Paul Imig's Oct. 24 Packers mailbag
OCT 24, 2013 9:45a ET
Q: With all the money tied up in Rodgers and Mathews, don't you think the draft is really important? How many more #1 picks can Thompson afford to miss on, Harrell, Sherrod, Perry, and Jones to name a few? Every year the Packers are one of the youngest and most injury riddled team, I think you have to start nailing some #1 picks, they are being paid more and eating up cap and roster spots.-- James, LaFarge
A: It's absolutely true that the amount of money Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews are now making means that Ted Thompson and Green Bay's front office have to get a lot of other things right in order for the Packers to have a well-balanced roster. It's easier to build a good team when the quarterback is still on a rookie contract, especially when that quarterback is good. The San Francisco 49ers with Colin Kaepernick (making $740,844 in 2013), the Seattle Seahawks with Russell Wilson ($526,217 in 2013), the Cincinnati Bengals with Andy Dalton ($749,018 in 2013) and the Indianapolis Colts with Andrew Luck ($1.39 million in 2013) -- four teams with a combined record this season of 21-7 -- all have more money to spend on the rest of the roster than what the Packers do after Rodgers signed his five-year, $110 million extension.
Because of that, yes, the draft is by far the most important part of building the team. No one believes in the draft-and-develop strategy more than Thompson. Green Bay definitely missed on Justin Harrell in the first round in 2007, but it's too early to call Derek Sherrod (2011) a bust after the broken leg he suffered -- and is finally recovered from 22 months later. Sherrod needs a full healthy season before determining whether the 24-year-old offensive lineman was a good draft pick. As for Nick Perry, he started becoming a good outside linebacker this season before his injury. The improvement Perry has made in just one full NFL season suggests he's going to be a positive contributor in Green Bay for several years. Datone Jones is only seven games into his career, and while those seven games have been disappointing, he too needs time to develop before proclaiming him a good or bad selection by Thompson.
As for the rest of Thompson's first-round picks, he has Aaron Rodgers (not a bad draft pick, I'd say), A.J. Hawk (never delivered at the caliber of a No. 5 overall pick but has remained healthy and is playing the best football of his career right now), B.J. Raji (productive but not outstanding for a No. 9 overall pick), Clay Matthews (arguably the best outside linebacker in the league) and Bryan Bulaga (a talented offensive tackle who's going to miss 23 consecutive regular-season games due to injury by the time this season is over). Overall, that's a pretty good track record of "nailing some No. 1 picks" in my book, with the exception of Harrell and with the jury still out on Jones, Perry and Sherrod.
Q: Would the NFL mandating stiffer guaranteed suspensions lessen the chances of injuries similar to that suffered by Jermichael Finley?-- Howard Klueter, Wausau, WI
A: In a general sense, yes, if the NFL handed down suspensions for dangerous hits more often, defensive players would be forced to change at a more rapid rate. It sends such a mixed message that the NFL reduced the suspension of Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather from two games to one game. As Packers fans remember from Week 2 of this season, Meriweather gave Eddie Lacy a concussion on a non-penalized helmet-to-helmet hit and then gave himself a concussion when leading with his helmet to tackle James Starks. Meriweather did a similar thing twice against the Chicago Bears this past week, hitting receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall with dangerous contact. That led to Meriweather's two-game suspension, however, the NFL reduced it to just one game.
Players get fined every week for hits that put an opposing player at risk of serious injury. In my opinion, the NFL has become too quick to fine players. For instance, the block that Jermichael Finley put on Terrell Suggs in Week 6 cost him $15,750, and it certainly didn't seem like a block that was worthy of any level of fine. It was just violent, which, of course, the NFL has an increasing dislike for.
All of that information brings me to the actual question asked above. The hit by Cleveland Browns safety Tashaun Gipson that injured the neck of Finley wasn't dirty. Coach Mike McCarthy said it was a clean hit, as did offensive coordinator Tom Clements. It's just the result of Finley being rushed to the intensive care unit at the hospital that makes that particular hit look bad. So, do I think dirty and dangerous hits would be less frequent if the NFL mandated stiffer guaranteed suspensions? Yes. Would stiffer guaranteed suspensions prevent hits like the one Finley got injured on from happening? Unfortunately, no, because that was a clean hit and is sometimes what happens when players' bodies are in vulnerable positions and slamming into one another at full speed.
Q: Is Donald Driver a consideration to help bolster the injured receivers corps?-- Kenny, Milwaukee
A: No. Though Driver said in June that he would come back to play for the Packers again, the team isn't going to make that happen. The organization threw him a retirement ceremony the likes of which Green Bay has never done before. It was a nice ending to a great career, but it's reached its final on-field chapter.
The Packers are almost always going to go young, and that means instead of Driver that Green Bay will continue to give Myles White and Jarrett Boykin a shot at receiver while Randall Cobb and James Jones are out. And the results are so far, so good, given that Boykin went over 100 receiving yards in his first career start.
Q: Where had Brandon Bostick been all year. Is he not progressing like they wanted him to? Also how would you rate Datone Jones so far this season.-- Andrew K, Delafield
A: Bostick played three snaps in Week 2 and 10 snaps in Week 7. So far, no passes have been thrown his way. However, the Packers didn't keep Bostick on the active roster after training camp with the expectation that he'd actually have to contribute at a significant level during the 2013 season. This was a future play for Green Bay. Other teams wanted Bostick, whose raw talent and prototypical size are valued in the NFL. So, if the Packers would have released him to try to get him onto the practice squad for a second season, another team certainly would have swooped in and signed him.
With Finley's injury, Bostick will become a bigger part of Green Bay's offense now. He's behind Andrew Quarless on the depth chart, but with Ryan Taylor battling back from recent knee surgery, Bostick is currently No. 2.
As for Datone Jones, as mentioned above, it's been a disappointing start to his rookie season. I really thought that with the UCLA defense being similar to the Packers' defense that Jones would be an instant-impact performer. That hasn't happened. But Green Bay's defensive line is stacked, so, while Jones' inability to earn more snaps is partly due to his own lack of recent in-game success, it's also partly because the Packers have a lot of very good options at that position this season.
Q: How soon could we see newly acquired WR Chris Harper play? Obviously he needs to learn the offense.-- Robert, Beloit
A: Harper, a fourth-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks this year, has already been released by two prominent NFC teams, with the most recent being the San Francisco 49ers. It was surprising to see Harper contribute on special teams against Cleveland, just two days after being claimed on waivers by Green Bay. Typically, the Packers would prefer to work with Harper in a practice setting for at least a few weeks before playing him on offense in a game, but if James Jones is unavailable Sunday night at Minnesota, there would only be three healthy receivers: Jordy Nelson, White and Boykin. With Finley also out, that might force Green Bay to put Harper on the field on offense and see what he can do.
Q: 72,928 is no longer the capacity of Lambeau field as stated on the Packer team page on the Fox sports Website. My question is what is the attendance and could you share that with the rest of the world on the site?-- Christopher, Madison, WI
A: After the recently completed south end zone expansion, Lambeau Field's capacity is now 80,750. That ranks fourth in the NFL.
** Thanks for the questions this week. We'll do it again next Thursday (Oct. 31) by analyzing the Packers/ Vikings game and looking ahead to the Packers hosting the Chicago Bears (who won't have QB Jay Cutler) on Monday Night Football in Week 9. **
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