason record determine tiebreaker scenarios or even draft order?

That would effectively give the preseason regular-season importance and I would be against that. We need a preseason. I don't think we need a four-game preseason, but we need a preseason that can be used for evaluation and to provide a platform for young, aspiring football talent to emerge.

Andrew from Houston, TX

Do you think the Packers will be a victim of their own success? I fear they won't be able to keep the same talent on the practice squad that we usually can, due to the reputation we have developed around the league. Or am I just being paranoid?

You're just being a proud fan who thinks every other team in the league is a cut beneath the Packers. Toward the end of every regular season, the also-rans look to raid the practice squads of the top teams by assigning front-line players with injuries to injured reserve, thus making room on the active roster to sign players from other team's practice squads. It's a talent grab and if the Packers were one of those also-rans, they'd be doing it, too. The bad raid the good. It's a way of life in the NFL.

Jacob from New Bremen, OH

Projection: Clay Mathews and Nick Perry have a huge year. They will free each other up because teams won't be able to focus in on one of them all the time. Your thoughts?

That's the plan.

Aaron from Jacksonville, FL

I've seen a lot of comments regarding the lack of tackling drills and physical contact in the new CBA. From a player perspective, I see that it could reduce injuries and wear and tear. What is the teams' perspective and why would they agree to that in the CBA?

In CBA negotiations, it was the give that allowed the owners to take. In other words, player safety was a major issue for the players and the owners gave the players what they wanted so the owners could get what they wanted, which is to say a 10-year CBA. Then the owners dropped the problem into their coaches' laps and said, "Make it work." That's what coaches are trying to do. They're trying to create new and innovative ways of dealing with these restrictions, and they will. Some work, some don't. It'll be trial and error over the next few years.

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