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You have to be ready for anything in the NFL

The Julius Peppers plan paid dividends for Packers' defense


Derek from Eau Claire, WI

What did you think of the new Pro Bowl weekend format? I got a kick out of the dodgeball.

I really enjoyed it. I thought the new additions were entertaining and brought something new to the table. I mean seriously, who doesn't want to catch a football from a drone? I think anyone who has ever picked up a football could relate to the festivities. It seemed like the players enjoyed themselves, as well. The game is going to have limitations but it still makes for an exciting weekend.

Andrew from Fort Collins, CO

How do you think a Lacy/Montgomery backfield combo would affect opposing defenses?

It would have been interesting to see what a Lacy and Montgomery backfield could've brought to the offense this past season since the two are different runners. We'll have to see what happens with Lacy this offseason, but Montgomery's unique skill set makes him an intriguing option in the backfield regardless of who joins him. There are very few players in the NFL with his background. Montgomery should only get better with a full offseason to learn all aspects of the position.

James from Chicago, WI

The loud cries for signing free agents will be ramping up in the next few weeks. Fans see free agents as filling a need. I doubt most realize, even beyond salary cap implications, there are financial/budgetary implications a GM must consider. There is a finite amount of money available for the operation of the business. If a team spends big on free agents every year, those salaries (and signing bonuses) will eat into the money available to re-sign their own free players.

It's good to remember Ted Thompson already took care of what would have been the team's No. 1 pending free agent with extending left tackle David Bakhtiari in September. It's similar to what the Packers did last December when they reached a deal with Mike Daniels. Those moves often are forgotten once free agency begins, but the front office has locked up its top two pending free agents in-season in each of the past two seasons. If either was an outside free agent, it would be seen as a marquee signing.

Taylor from Amarillo, TX

Insiders, is there a middle ground for the Packers to be a little more aggressive in shoring up the defense this offseason without reaching "sign-everyone-free-agency-insanity"?

You trust your scouting and development. There were a lot of people ripping on Sam Shields after a trying 2011 season. It didn't stop him from becoming a Pro Bowl cornerback. The young players on defense are only going to get better with all the experience they received this year. Still, if there's an outside player you feel could contribute at a position of need, then you act on it like the Packers did in 2014 with Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion or last year with Jared Cook. Every offseason, you have to take a hard look at your roster and make the best decision for the future of your team.

Steve from Plainfield, WI

I think fans look at splurging in free agency this way – would you rather have a team finish in the playoffs for 32 straight years but never win the Super Bowl, or break the bank to put together a dream team that'll win the SB, but then won't make it back to the playoffs for the next 31 years? The problem with that thinking is there is no such guarantee a perennial playoff team like the Packers won't ever win a Super Bowl. Every year they make the playoffs there's that chance, and that's what makes the Packers a delight to follow. Does that sum it up?

What I find fascinating is the fans who say they'd gladly sell out for a Super Bowl if it means a few lean years are to follow. First, there's still no guarantee you'll win it all. Second, those same fans tend to get annoyed if a team does backtrack over the next two seasons. It's all about the here and now.

Brad from Clemmons, NC

Given the injuries hit us every year and can't be avoided, is the fact that injuries occur play into our playbook strategy? For example, do we simplify our defense so that we can introduce new players more quickly?

You're always going to have to adapt to injuries at various points of the year. The Packers plan for those scenarios during the offseason program. While no one envisioned Ty Montgomery playing running back, Micah Hyde lining up at boundary cornerback or Morgan Burnett moving to star slot cornerback in nickel, you have to be ready for those situations. You have to be ready for anything in the NFL.

John from Red Lodge, MT

In the NFC Championship Game, why was Aaron Rodgers not saying "3-19" before snaps, but something else?

They were using the silent count more with all the noise inside the Georgia Dome. Whatever else he was saying, I couldn't make out its relevance.

Anthony from Celina, OH

I think fans understand the cap repercussions of signing high-end free agents. What fans don't seem to understand is this isn't Madden and just because a guy played like an 86 last year doesn't mean you're signing an 86 this year. He could be a 94 or more likely a 71. Just like it seems Randall and Rollins played like they were 70s but next year they may play like 90s. The NFL isn't a video game.

Everybody is human. The evolution of Davante Adams' game in 2016 is a good example of that. A lot of what happened a year ago was out of Adams' control, but he went back to work this year and showed everyone what he could do. What happens during one season doesn't automatically trigger the same result during the next.

Todd from Raleigh, NC

The coaching staff really knew what they were doing with Peppers this past season. He played the most snaps out of any OLB on the roster at a rate of 58.2 percent of plays. Peppers is incredible.

The Peppers plan paid dividends. He's one of the most durable players in NFL history, but it's still a game of attrition. The Packers had two very capable starting pass-rushers in Clay Matthews and a healthy Nick Perry. When injuries started to pile up, a fresh Peppers made the difference for a defense that was taking the ball away left and right during the final month of the regular season. He was exactly what the Packers needed him to be this year.

Dano from Madison, WI

What is the inside scoop on Kyler Fackrell? Do the Packers think he's one of those players that will make a big jump in his second year? I just realized as I was writing this, he was competing for playing time with four No. 1 draft picks.

This was a developmental year for Fackrell with four veterans (Matthews, Peppers, Perry and Datone Jones) all ahead of him on the depth chart. The 6-foot-5 rookie still had his moments before a hamstring injury slowed him down in the second half of the season. His strip-sack of Eli Manning in Week 5 was a big play in the Packers' 23-16 win. Fackrell finished with 18 tackles, two sacks and that forced fumble in 13 regular-season games. The Packers will look for him to make a jump in his second NFL season.

Reed from Chicago, IL

I had a question about IR. Do players still travel with team if they are able? Is that in their best interest to still provide team support? Where exactly did Eddie go? Did he and Sam stay in Green Bay to be close to the team?

Every situation is different depending on the injury. Players who recently have undergone surgery tend to stay behind. However, I remember DuJuan Harris (2013) and B.J. Raji (2014) traveled with the team when they were on IR. Shields traveled to Atlanta, but spent most of the season back home in Sarasota, Fla.

Justin from Downingtown, PA

Do we have any compensatory picks this year, and if so do we know what rounds they are? How many picks in total do we have? I would like to see Thompson use some of these extra picks to gain another high pick to counter constantly picking from the bottom of the rounds, if the situation presents itself of course.

Compensatory picks will be distributed in March. The Packers will be getting one for Casey Hayward and potentially could get another for Scott Tolzien.

Jeff from Kenosha, WI

Insiders, it seems to me that TT has only hit on two defensive players in the draft since 2011. Those would be Mike Daniels and Clinton-Dix. With that kind of drafting, wouldn't you agree that a team has to use FA?

You're using a pretty narrow prism to judge the defense. Perry had 11 sacks this year, Casey Hayward was a finalist for defensive rookie of the year in 2012, and Hyde has been one of the league's most versatile DBs for the last four years.

Jack from La Crescent, MN

Will Jared Abbrederis ever play for the Packers again?

He currently plays for the Detroit Lions.

Tim from Madison, WI

One more year at least Vic! Don't leave us with nothing but soap opera talking heads.

Hey, who are you calling a soap opera talking head? Wait, what the heck is a soap opera talking head?

Joffrey from Ft Mitchell, KY

I love reading your articles and all of the insight that you provide throughout the year. You all do a wonderful job explaining your answers and provide numerous statistics to support your answers and I love that. I have noticed that some "fans" have less interest in watching this team grow together while enjoying the ride and are all about "win now or fire someone." I cannot understand this mentality at all. I appreciate all of the hard work and diligence that you provide throughout the season and offseason. Keep up the excellent work and don't let the sunshine fans dictate the tone of the articles. Go Pack Go!

1)  Is your name really Joffrey? If so, that's awesome.

2)  Do you know what a soap opera talking head is?

3)  Thanks for reading.

Matty from Durango, CO

Can you think of any long career players whose first four- or five-year contract was riddled by injuries but who had an illustrious career after that?

I was wracking my brain thinking about this. All I could come up with was maybe Matthew Stafford, Darren McFadden and Sean Lee. If anyone else can think of a player who fits in the category, please feel free to pass it along. It's a great question.

Johan from Pembroke, ON

Rodgers has played below his standards in the three conference championship games he's been in, so history would tell us if the Packers want to get back to the big game, their defense somehow has to get better, no?

If you take away Rodgers' interception – which was basically a 55-yard punt with no return – he had a 103.1 passer rating against the Falcons. That's not too shabby. But yes, I think everyone agrees the defense needs to play better than it did against Atlanta.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

I loved the "2016 Images of the Year"! Evan's pictures are some of my favorite things the site puts up. The video was so well done, hats off to all involved. I'm loving connecting with the team through pictures. Can you thank whoever had the idea? For a fan of 20 years still waiting to get to Lambeau Field, it's pretty special to see all the visuals in still frame.

That was the genius of our video editor Adam Hoebelheinrich. He did a fantastic job of blending in Evan's work with sound from the 2016 season. I highly recommend you**check it out if you haven’t already**.

Tom from Bismarck, ND

I want to give you three guys recognition for what you've done for me and thousands of other GB fans. I started watching the Pack in 1955, before Lombardi. They were terrible but I stuck with them. Most of those years I just went with the flow. Good years happy, bad years I wanted to fire everyone and start over! I started reading when Vic came and slowly you guys changed my outlook. I learned to be patient, realize we weren't going to the SB every year and enjoy the game because you guys explained the philosophy behind the moves being made. I now enjoy the game with much less frustration. You all are much more than reporters or commentators. You're teachers and you make it fun. Thanks and keep it up! BTW, I hope Vic is going to keep throwing his two cents in. I enjoy all three of you!

It's been a fun year. I'm looking forward to penning this column during the offseason and seeing where the conversation takes us. There's plenty to discuss.

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