OK everybody, let's get right to it. I've been thinking the same thing myself for a few weeks now. That seems like it's exactly the kind of reasonably priced player you can get in free agency, a Howard Green type who can't really rush the passer but is a load against the run on early downs, just really hard to move, which limits running lanes and keeps blockers off linebackers. I really don't know anything about Reader, but I'd think there's a really good chance Gutekunst will sign that kind of player. I would if I were him, put it that way.
Generally speaking the Packers have a young staff, so it's a good idea to add a highly experienced coach to the mix. He's been a coordinator, so it might have at least a little something to do with run defense too, even though Gray is a DBs coach. I don't know exactly how the interview process worked, if he interviewed with Pettine also, but it sounds like LaFleur was very much involved, which suggests he was very concerned about the defensive performance in that last game.
The Smiths also are big for OLBs, so they should be able to hold the point of attack against the run too. It just seems like the Pettine/Ryan defense just isn't as sound against the run as other schemes, and that's going to have to change if the Packers are going to beat the SFs of the world. As mentioned in the first question, they also could use another big-body run-stuffer in the DL rotation, and more athletic ILBs too.
Jenkins did play some tackle in college, so that's certainly a possibility. Though he's such a good guard already I'm not sure I'd want to move him, it doesn't hurt to have really good players in there because you also have to block Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox and guys like that. I'd think that if Bulaga isn't back maybe they'd sign a relatively cheap vet and draft there in the first three or four rounds, and the better player starts. They could move Billy Turner there too, he's played RT in the NFL, though I'm not sure how well he'd hold up there. I don't think they'd have to use a first-round pick at RT to find a pretty good player. Bakhtiari was a fourth-rounder, for instance.
It could end up being only those three, yeah. Have to think they'll draft one high, maybe sign one (a slot guy?) in free agency. Valdes-Scantling is tall and can run, so that gives him a chance, but his playing time shrank to almost nothing by the end of the season, so he's in real danger of getting cut at the end of camp unless he figures it out. I don't know that they'll re-sign Allison, and even if they do it's far from a given he'll make it. Kumerow is cheap to bring back and they hold his right, but it's also very iffy that he'll make the 53.
He definitely can demand change, and I have to think he did, or Pettine beat him to the punch and told him of the changes he's going to make when they met after the season.
I still think Lowry is a decent player, a guy you can win with in the rotation, and Keke flashed some ability, there's hope for him. Hard to imagine Adams making the roster next season, and Lancaster is limited. So I don't think they have to rebuild the entire thing. They just need a run-stopper, which they might be able to get at a reasonable price in free agency, and agreed that if they can add a really talented guy early in the draft (including the first round) they should do it.
Yeah, completely fell off the radar. He just played his way off the field, got pushed around too much and never showed the pass-rush ability they liked when they drafted him. Like I said, there's no reason to think he'll be on the team next season.
He is a pretty good special teams guy, really he was as good as anybody they had on the cover teams. So I have to think he'll be on the team next year. He is looking like a bust at ILB.
The Pro Bowl is a joke and has been for years and years. Football is just too physical, and injuries are too common, to put all these top players at risk for a game that counts for absolutely nothing. They only play it because it gets decent TV ratings so it helps with the TV contract. Talk about your short-term thinking. One of these years somebody is going to tear an ACL. For the life of me I can't understand why anyone watches it, I've boycotted it for years. I saw a highlight when I was at the gym the other day and a saw a long catch and run touchdown pass where it looked like they were playing touch football. It looked like how they play in practice where there's no tackling allowed. It just boggles my mind that anybody even tunes in. It's just trash sports.
I'm assuming it was just one of those things where once a bug gets going in such a confined space with all those people, it's hard to stop it from going around. An employer can't force employees to get flu shots but the Packers strongly encourage it, and I'm assuming pretty much all the players get them. But as we know, the shots are only good for certain strains, so it probably was some other strain that went around. Their medical staff educates the players on good hygiene -- I'm sure many of you saw the Davante Adams quote, "wash your hands, wash your butt," something like that. I'm pretty sure that came from the team.
The coaching staff always has been the coach's purview since I've been covering this team ('93), and especially with this new setup, where LaFleur, Gutekunst and Ball all report to Murphy, I have to think it's completely LaFleur's call. I also have to think Gutekunst offers his opinion-assessment to LaFleur. My educated guess is that if LaFleur had someone he really wanted to hire and knew he could get from his past, his own guy so to speak, he would have made the change. But he liked Pettine's work enough and didn't want to start over on defense without a replacement in mind, so he stayed with him.
That's a perfectly valid take and could end up being right. I'm not saying I have the definitive answer. I just think being cautious there is playing the odds. Bulaga very well might have a couple more healthy, strong seasons in him. He also might get hurt next season and that would be about it. The risk of investing big is significant, and based on Lang and NFL history as a whole, I'd err on the side of caution and offer a deal about like what Bulaga had before. I get what your saying, and maybe you're right. As far as Taylor goes, he was an adequate replacement for two years, but then he had that ankle injury and never played quite as well. As for Wahle and Rivera, I don't think it's so much that Thompson let them walk as how little he did to replace them. From observing Gutekunst, I think he'd do more to bring adequate replacements. Very curious to see how this goes. It's not an easy call with Bulaga, because he had a good season and stayed healthy, and good tackles are hard to find. For all we know he'll still be playing pretty well two or three years from now. But this is a brutal game on guys' bodies, and if I were the Packers I'd be concerned how much longer he's going to hold up considering his past injuries. The end often comes quickly in this league, as it did for Lang.
Yeah, that honestly is the worst run defense I can remember by a Packers defense since I started covering the team, and to have it happen in the NFC championship game was astounding. They just didn't adjust. We don't have access to Pettine until the spring, so at that time we can find out what he thought. But he just didn't have any good adjustments, and it's hard to understand why. If nothing else, teams had been using that six-man front against that offense (like the Patriots in the SB against the Rams) and he didn't do that. Why not? What was there to lose? They must not have practiced it at all. Pettine prefers the less-is-more philosophy, don't overload the players with all these different calls, that way they know there assignments and can play fast. I see the value. But you have to have some fallbacks in your back pocket or you get run over like they did in that game, and you can't do anything about it. I think the scheme is very much an issue there, it has to become more run conscious, more run sound, even if that comes at the expense of rushing the passer.
Savage too, I have to think he learned a lot from this year. He had a really, really rough game against SF, took some really bad angles and missed tackles in the run game. He's not got an offseason to work in the system and absorb all the lessons from the season. I'd think the offense as a whole should improve in its second season in LaFleur's system. Rodgers should benefit from it, the OL, everybody. Look at the jump the Rams' offense made from Year 1 to Year 2 with McVay from '17 to '18. Sternberger is another possibility, he missed a big chunk of camp, came back, then missed the first half of the season. The offseason reps and then camp should help him a lot.
Interesting question, the only time I've heard of that is when Manning went to Denver, he basically brought his offense with him. Then again, that's not really what you're talking about, because everybody else had to learn the offense. It's a really big project to rework the language of an offense, and when LaFleur came in he was a new head coach who had so much on his plate -- hiring a staff, learning the roster, teaching his coaches the system, getting ready for the draft -- there's probably just not the time to makeover the playbook in an old language. And learning a new offense means more than just the language, though that's a huge part of it. There are all sorts of nuances in line splits, blocking angles, route details, techniques, that are a different in different systems. Language changes won't help there.
LaFleur said at his season-closing press conference that, for instance, he didn't get to very much up-tempo stuff this year, and that they'll be able to do more of that in Year 2. The personnel areas are what we've talked about: WR, TE, maybe RT. I'd think they'll want to add a running back, too. The run is so important to this scheme, and the Packers have too much riding on the precarious health of Aaron Jones. J Williams is a good football player but only an OK guy with the ball in his hands. Hard to know if Dexter Williams is going to make it, he couldn't get on the field at all even when J Williams got hurt. So I consider RB kind of an undersold need for this team. Finding another runner as good as Aaron Jones will be tough, but they really could use one who's better with the ball in his hands than J Williams. You can't have the offense crashing if Jones gets hurt.
Summers definitely is fast, he showed that in camp. I'm not sure whether he has the lateral quickness and change of direction speed you need in there. Not saying he doesn't and am not dismissing the possibility, but I can't say I saw it in preseason games last year.
If I remember right, I think Rodgers said after the game that the throw was a little behind Allison, and that he and Allison read the play a little differently. From what I remember of the play, there were several defenders nearby, so in the end it probably was a bad decision by Rodgers.
Yeah, those are the things Gutekunst has to weigh, and it really is a tough call with Bulaga. I don't know if they can get three starters from the draft, that's a lot. I'm thinking Gutekunst is going to have to do some really smart, mid-to-lower budget work in free agency, maybe a for a fallback veteran ILB, a run-stopping DL, a slot receiver or tight end, a fallback veteran RT if Bulaga doesn't re-sign. He might not have the money to sign anyone in the first day or two, like he did last year.
Not that confident. I mean, I'll be shocked if they don't take one in the first two or three rounds, and if I absolutely had to guess, I'd guess first round. But you never now. If this draft is as deep at WR as they say, maybe they can get a guy they really like in the second round, which would leave the first round for a DL or ILB. And what about QB? If there's a QB they really like available when they pick in R1, how do they not take him?
You never know exactly when, the news on those things probably will come out bit by bit over the next month. Teams can start negotiating with free agents March 16 and the market opens for signings March 18. I have to think the decision on Graham already is made, it's just a matter of when they cut him.
Yeah, you would think so. But we're also getting into areas that are beyond the level of our expertise. It could be Shanahan made some subtle adjustments in his run game, or the plays he had up for this game, that he hadn't shown much of. But yeah, I think we all wonder that. I still think it was mainly that Pettine's scheme just isn't as sound against the run as it needs to be, it's all about getting to the QB, and it was vulnerable to an outstanding run game. That obviously will have to change going forward.
That's quite the scenario. If the Bengals didn't pick a QB in R1 (and maybe even if they did) I'd probably take the QB. I mean, I'd have to be convinced that teams that didn't take him earlier were missing on him and that I thought he could be a keeper, but yeah, I'd take the QB.
I've seen other people mention that, and you never know what they're thinking. They'd save about $8M in cap space, which is a lot. But my thought is, no. He's a good player, you're line played really well last season, and if you do that you instantly lose depth much of your depth on the OL, which was a strength this season with Patrick and Veldheer. So I wouldn't do it.
I've wondered that too, Hooper and Henry both are pretty good, and they're young (25). So something to think about for sure. Rookie WRs and TEs usually take a year to make much impact, though I'd say a guy like Deebo Samuel with SF has made a difference, and he was a second-round pick. So it can be done.
It hasn't, and I can't say there's a country club feel to the team like there was with Rhodes. When Wolf hired Rhodes he thought he was getting this real tough coach, because Rhodes was a tough player and gave off that vibe, but in reality he was too lenient with guys as a head coach. I can't say I've gotten anything at all like that feel with LaFleur. Rhodes also was too unorganized for a head coach.
I don't think so. I asked an OL coach in the league about this last week, and he thought Veldheer played pretty well when he filled in for Bulaga after the concussion. But that was just finishing a game, and this coach, who had worked out Veldheer a couple years ago and thought he was getting pretty creaky even then, didn't think Veldheer would hold up physically if he had to play several weeks in a row, let alone a full season. I'm betting this coach is right on the money.
Some guys just aren't instinctive, natural football players. Maybe that's the case with him. He gives off the vibe that he wants to be really good. Maybe that was mostly just talk. Maybe something clicks with him this offseason, though the way his playing time dropped as the season went on bodes poorly.
This will have to do it, other duties to get to -- I've done all the research and interviews and am taking this afternoon to write the first draft of the LeRoy Butler presentation I have to give at the Hall of Fame vote Saturday. Important, have to make sure I get it right. As for your question, that's at least a possibility and is part of what coaches have to weigh when deciding how much to practice. I don't claim to have the answer, but after all these years covering the league, I'm inclined to think that the trade-off for good health is worth it. The Packers' great health was a big reason they went as far as they did, and while luck undoubtedly was a factor, the practice schedule probably was too. With that, we'll call it another chat. Thanks to all for your questions and comments and for taking the time to stop by. We'll do it again next week, so if I didn't get to yours, try again then. And special thanks to our subscribers, without you we couldn't cover this team as thoroughly as you do. Don't forget you can get the Packers News app for only $4.99 a month, that's all our Packers' news at a bargain price. Thanks again everyone, and we'll talk next week, when the NFL offseason will have officially started.