Paul Imig's Sept. 5 Packers mailbag
SEP 05, 2013 5:59p ET
The latest edition of the mailbag as the regular season is upon us.
Q : Hey Paul. Really appreciate the time you take to answer the questions; very refreshing. Also, considering the Packers schedule, if we can somehow pull off a 2-1 start (easier said), we have a bye and 4 out of the next 6 games at home; could be in good shape. What do you think?
-- Lee Krohn, Portland, OR
A: I think a 2-1 start for the Packers is very realistic. Even if Green Bay loses on the road against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, a Packers home win over the Washington Redskins in Week 2 and beating the Cincinnati Bengals on the road in Week 3 are both likely outcomes.
The good thing for Green Bay this season is that it will play what is likely to be its most difficult game right away. The 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFL and, at least on paper, are the Packers' most challenging opponent on this year's schedule. Going on the road in Week 6 to face the defending Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens won't be an easy game for Green Bay, and a home game against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14 will be tough for the Packers, as well. But, yes, I think Green Bay will be in good shape throughout the season and should win its third consecutive NFC North title.
Q: I'm so happy for Johnny Jolly and what he's accomplished. Do you think he will be a vital cog in the defensive rotation this year? I can envision Raji, Pickett and Jolly starting when they are in the base 3-4, which, by the way, will be a ton this coming weekend (49ers).
-- Dan K, Madison, WI
A: Jolly's comeback to make the Packers' roster was improbable, to say the least. He was buried at the end of the depth chart when training camp opened and had a lot of work to put in just to get back to game shape. Three years out of the NFL and six months in prison took Jolly from arguably being Green Bay's best defensive lineman in 2009 to a longshot in 2013. But it'd be impossible to argue against Jolly making the 53-man roster after the way he played in training camp and in preseason.
Now, how much of a factor will Jolly be on the Packers' defensive line this season? He's probably going to be a 15-to-20 snaps per game type of player. Jolly will certainly be out there in goal-line and short-yardage situations, but it's unlikely that defensive coordinator Dom Capers will find a lot more ways than that to use him, at least early in the season. Keep in mind that Green Bay kept seven defensive linemen for its 53-man roster. Plus, though Mike Neal will mostly play outside linebacker, he is still capable of going back to his previous full-time position on the defensive line. Capers will look to use each of his seven (or eight, with Neal) defensive linemen in the best spots, but it could take a few games to figure out. The Packers will play a lot of nickel and dime defense, so giving snaps to that many defensive linemen in those packages won't be an easy task for Capers and his staff.
Q : What will the Pack do if something happens to Aaron Rodgers?
-- Michael Sweet, Oregon, WI
A: They'll lose. … OK, fine, I guess I'll give a longer answer than that.
This is a team built around Rodgers. Based on all the successful years at quarterback -- two decades and counting -- in Green Bay between Brett Favre and Rodgers, it's easy to sometimes take it for granted. But without a healthy Rodgers, this Packers team isn't likely to make the playoffs. Now, that's true of most teams with elite quarterbacks, including the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints, among several others. It's incredibly rare that a player like Tom Brady (circa 2001) is a backup quarterback who's ready to step in for the starter or that Colin Kaepernick in 2012 is able to step onto the field and actually make his team better than what it was with the original starter.
After the Packers decided to let Matt Flynn leave in free agency for big money and a chance to start, Green Bay has been unable to get Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman and Vince Young ready to be a dependable No. 2 behind Rodgers. That's why the Packers turned to -- what is this now, Plan D? -- with Seneca Wallace.
Q: How about Seneca Wallace to fill out the QB roster?
-- Earl Williams, Iowa
A: This question was sent on Aug. 31, which was 48 hours before the Packers signed Seneca Wallace to be their backup quarterback. Kudos to Earl Williams in Iowa. Well done, sir.
Q: Why did the Packers release Vince Young and why did they not sign Havard Rugland?
-- Muaaz, Virginia
A: With Young, the answer is because he wasn't very good. He was better than Harrell at times, but that wasn't good enough in the end. Young was inconsistent and didn't have enough time to get comfortable with the Packers' relatively complex offense, which general manager Ted Thompson took some of the blame for. If Young had been brought in earlier in training camp, perhaps the result would have been different. But, as someone who watched Young play every day in training camp, all I can tell you is that he's not the same dynamic player you remember from the 2006 Rose Bowl. If he was still that guy, he wouldn't have been a free agent for nearly an entire calendar year and wouldn't once again be a free agent heading into another season.
With Rugland, a.k.a. Kickalicious, his tryout in Green Bay obviously wasn't good enough. At that point, the Packers had gotten comfortable with their decision to go with Mason Crosby. It likely would've taken a flawless workout from Rugland to make the team think extensively about whether to proceed with him. After all, by that point, training camp was over and Green Bay was a day away from announcing its 53-man roster.
Q: With how well Micah Hyde plays at the line of scrimmage, do you think the Packers will possibly move him to safety?
-- Brian, Forestville, WI
A: This has been a hot topic since Green Bay drafted Hyde in the fifth round earlier this year. When the Packers announced the pick, the first response in the media auditorium among reporters was basically, 'I wonder if they'll play him at safety.' Given Green Bay's depth at cornerback and lack of depth at safety, from strictly a roster position perspective, that idea seemed to make sense. Then the Packers sent cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt to the podium to give his take on the pick, giving the first indication that Green Bay's plan with Hyde was always going to be cornerback.
Since then, this question has been asked to Hyde, to Whitt, to defensive coordinator Dom Capers and to safeties coach Darren Perry. The answer always comes back, "No." The regular season hasn't started yet, but based on training camp and preseason, it looks like the Packers have found yet another potentially great cornerback (like they did with Casey Hayward in 2012). It's certainly possible that Green Bay moves Hyde to safety at some point in the future, but there do not appear to be any plans of doing so any time soon.
Q: What did the Packers see in Sean Richardson before his injury, to justify keeping him around with a possible career ending injury? Can he be a big playmaker if he ever returns?
-- Andrew K, Delafield, WI
A: Richardson is a tall, athletic safety whose ceiling as a player was very high. His struggles in college were in coverage, and most felt like he would be a development-type player in the NFL who could take a couple years to get ready.
The neck injury that Richardson suffered could be career-ending. His situation isn't nearly as bad as Nick Collins' was, but it's still neck surgery and NFL teams are always going to show extra precaution with that. For now, the Packers placed Richardson on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and are waiting to see how he continues to progress. Without that injury, I'm not sure if Richardson was ever going to be as good as Jerron McMillian or M.D. Jennings, but he definitely has the potential to become a solid NFL contributor. Getting medically cleared is all that Richardson can hope for at this point as he hopes to avoid having his career end at the age of 23.
Q : Do you really think that the Packers can win with the current offensive line? I hope so, but it will take a major effort from all.
-- Worth Worden, Estero, FL
A: Yes, I do think that Green Bay can be a Super Bowl team again with its current offensive line. Important reminder: The Packers have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Don't get me wrong. The quality of an offensive line can be a huge difference for a team. The San Francisco 49ers' offensive line, for example, is incredible and probably the best in the league. But having an elite quarterback makes up for a lot of inefficiencies at other spots on the roster.
There are two primary concerns with Green Bay's offensive line.
First, that this group of five upfront needs to do a better job this season of protecting Rodgers. No quarterback in the NFL was sacked more than Rodgers in 2012. Having the recipient of a new $110 million contract get sacked 51 times is far too many. However, keep in mind that Rodgers is responsible for about one-fifth of those sacks due to his belief that it's worth taking a few extra hits in order to take every possible moment to look for an open receiver downfield.
The second part is whether the Packers' offensive line is good enough to allow coach Mike McCarthy to deliver on his promise of improving the running game this season. Josh Sitton is as good as they come as a starting guard, but with left tackle Bryan Bulaga on injured reserve, Green Bay turns to 21-year-old rookie David Bakhtiari next to Sitton. Starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith is not a proven player yet, and neither is Don Barclay or Marshall Newhouse. T.J. Lang at right guard is above average.
So, yes, the Packers would be a much better team if they had San Francisco's offensive line. But Green Bay can be a 10-plus-win team with the group it has.
Q: I know Johnathan Franklin missed some blocks in the Kansas City game, but it seemed like he ran the ball a lot better. What do you think?
-- Anthony Coleman, Janesville, WI
A: From what I saw in Franklin for 21 training camp practices and four preseason games is that he has a ways to go before he's ready to contribute on Sundays in the regular season. Franklin is undersized, and that's part of the reason why he's struggled so much in pass protection. But even as a runner he doesn't seem to have nearly the confidence that he had at UCLA.
With Eddie Lacy as the starting running back and John Kuhn still around to handle short-yardage and potentially be the third-down back, Franklin will be given time to develop. It's likely that James Starks will play ahead of Franklin this season, as well. Franklin is a rookie and he hasn't even played in his first regular season game, so there's plenty of time for him to figure things out. But right now, I wouldn't expect the Packers to use him too much.
Q: When the Packers run a running play, many times it seems there is no hole to hit or lane for the running back to take. Is it poor blocking or poor scheme ?
-- Russ Johnson, Delafield, WI
A: The Packers have finished no better than 20th in the NFL in rushing yards over the past three seasons. Green Bay hasn't had a 1,000-plus-yard rusher since 2009 with Ryan Grant. So there's no question that this has been a problem for the Packers.
Now that DuJuan Harris is on injured reserve, it will be interesting to see if Eddie Lacy will be a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie. In the preseason, there were some signs that Green Bay will be an improved running team (Week 2 at St. Louis) and some signs that it will once again be the same story for the Packers. The offensive linemen are certainly guilty of losing their battles too often, and some blame McCarthy's zone-blocking scheme for that (though I'm not one of them). But with Lacy, Green Bay now has a young, potential-star running back who could make the Packers' offensive line look really good. Alex Green, Cedric Benson and James Starks are not Lacy. Green Bay's been trying to get by with those types of running backs, but the addition of Lacy could be the game-changer McCarthy has been looking for in the backfield.
Q: Obviously with roster cuts to 53, every team will be looking to upgrade at positions of need by signing recently cut players. Which position do you think is in need of some depth on Green Bay's roster?
-- Robert, Beloit, WI
A: The main areas of concern from a position perspective on the Packers' 2013 roster are backup quarterback, offensive tackle and safety. Green Bay hopes it doesn't have to care who its backup QB is, but if it happens, that Seneca Wallace's 11 years in the NFL will help him get by. Relying on a 21-year-old rookie in Bakhtiari, a second-year undrafted right tackle in Don Barclay and a rotational tackle in Marshall Newhouse isn't ideal. Just remember that Ted Thompson's plan was to have Bulaga and Derek Sherrod (back-to-back first-round picks in 2010 and 2011) to be the team's starting tackles. Jerron McMillian or M.D. Jennings need to step up this season and prove to be a dependable player next to Morgan Burnett. If that doesn't happen, the Packers will soon have to address that area in the early rounds of the 2014 draft. Green Bay also lacks depth at safety, so any injury from that group would be a big loss.
Look for the next opportunity to submit questions to the Packers mailbag after Sunday's game against the 49ers.
Follow Paul Imig on Twitter
+ SHOW COMMENTS +