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Packers will be better at several positions


Kyle from Kunar, Afghanistan

Do you think Starks is going to start over Ryan Grant?

I thought Grant was dynamite the first few days of camp, and then Starks stole the show in the second half of last week. Neither one had a good night on Monday, as fumbles by both made Monday's practice the sore spot of camp. I think Starks has a chance to be special. He's the kind of cutback runner that is perfectly suited for a zone-blocking scheme. Grant is a pads-down, between-the-tackles guy who's the perfect complement to Starks. Alex Green's talents are similar to Grant's. The question now is: Which one will take the starting job? At this point, it's too early to tell. The only news to date, in my opinion, is that Green might have joined the competition. How he performs in the preseason will determine whether he has or not.

Steve from Chicago, IL

Why does a team need a long-snapper as a spot on the 53-man roster? Is it that hard to find a player who is skilled enough to make the team otherwise, and who can also fill that role?

Yes, it is. Long-snapping is a special skill. That ball's gotta go back quickly and accurately and without fail. If there's one area in which the game has truly changed, it's in special teams. The focus on special teams is so much sharper these days. There were no special teams coaches in the Lombardi and Noll eras. Chuck Noll was his own special teams coach and his center, Mike Webster, did the long-snapping. Those days are gone. You need your long-snapper to be practicing on a separate field with the punter, kicker and holder. They are specialists, acquired to do one thing only and to do it at the highest level. A snap that's a fraction of a second slow or slightly high, low or wide can spell disaster because your opponent is testing your stress points, looking for a crack, at all times.

Trent from Greenville, SC

What is your favorite football movie and why?

Football movies usually aren't very good, and it's because football is awfully difficult to re-create. Baseball has "Field of Dreams" and "The Natural," boxing has a litany of great movies, beginning with "Requiem for a Heavyweight," and basketball has "Hoosiers." I haven't seen a football movie in the class of those films. I like "The Longest Yard," and I especially like "Radio" and "All The Right Moves" because they remind me of real-life situations from when I was a kid.

Mike from Orange Park, FL

In today's game, where the premier pass-rusher is often the right defensive end, would shifting the tight end to the left side of the offense force a major problem for the defense?

That's something Dwight Freeney sees quite often. What I think you're describing is using the tight end to chip on the defensive end. In other words, give the left tackle a little help in blocking the defense's star pass-rusher. It's a solid pass-protection tactic but, of course, you take your tight end out of the deep-seam passing game.

Sean from Menominee, MI

"Officials are to be vigilant in determining that a receiver has achieved possession and control of the ball, and has committed a football act with the ball in his possession, to rule that a reception has been achieved." What exactly is meant by committing a football act?

Catching the ball with two feet down in bounds satisfies possession. Tucking the ball, for example, satisfies control. One more thing has to happen for the reception to be completed: The receiver either has to control the ball through contact with the ground, or he has to make a football move (commit a football act), such as running with the ball. I guess the league is saying that if we're going to make it so difficult for defenses to defend against the pass, we're going to expect that the ball be caught. I've always liked Tony Dungy's line that he's spent his whole life in the game and he still doesn't know what a catch is. Well, the league is making sure the definition of a catch is absolutely crystal clear. Take the ball back to the huddle with you. That'll work.

Eric from Appleton, WI

If you have a solid quarterback who is smart, athletic and can read defenses, he can make a starter out of low-round and undrafted free agents. Donald Driver is proof. On the other hand, defense is where you need the names, because of all the variables of offense you face. Am I correct in my thoughts?

Tramon Williams and Sam Shields were big names coming out of college? James Harrison was an undrafted free agent. Richard Dent was an eighth-round pick. Eric, you find football players where you find football players. You find them in big schools and in small schools. You find them in the first round and you find them in the last round. Sometimes you find them in other leagues (Kurt Warner). Big Daddy Lipscomb and Cookie Gilchrist, two of the most dominant physical talents the game has ever known, didn't even attend college. When you start pigeon-holing players, that's when you close your eyes to talent and that's when you begin making mistakes. I see a lot of good-looking undrafted players on the Packers' practice field. They need to get the same chances and the same thorough evaluation that every other player on the field gets.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

Many teams, particularly the Eagles, have upgraded several positions in the offseason. What positions do you think the Packers have significantly upgraded from last year?

You can improve by replacing players, and you can improve by developing your players. The Packers improve by doing the latter. The Packers will be better at all the positions that are manned by young, ascending players. They'll be better at quarterback because Aaron Rodgers will be a better player this year. They'll be better at outside linebacker because Clay Matthews will be a better player. Look at the young talent: Tramon Williams, B.J. Raji, Sam Shields, James Starks, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, Bryan Bulaga, etc. All of those players can be expected to be better, therefore, they represent upgrades.

Andy from Fort McMurray, AB

Have the performances of any of the rookies changed your mind about how quickly they will be getting seriously involved? From the sounds of things, Cobb seems to be figuring things out pretty effectively.

Yeah, I don't see the gap I expected to see, and that surprises me. The game has become homogenized. Players know how to practice now; you almost don't have to teach them your drills and your ways because they've already done them.

Neil from Cheddar, UK

No question here. Please do video! Just sayin'.

Thanks for the input.

Jim from Milwaukee, WI

What's an intangible part of the Packers organization that you think makes them winners?

Talent makes you a winner. Intangibles – in this case I think you're describing tradition – make winning enjoyable. What intangibles didn't exist for Phil Bengtson?

Jason from Toronto, ON

I'm puzzled. I thought the new CBA required teams to spend close to the salary cap, but then I read that Tampa Bay is still almost $30 million under the cap and there aren't a lot of free agents left on which to spend money. What happens if they start the season that far under the cap? Do they have to surrender money to the league?

As I wrote a few weeks ago, teams are exempt from spending to a minimum in the first year of this CBA. The league will make up the difference to the players.

Milond from Omaha, NE

What is the won and lost record, since the beginning, between the Packers and the Bears?

The Bears lead the regular season series, 91-83-6. Each team has won one playoff game against the other.

Joseph from Yukon, OK

Who are some of the players you think will be rookie of the year candidates?

Julio Jones better be a strong candidate, per the Falcons' obvious expectations for him.

John from Roselle, IL

Who are some of the players that are really opening eyes so far in training camp?

I've mentioned Starks. Randall Cobb has been strong, though I didn't see much of him last night. Erik Walden has had a very strong start. Mike McCarthy singled out Mike Neal last night. I watch the offensive line but I'm not a skilled enough observer to offer an observation there without talking to Coach Campen first. I will say, however, that I think Scott Wells has been very consistent so far. I think he's an underrated player. Jordy Nelson has stolen the show on several occasions. D.J. Williams made a catch over the middle in traffic last night I won't forget. Matt Flynn showed me some arm on a corner route last night that I didn't know he had. Alex Green is coming on. He's a thunderous runner and last night he caught a pass in the flat, turned his hips upfield and I wouldn't want to be a guy in his path if he gets loose like that in live action. Tim Masthay has been impressive. I thought Davon House looked fluid, but then he pulled a hamstring and now that becomes an issue because they can linger. Diondre Borel made a touchdown catch; he's quietly done some things.

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