Packers chat with Pete Dougherty

Packers chat with Pete Dougherty

Submit your questions for Pete's live chat Thursday at noon CDT.

    In recent years it seems that the Packers draft defense early and often but the return on investment has been weak. Is there a good reason to anticipate this year's results will be any different?
    Hi everybody, before we jump in just want to let you know this probably will be my last chat until training camp. With that, let's get to it. Yeah, they've gone defense early and often. One reason I'm sure is they haven't hit big on many picks on that side of the ball so it's always been a liability, and they need to keep putting valuable resources into it. Is there reason to think this one will be any better with defensive players taken with the first two picks? Don't they eventually have to hit on a couple? Mike Daniels was a really good pick, Kenny Clark looks like an excellent one. Jaire Alexander looks promising. But they rarely have two first-rounders, so this is an especially important draft, especially with one of the picks being high (No. 12).
    J'Mon Moore has hands of stone and he fights everything thrown at him. Can you recall anyone other than Devonte Adams whose pass catching ability was "rehabilitated?" He's going to have a short career otherwise.
    Receivers definitely can improve their hands, just like basketball players can improve their shot as they get further into their 20s and into their 30s. You see that a lot in the NBA. But you don't go from bad hands to great hands, just like you don't go from a bad shooter to a really good one. Moore's hands were the issue in college too. You're right, he's got to improve there or it will be a short career. I guess he'll be a case study. Nobody is leaping to mind going back to the 90s for me as far as examples of guys who really struggled catching and then ended up being really reliable catching.
    Do NFL scouts, especially Packer scouts, travel less these days with all of the video / tech available to see film compared to yesteryear ?
    Maybe some of the pro-oriented scouts when draft seasons hits, but not college scouts from what I can tell. A big part of the college area scouts' jobs is to try to catch as many players as possible live (in practice or a game) and to visit their campuses for background research -- talking to coaches, equipment guys, janitors, anybody who has regular contact with these guys. But some of the pro guys and maybe even GMs can travel a little less because of the easy access to video. It sounds like Gutekunst still is on the road quite a bit during the season.
    1 or 2 UDFAs always seem to make the 53 and 6-8 will wind up on the PS with some promoted during the season. What names and positions on the UDFA and tryout list jump out at you this year? And who of the draftees will have the hardest road to make the 53?
    I've only read the bios of those guys, haven't asked anybody about them, but the most interesting guy seems to be the tackle from Virginia Tech, Yosh Nijman. He's huge (6-7, 320), ran a great 40 (4.81), and while tackles don't run 40 yards, that is an indication of an athletic big man. He had two broken legs early in his career and another injury or two, but it sounds like he's kind of interesting developmental guy. I'm not sure which draftee will have the hardest time making the roster, it will depend in part on injuries. I guess when it doubt go with the last two picks, Hollman and Summers,
    Predict starting oline for next year
    Hmmmm, good one. Left to right, Bakhtiari, Taylor, Linsley, Turner, Bulaga. It's really tempting to put Jenkins in there at one of the guard spots, could very easily happen. But for now I'll guess the veterans Taylor and Turner.
    Thanks again for taking the time for a chat. My question is about what is learned about a team and/or player during mini camps. We know it is a completely different game once the pads go on, but are there any positions or drills that give a better perspective than others? Also, would you mind to share any examples ofplayers who made a strong impression (good or bad) in mini camps who later look completely different once camp starts? Montravius Adams comes to mind, but I would be interested in any that stick with you. Thank you again!
    It's pretty tough for me to glean much. I think scouts and coaches get a lot more out of it, but even they can be fooled. Two years ago Josh Jones just jumped off the field in the three OTA practices that were open to the media. Each of those practices he made two or three plays on the ball where he broke fast, looked explosive. I thought they'd found themselves a player. But that part of his game didn't show up in training camp and hasn't since. I guess one of the things  you can tell is whether a QB can throw the ball. I remember in the offseason stuff when they signed Josh Heupel way back when, all he did was throw checkdowns. That's not an exaggeration, in the practices I saw I honestly don't remember him throwing anything but a checkdown. He probably had a weak arm as it was and I think he'd been injured. He couldn't throw the ball. Thinking back, Brian Brohm threw a lot of wobblers in his first offseason. I think coaches and scouts can see a lot about how guys move, whether DBs have loose hips when changing directions, and how sharp RBs can cut. Same for receivers. But I can't tell a lot from it.
    Pete would you be surprised if the Packers end up replacing Crosby this year? He's had some ups and downs, doesn't rank in the top half in leg strength and is near the top paid in the league and I don't think there'd be any dead money. Just saying it might be time, although I don't think he'd be out of work very long.
    A little, yeah. I mean, they brought in Sam Ficken for competition but I'd be surprised if Ficken beats him. Doesn't mean it can't happen. I remember when they drafted Conway and then signed Longwell as an extra leg for camp. I didn't think Longwell had a prayer, but Conway missed a couple kicks in the preseason opener, then hurt himself putting in extra work, and Longwell won the job.
    Pete, who will return punts and kicks?
    Good question, I thought in the later rounds they might draft a returner/slot receiver, but they didn't. So I guess Trevor Davis stays in the running. Alexander did some punt returning in college. Valdez-Scantling returned a couple kickoffs last year. That's a potential weak area, although the kickoff is on the road to becoming extinct.
    Hi Pete. Thanks for doing these chats. It seems like Gute's goal this offseason wasn't to retool the offense but to rebuild the defense and take pressure of Rodgers and LaFleur. What are your thoughts on Gute's work this year and do you think the new offensive system will be enough to get Rodgers back on track?
    Yeah, that clearly was the priority. Three big-money FAs on defense plus his first two picks. Speaks volumes. It's not something you can do regularly, and he had to overpay in free agency, but he had to do something. I thought he might sign a lot of guys in free agency to spread the risk around and hope he hit on a couple players, but instead he went big on three defensive players. I mean, I get why he did what he did, he felt he had to do something drastic, and he got younger and better at OLB. I'm intrigued by it, that's about as far as I can go. It's not like he signed any great rushers, but I'm intrigued by the idea of having six or seven guys they can rotate who are anywhere from OK to pretty decent rushers, keep sending fresh guys at the QB. It worked great for Seattle, though I don't think the Packers have anyone as good as Michael Bennett was. Still, LaFLeur talked about that after the draft, how tough it is on offenses when a defense sends wave after wave of fresh rushers at them. No idea on the second part of that question, about Rodgers and LaFleur's system.
    I know we wont know if these draft picks will work out for a few years but after watching some clips of Savage, I really like what I see. He plays hard and fast. I think he could make the biggest impact on the D the quickest.
    As I said in last Friday's chat, the couple scouts I traded texts with that day were pretty high on Savage. He didn't get any play in the media leading up to the draft, and in fact when I started checking around with a handful of scouts a couple weeks before the draft, he wasn't even on my list of first-round possibilities. But then a scout said the two guys who seem to moving up boards were Savage and Thornhill. Sure enough, by draft day Savage was in the mid-20s on a couple mock drafts I looked at. With the open starting spot and all the resources they put into drafting Savage (trading two fourth-rounders to move up eight spots to get him), he pretty much has to start this year, and they need him to be a good player.
    Hey Pete - I reviewed some tape on Dexter Williams, and his power and speed are really, really impressive. Why do you think he lasted until the 6th round? Character issues? Combine testing didn't meet expectations?
    I think the character issues were the biggest thing. Sounds like teams thought he was too unreliable and irresponsible.
    How much differently do you think of Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson than you did of Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins in May 2016?
    Interesting question. In May of '16 I thought Randall and Rollins were good prospects. Randall looked really springy and had very good ball skills, and Rollins seemed like he'd keep getting better after only playing one year of college FB. But Alexander last year looked better than Randall did as a rookie. He's more competitive and more physical as a tackler. To be honest, I probably thought more of Rollins at this time in '16 than I do of Jackson now, and I say that mostly because I thought Rollins played OK as a rookie and was going to improve a lot and end up being good. That obviously didn't happen, among other things his speed was an issue. Jackson is a more natural football player, is really good at playing the ball in the air. But after a strong training camp he struggled during the season, took way too many penalties, was really grabby in coverage, and there's still reason to wonder how big a problem his lack of straight-line speed is going to be -- that's probably why he's so grabby. But he does have impressive instincts and ball skills, it's not like there's any reason to give up on him after one season. This will be a big year for him. How much does he improve? I still wonder if he'll end up at safety. Wouldn't be surprised at all if he does.
    Kenny Clark is in a sweet spot. Only 23 and yet on the verge of a big contract for 4-5 years, so he will still be under 30 when that runs out and he can get another big contract. Question--how much do you think it will take to sign him for a long term contract, and is that doable this year with the limited money the Packers have for this year for salary.
    I haven't looked at the DL contracts recently and don't want to take the time to do it now, so this is just kind of guesswork. The Packers can keep the cost a little lower by signing him to an extension this year rather than waiting until next year. He has two years left on his contract at this point (that includes the fifth-year option they've already exercised), so that's two years of injury risk he'd be taking if he doesn't sign an extension. So that works in the Packers favor. I have to think we're talking in the range of $15M a year, maybe a little more. It's definitely doable for the Packers. I thought it was interesting, last year at one point when it looked like Khalil Mack might be available, I asked Gutekunst if in principle it was possible for the Packers to have one of the highest-paid QBs and highest-paid defensive players in the league, and he immediately answered yes.
    LSU K Cole Tracy was reported to be headed to Green Bay for a tryout, any news if he has been there an how it went? Sounds like he could be a solid XP and FG guy, but lacks leg strength for kicking off. Mason has been an AVE. kicker getting paid top 10 money, but hard to ignore he has been a solid playoff guy. You opinion on #2 being in Green Bay come September?
    I'm assuming he'll be at the rookie minicamp, which starts tomorrow.
    In recent years the Packers have lost offensive players like Sitton, Lang, Lacey, Nelson, and Cook to age, declining performance, injury, or stupidity in the case of Cook. Everyone of the replacements for those guys has been a lesser player. Some like Lane Taylor are okay; others are poor. Even the offensive back-ups are weaker than a few years ago. So year after year the personnel department drafts lots of defensive players in part because they've missed on so many. Meanwhile, the Packers strategy offense has been to say, "Rodgers will have to carry us." Except that's not working so well because Rodgers is 35, not 25 or 30; he's had serious injuries; and has lost some athleticism. What do you think of this strategy? Do you think a team can consistently win when it demands that the QB make up for the mediocre talent around him?
    As a general theory, I do. That's why he makes $33.5M a year. I mean, does Brady really have that much offensive talent around him? Now, all QBs need help. And LaFleur's plan to help is with the running game. That's where I'm still surprised they didn't take a running back earlier, because while Aaron Jones is a talented back, they can't rely on him to stay healthy and definitely can't give him too many touches or he'll get hurt. Like I said, don't get me wrong, he still needs weapons. But they have talent to work with there. St. Brown and Valdez-Scantling are really big guys who can run. Maybe they won't pan out, but there's ability there. Sternberger was a pretty high pick for the future. Jenkins in the second round. I get your point and have to think next year's draft will have more emphasis on offense. But you can't have everything in this league -- free agency and budget/cap constraints prohibit that -- and to some degree the Packers have to rely on Rodgers to carry their offense. Maybe as he hits the end of his career here that will have to change. I do wonder about RB though, if they've left themselves too thin there.
    Are we going to have a 1,000 yard rusher this year? O-line should be improved?
    I'd be leery of giving Jones enough touches to get to 1,000 yards, just wouldn't want to risk him getting injured. So if I had to guess now, I'd guess against them  having a 1,000-yard rusher. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's more important that Jones is available all season. Yeah, OL should be improved. They paid Turner a lot of money -- I think it was a $9M bonus -- and used their second-round pick on a guy (Jenkins) who appears to be pretty much NFL ready.
    Have you been able to observe LaFluer in practice? What is he like with his players?
    I have not seen a practice yet. There was a minicamp last week but I didn't go because I was working on draft stuff. The rookie minicamp practice will be open to reporters tomorrow, as will three OTA practices (one a week) and their mandatory  minicamp.
    So we all know the GM and a few key upper level management pieces have changed in the last 2 years ... but how much has the scouting department changed? If we are to expect these defensive picks to succeed at a higher rate than when Thompson was the lead dog then wouldn't that mean more turnover in scouting and other areas that we don't normally notice in the public eye?
    It's changed a lot. Besides Thompson leaving, Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith are gone, they had a big say in personnel while here. Jon-Eric Sullivan and John Wojciechowski both were promoted to high front-office positions, and then Gutekunst hired Milt Hendrickson from the Ravens this offseason to be his top adviser. So it's changed a lot. Gutekunst, not Thompson, is making the final call, and the top advisers around him have all changed.
    Regarding the hands of receivers, both Freeman and James Jones had issues their first season or two, and ended up being reliable (if not quite glue-fingered)
    Freeman is a possible example. Coming out of college the knock on him was he was a body catcher. He had occasional drop issues throughout his career -- I remember he had a bad drop late that was costly late in Super Bowl XXXII -- but he was a very good receiver. I don't think his drop issues were as bad as Moore's, though. Jones had a lot of drops as a rookie, but I don't remember reading-hearing that that was an issue with him in college. And from the very start -- going back to things you can pick up watching minicamps -- he was very much a hands catcher, which is what you're looking for.
    So what's the scoop on Gary's shoulder? Does he have a labral tear?
    A lot of it probably is semantics. He has a subluxation, which means the shoulder has popped out. Sounds like it's probably a partial tear. One team I talked with last week said he can play through it and manage it this year but that it will wear out and need surgery, very likely next offseason. Everything the Packers have said (while being very unspecific) is consistent with that. It's a long recovery from surgery, like six months, so that's why they'll wait until next year. I'm assuming Gary didn't want it this offseason because he wouldn't have been able to work out for scouts, which would have hurt his draft stock, and it is something he can play through if he wears a harness, etc.
    HI Pete, always look forward to your chats. Do you see the team having 4 TE's on the opening day roster. If any who gets left off? Thank you.
    Tough to say right now. I still wonder if Marcedes Lewis has enough left in the tank to make it this year. They gave him a $500,000 signing bonus, so they think so. But I don't think it's a given he makes it. Graham, Tonyan and Sternberger are very likely to be there, and then probably Lewis, but we'll have to see on him.
    Thanks for another great chat! So far I've seen three of the Packer's picks called the "steal of the draft," Sternberger, Williams, and Keke. If those suggestions are even close to being right this looks like a mighty good draft if the top half comes through, and I think they will. Talk to me Pete!
    You see those things all the time, if you look at all the different pundits and draft experts there are probably 50 steals, maybe even more. I think Gil Brandt ripped the Packers' draft. I saw earlier this week that former Washington and Houston GM Charley Casserley rated it the best draft in the league. Nobody knows.
    While many think it looks like the Pack intend on winning with defense this year, I say don't count the offense out. I think Aaron will be back to doing MVP like things, I think the offensive line will be greatly improved, I think at least one and maybe more of last year's receiver picks will step up big, and I think a new offensive scheme will have everyone on that side of the ball excited and playing with focus. Sure, there will be hiccups, and the special teams are a question mark, but I'd bet money the Pack is back in the playoffs (barring being sabotaged by injuries). What say you, Mr. Pete?
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