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You can't buy experience

There's a reason pass-rushers often are viewed as the face of a defense


Haley from Richmond, KY

Missing the season yet? I know offseason is a must for teams but I'm missing having some Green Bay football to watch!

I was a zombie wandering around my house on Sunday. I didn't know what to do with myself. I'm going to have to start watching 'Westworld' or something to pass the time.

Curt from Locust Grove, GA

In response to Ryan from Madison, I think "don't leave the game in the refs' hands" is vastly different from the overtime rules. Being the better team is fine in regulation and for the refs, the problem with the OT rules is that neither team was "the better team" so why are you giving one team an advantage in overtime.

I'm glad to see the overtime conversation survived the weekend. I think I've said all there is to be said at this point. Let's just play the game until someone throws in the towel.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Can one great pass rusher tilt the field enough?

That's what the great ones do. There's a reason pass-rushers often are viewed as the face of a defense. They're the closest to the quarterback, giving them a higher probability of generating a big play. Plays resulting in negative yardage are absolutely demoralizing for an offense. They can shift the momentum of an entire game. If you have a gifted pass-rusher, it makes life easier on the defense as a whole.

Signed as a free agent in March, TE Jared Cook caught 30 passes for 377 yards (12.6 avg) during the regular season and was an integral part of the Packers' postseason run. Photos by Evan Siegle and Matt Becker,

Stephen from Toronto, ON

Vic mentioned Lane Taylor as the player who had the biggest impact but nobody noticed. I'm going to agree with him (Joe Thomas is my choice on D). Now that the season has run its course, how would you summarize the shocking Sitton move, from what preceded it to the outcome?

I remember the wave of hysteria that hit Green Bay in the days after the Packers parted ways with Sitton and handed the left guard job to Taylor. We were pummeled with questions asking what the Packers were thinking. At the end of the day, Taylor rewarded Ted Thompson and the front office for their boldness. Sitton went on to have a fine year in Chicago, but Taylor looked the part in Green Bay. Every week, he showed that he was ready for the starting job. It's just another example of the Packers unearthing a gem on the offensive line and developing him into a starter. James Campen and the coaching staff have been doing it for years.

Sergio from Whittier, CA

There's really good CBs out there. Why doesn't T.T. pursue at least one to help out Ha Ha Clinton-Dix?

Free agency doesn't start for another month. We have to let the market form before going down that road. Teams can negotiate with their own players right now. Everything else is just noise until March 9.

KC from Tooele, UT

How can we stay healthy this next season? I think that's the key to victory.

That's the question every team in the NFL is trying to answer this time of year. You just control what you can control. There's always going to be a certain amount of luck involved, but you just try to gather as much information as possible and make the appropriate decisions for your football team. The Packers have left no stone unturned when it comes to injury prevention, especially when it comes to soft-muscle issues. That research continues this offseason.

Sherman from Blue Lake, CA

The Lombardi era teams played in a smaller league team-wise. This meant fewer players were needed to supply all the teams' rosters so the concentration of talent, and coincidentally the skill level of the average player, should have been higher, right?

It's kind of a chicken-or-egg question. There's so much more exposure on the NFL today than in 1960, which in turn, increases the pool of available talent. Is that enough to make up for the increase in teams?

Matt from Katy, TX

How does one say goodbye to a player as great as Sam Shields? I wish we didn't need to part ways with him, and that injury hadn't taken such a phenomenal player from us too soon. He ALWAYS gave his all, how do you replace a guy like that?

Shields is such a unique player who arrived in Green Bay under unique circumstances. Shields' success was a credit to his work ethic, the scouting department finding him and the coaching staff – notably Joe Whitt – developing his natural talent. Shields will go down as arguably Ted Thompson's greatest undrafted find. He practically gave Green Bay a second first-round pick in 2010. You won't replace Shields overnight. It took a lot of time and patience to get him to the level he was at the past three seasons.

David from Fort Wayne, IN

Wes, without knowing who will be available in free agency, many fans are suggesting names of players who could be a replacement for Sam Shields. But, realistically, the chances of the Packers signing a player in free agency that can come in and, on day one, replace Shields are slim to none. It's even less likely such a player will be found in the draft. I am not suggesting the Packers shouldn't seek help at cornerback--I have no doubt there will be additions to the cornerback room between now and the start of training camp--but I am suggesting, to paraphrase Vic, the help that fans are looking for is not on the way. And I am okay with this because I believe in Joe Whitt and the young talent he has in his room. My question is, do you think I'm crazy?

You're not crazy. Other than Charles Woodson, every cornerback the Packers have had in their secondary over the last seven years has been homegrown for the most part and each one experienced a learning curve. I can recall talking to a Packers beat writer (who shall remain nameless) in 2007 who was beside himself that the team kept Tramon Williams during final cuts. That worked out OK. I also can remember all the people who were ready to give up on Shields after a turbulent 2011 campaign. He turned into one of the defense's top playmakers. An entirely new season awaits in 2017. I have a hunch someone no one expected will step up.

Scott from Hamlin, NY

Are players released now subject to waivers? When can they be signed?

It's back to business as usual now that the season is over. Vested veterans with at least four accrued NFL seasons are free to sign elsewhere upon release. Anyone under that threshold is susceptible to waivers.

Karen from Everett, PA

Wes, I'm hoping this one doesn't relegate me to the Inbox HOF... when a defensive guy beats his offensive counterpart - does the offensive guy ever shout a warning to the QB? "INCOMING!" "VON MILLER 4 O'CLOCK!"

It's usually a lack of self-awareness that leads to relegation to the Inbox HOF, not the question. I've heard of Packer returners yelling, "Peter!" when they're unable to retrieve a ball, but never anything about an offensive lineman getting beat off the line of scrimmage. With everything that's going on, I'm guessing it would be difficult for a quarterback to hear any such warning. If anything is said, it's probably the lineman muttering something to himself in frustration.

Tim from Woodbury, MN

Will Tony Romo be a starter next season? If so, where do you see him playing?

Time will tell what the Cowboys do with Romo, but there's no doubt in my mind he'll be starting somewhere in Week 1 if Dallas moves on. Quarterbacks of his caliber are in short supply. He'll be 37 in April, but there's plenty of QBs deep in their 30s who are still playing at a high level.

Jackson from Rothschild, WI

With Jimmy Garoppolo being a hot topic right now, this reminds me of when Matt Flynn was signed by Seattle for playing well in one game. Garoppolo, like Flynn, has a small sample size and the pundits are calling him a franchise quarterback. He may be an upgrade compared to what desperate teams have now, but this could be a flash in the pan too. I hope Garoppolo isn't a flash in the pan, but I'd be awful wary. Bill Belichick can make anybody good, but in a different system/coach the same results are not guaranteed. Just want to know your thoughts.

Finding a franchise quarterback is the most important decision a general manager will make. It sets the tone for your entire franchise. There are teams that have pulled starting quarterbacks off other team's depth charts. Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Delhomme and Matt Schaub are a few names that come to mind. You could add Drew Brees to that mix, but he already started for four seasons when he signed with the Saints. The small sample size can make those decisions tricky. Not only are you dealing with a quarterback with limited experience, but you're also having to pay top dollar in most cases. That's where organizations have to trust their pro personnel department.

Jeff from Farmington, NM

Guys, do you know how many NFL players said that their teams could run the table this year? How many did it?

I can only think of one whose statement made the front page of every NFL-related site in existence.

Patrick from Folly Beach, SC

Insiders, it's been an exciting season. My question is, do you think that due to the new restrictions on practice time there has been a drop off in training for new players? I think it's harder to "coach them up" when the time to do so has been reduced.

I think most NFL coaches would agree with that statement. I know Mike McCarthy has spoken about the challenges of training a football team in today's environment. You have to maximize the opportunities you're afforded with your football team. The Packers emphasize the importance of participation in their offseason program and I believe that's what can help a football team hit the ground running once training camp rolls around. As Ron Zook likes to say, "You can't buy experience." There's still nothing more valuable than reps for rookies and young players. The Packers got plenty of that with all the injuries they faced in 2016.

C/G JC Tretter appeared in seven games of the 2016 season (all starts). He was a key contributor to one of the top offensive lines in the NFL in his fourth season. Photos by Evan Siegle and Matt Becker,

Brian from Ludington, MI

What was the Packers' predominant defensive scheme in 2016? What about 2015? What is our "base" defense, really, of late?

Historically, the Packers run their nickel and dime sub-packages around 75 percent of the time. That number has steadily grown over the last six seasons with how much offenses are spreading out in three- and four-receiver sets. If you're basing it strictly on usage, the Packers' 4-2 nickel defense is the most commonly used front.

Brian from Monroe, CT

Vic says he won't brush off FA questions, but refuses to talk about individual guys until they're officially FAs? Come on, the fans like to speculate, there's no harm in joining in on the fun before March 7th, name some potential free agents you'd think would be good fits for the Packers.

I get it. Free agency is fun. It's one of the most entertaining aspects of the NFL and people love to speculate about who is headed where. However, it also can lead to unrealistic expectations. There will be plenty of time to talk about free agency once it begins. The conversation will be the same a month from now. We're just letting all of you get warmed up.

David from San Diego, CA

If the Packers could get an elite RB they would be hard to beat. Not good but great, one who is in the top 3 rushers at season end. A rusher who can get 1,300 yards. Couple that with their passing game and they will have defenses on their heels. Got to spend some money or get one of the top 2 RBs in the draft.

You're stating the obvious. The running back you describe is a huge difference-maker, but he's also incredibly rare. There were only two backs – Ezekiel Elliott and Jordan Howard – who surpassed 1,300 rushing yards last season. I think both are worthy of the "great" category you outlined. Running backs are an important part of the equation, but you also have to be smart. The Packers have a prospect in Ty Montgomery. I'll be intrigued to see who they pair with him in 2017.

Mike from Somerset, WI

Every year I read Vic and the topics readers bring up are the same, but he is still able to articulate additional depth in each area that keeps it insightful. Yesterday's column on the difficulty of comparing players from different eras drove the point home for me. Thanks Vic.

I'm with you, Mike. I thought Vic did a terrific job of putting that argument into context. It was a great dive into history and the exploration of how different eras compare and contrast.

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