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Run-defense is the lynchpin for this season


Nolan from Kennewick, WA

How important is the backup quarterback?

On a playoff contender, he's critically important because odds are that at some point in the season he'll have to play, and one game can make the difference between homefield advantage for the playoffs and having to go on the road, or even making it into the playoffs at all. If you're a team that's trying to build its roster to the playoff level, you'd probably trade your backup for a high-round pick, but when you've reached the point that your backup might make the difference between getting to the Super Bowl or falling short of your goal, trading your backup is too great a risk to take. I can give you some examples of backup quarterbacks making the difference. Of course, we can start with Zeke Bratkowski. How about Jeff Hostetler in the Giants' championship season? The Steelers had to get wins out of their backups in each of their two recent Super Bowl championship seasons. Without those wins, they wouldn't have qualified for the playoffs in one of those seasons and probably wouldn't have made it into the Super Bowl in the other one. Matt Flynn is groomed and ready to go. He gives the Packers security that they can play without Aaron Rodgers for a game or two and not fall off the pace.

Evan from Baltimore, MD

Which player position is weakest in terms of talent? In terms of depth? Please don't just tell us there are no weak parts of the team, again.

I think I've been consistent all along in saying that the defensive line would be the area of the team for which I would have the most concern, because it has lost Cullen Jenkins in free agency, wasn't able to address that position in the offseason and, frankly, showed some vulnerability in the Super Bowl against the run. That concern will evaporate if Mike Neal is able to replace Jenkins. I think it's also important to remember that Jenkins was on the team last year when the Packers were 18th in the league against the run and got gashed by the run in the Super Bowl.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

You mentioned that right now it is difficult to find fault and finger-point during the offseason. How does the column's feel change once the season starts?

These last two questions remind me of something one of my best friends, a legendary high school football coach in Pennsylvania and Texas, once said to me. He was famous for going to schools that had never been winners and desperately wanted to win, and then quickly turning them into powerhouses. He was also famous for being very demanding in what he required from administration to effect winning, and the tendency was for these schools to find out, in time, that they really didn't wanna win as badly as they thought they did. He was the subject of a TV documentary in the mid-1990s. Anyhow, after having been fired from a school where he had given them the winningest years in their history, I called him to ask him what had happened. This was his answer: "They got tired of winning." It's one of my all-time favorite lines. Are you tired of winning, Zach?

Paul from Jacksonville, FL

I know the Jets are the preseason favorite in the AFC, but as I look at the moves they've made, I keep wanting to check and make sure Dan Snyder didn't buy the team. Their moves in free agency remind me of several Redskins teams that had put together a boatload of talent that never really lived up to expectations. Even if they have a good year this year, do they have enough of a developing base to sustain it?

They have the passer (Mark Sanchez), the pass-blocker (D'Brickashaw Ferguson) and the pass-defender (Darrelle Revis). Do they have the pass-rusher? That's what they're trying to find and they will not win without him. Rex Ryan's entire philosophy of defense is built on sacking the quarterback and I'm not sure that they have that guy.

Steve from Hazelwood, MO

I'm 68 years of age. Now you tell me to never get old. Unfortunately, each of us has little alternative. What do you recommend to avoid aging?


Ben from Syracuse, NY

What's your opinion on the Jones/Walden/Zombo competition for starting OLB? All three of those guys seem to have stepped up in their own way at their own time when they got a chance to start. I imagine it's got to be fierce, but is there a favorite?

Erik Walden is leading. The preseason games will sort it out. This is exactly what a head coach wants.

Michael from Barling, AR

Why in this modern football era is it so hard for teams to repeat at winning the Super Bowl?

It's because they're all essentially the same team. The players and the schemes are largely interchangeable, except for those few star players each team has that make the difference. The Packers lost a lot of players to injury last season, but how many games did they lose to injury with Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji and Charles Woodson? Keep your star players healthy and hope the breaks go your way. That's what makes the difference, and every elite team can say the same. The gap is very small. You need things to fall your way and you need them to fall your way at the right time of the year, which is to say late in the season when all championship teams get hot.

Andrew from New Port Richey, FL

As a long-time reader of your column, I've been troubled by one exceptionally important question, perhaps, the most important question leading into this NFL season: Will you be providing us with your all-important, weekly power rankings this season?

Yes, I will. They are all-important and I will do my best to rank teams in an order that will anger people and cause them to send e-mails to me that begin with, "You are an idiot. How could you put so and so at 28th? They should be no higher than 29th."

George from Jefferson City, MO

Do you feel the departure of Jenkins and Barnett will play a major factor in the Packers' ability to repeat as Super Bowl champions? Give your honest opinion, Vic; don't sugar coat things, sir.


Jon from Imperial, MO

I was watching "NFL Live" the other day and they actually were talking about the Packers. They said the fact that they haven't talked about them might give us an advantage this season. Do you think it is reasonable to say that the reigning Super Bowl champions could sneak up on someone just because ESPN doesn't talk about them?


Eric from Wausau, WI

Last year, there were only a few select ways to attack Green Bay, one of which was to attack via the ground game. Atlanta dominated us up front, but couldn't repeat that in the playoffs because they were playing from behind. What's our "Achilles heel" going into 2011?

I don't know what the Packers' "Achilles heel" is, but I have a pretty good idea how teams will try to attack them: Run the ball, dominate time of possession and keep Rodgers on the bench. That's the time-honored way of game-planning against any team with an explosive offense and a dominant quarterback, unless that team has a dominant run-defense. That's the lynchpin for the Packers, in my opinion. If they stop the run, it'll be awfully tough to beat this team.

Tyler from Redlands, CA

Which side of the ball do you think the Packers are strongest? Offense or defense? I think a case could be made for both. You and Mike should debate it.

I think that's exactly what we'll do. I plan on making Tuesdays, which is the players' day off, point-counterpoint day. You might've just given me our first topic.

Noble from Madison, WI

I was watching the Packers training camp on Monday and witnessed a small scuffle between Williams and Gurley, as well as some heavy taunting by the legendary mouth of Clay Matthews towards Spencer Havner. Do you believe such behavior can help to fuel the intensity of practices, or do you see it as detrimental to team cohesion?

I'm not a big team cohesion guy. Football is an edge sport. Just do your job. Clay Matthews does his.

Marky from Walworth, WI

Is there a long shot you're really pulling for in this preseason to prove themselves and make the team? Anyone you're particularly impressed by or attached to?

Every year, early in camp, I like to knock out some long-shot, undrafted stories. I enjoy writing them because I enjoy listening to the young men tell their stories, and everybody has a story. In this camp, Shaky Smithson has to have the best story. How can you not root for him?

Jim from Waukesha, WI

I like that the Packers build through the draft and don't get crazy in free agency, but looking at what the Eagles have done this year scares me. They seem to have put together a Pro-Bowl type roster. How have other teams that have tried to buy a championship fared in the NFL?

I don't see the Eagles as trying to buy a championship. The Eagles have been outstanding drafters and salary cap managers for a long time. They're able to do what they've done in free agency this year because they've been so good at managing their cap that they've created room to spend that kind of money and not mortgage their future. It's the teams that annually restructure contracts by converting salary to signing bonus and move money out that I view as trying to buy a championship, and those teams haven't fared very well.

Keith from St. Louis Park, MN

I noticed the rainbow from the practice footage and figured that was a nice indicator of the pot-of-gold talent the Packers have. What's at the end of your rainbows?

Turn the d into an f.

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