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Lots of possible combinations on the defensive line

Let’s see who’s on the roster in Week 1


The regular writer of "Ask Vic," Editor Vic Ketchman, is taking some time off. Staff Writer Mike Spofford is temporarily filling in to answer your "Ask Vic" questions.

Ric from Last Chance, CO

Hi, Mike. Do you think people are fibbing on the city/state information just to get published in this column? Might need to start tracking IP addresses. And I'm actually from Longmont.

I don't put anything past "Ask Vic" readers, though I fail to see the joy in getting published with an alias of sorts. I've never had any interest in using a pen name.

Jack from Charlotte, NC

Who do you see lining up on the other side of Datone Jones? I'm sure Pickett is the favorite, but what about Neal, Daniels or a healthy Worthy? Thanks, Mike.

In the base defense, with Jones at one end, I could see Ryan Pickett on the nose and B.J. Raji at the other end, or vice versa, or either Raji or Pickett on the nose and C.J. Wilson at end. In the two-lineman nickel, any combination of Jones, Raji, Daniels, Neal and maybe Josh Boyd could be paired as inside rushers. Neal was also getting work at outside linebacker in the spring. Johnny Jolly is a potential factor but has to make the team first. Worthy's ACL injury was in the regular-season finale, so he's a question mark, and we need to see who's on the roster Week 1. But there are a lot of possible packages and combinations, which is the way Dom Capers likes it.

John from Oregon, WI

How do you feel Robert Brooks stacks up against the great receivers in Packers history; Hutson, Lofton, Driver, Sharpe? I know his career was short-lived, but if I could have any receiver in Packers history for one game, it would be Brooks.

The reverence for Brooks might have approached (but not equaled) that of Driver had he played longer. Brooks came in with more fanfare, as a third-round pick and from South Carolina, four years after the Packers drafted Sharpe from the same school. But, like Driver, he was smaller in stature, smiled a lot and was easy to root for. He also became a fan favorite for popularizing the "Lambeau Leap" after LeRoy Butler invented it. He probably would have been a hit on that dancing show, too, had it been around in his day. His career took a similar trajectory to Driver's – small but growing contributions early on, and then a leading role, after Sharpe retired early. His 1995 season (102 catches, 1,497 yards, 13 TDs) is one of the best in team history, and the yardage total is still the franchise single-season record. It's a shame the injuries took their toll. Off the cuff, I'd put him in the second five of the franchise's top 10 receivers.

Melvin from Florence, SC

Do you think the Packers made the right decision to wait and sign Raji? My opinion is they might be paying more next year if he goes all out.

And what would be wrong with Raji going all out? I'm not saying he wouldn't if he already had a new contract, but I don't see the harm. If he costs more a year from now, he'll have earned the increase. Do you think the Ravens are upset Joe Flacco turned down their contract offer last year?

Mike from Topsham, ME

Mike, I was with a bunch of Bruins fans (Monday) night. What was the single most important Packers game in your memory in which defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory?

I feel for your Bruin-fan friends. That had to be tough to stomach. The immediate response to your question is fourth-and-26 in Philly, with the fourth-and-goal stumble at the end of the first half and the horrible Favre interception in OT sandwiched around Freddie Mitchell's 28-yard catch, all preventing a trip to the 2003 NFC title game. I've been covering the team in my current capacity since 2006, so in that time frame, I don't think I've seen victory morph into defeat more dramatically than the Pittsburgh game in 2009. I remember, all on the final drive, Ben Roethlisberger escaping a dead-to-rights sack, an interception nullified by a penalty, and a sack wiped out by another penalty, before the final-play TD to Mike Wallace. In the end, I don't know how "important" the game was, because the Packers would have been a wild-card team anyway that year, even if they'd won. It certainly doesn't compare with what happened in Game 6 the other night.

Dave from Columbia, MO

Mike, what are your thoughts on the timing of the Packers' bye week for this season? It seems like the Packers have been very fortunate to have a bye week mid-season in the recent years. With an early bye week this year will that affect injury/recovery situations and adversely hinder team health status going into the playoffs?

Several readers have brought up this year's early bye. Week 4 is early, but Mike McCarthy has said he'll use Thanksgiving weekend as a quasi-second bye, with the Packers playing on Thursday that week. The timing of that extra rest comes right before the final month of the regular season and could work out well. The schedule was similar in 2009, with the bye in Week 5, followed by the Thanksgiving game. The Packers went into the playoffs that year one of the hottest teams in the NFC, winning seven of their final eight, the only loss the aforementioned Pittsburgh game.

Kent from Eagle Grove, IA

I was reading how a couple of great coaches including Mike McCarthy got their start in the NFL and realized a lot started as quality control coaches. What are the responsibilities of that job and what do they do on game days and during the week? It seems like a weird title and I would like some insight on it. Thanks, Mike.

Different teams have different responsibilities for quality control coaches, but one duty they have during the week is to break down film of upcoming opponents, in an advance scout sort of role. They're often working ahead by a week or two or more. Because they've done that advance work, during practice, they often work with the scout team so that offensive or defensive unit is giving the regulars the best possible "look" at what the opponent might do. Quality control coaches often will assist another position coach or coordinator as well, which can pave the way for moving up the ranks.

John from Antioch, IL

Hey Mike, I know Vic is a big "players, not plays" guy. If it truly is players not plays, than how was Tom Landry and his system able to work every year with every player being just another cog in the system? Also, if it is players not plays, how come some players flourish in certain schemes but are just mediocre in others?

Sorry, but I'm with Vic on this one, as much as it pains me to say. Tom Landry coached, I believe, seven Hall of Famers. That's a lot of "players." Your second question is a non-starter. If players flourish in some schemes but not in others, how do you know it's not the plays? Maybe Vic would say differently here, but I don't think we really know the answer to that question, so all else being equal, give me better players.

Koti from Vijayawada, India

Offensive line's performance (protecting quarterback and determining running game) is the top indicator for the Packers' success this season. Defense is bound to improve. What do you think?

That's a rather succinct way of putting it. I'll say it another way: The Packers' stars have to play like stars, and a couple of others must become stars. I guess that falls in line with Vic's "players" mantra again. I've gotta stop this.

Paul from Eau Claire, WI

Hi Mike. In this age of salary-cap juggling, I always wondered why more players don't forego a cap-busting salary demand and allow the team to have the cap space to make a Super Bowl contending team. You know, in 20 years, no one remembers who made the most money, only how successful they were on the field.

There are no guarantees of success, so I never begrudge a player who asks for every last dollar he desires. Offer a hometown discount so the front office can go out and overpay for a free agent who may or may not improve the team? There are too many unknowns, including injuries. If a player believes he's a key piece to a contender and should be paid accordingly, that team (or another team) can decide if it agrees. If a player isn't living up to his contract, he can be cut loose. Both the player and front office have jobs to do and business decisions to make. Nothing more, nothing less.

Edward from Canton, SD

Mike, shame on you for not knowing that the Packers had to give the 49ers a third-round pick in 1992 before they would let Mike Holmgren go.

Shame on me, indeed. Can't believe I overlooked that. My bad.

John from Union Grove, WI

Desmond Howard's punt returns are incredible. Yet I will always remember his only kickoff return for a touchdown before any of the punt return TDs. Without his return, do the Packers win the Super Bowl? Does the Wolf/Holmgren era fizzle out? Is Brett Favre a Super Bowl champion? So many more questions come to mind...

The Packers were ahead 27-21 when Howard went 99 yards in New Orleans, so I still think the Packers have a good chance to win that game without his TD. The Packers would have still been strong the following year, too. Would their resolve have been greater to win in XXXII had they lost the year before? Would John Elway have been heading into his final year still seeking his first title and, perhaps, not have ultimately gone out on top? We could do this all day …

Jon from Lewisburg, PA

After watching the most recent "Video Ask Vic," I can honestly say that this'll be the first season where all I'm worried about is making it into the postseason. Unimportant stats and records won't concern me, I feel. With an NFC lineup this tough, I think just hoping to make it to "The Show" is going to be stressful enough. I'm pumped up!

If I were a true fan, making it into the postseason is all I would concern myself with any year. As I said last week, just focus on winning the division, because leaving one's playoff fate in the hands of convoluted wild-card tiebreakers could be a shaky proposition at best, given the NFC field this year. The records and stats are fun to follow, but should always be secondary. This season is going to be fun. Don't stress, if you can help it. Enjoy it.

Robbie from Charlotte, NC

Hey Mike, help me out here. I must be missing something. People keep talking about Seattle and how they have built a great team and could one day be a dynasty. Has everyone forgotten that if it wasn't for the "Fail Mary" play that won them the game against Green Bay that they would not have even made it into the postseason? They were a wild-card team. They only beat Washington after RGIII got injured and then lost to Atlanta, who had no previous playoff success. I have no faith in Russell Wilson. I do like their defense but that's about it.

Don't sell Seattle short. Even if the "Fail Mary" is called correctly, the Seahawks finish 10-6 and still make the playoffs as a wild card via a head-to-head tiebreaker over Chicago. They were in control of the Washington game before RGIII went down for good, and Wilson engineered an impressive comeback on the road at Atlanta before the Falcons won in the final seconds. I've said before I thought Wilson's game in Atlanta was the most overlooked quarterback performance of the postseason. I believe they will remain a factor in the NFC.

Karen from Everett, PA

Mike, honestly, … what are the odds Dick Schaap approaches Jerry Kramer before THAT season?

Probably about the same as the odds of a young reporter less than two years out of grad school working for a small Wisconsin newspaper being told by his sports editor, upon that editor's return from covering Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans, "If the Packers go back to the Super Bowl next year, it's all yours." To think I almost interviewed for my first job in Ohio. Whew.

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