Packers chat with Pete Dougherty

Packers chat with Pete Dougherty

Wednesday, Sept. 26 transcript

    Pete,
    It is looking like the last few Thompson draft whiffs are starting to play catch up. It has gotten to the point that even the best QB in the game can no longer cover up all the roster weak spots. We have a suspect O line with no serviceable backups, safeties that are afraid to tackle, can't get lined up and can't track the ball. We have needed pass rushers for the past three drafts and the highest pick devoted to it was a third rounder who offers next to nothing pressuring the passer.
    How do you view the roster relative to others in the league? To the naked eye, it appears they do not have a lot of explosive athletes and have drafted a lot of "just good football players" who don't hurt you, but don't elevate the talent level.
    OK, let's get this rolling. I'll agree that Thompson's last several drafts overall weren't very good. Now, the Kenny Clark pick is looking very good, and the jury's still out on Kevin King -- his health will determine, there's ability there. And the Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams picks look like good ones. Bakhtiari was an outstanding pick if you want to go back that far. But as you say, he just hasn't found difference makers in the last two or three years, especially on defense. Clark looks like one, but that's about it. Comparing their roster to other teams, not much separates most teams. Looks like the Rams and Vikings have more talent than most, the Bears have a lot of talent on defense. But it's the quarterbacks that make the difference. I'm guessing the Packers' talent is about in the middle of the pack, maybe was a lower than that last year but it's looking to me like they're catching up this year. You can see the talent  with Alexander and Jackson, and even with the little bit with seen from Burks. Valdes-Scantling has some ability though he's got a long ways to go. It's just such a QB driven game. Look no further than Cleveland last week for the latest evidence of that.
    Hi Pete, with Kings injury issues and the injury (IR) to House signing Breeland looks like a good and necessary move. Although I'm familiar with the name I don't know much about Breeland's game. What are his strengths and weakness'? Not a very high bar but if you were to compare a healthy House and Breeland how would that look?
    From what I heard about him in the offseason, he has good ball skills. I got the sense he was a little better as a zone guy and than man-to-man (ran a 4.62 coming out, so he's not fast for the position). Sounds like a good depth pickup. Wouldn't be surprised if he's a little better than House, though I do wonder how much House's shoulder was affecting his play. I don't think House was on the injury report, so I don't know if he hurt the shoulder last week in the game or if that was lingering.
    Hi Pete, the safety play has been poor. When do you see Whitehead etc. get their turn to start
    Wouldn't be surprised at all if it were this week. I have to think Jones will be back this week, too, he said last week he was ready to play but was left inactive.
    The NFL should re-name their league the NFFL, (National Flag Football League). Two reasons;
    The first is just put flags on the players, and go to Flag Football and be done with it. The second is, I think the officials consider themselves a bigger part of the game than the players. I have LOST my enthusiasm for the NFL. Good Bye for good!
    officials are
    I agree, it can be tough watching some of these games, seems like there's a flag every-other play. Then again, it also looks like they let a lot go, they allow a lot of hand fighting between receivers and DBs, and I'm not sure I fully understand what's holding on the OL, they probably could call it on most plays. They do need to do something about the body-weight thing. I totally, completely get the idea of protecting QBs. Teams rely so heavily on them, and when the good ones get hurt, it kills the interest in a team (Packers last year, SF this year). Also, they really are in an incredibly vulnerable spot. When a running back gets hit he's running hard and deliver as well as receive. But QBs are so vulnerable and getting plowed into by 230 to 330 pound guys going full speed. So they deserve protection. But the pendulum has swung a little too far, and the league needs to adapt mid-stream. We'll see if it does.
    Aaron Jones is the better talent at RB, why not play him more? Shouldn't the best player be playing, regardless of who earned what during the off season, practice, and training room? They are in the business of winning games, not rewarding effort.
    After the game McCarthy basically said they limited Jones' snaps because in his first game after missing two weeks of practice and games, they were concerned about getting him injured. I questioned that logic in my own mind at the time, but they might have data to support the decision, and more important, it dawned on me yesterday that Jones' injury history (two MCL's last year,  hamstring in camp this year) probably justified that approach. But I have to think he should be ready for a lot more work this week, and I have to think he'll get it, because as you say, it's pretty obvious  he's their best guy with the ball in his hands, adds a dynamic quality none of the other backs has.
    Oh wow, Nick Perry is hurt again. Oh look so is Kevin King. How long until you move on from guys who are frequently hurt? Shouldn't a player have just 3 years to fulfill their "upside" or move on to someone else?
    That's about right. Now King is only in Year 2. Perry had the great fortune of staying healthy and having a real good season in his contract year. And when he plays and is near full strength, he plays pretty well, very stout against the run and decent as an outside power rusher. But his injury history says it's almost a given he's going to get hurt. Next year he's due $10.6M in salary and bonus, so they'll have a big decision to make there. That's a lot of money for a guy you just can't depend on to stay healthy. On the other side, though, they're really weak at OLB. I'm sure part of it will be based on how many games he misses or is diminished by injury this year. But you're right in suggesting they might have to move on.
    Why are injuries discussed by the teams, coaches, and players as if they were secret nuclear launch codes. Competitive advantage for opponents, HIPPA laws, or?
    Competitive advantage. They want opponents to have as little information on them as they can. I'm not sure how much if any difference it makes, but they seem to think it matters and at least creates uncertainty for game planning.
    Did you notice how many bad punt snaps there were ? J. Scott was all over the field trying to grab those snaps. Is there any talk of looking for a new long snapper or will they wait until it costs them a game. The long snapper competition came down to the wire in camp...but they decided to go with the drafted Hunter Bradley.
    I noticed the two really low snaps during the game, then re-watching yesterday saw there were two or three others that were off-target too. I'm sure they went with Bradley because they liked him enough to draft  him so gave him the benefit of the doubt based on the talent they saw. But I have to think he's on pretty shaky ground right now. With how skilled those guys have come, you just can't have any bad snaps, you can't have a snap cost you a game.
    Hi Pete, I wrote you a week ago thinking the Packers could be 5-0-1 at the Bye Week - I submitted my question late, so not sure you had a chance to read it, but now after the WASH loss, I'm not sure what record the Packers will have at the Bye Week. I'm as BIG of a Packers fan as there is, but in recent years as like this year is starting out, I've become more REALISTIC of a fan than OPTIMISTIC on what we can expect based on the pre-season hype of being true Super Bowl contenders. I know it's only 3 games into the season, but where do you see this team going over the next few weeks and the rest of the season factoring in that Rodgers will probably be playing on a gimpy knee all year and now both Wilkerson and House are out for the year with injuries, Bulaga's back issues have re-emerged, etc...And the Packers always seem to be snake-bite with injuries, but that's a conversation for another day! Thank you.
    I have to say, after covering this team and league for 26 years, I've gotten leery of drawing many conclusions from early in the season, really to some extent even in the first half of the season. In 2014 the Packers started 1-2 yet went on to the NFC championship game, which they basically had won until the meltdown, and based on how Seattle blew the Super Bowl, I have to think the Packers would have had a decent chance against New England, too. Then the next season they started 6-0 only to finish 10-6 and flame out in the divisional round of the playoffs. About the only thing I can say about the league right now is that the Rams look really good, based on how they were last year and the talent they added in the offseason and they're promising young coach. To some degree you just have to see how things evolve in the next month or so. I know that's not a particularly satisfying answer, but that's just the way this league works. The Packers had been really healthy until last week. Even Rodgers' injury, while obviously a problem, doesn't prevent him from playing. After the game I wrote that the Bulaga and Wilkerson injuries could be really costly, but to some degree that might have been an overreaction too, at least with Wilkerson. He was playing OK and definitely helped their run D, but I'm not sure he's that much better than Lowry. So losing him hurts depth, and now one more injury on the DL becomes a problem, but the dropoff to Lowry might not be that great. Bulaga's injury could become a big problem if he has to miss a bunch of games, because tackle is such an important position, and the Packers have no depth at tackle. So his health will be important. I guess a lot depends on how fast Rodgers recovers, which, we all know that, right? Much depends on whether those young CBs can make up for other defensive deficiencies by making some big plays.
    It's been a long time since I played football and admittedly I'm old-school. Pete when did it become OK for teams/coaches to teach players how to block by grasping hold of the jersey? All the grabbing just leads to sloppy technique and holding penalties.
    It's been that way for a long, long time, I think as long as I've been covering, and that goes back to '93. The rule basically is you can grab the jersey within the framework of the defensive player's body, but you can't go out to the shoulders. The problem I have with it is, you can hold like that but then if the QB or RB goes outside instead of staying inside, and the defensive player tries to peel away, it's suddenly holding. The blocker doesn't have eyes in the back of his helmet, he can't see that, so I just don't know how the league justifies that it's holding if the runner goes one way but not if he goes the other.
    I appreciated the column about the quick rhythm game, and the nod to Montgomery's production. A couple of related points:

    1. Rodgers holds the ball too long, going for the quick strike. He's already banged up and hobbling; he can't continue like this. Other QBs are healthy. The sacks can't continue or they will knock him out.

    2. Through three games, Monty has 20 touches for a 6.6 avg; Williams 41 for a 4.0 avg; Jones 7 for a 7.1 avg.

    3. Throwing bullets into tight windows, on a rainy day, is a losing proposition. An easy toss in space to one of our playmakers is a winner: look at the stats.

    R. Finally, you pass to open up the run; you run to open up the pass. AR and McC don't seem to get that. If they did this, the opportunities for longer strikes would present themselves.

    We should be scoring 40 points per game.
    Yeah, he's always had a tendency to hold the ball, and it's a double-edged sword because it creates some spectacular, big plays, but also leads to sacks and hits, and passing up easy underneath stuff that can keep the chains moving. In Rodgers' current state, he just has to get it out and hope the bigger plays grow out of that as the D adjusts. I will say, they basically played like that in the second half, but then they had a receiver drop a fourth-down conversion, a tight end drop a deep ball that was right on the money on a third down, and then the receiver lose a fumble. They were in position to come back and win, but those plays ended three big possessions.
    Is the roughing the passer penalty the call of a particular ref? I go back to the Vikings game and the ref said it looked like Matthews picked up the QB, but looked at from another angle it was pretty clear he didn't. They seem to consult on so many other calls, why didn't they in that situation? Or is there only 1 ref with a good view of that tackle? I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but am looking for some way for things to improve within the current structure.
    Yes, it's the call of the referee (he's the only one wearing a white hat, and he announces the penalties, he's the head of the crew). He stands behind the QB every play, and that call is his. I do think the league is going to have to make those calls reviewable, it's such a hard call for officials to make, and it's affect on the outcome of games can be significant.
    Good afternoon from VA, Pete! I have 2 comments that I would love to see your response: 1) Green Bay has faced 3 straight top 10 defenses thus far during the season (2 of which are top 5) I think the packers will be better off because of these challenges.

    2) PFF just said today that Damarious Randall hasnt missed a tackle in the 195 snaps that he has played thus far (grading out to be the 5th best FS in the NFL). We should've shifted him to his rightful position instead of shipping him off to cleveland.

    BEAT THE BILLS! GOPACKGO!
    They have played some good defenses so far, though the rankings won't mean much until we get about six or seven games into the season. It does sound like Randall is playing well for Cleveland. Safety probably is his natural position. He played a lot of slot corner in college and played the ball well, but it seems like he's at his best in centerfield. I'd like to see how aggressive he's been as a tackler.
    None from today as far as I can tell. Practice started at 11:30, so the reporters there to take attendance should be tweeting relatively soon on who was practicing and who wasn't.
    Any reason to hope, now that Burks is back, they'll try Jones exclusively at safety, instead of having him partially learn 2 positions? We haven't had a safety with that kind of range since Collins, so it would be nice to see if he can develop a game to go with it.
    Not sure, but the thing is, Jones isn't a free safety type, he's much more a box safety, a 220-pound guy who runs well. Last year he blew more than his share of assignments in deep coverage. So I'm not sure he'll be the answer, even though he has the speed to play back there, it doesn't seem to be his natural position. He's more effective when he plays near the line of scrimmage. He practiced back there some, so maybe they'll give him some time this week, but I wouldn't be surprised if Whitehead got a shot before him.
    Why so little usage of TE Lewis, he is such a great blocker?
    I do wonder if he'll get more time assuming Bulaga has to miss at least a game and maybe more. They can line up the TE on that side and help chip, or line him up on the other side and slide the protection to help the RT, which would leave the TE to block the farthest rusher on the left. This last game Lewis got smoked on inside move by an outside rusher, might have been Kerrigan. He blocked better against the run but only played about eight or nine snaps. The guy I'm thinking they need to play some is Tonyan. He's a better receiver then Kendricks.
    After watching Brice get roasted again and seem unwilling to tackle (odd for a guy that was a big hitter) does your opinion of the trade value for Earl Thomas change? He’s easily worth a 2 for this team and I’d consider giving up the Packers 1 this year.
    I'm still thinking he might be worth it, though I have to say that after I finished the column I heard back from a fourth scout (talked to three for that column) who said he wouldn't do it, that Thomas is an aging player in decline, and that's too much money and high a pick. I have to think that's the Packers' thinking on him. So it's not an easy call, nothing like Mack. I still am intrigued by the idea of getting him, though I would not give up a 1.
    Pete - Is Pettine hamstrung by the lack of talent on the D or is he another version of Capers?
    I'd say that the Packers' start shows how tough it is to play D when you don't have a rush and have coverage issues. For Capers the coverage issues was lack of CB talent, for Pettine it's been the safety play so far. Either way, it makes it especially risky to blitz, but without blitzing the rush isn't very good. Wonder if the Packers' draft next year will be like this year's only with OLBs as the first two picks instead of CBs.
    People forget that the Saints went 7-9 for 3 consecutive years with a healthy Drew Brees. I'm not predicting that for our Packers, but it goes beyond having a franchise quarterback. Realistically, are we two great drafts away from truly having a Super Bowl contender?
    No, I'd say one draft. New Orleans had one really good draft last year and was a SB contender. I thought the Saints were the best team in the NFC last year. Not sure what's up with them this year, but they did beat an explosive Atlanta team last week so maybe they're getting back on track. And look, if Alexander and Jackson end up being really good players by the end of this season, which is at least in the realm of possibility based on what we've seen so far, that alone could make a significant difference for the Packers.
    Hi Pete, looked like McCarthy (and Rogers), as usual, abandoned the run too early against Washington. With Rogers hurt, you'd think the Packers would capitalize when a defense seems focused on stopping the passing game. Does the fact that Rogers is almost always in shotgun or pistol to protect the knee affect how often they run?
    I think it makes the run game a little less effective, running with the QB (and play action) work much better from under center.
    McCarthy went on his yearly rant about tackling and fundamentals. If we are continually having this repeat issue, is it lack of coaching or just that we turn over so many players each year they don't know that McCarthy wants them to tackle?
    I think McCarthy just uses that stuff as a catch-all for public consumption after losses because he doesn't want to reveal what he really thinks and doesn't want to publicly single out players for criticism. Basically, NFL head coaches try to say as little of substance publicly as they can, and that's a way for McCarthy to do that. Fundamentals is his go-to explanation in press conferences.
    Is King ready for this weekend? Our secondary seems a LOT different when he's out.
    Just checked Twitter, King is among the players not practicing. The other are Perry (concussion), Wilkerson (ankle), Rodgers (knee),  McCray (shoulder), Bulaga (back) and Graham (undisclosed).
    Hi Pete,
    On paper, the Packers have a relatively easy schedule the next 3 games, followed with a bye week. After that, they have a brutal stretch of 4 road games in 5 weeks. With Rodgers leg clearly not 100% would it make sense to shut him down for 4 weeks until after the bye in hopes of him returning healed before the tough stretch of the schedule?
    I'm not ready to go that far. Among the reasons for playing him is the message it sends to the team. It's a painful injury, and he's laying it on the line. That message permeates the locker room, it really is important. Plus, even one legged they have a much, much better chance to win with him than Kizer. The big questions is how much this is slowing his recovery. The medical staff probably has a decent idea of that, but that information is not forthcoming. It sure sounds like he has a bad bone bruise -- when players hurt ligaments in their knee, the bones often crash and create painful bruising that can be slow to heal. Maybe just getting to the bye and a full week of rest will make a big difference. But I'd keep playing him if I were them. This is one of the reasons you pay him all that money, to be on the field in the real games during good times and bad.
    Hi Pete -- thanks for the chat. To follow up with T. Noah. Randall during a game against Seattle came out of no-where into the TV screen to pick off Wilson. Obviously, his natural position is free safety. Anyway--so far the pack has lacked run defense, pass rush, has given up big plays, has tackled poorly--why do these same problems continue year after year? Thanks
    They just lack difference makers on defense, guys that tilt the field and make everyone better. They've definitely upgraded the talent at CB. But there are other shortcomings, as you note. Even one difference maker would change a lot. That's why I advocated going after Mack. In fact, the more I've thought about it, the more I think I'd have been willing to offer three No. 1s for him. That might sound crazy or reckless, but I'm not so sure it wouldn't have been the right (though risky) move.
    I watched that Browns-Jets game (who knew those two teams would ever produce must-see TV, but they did) and watched Randall a fair amount. He didn't seem at all interested in tackling anyone, but that may have been because of the defensive scheme. He was definitely the last line of defense so maybe the coaches tell him not to commit until it is absolutely necessary.
    This is what Bruce saw. Randall definitely has ballhawk skills. When he was here he seemed like a fairly willing tackler but was slightly build and wasn't what you'd call a good tackler.
    Pete, lets look into the crystal ball with some rash decisions. Do the Packers finish better than 8-7-1?
    Like I said earlier, I find it hard to draw big conclusions this early. I think I picked 11-5 to start the season, so I'll stick with that, or with the tie go 10-5-1.
    Is it very likely that "the rest of the roster" can be better than middle of the pack when you have $30 million of cap space allocated to one player?
    Sure, you just have to hit big on a couple draft picks and fill in a couple spots with savvy free-agent signings. Minnesota is paying its QB $28M.
    Your interest in Thomas intrigues me. I'm sure the Packers would need to know they can sign him before a trade could happen. I think they would need to work out a contract that adequately compensates Thomas but doesn't hamstring the team if he's injured or underperforms. Is that possible and can you negotiate quietly under the radar within the rules?
    That definitely would be part of the deal. What happens is, the sides agree on a trade contingent on the team signing the player to a long-term deal. The Packers would have a pretty good idea what it would take going in.
    Hey. When is it worth cutting bottom rotation players to take a chance on a new guy? I'm sure Packers fans are happy Gutekunst is proactive unlike Thompson, but I also know with teams aspirations, it would do great to boost morale to do it to guys who aren't producing. Junior Galette and Courtney Upshaw are names to throw out, who right now have to be better than Fackrell. Eric Reed is controversial for some teams, but there's T.J. Ward or Mike Mitchell who could be better fits than Brice. Are they expecting growth out of Brice or do they hope teams don't see the film and don't test the back end in the future?
    OK, this has to do it, other duties to get to. But thanks everyone for stopping by and sharing your opinions, concerns and questions. The Breeland signing suggests that Gutekunst is more willing to do things like that than Thompson was. Thompson would have just moved up somebody from the practice squad to replace House. So maybe we'll see more of that. I get that they kept Fackrell for special teams but I don't get why he played so much on D last week. I mean, I know they want to get Matthews and Perry fewer snaps to keep them healthier and fresher, but still, they have Gilbert for that. I don't know much about Galette and Upshaw, though I know age and health are a concern for them, they might be used up. But there could be other guys out there, maybe even on other practice squads, who could be worth a look. And with that, we'll call it a chat. Thanks again, always fun chatting with you. Keep checking back to PackersNews.com, we're always updating with news and analysis. Until next week, take care.
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