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Ask Vic

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High-profile opener would help set tone in training camp

Posted Apr 23, 2014

A playmaker on defense could be a difference maker


Mark from Great Meadows, NJ

How can the Packers regain their homefield advantage? Been a fan for over 45 years and the Lambeau advantage has disappeared, especially in the playoffs when it matters most. Is it coaching, the players or the fans?

Cold-weather football is all about defense and the running game. Last season, the Packers improved the running game. This season, they need to improve the defense.

Adam from Hillsboro, KS

Vic, how fun would it be to open the season on the road in Seattle against the Super Bowl champs?

I think it would be fantastic. I think those kinds of high-profile, edgy openers help drive a team through training camp. I think last year’s opener in San Francisco added intensity to the Packers’ training camp. My memory of last year’s camp will always be of those half-line drills that set the tone for camp, and I think opening the season against the 49ers added fuel to those half-line drills. Opening at the Super Bowl champions would, in my opinion, have the same effect this year.

Dru from American Fork, UT

Love the column, Vic. Keep it coming but can you quit with all of the “in my opinion” stuff? It’s listed on the main web page as an opinion column and, besides, football is an edge sport and your column is losing some of the edge that attracted me in the first place.

I completely agree, but in recent days I wanted to make it crystal clear that what I’ve written is my opinion, and I especially want to drive home that point at this time of the year because the draft is all about opinion.

Sam from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, we have a very deep backfield this year. Do you see Johnathan Franklin becoming a return man? With Starks and DuJuan Harris behind Eddie Lacy, I don’t see much near-future use for him at RB. Thoughts?

I see Franklin as the talk of training camp. I see Franklin knocking my socks off this summer as James Starks did last summer. I see Franklin blossoming, not as a return man but as a complementary running back that addresses a specific role and for whom there are specific pages in the playbook.

Tom from San Antonio, TX

Vic, all I can say is I am glad I’m not an NFL GM. This draft stuff can make your hair hurt. I watched Savage for the first time in an early game last season, told a bud he looked like he could be NFL bound. It’s easy to sit back and not be responsible for pulling the string.

In the first series of the season, against eventual national champion Florida State, Tom Savage looked like Aaron Rodgers. Then he started getting sacked and he stopped looking like Rodgers. So, what if you can put Savage behind a good offensive line? That’s where you need the crystal ball and that’s when it gets tough being responsible for pulling the string.

Randy from Oshkosh, WI

Can you make the annoying pop up ad go away? Your influence at the Packers is exceeded only by Mark Murphy.

The annoying pop up ad can make me go away.

William from Savannah, GA

Every year you come out and mention who you believe will be the best player from the draft class, not necessarily the first pick. A few years ago, you nailed it when you said Adrian Peterson. Who is it this year?

Every time I saw Peterson run, I saw Jim Brown. Imagine Jamarcus Russell being picked ahead of Peterson. So, who’s the best this year? I think it’s Clowney. He’s Hugh Green with more upside. I can’t imagine a more gifted physical specimen than Clowney, but I worry about that unimpressive performance he left on the field last season, especially in the bowl game. Which is the real Clowney, 2012 or 2013? It’s the question you absolutely must answer if you’re going to pick him No. 1 overall. Sammy Watkins is special. I don’t like taking wide receivers in the top 10. I think you can get what you need at wide receiver later in the draft, but there are those special receivers that justify an early selection and Watkins is one of them. Clowney or Watkins? I’ll say Clowney. My longshot best overall is Derek Carr.

Jeff from Champlin, MN

Ron Wolf stated something to the effect that the only thing worse than drafting a bad player was to keep him.

That’s beautiful. Why did we stop talking like that? Get ’em good or get ’em gone. I miss those days.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Vic, you seem intrigued about what Mike McCarthy might have been able to do with Terrelle Pryor. In your opinion, would he have been worth giving up a seventh-round pick for, especially if the Packers intend to draft a QB this year?

I believe Pryor is worth a seventh-round pick and I would love to have seen what Coach McCarthy would’ve done with a talent of Pryor’s magnitude. I’m a little concerned about what I might see on opening day, if the Packers are to open in Seattle.

Chris from Birnamwood, WI

Vic, would you consider trading up in the draft to select A.J. McCarron? He’s a smart QB and played very well for Alabama and he would give both Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien competition in Packers training camp. What are your thoughts?

He’s a ball distributor. He executes the offense. He manages the game. But drafting him for those reasons is like saying you married your wife because she’s a good cook. I’m looking for something a little more sudden than that, and I don’t see it. Maybe it’s because he played in a ball-control offense.

Tim from Libertyville, IL

Vic, I have read an article stating Pat Tillman should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Your thoughts?

As a player, no. As a patriot, yes, but first Rocky Bleier has to go in.

Kevin from West Bend, WI

Just wanted to say thanks for everything you do. I’ve learned a lot and have a higher appreciation for the game. My question is who have you most enjoyed talking to for the alumni spotlight interviews?

I have enjoyed every one of them, and that is the absolute truth. They have allowed me to get a deeper feel for the franchise I cover. I will mention two alumni interviews in particular. The first is Aaron Kampman. I remember telling him in Jacksonville that I was going to Green Bay, and I remember him asking me where I would live and then telling me all I needed to know about Green Bay. You remember those moments in your life. I think a part of his heart was still in Green Bay and a part of my heart would always be in Jacksonville, and that’s the way it should be or you wasted those years of your life. The other alumni video I will never forget is the one I did with Rich McGeorge. He was so honest and forthcoming about his life and the circumstances that caused him to undergo a liver transplant. He touched me that day in a way that took me back to all of the old guys I covered, some of whom are gone. Maybe you would have to live my life to understand why these things mean so much to me. These men have been my life, not once a week for 14 or 16 weeks, but every day for 42-plus years. They have always been the attraction this game has held for me.

Adam from Oshkosh, WI

Vic, I’m curious if you know the average number of people who read your column every day?

Yes, I do. It’s a lot, and I am very thankful.

Jeff from Milton, WI

Vic, I really enjoy reading your posts. My wife and I are coming up to the tent sale on Saturday. Can we stop by your office and look you up?

My office is behind several security checks, so it’s kind of off limits. I wish my office was in the Packers’ tunnel, so I could sit behind glass and watch people as they walk by on the tour, and wave to them. That would be cool. I’m a people watcher. I like to sit at the beach and watch people, imagine where they’re from and what they’re like. I especially like my walk from the press box to the Atrium for the pregame radio show. I love looking at all of the fans and the different ways they’ve dressed to express their emotions for the Packers. I also enjoy seeing fans wearing the jersey of the visiting team, and I always wonder why they want to make themselves targets of disdain. The human spirit is a wonderful study. There’s nothing like the mood in pregame. Everybody is excited. Sometimes I wish the game wouldn’t begin. There’s something very wholesome and exciting about the moments right before kickoff.

Tom from Minneapolis, MN

Hey, Vic, any chance you’re going to have the annual golf tournament this year? If so, when and where?

I’m thinking about dinner and a movie. Stay tuned.

Will from Julian, CA

You say every team needs an identity. Well, what’s the Packers’ defensive identity?

In 2011, the Packers’ identity on defense was for giving up a lot of yards but creating a lot of turnovers. In 2012, it was for playing a lot of young, ascending players that made the Packers a defense in transition. Last year, they never seemed to achieve an identity on defense. That’s something that needs to change. They need to establish who they are and what they do. Think about the offense’s identity for being able to beat you with the run or pass. Think about how that defines the Packers in general. Now think about what it would mean to the Packers for the defense to achieve a similar identity.

Justin from Trenton, NJ

Vic, I’m finally going to make my long-awaited voyage to Lambeau Field this coming season to watch them play the Iggles.

The Iggles? I remember shopping at Giant Eagle Supermarket. They called it Jint Iggle. It had a video store that was literally branded “Iggle Video.” We had a still mill and a dahntahn. I’m glad I don’t talk like that.

Matthew from Kingsford, MI

Is Datone Jones miscast as a 3-4 end?

Tony Pauline called it a year ago. He said Jones can two-gap but you’ll have to give him time to learn to do it. Go back in the archives and look. It’s there. Two-gapping and gap-control are as different as a goal-line stand is from a prevent defense. The term defensive end means nothing. It’s not the position you play, it’s the function you perform.

Jose from Saint Charles, MO

Vic, what is the biggest and more important need for the Packers in the draft?

They need to add a playmaker on defense. If they can do that, and if they can avoid the rash of injuries that decimated last year’s defense, one more playmaker can be a difference maker.

Frank from Neshkoro, WI

I am curious why the signing of Matt Flynn has not yet shown up on the NFL transaction site. Any idea about that?

He didn’t sign his contract until yesterday. It’s official now.

Ben from London, ON

Which prospects have visited the Packers so far?

It’s amazing how teams treat this subject differently. Some teams want to get that information out there; some teams don’t, and the Packers are one of those teams. The Jaguars went so far recently to have posted on their website video interviews with visiting players, such as Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel. I don’t know where I stand on this subject. How would it benefit me to allow the media to divulge who I’ve hosted as visitors? In a league that is obsessed with draft stealth, isn’t allowing the media to know who’s visited your facility the ultimate in providing draft information? You could say teams that allow that information to be divulged might be trying to provide misinformation, but I’ve detected a definite correlation between players that have visited and players that have been picked. A part of me is beginning to think teams want to divulge who they want to pick. By doing that, they can get a better feel for how the draft is going to fall, which then allows teams to move to where their targets fit. Every team is a BAP team and every team is a needs team because every team wants to address need by selecting a player who is at the top of their board when the team picks. That’s why the whole BAP/needs debate is overrated. It’s not one or the other, it’s both. The need to win now and the need to protect your salary cap have caused it to be that way. Get the guy you need but don’t overpay for him. You achieve both goals by drafting the player you need where he fits in the order.

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Vic Ketchman

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Do you have a question for Vic? Your question could be posted on packers.com. Vic has covered the NFL through 42 seasons, including 23 years covering the Steelers and 16 years covering the Jaguars.

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