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It's early, but if Packers get hot now, look out

Defense is trying to grow; what's wrong with that?


Rob from Green Cove Springs, FL

Fred Taylor will be Hall of Fame eligible after the 2015 season. He's the 15th leading rusher in NFL history and has a 4.6 yards-per-carry average. I think he's got the numbers to be in. What will it take and how long?

Fred doesn't have the Pro Bowls, but the good news is the Pro Bowl is losing its esteem and I don't think it's going to keep him out of the Hall of Fame. Fred needs some guys in front of him to get selected so Fred can move toward the front of the line. Jerome Bettis immediately comes to mind. Fred won't be a first-ballot guy and running backs in general aren't first-ballot guys anymore, so he'll have to be patient, but I believe he'll be the first Jaguars player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I promised him I would be there when it happens.

Marcio from Porto Alegre, Brazil

Vic, everyone is complaining about three divisional games in a row. I'm excited. No more of this September is a preseason that counts baloney. Every game counts, every tackle counts, every yard counts. Do you believe these big games so early will make the Packers tougher or do you believe it will take too big of a toll on their energy?

I think these next three games will make the Packers better faster. Maybe that's why the league scheduled games of such importance to be played so early in the season. It's a way of creating a sense of urgency. I can tell you this, these next three games "officially" end the preseason. I don't like half of the division schedule gone by the first week of October, but it is what it is and should the Packers get hot right now, look out.

Devan from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, I often blame Capers for the Packers' defensive struggles. I often blame his scheme. I mean, most of the time we are running a zone defense, leaving the middle of the field wide open, and our corners are 15 yards off the line of scrimmage, leaving their assignment wide open. I say play an aggressive man defense most of the game and attack and be assertive, not conservative. What do you think?

Cover Zero? Sure. So who's the lucky guy that gets Calvin Johnson?

Mike from Missoula, MT

Vic, with all of the messy things going on in the NFL the last few weeks, do you think owners are getting their players together and saying, "For heaven sakes, behave yourselves."

Yeah, that would work. Here's a story I think I've told before: I was covering the Steelers in 1983 when they were coming back from a win in Seattle. It had been an emotional week because their No. 1 draft pick, Gabe Rivera, had been in a car wreck that left him paralyzed. Just before the plane landed in Pittsburgh, Coach Noll got on the PA and gave an update on Gabe's condition. Coach Noll ended his update by requesting his players please drive safely on the way home from the airport. Sure. I remember nearly being run off the road coming out of the parking lot. Football is a dangerous game played by men who are often attracted to danger.

Joe from Winnebago, MN

Vic, what's your take on Capers moving Clay Matthews all over and having him drop into coverage rather than just having him rush like he used to? Are they using Clay's talents right?

Sometimes when I open my inbox I get blindsided by what jumps out at me. This week, my inbox is having a meltdown about Matthews being used in multiple ways. Where did that come from? Well, my guess is some website or NFL Network guy went off on how Matthews is being used, and now everybody is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. My reaction to expanding Matthews' role is that it's an attempt to grow the defense. What's wrong with that? The Packers are trying to improve the defense. They're trying to evolve into something fresh and new. Be patient. Let it happen. Applaud the attempt. What was so good about the old ways? Everybody was complaining about the defense, right?

Ken from Athens, GA

Vic, these are your words: "Absolutely not. That's surrender and surrender is the worst defeat of all. Commit more deeply. When winning arrives, it will be the sweetest thing you've ever tasted." How do you reconcile them with surrendering the chance to challenge Sherman?

Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman. Oh, how I loathe the name. Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman. He haunts my every waking hour. I wake chanting his name. Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman. We will meet again, Sherman, and you will learn to respect me, bow to me. Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman.

Jeff from Oxnard, CA

I understand the key to a strong defense is to stop the run, but isn't it the ability to apply pressure at the same time that separates the better defenses in the league?

OK, stop the run and sack the quarterback. That should cover it.

Buzz from Philadelphia, PA

Your response to yesterday's question about Antonio Gates' success gave me pause. GB's passing attack is obviously lethal, but how much does the loss of Jermichael Finley's talent and size affect our ability to strike in the middle of the field? Can Quarless/Bostick/Rodgers fill the void?

I don't know. Maybe we'll find out this Sunday, because if there was ever a week to drag a safety out to the boundary to help cover Jordy Nelson, this is the week. Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman.

Sternrage from Cedar Rapids, IA

Calvin Johnson is named Megatron; we need to name our players after Transformers like him. Jordy Nelson: Galvatron. Randall Cobb: Thundercracker. Aaron Rodgers: Lockdown. Eddie Lacy: Demolisher. Clay Matthews: Bumblebee. Julius Peppers: Hound. What are your thoughts?

Those names make me want to go back to the '70s, when players were nicknamed Mean Joe, Fats, Mad Dog and Hollywood Bags, Sweetness and Juice, Broadway Joe and Too Tall, The Assassin and Dr. Death, Hacksaw and Mercury.

Jaycob from Holland, MI

Vic, I was reading a story about Nick Perry. The story mentioned the Packers should consider moving him to inside linebacker. Does he have the right build and skill set to move inside?

Execution. Yeah, I suppose he has the body type to play inside linebacker, but he was just moved to defensive end. The Packers are trying to find a niche for him. Every position requires learning new technique. Folks, I really believe scheme is important. You have to put your players in position to make plays, so I'm with you on utilizing players' skills most efficiently, but we are in an out-of-control scheme frenzy right now. The volume of suggestions in my inbox are laughable. An entire defensive staff of veteran coaches spent an offseason troubleshooting the Packers' problems on defense. They spent hour after hour in February, March and April thinking this out. I promise you, they know more about defense than we do. Trust them.

Mike from Upham, ND

In regards to putting together a story, why is it I can visit three websites (the same day) and each has a story about Clay Matthews' expanded role?

It's because Matthews was the best interview in the locker room that day. His subject matter and his comments on it were more newsworthy than anything else that was said in the locker room that day.

Zach from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, why are the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East? Is it an issue of money and market size?

The Cowboys are in the East because they developed rivalries with the teams that geographically and historically belong in the East, Washington being chief among those teams. Miami is in the AFC East with three northern teams for the same reason. They're all AFL teams that have a blood oath to stay together.

Jon from Bath, England

Vic, which of the next three NFC games are you looking forward to most of all, and which do you think will be most important with regards to the postseason.

The way last season's game in Chicago ended, the one coming up in Chicago figures to be a headline event, but I don't think you have to look any farther than this Sunday's game in Detroit to get excited. If this was Thanksgiving week, the hype would be fantastic.

Corey from Allentown, PA

Vic, remember when the NFL was all about football? Now I feel like I'm watching "Law and Order." Do you think the sport of football is in jeopardy?

No, but this isn't good and it must be addressed. Here's what I would say to NFL owners: I was standing in front of the courthouse in 1985 when the cars started pulling up and some of the biggest stars in baseball stepped out of those cars. I remember writing down the names in my notebook. Each car produced another shocker. Ask the baseball owners what impact the Pittsburgh drug trials had on their game.

Kalib from Wichita, KS

Do you think the defense is just now really starting to gel and play with greater cohesion due to the installation of essentially a hybrid front type of scheme?

Credit the scheme? No, credit the players. I think what we're going to see is a defense that is going to grow into its new image and shape. Maybe we saw some gelling this past Sunday, but I suspect this is going to be a one step forward, one step back process for a while. What's important, in my opinion, is that by the second half of this season this defense is embracing its new identity, excited about it and is only taking steps forward. Players have to make it work. They get the credit.

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