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Quarterbacks are the difference makers

Ifs will decide how high the Packers defense can reach in 2013


Pat from Altoona, WI

Does McCarthy's statement about Bulaga and Sitton mean they don't have competition for the left side? Seems like a bold statement this early.

I took it to mean those jobs belong to them.

Brad from Plattsburgh, NY

Vic, what brought about the demise of the two-back system, a la Taylor and Hornung? Does it have any place in the game today?

Specialization ended the days of split backs. Runners run and blockers block. Here's a favorite story of mine that illustrates this point. It's from 1992. Merrill Hoge went to his offensive coordinator, Ron Erhardt, to complain about not getting more carries. Hoge was a former feature-type back who was being cast as a blocking fullback. He was averaging 3.3 yards a carry. His backfield mate, Barry Foster, was leading the AFC in rushing with a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. After Erhardt finished listening to Hoge's complaints, Erhardt said, "Here's what I'll do. When I wanna gain 3.3 yards, I'll give you the ball. When I wanna gain 4.8 yards, I'll give Barry the ball." Get it?

Brett from Whitewater, WI

No one cares about what happened 50 years ago. Only you, Vic, only you.

Is that right, folks? Am I the only one who cares?

Blake from Macedon, NY

I was watching NFL Network's top 100 players and saw Woodson at 85. I know he is older but he hasn't signed with anyone. Any chance of a reunion?

Did NFL Network really do that? That's embarrassing for everybody. Charles Woodson is one of the greatest players this game has ever known. Frankly, this daily barrage of questions about Charles' future has also become embarrassing. It's time to treat this man and his great career properly by putting it into the all-time category it deserves, and speaking of it in terms of what it did, and not in terms of what more it can do. Let it go, people.

Kirk from Riverside, IA

If an ideal 34 lineman is a two-gapper, he must be able to read the run and shed the blocker quickly to close that gap to a run. So what has happened when you see a lineman in the backfield? Is this because he recognized the play as a pass and rushed the passer?

Unless somebody whiffed up front on a two-gapper, what you're probably seeing is a 4-3 defensive lineman in a gap-control scheme who has beaten the blocker off the ball and penetrated into the backfield. That's the goal of gap-control defensive linemen. They each are responsible for a gap and in some cases the scheme calls for one or more of those linemen to penetrate the gap and disrupt the flow of the play. It's a beautiful scheme when each man executes his role, which is often referred to as his fit. Coaches like to refer to "fitting up" their defense. When a gap-control scheme is fit perfectly, it's impenetrable. The problem comes when someone loses their gap battle to the guy across from them. That's when a penetrate-and-disrupt, gap-control scheme can get caught with defenders up the field and the running back having creased the defense for a big gainer.

Mike from Iola, WI

What is the difference between OTAs (organized team activities) and minicamp?

OTAs are voluntary; minicamp is mandatory.

Chris from Hutto, TX

Do Lacy or Franklin have any experience in a zone-blocking system? Is there a certain type of running back that excels in this system more than others?

Eddie Lacy played in an old-fashioned drive-blocking scheme at Alabama. Johnathan Franklin played in a more contemporary attack at UCLA. The one thing I've noticed about both players is they are one-cut backs, and that's what works in a zone-blocking scheme. Be patient, find a lane and then cut back into it explosively.

Pat from Port Washington, WI

Can you think of a player that looked terrible in OTAs, yet, turned out to be a great pro?

Nobody looks terrible in OTAs. It can't be done, unless it's a rookie quarterback struggling with learning. I can think of two players, however, who had terrible rookie training camps: Franco Harris and Fred Taylor. They then went on to have the best rookie seasons of any players I have ever covered. Practice is practice. Games are what count.

Markus from Basel, Switzerland

Vic, I wonder why the entire offensive line group consists of guys who have played left tackle in college.

It's for the same reason baseball teams are full of guys that played shortstop: That's where high school and college teams put their best players.

Bruce from New Canaan, CT

What is the practical difference between an undrafted free agent and a tryout player?

One has a contract, the other one is trying to get a contract, but that's not much of a difference because one can be cut and the other signed in short order. For these wonderful dreamers, football truly is a tough game for tough guys. I've seen the Turk in action. It always breaks my heart. If I ever see it happen and it doesn't break my heart, it'll be time to quit. I love the dreamers.

Orville from Chatsworth, GA

Do you think the defense will be better? Can it be a top-five defense in the NFL?

Like so many units throughout the league, the Packers defense is loaded with ifs. If Datone Jones can contribute right away, and if Nick Perry can go to the next level, and if one of the young safeties is ready for a full-time role, and if the Packers can find some depth at inside linebacker and, most of all, if they can stay healthy. Top five is awfully high, but I think top 10 is a demanding but doable goal. I'll tell you what will take the Packers defense to the top-five level: A strong running game.

Dain from Columbus, WI

What do you think the chances are for B.J. Coleman to take over the backup quarterback position this year?

This, too, is an awfully lofty goal for a seventh-round draft pick in only his second season and without any regular-season experience. On his first pass of his rookie training camp last season, B.J. hit the tire on the net contraption with the red, white and blue targets on it that gets pulled across the field. I couldn't help but laugh. In Friday's rookie-camp practice, I didn't see Coleman throw anything that wasn't crisp and on target. He's on the rise. Enjoy the climb.

Anthony from Killeen, TX

Vic, you keep talking about how Perry and Jones are the perfect guys for the "New Age" QB, and I cringe when I read it. I want to know if Jones can push the pocket and not allow Eli Manning to step up when Matthews comes off the edge? Can Perry bull rush and spin off his blocker and make a play in the backfield? Do these guys have the ability to play in the other games this season against teams that don't run the read-option? Are these guys going to be valuable if the read-option goes away, like the wildcat did?

Would it make you feel better if I said they weren't perfect for the read-option? Anthony, if you're looking for a guarantee, I don't have one to give you. Being a fan isn't only an exercise in faith, it's an exercise in patience. We'll know the answer to those questions in time. My gut tells me the answers will be yes.

Joe from Sherman, IL

Why do they have the tarp on at Lambeau? Shouldn't they be trying to grow the grass at this time of year?

I don't know the answer to your question, but I'll bet it has something to do with the grass in my yard, which was coated with white frost on Monday morning. I can't wait for spring to start.

Matt from Aiea, HI

Vic, I'm sick of people crediting the quarterback for wins instead of the team. I hear all too often phrases like, "Flacco beat Brady." Really? How about giving some credit to the defense or the other playmakers on offense? I know quarterbacks have the largest role on their team, but I think they get way too much credit for wins and too much blame for losses. Thoughts?

I don't agree. They're the difference makers. I can't imagine what it must be like to have to play that position. I can't imagine processing all of that information and standing there as a target while the biggest guys on the defense bear down on you. Aaron Rodgers does things that leave me speechless. The courage quarterbacks must have is beyond my comprehension. There are only a few of these men in the world, and not every team has one. If you're one of the lucky ones, enjoy it. They're the reason you win, and they are often the reason you lose, too. The game belongs to them. Everybody else is replaceable.

Monica from Lewiston, ME

What does it mean when a college player is a redshirt?

It means he's elected to use a year of inactivity so he might extend his playing career by one year, if he chooses. A college player is permitted four seasons of eligibility in five years. College programs like to redshirt their true freshmen, so they might adapt to college life and its academic demands before the eligibility clock begins ticking.

Rick from Appleton, WI

The NFL draft is about hope; free agency is about expectation. Fans hope draft picks can perform at the next level; free agents are expected to perform at their previous level. In sports, hope is the fountain of youth, while expectation is the cup of poison.

It's a young man's game.

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