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Will a sixth wide receiver emerge?


Nate from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, I remember the days when the Packers dominated with the power sweep. I feel like a similar sweep or pitch game, or simply a better screen game would do the Packers a lot of good, giving another offensive threat to keep safeties from dropping, which would open up the deep ball for Aaron. Do you agree?

Sweeps the way the Packers are famous for running them are too slow-developing for today's game. The vaunted "Packers sweep" is from the days of read-and-react defense. It was man on man at the point of attack. Today's penetrate-and-disrupt defenses have moved the point of attack into the backfield, creating a traffic jam before the ball can get to the outside. The sweep has been replaced by the stretch play, which creates a wall of blockers behind whom the back cuts into a running lane. Screens are good against penetrate-and-disrupt defenses. If you catch the defense in a jail break, the ball can go a long way. I think the Packers are a good screen team, but you have to know when to use it and when not to use it. Rule of thumb is you don't use it against teams with good linebackers.

Jeremy from Indianapolis, IN

The third preseason game always makes the regular season feel real and here.

The third preseason game gives us a taste of the regular season, and then we take a break for Labor Day, the start of school and the last rites of summer, before we gear up for the start of the regular season and, hopefully, a full five months of the thing that helps define the years of our lives.

Tim from St. Louis, MO

Vic, if the Packers have to buy time for the young defensive guys to develop, does that mean the offense has to play at a high level for the first half of the season? With almost all the offensive starters returning, is that a fair expectation?

In today's game, the offense has to play at a high level the whole season. In the Packers' case, I think it's a fair expectation for the offense to carry the Packers, as the offense did a year ago, until the young players on defense are playoff-ready.

Tim from Hartford, WI

How much of draft success is determined by picking players vs. coaching the picked players?

You can assemble a coaching staff that includes Vince Lombardi, Paul Brown, Tom Landry, Don Shula, Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh, and they won't win with a bunch of stiffs. Walsh and Noll were a combined 3-27 in their rookie seasons as head coaches, on teams that were talent deficient. What changed that allowed them to win seven Super Bowls? The talent changed. Coaching is critical to success, but winning begins with acquiring players of talent.

Ashton from Raleigh, NC

As anyone who has studied statistics knows, regression to the mean is in fact real. Do you foresee Aaron Rodgers becoming a victim of statistics this year after such a dynamite season a year ago?

When have the great players ever regressed to the mean? If they had, they wouldn't be great; they'd be average. Stats are fine to examine and use as indicators and teaching tools, but they should never be used to define victory. I get the feeling Rodgers is one of those guys for whom stats and personal honors will never be good enough. He sure wasn't fat and happy coming of a Super Bowl MVP, was he? I think he's at the beginning of a long run of success that will define him as being far above the mean.

Kenny from Forest Lake, MN

I've heard you and others say the spread offense in college ball is leaving NFL teams short on pro-type quarterbacks. Could you explain the spread and why it's different from what is played at the NFL level?

The intent of the spread offense in college football is to create a numbers advantage for the offense. For example, in a typical spread formation, two wide receivers to each side of the field will likely be covered by three defensive backs, leaving seven offensive players against five defensive players. That's a mismatch, but only if the quarterback is a runner. If he's not a runner, then it's five blockers on five defenders. So, a college team that runs the spread will choose a quarterback that can run a lot, even if he can only throw a little. That's not the pro game. Nevertheless, pro football has no choice but to select its quarterbacks of the future from the college ranks, and that means adapting its game to "New Age" type quarterbacks such as Cam Newton and RG3. They're quarterbacks that can run a lot and throw a lot, too. That'll work, but that's a tough combination to find. The guys that come out of the pro-style offenses, such as Andrew Luck, are still in premium demand.

Casey from Lynchburg, VA

Vic, if teams were more patient and gave their young quarterbacks five years to develop, would there be more elite quarterbacks in the league?

There'd be a lot less wasted money. I think we give up on quarterbacks too quickly nowadays. I think we give up on coaches too quickly, too. It's the nature of the game. Parity has heightened the expectation for winning and lessened the tolerance for slow development.

Dave from Sauk City, WI

Vic, I see lots of players who are pass rushers for their teams, and many of them have similar physical and athletic gifts, yet, some are great but most are not. I still can't decide if a great pass rusher is born or trained. Which do you think it is?

The superior athlete can be taken to a higher level than the try-hard, over-achiever. That doesn't mean a try-yard guy can't be coached to success, but let's use Jason Pierre-Paul as the example. He was a one-year wonder at South Florida who was drafted high on the strength of his combine workout. Clearly, Pierre-Paul had natural pass-rush ability and instincts. Would you take him?

Pete from Perham, MN

You say Jason Pierre-Paul or Clay Matthews are your predictions for possible defensive player of the year, however, you consistently say Revis is the best defensive player in the NFL. What gives?

Teams don't throw at him enough for him to have the opportunities to make the big plays necessary to win such an award.

Brad from Crofton, MD

Do you think Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr could be starting quarterbacks in the pass-happy NFL these days? I'd say they would be masters.

I completely agree. Unitas invented the game they're playing today. Just because Starr didn't play for a pass-happy coach doesn't mean he couldn't play in a pass-happy offense. He was a master of the short-passing game and his efficiency is perfect for today's reliance on winning the battle of the quarterback passer ratings.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, is it my imagination or are the Packers players' pants getting shorter and shorter? Some of the players almost look like they're wearing shorts. Is there a reason for this?

Everything about the football uniform is shrinking. The reason is that players want to be as light and as streamlined as possible because football is a speed game. The irony is that at the same time football uniforms have gotten smaller and tighter, basketball and baseball uniforms have gotten bigger and baggier.

Bart from Sanibel, FL

Who are the handful of guys genuinely on the bubble?

This is a funny year because those bubble guys aren't as clearly defined as they usually are. For example, we expected a hot competition between Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley for a potential sixth wide receiver spot, but both players have missed significant time in camp due to injuries and that hot competition hasn't occurred. At this point, the question is: Will a receiver step forward in what remains of the preseason and justify keeping six at that position? Inside linebacker is another position that has been impacted by injury. At the beginning of camp, I thought we might be headed toward a significant decision at that position, but Desmond Bishop's injury has eliminated that. How will Davon House's injury impact decisions at cornerback? Injuries have muddied the waters. What happens tonight could give us a better read.

Matthew from Maffra, Australia

Have you ever covered a team that, at the start of the season, you had a strong idea the team wouldn't perform well that year? If so, did you report it like that?

I've covered teams in obvious rebuilding modes and, yes, I reported it as such. I'll use the 2002 Jaguars as an example. They had gutted their roster in an effort to repair the worst salary cap mess in cap history. There was no question that expectations were low and it would've been unfair to the coach to not report it as such.

Casey from Rapid City, SD

I find it incredible that Dave Robinson is not already in the Hall of Fame. Any ideas as to why he has been denied for so long?

He played between Willie Davis and Herb Adderley and on a Packers team with its own wing at the Hall of Fame. That's why Robinson isn't in the Hall of Fame. He's not the only player in that situation. L.C. Greenwood played between Joe Greene and Jack Ham and it's kept him out of the Hall of Fame because critics would ask, "How good do you have to be to play between Greene and Ham?" I have long considered Robinson to be one of the most underrated players in NFL history. If he played today, he'd be a featured player. He'd be a Clay Matthews, DeMarcus Ware kind of player. Robinson belongs in the Hall of Fame.

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