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Letters To LeRoy Butler


Hey LeRoy! I'm glad you are back this year! I hear plenty of talk about the Packers' west coast offense and I was wondering if you could explain what the west coast offense is in relation to other offenses around the league. Thanks, I look forward to a great year and your game analysis. Best regards.-Mark (Costa Mesa, CA)

First of all, it's great to be back. I look forward to another great year with

Essentially, a west coast offense is a rollout, passing type of offense. They definitely want to establish the run and the pass games. Instead of taking the low percentage passes down the field, the Packers will take the shorter throw and hope that the receivers can take it long.

And instead of running the traditional fullback in front of the runner, in what we call the "I-back" formation (in the Packers' case it would be William Henderson lining up in front of Ahman Green), the west coast runs a lot of perimeter plays. They pull the center and they pull both guards. There are a lot of misdirection plays and it's kind of an illusion. Everything is based on timing.

The receiver has to run the route at 15 yards. He can't run it 16 and he can't run it 14.

The running back has to run through the "A" gap or the "B" gap. He can't run through the "C" gap. It's very precise and requires a lot of attention to detail.

Compared to a lot of the other offenses, it's less predictable. You can predict what teams are going to do based on the formation, but the west coast offense has numerous formations.

Hey LeRoy, what's happening? I've been a Packers fan since around 1994 when I was 13 years old. I wasn't big into football until that time. Then I started to understand the game and when I first saw Brett Favre play, I loved his style and fell in love with the Packers. Anyway, I was wondering, do you think that Javon Walker will become the next big play receiver to play the game, such as Sterling Sharpe was for the Packers several years ago. Thanks.-Jack (Lexington, KY)

I think Javon has the potential to do so and he's proven to be a big time player. He's been very consistent and I think he has the one of the best sets of hands on the team.

For him to be like a Randy Moss or Terrell Owens, he would have to get at least 75-80 balls a year. And in the west coast offense, the Packers spread it around, but that would be the only thing that could hurt him.

The thing that would help him would be if he got a lot of touchdowns. He's a touchdown maker and that's when he'll get noticed. But No. 84 could definitely be like the No. 84 of old, maybe even better.

Considering the personnel they have on hand, how might the Packers defensive coaches compensate for a lack of pass rush from the front four linemen. How can such a scheme successfully manufacture pressure and/or confuse the opposing quarterback?-Stephen (East Lansing, MI)

Those are great questions. The first thing you have to do is to make sure that everybody knows what their assignments are up front and give them a particular gap. If the front four can get pressure, that's great because the Packers can cover with seven guys.

If not, then they can send pass rushers from all phases of the field. They could bring safeties at any time. At times they could bring both corners and at times they could bring just one corner.

They try to confuse the quarterback to let him know that he never knows who's going to blitz. So they will do a lot of disguising in the defense. They try to let him know that they're not going to be just sitting ducks, they're going to bring the pressure and he has to try to figure out which guy is coming.

Hi LeRoy. I read that you were offered a coaching apprenticeship with the Packers this year and declined due to other commitments. Is this offering something you might pursue at a future date? I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that with all of your knowledge, expertise and love for the game, it seems like a win-win for you, the Packers and the fans.-Kay (Appleton, WI)

With the Packers, there were no positions open, so the next best thing is to just try to do what I've been doing and learn what's going on as far as coaching goes, both on and off the field, so that one day MAYBE I'll be ready.

The reason why it didn't happen this summer was that I had some prior commitments, and with coaching, you have to be at work at 7 in the morning and sometimes have to stay late at night, so it was a mutual decision between Coach Sherman and I.

Plus, I wouldn't be able to talk to you guys. I just chose the media side because that's my personality and that's what I like to do.

I also like working with the players, so one day in the future it may happen, you never know.

With the injuries that occurred last season to marquee players (Michael Vick, Chad Pennington) there was a cry for a shorter preseason. As a former player, do you think the preseason should be shaved down to three or four games? My thought is, what's the difference if they get hurt in a preseason game, or a regular season game. Injuries are a part of football and for the supporters of the Falcons and Jets last year, they should be happy that injuries happened in the preseason. Thank you for your insight to the Packers and NFL football. It's awesome!-Michael (Winnipeg, Canada)

You sound like a football veteran! Absolutely.

But I'll tell you the pros and cons of the preseason. The good thing about it is that the guys that don't normally start get a chance to play in a real game and they get a fair opportunity to make the team.

The bad part is that your starter could be injured, just like what happened with the Cardinals' Anquan Boldin, who is out for about eight weeks.

You would like to cut it down to two weeks and just start playing. I think players would rather play real games anyway. But it's not fair for the guy that went to the world league or who played in the arena league that spring to not give him a shot to make the team.

Hey LeRoy, thanks for another year of inside thoughts and information, we really appreciate your candor. Unfortunately, our secondary from last season seemed to be the weak point of an otherwise strong team. I realize the regular season hasn't even begun yet, and that Mike McKenzie is still a hold out, but do you think the Packers have a better chance of shutting down the opposing team's regular receivers? Thanks LeRoy, it seems like every year we miss you more and more.-Stewart (Stevens Point, WI)

To answer your question, I should hope so. The Packers are going to try to confuse the quarterbacks and receivers with combination coverages. Like I said earlier, they're not just going to be sitting back there like sitting ducks. They're going to blitz at times and they're going to go "fire zone," which means you can blitz people and drop linemen off.

The plan is to "challenge" guys and not back off and hopefully the Packers come out on top.

It was nice to see the defensive play calling look more aggressive with all the blitzes. Unfortunately, I don't see much of a difference in the cornerback's role? On third-and-ten, they are still lining up with a 10-plus yard cushion. Why should I be excited about stuffing the receivers on 1st and 2nd down when 3rd down looks just like it did last year? Thanks.-Brian (Wausau, WI)

The Packers have a new defensive coordinator and a lot of things will be different this year. They only have about 30 percent of the game plan in right now and a lot of the things you saw in the preseason game you would never see in the regular season.

And a lot of the things you'll see at Carolina you're not going to see now because they don't want to give it all away. They don't want to put that kind of stuff on film yet, some of the exotic blitzes that they're going to do.

Just trust me. It will be a lot different when the real games are played.

The tight end was always so important in the Packers offense when Mark Chmura was playing. Brett used him anytime, not just down near the goal line. We currently have a talented tight end duo now, too. Why do we use Franks only down near the goal line?-Mike (Fort Wayne, IN)

The Packers only have one ball and they have a great running back in Ahman Green, and three great receivers, not to mention the tight end that's been to the Pro Bowl three times.

Most teams use their tight ends in the red zone. And a lot of teams run cover two at the Packers, meaning the two safeties expand on the field and the middle is left open. They will try to exploit the middle with the tight end at times. Bubba Franks, Steve Bush and David Martin are definitely in the game plan.

In the Seattle game, Favre just missed Martin, who I thought was interfered with, for a big play.

But the Packers definitely realize the big target they have in Franks and will utilize him when the time is right.

Since I live in Bucs country, I don't get the Packers coverage I would like. How are Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas coming along? It doesn't seem like Mike McKenzie will be around this season and I was curious as to which of those two guys is more likely to step up and be the starting cornerback?-JR (Tampa, FL)

Right now, Ahmad Carroll is ahead because Joey Thomas has been hurt. He'll return to practice soon and hopefully he'll show some of the flashes of why the Packers drafted him.

Ahmad Carroll has been thrown into the fire and has played in a lot of special teams, but he's getting more comfortable with the pass coverages and right now the Packers are trying to get him polished so that he can compete if Mike McKenzie doesn't show up.

Carroll's shown great speed, made quite a few tackles and it will be exciting to see No. 28 out there.

But don't forget about Michael Hawthorne. He's a tall corner with more experience than Carroll or Thomas, and he's made a few great plays for the Packers since he signed last year.

What was it like playing with Reggie White, and do you think the Packers will ever see a defensive end as great as he was?-Steve (Cedarburg, WI)

I don't think there will be another defender that demands as much attention as Reggie White did. He was just a great leader in the huddle, when he wasn't tired (ha ha).

He was the only defensive lineman I knew that teams would slide their entire line towards, plus have a running back to come and block him.

He just took over games and I remember the Super Bowl when he had three sacks in one game. Overall, he was just a great leader, and that's what the Packers need today, more leaders like Reggie to step up and help.

Will Packers fans be surprised at how much better this season's defense under Bob Slowik will be as opposed to last season's? How so?- Tim (Davenport, IA)

I think people will be excited to see the aggressiveness of our defense. That's what you want when you look around the league, and the teams that were in the Super Bowl were aggressive on defense.

I like the system. I know it's a lot of fun to play in and I think the fans will be pleasantly surprised.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

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