Barry from Hayward, WI
Vic, are the Packers scheming to play the Saints on Thursday or are they focused on player evaluation and development in the run up to the final preseason game?
It’s all evaluation. Anything the Packers do in the way of scheme will be meant to give their young players the best chance to show what they can do.
Pete from Holly Springs, NC
Now that you’ve witnessed the preseason practices and three games, who is your breakout player for 2015?
I was on Mike Pennel’s bandwagon going into training camp, and I’m riding it out of camp, too. He has prototype size, strength and quickness for any position on the defensive line in a two-gapping scheme. We knew going into training camp the Packers were facing a couple of early-season suspensions on their defensive line, and that made the need for a young player to emerge distinct. In my opinion, Pennel has emerged – I thought he was the team’s best defensive lineman in the preseason – and he will have an opportunity against a trio of top running backs in the first three games of the season to become the Packers’ breakout player of 2015.
Barry from Angola, IN
Matthews in the middle? Don’t middle linebackers typically have more size? I’ve always thought of Matthews as a speed edge rusher. Do you think he is going to be able to hold up physically in the middle?
In a 3-4, I don’t think he’ll be used as the true middle linebacker. I think he’ll be used as the other inside linebacker, which I like to refer to as the chase linebacker. Clay Matthews can do it all. He can stuff the run, rush the passer or drop into coverage. You don’t want him inside taking on blocks all day, and Dom Capers will make sure that doesn’t happen. I’m beginning to understand why the Packers moved Matthews inside last season. They need a guy of his complete talents to avoid having that position targeted for matchups, especially in the passing game.
Paul from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, with the amount of injuries that happen in preseason and the amount of talent being generated from colleges, do you think the current 53-man roster needs to be bumped up a bit?
I don’t. I think 53 players are more than enough to play a football game. I’d like to see the practice squad expanded. I believe the league will need a developmental league as the game continues to contract and soften on the college level, and I consider the practice squad to be a developmental league. I had this conversation with Mark Murphy yesterday. He agrees.
Ferd from Woodbury, MN
Lombardi played the preseason to win. Six preseason games, Oklahoma drill, two-a-days, players had offseason part-time jobs and came to camp to get in shape. Yet, I can’t recall any season-ending injuries to any of those Packers stars in the preseason. Are they getting too big, strong, fast and hard-hitting for their bodies?
Yeah, they are, but I’d like to see research on another possibility: What are the chances today’s players aren’t giving their bodies enough time in the offseason to rest and recover from the punishment of the previous season? We’ve moved rest and recovery into the in-season routine. What about more rest and recovery in the offseason?
Mark from Stewartville, MN
Vic, what will you be looking for when the Packers play the Saints?
I’ll be looking for Montell Owens. Here’s what I mean: Owens was a largely unknown player on the Jaguars as they went into their final preseason game, in Atlanta. He began camp as a running back. Midway through camp, he was moved to safety because the team had suffered injuries at that position that left the Jaguars thin. In other words, Owens had become filler, but not in his mind. He was dedicated to making the roster as a special teams player, and in that final preseason game he put on a special teams show. He hit everything that moved. He was the first guy to reach the punt returner. He was, without a doubt, the star of that game and he was rewarded with a roster spot. A few years later, he was in the Pro Bowl. Who will be Montell Owens tomorrow night? Who will come out of nowhere to make the Packers’ roster? I can’t help it; I’m a romantic.
Tom from Omaha, NE
You noted Chip Kelly’s style of football helps to protect his players from injury. How?
It creates hesitation. It gets defenders thinking about what they have to do mentally, instead of what they should do physically.
Brett from Green Bay, WI
Vic, what have you thought of Tim Masthay’s performance this preseason?
He’s in a slump and Ron Zook is trying to coach Masthay out of it. It’s what coaches do. The Packers were patient with Mason Crosby and their patience was rewarded. They’re taking that same approach with Masthay. Patience is an underappreciated virtue.
Brian from Vancouver, WA
Do you think Scott Tolzien has what it takes to be a starting NFL quarterback? If he does, could we trade him and have Hundley as our backup quarterback?
Why would you trade Tolzien? You developed him to step into the role he now appears capable of fulfilling. If Aaron Rodgers needed to miss a game, Tolzien is the starting NFL quarterback you’d need. I don’t think Brett Hundley can be judged to be a starting NFL quarterback on the strength of one performance in a lopsided preseason game.
Jeremy from Wausau, WI
Vic, I really liked Matt Blanchard in his limited action in the preseason. Do you think he will catch on with another team?
I think he’ll get another chance, and it might even be with the Packers. Everything a player does is on tape, and that tape sticks with him for as long as he attempts to play in the NFL. Blanchard is taking very good tape with him. I guarantee he values that tape and he’s appreciative of the chance the Packers gave him to make that tape.
Seth from Kenosha, WI
How did Abbrederis look in his first day back?
He laid out for a pass and nearly caught it. Shortly after that, he laid out for another pass and made the catch, though he was ruled to have been out of bounds. Jared Abbrederis will be one of the headliners on Thursday night. With Ty Montgomery possibly out of action with a hamstring injury, Abbrederis should have plenty of opportunity to join the battle for the No. 3 wide receiver job.
Adam from Toronto, Ontario
Vic, I believe it will be imperative for Clay Matthews to play inside for the first four games or so. All four teams will focus on running the ball. Your thoughts?
I agree with you and that’s why I say Nick Perry could be a very important player on this team. The Packers need Perry to set the edge, which is the strength of his game, to allow Matthews to stay inside and discourage opponents from checking it down the field.
Paul from Nevada City, CA
Have you ever truly earned the ire of a coach?
Chuck Noll went after me a little bit for a question I asked following a game in Houston in 1988, but I think we were each using each other. I asked Coach Noll why his team played so hard in a meaningless game – they had already been eliminated from playoff contention. He shot back that if I believed it was a meaningless game, then I knew nothing about football. I got the response I wanted and he sent the message he wanted to send, so it worked for both of us, but it didn’t feel great. The next day, as we walked past each other, we smiled and nodded our heads. I love my job.
Pat from Edinburg, VA
Vic, my family wants to play fantasy football this year. Do you play fantasy football?
I do not play fantasy football, but I encourage you and your family to do it. It’s fun, but make sure you keep it in perspective. I think a lot of this don’t-play-your-starters stuff is motivated by fantasy football. Don’t let fantasy football dull your appreciation of real football.
Tom from Blaine, WA
Vic, I’m worried about a slow start to the season. Are your adjectives and adverbs really ready? Is it worth risking your best typing fingers during the last preseason game?
My fingerstrings were getting a little tight last Saturday, and I considered sitting out the second half, but I toughed it out and now I feel ready to go.
HAVE A QUESTION FOR VIC?