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Under the radar?


Derrick from Emery, SD

I just wanted to ask your opinion on how the split carries between Grant and Starks has been thus far. I'm thinking it has gone great, but it could always be better, right?

Ryan Grant has 32 rushing attempts for 157 yards and James Starks has 32 rushing attempts for 147 yards. That's balance.

Tom from Racine, WI

I have really enjoyed your column to the point that it takes up a part of my day, but I need to know, did the Packers give you any kind of psychological examination before they hired you?

No, they already knew.

Nick from Whitewater, WI

I love how you made the point about Clay getting a lot of attention this season because I have noticed it as well. Do you think the average fan is more focused on Clay putting up big numbers in the sack category rather than the bigger picture?

Yes, I do, because fantasy football has created a stats mania that previously didn't exist. Here's what Mike McCarthy said about Matthews on Wednesday: "Clay Matthews is playing very well. His grades for all three weeks are very high." That's all that matters. If a guy is playing well, then he is helping his teammates to play well, too. Stats lie, the tape doesn't.

Shannon from North Little Rock, AR

Can a "Tampa Two" be run out of a 3-4? At what point does it become nickel?

Sure it can be run out of a 3-4. "Tampa Two" and "Cover Two" are pass-coverage schemes that are defined by two safeties positioned deep and in the middle of the field. It becomes "Nickel Defense" when a fifth defensive back, or nickel back, enters the game.

Nick from Water Mill, NY

How much game-plan adjustment, if any, takes place during halftime in the locker room, or is everybody basically just catching their breath?

Adjustments are made, though they are usually subtle in nature. It may be the decision to bracket a particular receiver, or take out a linebacker and replace him with a defensive back for the purpose of spying on a mobile quarterback who's breaking contain too often. It might be a decision to use the tight end to chip a pass-rusher. A routine halftime adjustment would involve blocking assignments for dealing with twists and stunts by the opponents' defensive linemen. These are things that are also done on the fly during the game.

Jack from West Valley City, UT

Randall Cobb is fearless on punt returns. I respect his courage, but I would hate to see him get injured because he doesn't call for a fair catch. Do you think the coaches have told him it's okay to signal fair catch if you know you are gonna get creamed?

It's not a game of safe. If you want long returns, you gotta take chances. Cobb has the kind of fearlessness that allows a return man to focus so completely on catching the ball that he can do it in the face of on-rushing defenders. Yes, he's been told to be smart about when to signal fair catch, but good returners hate making fair catches and Cobb is a very good returner.

Joe from Amherst, MA

From the film, did you or Slocum make a determination if Devin Hester did or did not signal fair catch?

He didn't.

Ray from Bakersfield, CA

I love "Ask Vic." I've read it every day since the lockout. What is your goal with this column?

The fundamental intent is to inform and entertain. I also like the idea of creating a little family of "Ask Vic" readers, a club, so to speak. We all need friends. I like to think of this column's readership as members of the fraternity of football.

Dwight from Athens, WI

I attended my first Packers game as a teenager in November of 1969. The Packers opponent was the Lions and I remember the feeling of awe as I walked into Lambeau Field. There was an aroma of cigar in the air. Red-colored clothing stood out prominently in the stands and the roar of 50,000-plus fans every time the team had a successful play and the groans at an unfortunate turn of events. Lem Barney had an All-Pro day and the Packers lost the game. It was one of the best times in my life. What do you recall from attending your first professional football game?

It was at Forbes Field; Steelers and Giants. Frank Gifford, Charlie Conerly, Kyle Rote and Jim Patton played for the Giants. Vince Lombardi was the Giants' offensive coordinator. We went to the game because one of the Giants defensive tackles, Dick "Little Mo" Modzelewski, was from my hometown. I remember the uniforms. The Giants were wearing white jerseys with red numbers; I liked that. My dad was a cigar smoker. His car smelled of it, his clothes smelled of it and I can remember how it seemed all of Forbes Field smelled of it. I love cigars but I had to quit a couple of years ago when I had a heart attack, but I can't bear to get rid of this big box of cigars that were left, so I keep them in a drawer in my study and when I go into the study in the evening I open the drawer and let the scent of those cigars waft through the room. I keep one in my car, too. We never forget the first time, do we?

Jeff from Cleveland, OH

Considering we are the Super Bowl champions and 3-0, with superstars across the roster, the Packers are somehow managing to fly under the radar. I can't help but think this is a blessing and we should be thankful for it as long as it lasts, but I can't help but wonder if it is a lack of respect or just too many other interesting storylines. Your thoughts?

I think it's small-market paranoia. Nothing about the Packers is flying under anybody's radar, especially within the league's coaching circles. Every defensive coordinator on the Packers' schedule wants to be the guy that writes the book on how to beat Aaron Rodgers. As far as the media is concerned, what power ranking have you seen that doesn't have the Packers at No. 1? Rodgers has just been named player of the month for September, Clay Matthews is doing late-night TV gigs, and the NFL put on a "Kickoff Game" extravaganza that left the nation with its mouth hanging open in awe of what it saw. Under the radar? I don't get it.

Mike from Bridgeport, CT

Play-calling has become a hot topic in "Ask Vic." I rarely criticize play-calling but why would Jim Haslett, or any defensive coordinator, elect to rush seven defenders on third-and-21? Why dial up a blitz and leave so much of the field wide open on third-and-forever?

The idea is to get to the quarterback or force the quarterback to throw before his receivers have time to run 21 yards. It's sound strategy, but only if your rushers get home on the quarterback. It's risky. If they get blocked, you're vulnerable to the big play.

Paul from Rockton, IL

How many hours per day do the coaches put in?

I'm an early riser and I often arrive at Lambeau Field at 6:30 a.m. Never have I arrived at that hour and not noticed Coach McCarthy's truck parked in its usual spot. During the season, coaches arrive early and stay late. Tuesday is game-plan day and that's their longest and most intense day of the week. It's the players' off day and the coaches hunker down and go to work on the game plan, which the head coach will present to the team on Wednesday morning.

Bob from Mount Joy, PA

I keep reading you saying, "What's the hurry with IR for Collins?" I'm confused if anyone has taken the spot vacated by Collins. Is Collins still considered one of the 53 or not? If so, wouldn't it be better to have another body that can play on the roster? Please clear this up for me.

Nick Collins is still a member of the Packers' 53-man roster, but the prognosis for his return has not changed; he will not return this season. Why haven't the Packers put him on injured reserve and signed a player to replace him? Because the Packers have roster concerns at a couple of positions and they want to hold Collins' roster spot in reserve so they might use it at a position where they might have need. That was Mike McCarthy's response on Wednesday when I asked him if the prognosis on Collins has changed. Bryan Bulaga and Ryan Grant are trying to recover from injuries. What if Marshall Newhouse or James Starks was to bruise a knee or pull a hamstring in practice? Again, I ask, what's the rush? The Packers don't have need at safety right now. M.D. Jennings is on the roster. Charles Woodson can play safety. Jarrett Bush can play safety. What's the great need at safety? There isn't any, but the potential for need at another position exists. The Packers will use Collins' roster spot when they need to use it, or they feel an upgrade is available that they don't want to pass up.

Jeff from Ishpeming, MI

Do you think the zone-blocking scheme in as conducive to a good running game as the old hat-on-hat style?

Yeah, I like the zone-blocking scheme, but you better be able to move the line of scrimmage the old-fashioned way, too, or you're going to struggle in short-yardage situations.

Paul from Madison, WI

What kind of wide receivers do you prefer, the big possession-type receiver or the small, typically quicker receiver?

You have to have both. You have to have receivers that can stretch the field (Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson), and you have to have receivers that present a big target (Jermichael Finley) for the quarterback on critical third-down plays. In the Packers' case, those guys fulfill both roles. There aren't many teams that have that kind of receiver talent.

Kyle from Dubuque, IA

I'm a life-long Packers fan and my wife is a life-long Bears fan. We have three little boys, but we've promised each other that we wouldn't bash the other team in front of the boys. We both read and greatly enjoy your columns/blog and I thought you might have some insights on how to raise our children properly.

Yes, of course. I think it starts with agreeing that the children be raised Packers fans, as I'm sure both of you did when you entered into your union. It's very important, however, that your wife's motherhood be respected. The children must love her and learn to accept and respect her football beliefs. The children will develop sensitivity that will allow them to console her in defeat, and their love will grow.

Travis from Seattle, WA

Will the Packers continue to have the worst pass-defense in the NFL?

No, the Packers moved up to No. 31 this week. New England is No. 32 this week.

Paul from La Crosse, WI

What is with the clear media bias against the Packers? I mean, in my mind they are America's team with legions of fans everywhere. Then, when I turn on FOX, all I hear about is Cam Newton this and Cam Newton that. He threw three picks on the day and made some really bad calls on important drives. Is this just me?

I hope it's just you because it's ridiculous to be jealous of any team or any player when you're the reigning Super Bowl champion with the reigning Super Bowl MVP and widely-accepted No. 1 quarterback in the game. As far as Cam Newton is concerned, everything you said is correct, but you failed to mention one thing about what he did last week: When the game was on the line, he took his team right down the field to the game-winning touchdown; didn't throw an incompletion. That's my kind of quarterback. Give me the guy that gets it done at crunch time.

Robert from Las Vegas, NV

Who do you think are the top five backs in the game today?

Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Darren McFadden, Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew.

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