OK, lots of questions in the queue already, let's get right to it. I think we're finally starting to see what you're suggesting. Graham didn't have the most TE snaps last week, Lewis did, and Sternberger had 14 (to Graham's 24). So things appear to be trending in the direction of Sternberger playing more and Graham less. You never know, sometimes these things are just week-to-week matchup things, but it does seem like they want to get Sternberger out there more. He's blocked surprisingly well, and Tonyan had a bad game blocking last week. As for Kumerow, LaFleur said on Monday that he needs to get him out there more, and I have to think that would come at the expense of Allison's snaps, not Adams or Lazard. Grant hasn't suited up on game day yet this season so I'm not sure whether they'd suddenly just put him out there this late in the year unless there are injuries. But yeah, I thought they should have been playing Tonyan and Sternberger more earlier in the season -- I realize Sternberger missed half the season with an injury.
I know they do like Allison's blocking, LaFleur has referred to it a coupe times this year. I realize he's a receiver, and while blocking is important it's not exactly job description No. 1 for that position. I don't remember catching be an issue with him until this season, but it is this year. I wouldn't cut him if I were them, but I'd play Kumerow more.
The one thing I'll say is, there's a difference between drafting players at a position, and drafting them high. All the picks you're referring to are fourth round or later, and most were fifth to seventh rounders. Those are not high picks. Doesn't mean you can't hit on a good player or two, but it's a lot less likely. Agreed, though, they're going to have to use a high pick at that position this offseason. I haven't looked at the WRs who might be available in free agency, so not sure if he'll sign one, but it's always a possibility. TE too, maybe a cheaper veteran, assuming Grant and Lewis aren't back.
He was drafted to be a nickel ILB, a cover linebacker, and he just hasn't played well enough to stay on the field. He must be having issues getting down his assignments and making presnap adjustments and reads. He's been a disappointment, no question, a guy you would have expected to contribute this year even if he missed the last couple weeks of camp and first couple weeks of the season with the pec injury.
They have no shortage of needs. WR, ILB, DL, T, TE, CB because of King's shaky health. And then there's always the QB question, if there's a QB available they really like in the first couple rounds, I don't see how they pass on him.
I would think Valdes-Scantling will be on the roster next year. He can run and stretch the field -- I realize you've got to catch the ball too, but guys can improve at that -- and that alone has value.
I didn't forget about you Gary, and I've looked into this the last couple weeks. We'll start with Canadeo. They did have a halftime ceremony for Canadeo, and though it was conducted by a fan club, not by the team, it still needed the team's approval to do it. I'm still not really sure how Canadeo's number ended up being retired. Great player, Hall of Famer, but if you look at the guys who's numbers are retired -- Hutson, Canadeo, Starr, Nitschke, Favre, White -- the one who doesn't quite fit is Canadeo. Hutson is self-evident, Starr the on-field leader of the greatest dynasty in league history, Nitschke the personification of the talent and toughness of the Lombardi Packers, Favre turned the franchise around, and White as one of the greatest D players in league history and a guy who changed the franchise by giving it credibility as the most-coveted free agent in league history. The Packers, rightfully in my opinion, have a very, very high standard for number retirements (all their PFHOFers are honored with their names on the facade at Lambeau). As for Lambeau, he was a good player but not a great one, and I'd argue that numbers should be retired only for their accomplishments as players, regardless of what the Bears did. The one great omission from the retired numbers is Hornung's No. 5. Lombardi retired it but never held a ceremony and then left for Washington. From everything I've learned from Wolf and team historian Cliff Christl is that the coaches and scouts from the Lombardi era (including Lombardi) considered Hornung the best player from the Lombardi teams.
Yeah, count me among those who think the Packers should draft a QB high if there's one available they really like. Rodgers if I remember right is the same age Brady was when the Patriots drafted Garoppolo. If Rodgers plays great and is going strong in a few years, the Packers always can do what the Patriots did and trade the QB.
Campbell still played a lot (36 snaps) though Sullivan played more (56). I'm still thinking that was more game circumstances than anything, The Packers were up by three scores in the third quarter, so Pettine played a lot of dime and wanted the better cover guy in there with the Bears in comeback passing mode. I'd think against the Vikings, who are more adamant about running, that Campbell will play more because he's a little bigger and more physical than Sullivan against the run.
Possessing the ball would help a lot to keep the defense off the field, and that probably means running it fairly well. That would be a good starting point. Getting ahead would be huge too, anything to put more of the onus on Cousins.
There probably is good reason to think they'll be better on offense next year, after a year in the offense and an offseason to tinker and adjust. I also have to think Gutekunst is going to add an important offensive player or two via free agency and the draft. I also wondered how the game might have changed if Valdes-Scantling catches that pass. They probably aren't that far away. They have consistently started well, which means their game plans and scripts coming in have been pretty good. But they haven't finished as well and aren't putting teams away, which suggests the in-game adjustments aren't as good, which could be an indication of LaFleur's inexperience calling the shots -- he was a play caller for only one year before getting this job. I'm curious to see if a team (especially its young players) can improve at the very end of the year, or if it is what is by this stage.
The Vikings definitely are playing better than they did early. I'm sure some of that is because Gary Kubiak, who's running the offense even though he's not calling plays, has learned his players and especially come to understand Cousin's strengths and limitations. So the Packers will be facing a better team than it saw in September -- that is, unless Dalvin Cook doesn't play. He's a huge part of the Vikings' offense and takes the load off Cousins, and if his shoulder injury keeps him out that changes things. I actually think the Packers defense has played better the last couple weeks, it's stopping the run better and Clark has stepped up his game. But the Packers' offense played its best in the middle of the season, when Adams was out, and has been really spotty since then.
The Patriots are special that way because of Belichick, he just seems to have an ability that's better than everyone else to both identify the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent, and figuring out the best way to take away the strengths and attack the weaknesses with the players he has. So I'm hesitant to compare the Packers to that. But I will say, I think Washington is a little better than its record suggests, and the Bears had been playing pretty well -- they kinda blew Dallas off the field a few weeks ago -- so those wins might be a little more impressive than they seemed just watching the games.
I didn't notice the official on that play, but as long as the ball is pitched sideways or backwards it doesn't matter if it hits the ground, it's still a live ball. I just now re-watched the play, and I'm not sure what he was signaling, but I think he might have only been signaling that it was a legal pass because it was backwards. Not sure about that, but that's my best guess.
I'd go Aaron Jones first with Z Smith a very, very close second, though the argument for Z Smith might be just as good. Jones is the tougher argument for the Pro Bowl, because he just didn't have the touches the backs who made it did (McCaffrey, Elliott and Cook), but he's an outstanding player. Z Smith probably has the better argument for the Pro Bowl. There's a pretty good argument he had a better season than Khalil Mack.
So just to be clear, the Packers still have a big inside track on the NFC North. Even if Minnesota wins this game, the Packers win the North (and No. 3 seed) if they beat Detroit in the last game. But yes, I think the bye would be really, really big. They have such great health this year, maybe the best since I've been covering this team ('93), and to get that wild-card weekend off while their divisional-round opponent had to play and risk adding to its injury list would be huge. Then there's the home-field advantage for that game -- playing New Orleans at Lambeau in January is a much different animal than playing at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. So I think they should pull out all stops to try to win this game. I see the bye as nothing but a good thing for them, their poor performance at SF after their regular-season bye notwithstanding.
Interesting thought and a good reason for concern. Problem is, Jones is the much better threat as a runner and receiver, so if I"m the Packers I want him on the field a lot this week. I wonder if Jones has to try something different to block those guys coming at him full speed so the don't just overrun him. We'll see Monday if LaFleur agrees with you and uses the bigger Williams a lot in protection.
I might be in the minority in thinking this, but I'd bet he gets a head coaching job this offseason. I bet owners will like his ideas of the expanded analytics staff, for instance.
The idea of having an identity is not overblown, and I think coaches and players do think in those terms. You're right that being multiple can be an identity, though more often the identity is more focused than that. But if you don't have an obvious identity, then you make-do. The one thing that could happen is, their identity could be more Jones-centric from here on out, or in the postseason at least, if they decide to get him more touches after managing his workload (smartly, in my opinion) during the season.
The one thing I'll say is, it's not just Rodgers who wants to get the ball downfield. Several times this year, including on Monday, LaFleur has talked about how hard it is to score in this league without chunk plays. Seems to be an emphasis of his as well.
I don't. The injury might have been issue, you never know there. He's historically played well in December -- eight of his 15 1/2 career sacks have come in December, and that even though he missed the last three games last season.
I don't know, LaFleur and Hackett hint/suggest his role could expand, or that he's been a bigger part of the game plan but it doesn't pan out. I think it's just going to be a week-to-week thing with a lot of these guys. It would help if Vitale were a better blocker. But he is a good receiver, really he's just a short TE. I would like to see how he'd do in short yardage/ goal line like McCarthy used to use Kuhn, where they line him up real close to the QB for the quick-hit handoff.
OK everybody, this went really fast but it's time to end this chat, other duties to get to. But thanks all for coming by. I don't have a great answer for you other than maybe staying out of third down altogether. Earlier in the season the penalties were a big issue in the third-down woes, they'd get behind the chains on early downs and then face third and medium or more. But I don't think that's been as much the case the last few weeks. They game plan for third downs, so they can use some improvement in their plans for third down too. Again, maybe if they get the ball to Jones more now (run and pass) -- I think they were smart to manage his workload all season, but time to pull out all stops now -- they'll get third-and-short more often. That would do wonders for their third-down conversion rate. And with that, we'll call it a chat. With Christmas on Wednesday next week, obviously no chat that day. But we'll see what we can do about doing one, even if a shorter chat, on Thursday or Friday. We'll keep you updated, just check back on the Packers News home page next week. Thanks to all of you for coming by, as usual way too many questions to get to most let alone all, but thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts. Big game this week, there will be plenty to talk about next week and beyond. So until our next chat, take care everybody, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!