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Packers have talent to be feared offense in 2011


Wayne from Waukesha, WI

When will the "Ask Vic" coffee mugs be available?

We're not ready for that, yet, but I sure would like to do a golf tournament.

David from Warrenton, VA

What's your favorite pregame tailgate delicacy?

I was a hot dog guy all the way until two Christmases ago. That was the day I got the nuclear heartburn and they found some little pieces of hot dog stuck in my arteries. The doctor said no more hot dogs, which was like telling a two-pack-a-day guy he just smoked his last cigarette. For 38 years I couldn't wait for halftime so I could get a dog. When I covered the Steelers, we went to Cleveland once a year and they served those light-colored brats – we called them greyhounds – in the old Cleveland Stadium press box and it was embarrassing how many times I went back for another dog. It was March before I stopped tasting them. I used to joke about my obsession for hot dogs in dirty water. Then they got me; dropped me like a bad habit right on Christmas Day. Now, everything is chicken and fish, and they can't be fried. Tailgating is what normal people do. I eat things like Brussels sprouts now. I used to get a big loaf of Italian bread, dig out the inside and eat it and then shovel spaghetti into the center of the loaf where the bread was removed. Those days are over, too; it's all wheat and multi-grain bread now. When I took the job with the Packers, all my friends laughed at me because they know how much I love brats and coming to Green Bay is like taking a golfer to Augusta and telling him he can't play. Here's the good news: My new doctor in Green Bay just told me my cholesterol is 142. I nearly wept with joy.

William from Jacksonville, FL

What are the different skill sets required for linebackers in a 4-3 defense compared to a 3-4 defense?

Three of the four linebacker positions in a 3-4 require skills that are interchangeable with the three linebacker positions in a 4-3. One of the two outside backers is similar to the strong side linebacker in a 4-3; he drops into coverage, usually covering the tight end. The strong side inside linebacker in a 3-4 is, for all intents and purposes, the same as the middle linebacker in a 4-3, and the weak side inside linebacker in a 3-4 is the same as the weak side linebacker in a 4-3; they both have to take on blocks, shed, scrape, etc. It's that one position in the 3-4, the rush-backer position, that's different. The rush-backer, which is to say the position Kevin Greene played and helped define, is largely a forward-only player. He's a defensive end in a two-point stance. My understanding is that Clay Matthews is largely that rush-backer for the Packers, but he has the mobility to drop into coverage, too, so Dom Capers isn't restricted in how he uses Matthews. LaMarr Woodley drops a little but he's pretty much a true rush-backer and the skill set required for that role is the speed and power necessary to beat the tackle off the edge and affect the quarterback.

Evan from Baltimore, MD

Do I have to start off my question by saying how much I love your column for you to answer it? I have noticed that you or whoever selects your questions tends to favor an affectionate audience. You probably don't care but I like your column enough to read it every day; it's a nice addition to the website.

I accept hate mail, too, and I've gotten several such e-mails that I've used in the column. I like to be liked – we all do – but I don't have a problem with being disliked. If you're gonna do this kind of column, you better have thick skin, and I do. I am most proud of two things about this column: 1.) I read every e-mail I receive. That is my pledge to you. If you care enough to write it, I promise to respect your effort enough to read what you have written. 2.) It is an exercise in our greatest gift, which is our right to freedom of expression. Your words are welcome here and you don't have to like me or my words for yours to be published.

Roy from Florence, OR

Vic, talking about rough and tough, I remember whenever Ed Sprinkle got a ball carrier down he would karate chop him on the back of the neck; never penalized. They didn't throw many flags on the Bears in those days. When they did, Halas would stomp out onto the field and threaten the official's job.

From what I've been told by those from whom I learned about the history of the game, Sprinkle might be the dirtiest player in the history of the game.

Ryan from Cottage Grove, WI

You hear it all the time. He's got a strong arm, or he's not known for his strong arm. What defines a strong-armed quarterback?

Arm strength is defined by the 20-yard out from the far hash to the far sideline. That's the acid test for quarterback prospects at the combine. Does a guy have the arm strength to get the ball to his receiver before the defender can close on the ball? If he can't, the field shrinks and the coverage gets tighter. I've covered quarterbacks that could make that throw and quarterbacks that couldn't make that throw, and the best ones were the ones that could make that throw.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

I have been re-watching games from last season and had all but forgotten about Ryan Grant until I watched some games from 2009. Amazing how the Packers won the Super Bowl without a running game. If you watch the power and burst that Grant had in 2009 and think about him and Finley returning in 2011, I foresee a dominating offense stoppable only by their own errors. Could this be one of the best offensive teams in recent history if everyone stays healthy this year?

First of all, the Packers didn't win without a running game. The fact of the matter is they didn't get hot until late in the season when James Starks emerged and presented another weapon for which opposing defenses had to prepare. Starks' performance in the opening playoff win in Philadelphia set the table for the rest of the postseason, in my opinion. I agree with you completely that the Packers have an assemblage of personnel that could make the 2011 team one of the most feared offenses in recent league history. When you consider the return of Grant and Jermichael Finley and the additions of Derek Sherrod, Randall Cobb and Alex Green, it really does make your heart beat faster for the start of the season. The focus is on protecting Aaron Rodgers. If he stays healthy, I believe the Packers have an offense that will set records for production in 2011.

David from Watertown, WI

Wait, did Scott from Las Vegas just ask a question that wasn't an outright criticism or complaint? Answering two of his questions on Monday must have mellowed him out.

I knew he'd come around. He's a big "Ask Vic" fan now.

Ted from San Francisco, CA

Vic, we used to hear a lot about the old Astro-Turf causing injury problems. Now we have the new turf. Do the players like it? Whenever I see a replay and that black rubber substance flies in the air when players hit the new turf, I wonder if it gets embedded in their eyes and noses. It looks like a real problem. Is it?

I've had a few guys tell me they've gotten one of those little pellets up their nose or in their mouth, and I've seen guys need to get their eyes washed out because of it, but I haven't heard many complaints about the new stuff because a pellet up the nose is better than skinned elbows and turf burns all over your arms and hands. That's what the old stuff caused and open wounds are dangerous in a locker room setting; staph infections were always a concern. The thing I don't like about those little pellets is that they get in your shoes and they get stuck in the tread on the bottom of the shoes. The new stuff is a distinct improvement, but do we really need to play football on rubber pellets? Why does the field have to look like a golf green? What's wrong with a little mud on a rainy day?

Ryan from Seattle, WA

I'm wondering how people judge the talent of linemen, both offensive and defensive. To me, they just look like big guys eating up space and pushing each other around. What is the basis for judging their effectiveness? Who can push the other guy the farthest?

That's part of it. Offensive linemen are judged for their ability to finish their blocks. At his worst, an offensive lineman gets in the way. At his best, he beats his man off the ball, gets under him and raises him, turns him and moves him out of the hole. That is, by definition, finishing your block. A defensive lineman is judged according to his role. A nose tackle is a two-gapper, meaning he's responsible for the gaps to the right and left of the center. Two-gappers are judged for their ability to hold the point of attack. In other words, they are judged for their ability to not be moved. A three-technique defensive tackle, for example, is shading the outside shoulder of the guard; he's in the gap between the guard and the tackle and his role is that of a gap-control defender who is responsible for penetrating the gap, getting into the backfield and disrupting the play. So, when you judge a defensive lineman, first identify his role. Is he a two-gapper, hold-the-point guy, or is he a quick-twitch, gap-control, penetrate-and-disrupt guy?

Charlie from Nashville, TN

Belated congrats on the slick new digs, Vic. Could you name a modern-era QB that would have made a good defensive player?

Jim Kelly was recruited to Penn State to play linebacker. Terry Bradshaw would've been a perfect fit to play strong side linebacker. John Elway had tree trunks for legs and he could really move them, so, I have to believe he would've been an outstanding linebacker. How about Michael Vick as a safety? Move over Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. I'll betcha Ken Anderson would've been a good safety. Steve Grogan is another one. He was Nolan Cromwell, a college quarterback who became a top pro safety, but with a better arm. How many positions on defense do you think Bobby Douglas could've played? He was a fantastic athlete and a big, thick, powerful guy. He could've played everything from defensive end to safety. There are too many quarterbacks to name them all. Quarterbacks are the best athletes in their hometowns. They're not just technicians; in most cases, they are also fantastic athletes.

Joe from Stratford, WI

Awhile back, I asked why the Packers didn't draft Clay's brother. You replied that he wasn't the best-rated player on the board at the time. I think it would have been great to have another Matthews on the team, even if they would have had to make a trade to get him. Come on, did we really need two more tight ends?

If you're true to your philosophy of drafting the best available player, then you absolutely needed two more tight ends.

Ryan from Dereham, UK

Your point about retiring numbers is an intriguing one. Here in the UK, with regards to our soccer league, there is often a great kerfuffle about some new hotshot player taking on the mantle of a former great by wearing the same number. It causes some controversy, great debate but, most importantly, it maintains respect, reverence and remembrance for the greats.

Yeah, we need more kerfuffle.

Augustus from Humboldt, CA

I especially appreciate your comment about Jim Brown being the greatest lacrosse player of all time. As a 10-year lacrosse vet, it's nice to hear about the old-timers in our sport, too, and the things that man could do with a stick in his hands makes my head spin. Go Syracuse.

He made them change the rules.

Robert from Saint Paul, MN

The Packers do have Hornung's No. 5 removed from service but not retired. I remember that they let Don Majkowski wear 5 for a short time until upset fans compelled the team to change and Don chose No. 7.

OK, so 5 is for all intents and purposes retired, and 4 will be retired, 3, 14 and 15 are done and 12 might be down the road. Hey, that's a lot of quarterback-type numbers.

Ryan from Irvine, CA

Maybe I'm not phrasing this question quite right, but why do people judge quarterbacks based on championships won? It's as if they're the only guys out there. Football is the most team-based sport I can think of. How many championships would Tom Brady have won if he had a bad offensive line and defense?

I don't know the answer to that question, Ryan, but I have a question I'd like to you to consider: Bill Belichick was 5-13 as Patriots coach when he made Brady the team's starting quarterback. The Patriots then won three Super Bowls in the next four years. How many Super Bowls do you think the Patriots would've won without Brady and how long do you think Belichick would've remained the Patriots' coach if he had not made Brady the team's quarterback?

Kevin from Kennewick, WA

You use stats to justify your opinion and then without missing a beat claim "you're not a stats guy." I know that stats don't always tell the true story about how they were achieved, but can you explain why you would use stats to justify your opinion if you're not a stats guy?

I kind of explained that in a column not too far back. When I believe a stat tells a true story, I'll use it, as I used a couple of stats on Jim Brown in yesterday's column. I didn't use Mark Sanchez' stats in ranking him in yesterday's QB editorial, however, because I don't believe they tell the true story of his worth. I believe his performances in the postseason tell the true story about him. It's all subjective. There is no right way or wrong way.

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