Paul Imig’s Oct. 31 Packers mailbag

Here are all of the answers to this week’s questions in the latest edition of Packers Mailbag:

Q: How does this team compare to 2010?– Ryan Gilbert, Sun Prairie

A: It sure is starting to look similar. On the Packers’ way to winning Super Bowl XLV, they placed 16 players on injured reserve, including several starters and key contributors (including Ryan Grant, Nick Barnett, Jermichael Finley, Mark Tauscher and Morgan Burnett, to name a few).

This year’s Green Bay team lost two starters, left tackle Bryan Bulaga and running back DuJuan Harris, before the regular season started. With as well as rookies David Bakhtiari and Eddie Lacy have played, the injuries to Bulaga and Harris can be easily overlooked, but they shouldn’t be. It just proves that the Packers had depth with young players ready to step into full-time roles. That sounds quite similar to 2010. 

Clay Matthews has already missed three games and will be sidelined for a fourth consecutive game Monday night. Brad Jones has missed three games, Nick Perry has missed two, Randall Cobb will be out until at least Week 15, Jermichael Finley’s return this season is unlikely, James Jones has been out the past two games and James Starks missed three games before returning. Yeah, the list of important players who’ve had to sit and watch games this season is long, just as it was three years ago.

Also like the 2010 team, the current Packers group is on a midseason winning streak, having won four games in a row despite the injuries. In 2010, Green Bay won four in a row and five of six starting in late October. If this year’s Packers get hot at the end of the season like what happened in 2010, Green Bay’s odd recipe for Super Bowl success could certainly repeat itself.

Q: Will Mike McCarthy ever consider giving up his play calling duties?– Brandon Frechette via Facebook

A:
McCarthy actually considered giving up offensive play-calling five seasons ago. At the time, Joe Philbin was the Packers’ offensive coordinator and Green Bay was searching for a defensive coordinator. Had Dom Capers not been hired, it was possible that McCarthy was going to hand over play-calling to Philbin.

Before Philbin accepted the Miami Dolphins’ head-coaching job in January 2012, McCarthy again might have gone this route if he thought that it would keep Philbin with the Packers. As most coaches would, though, Philbin took the opportunity to become an NFL head coach instead of forcing McCarthy to make that decision.

So, yes, if the right circumstances ever present itself again, McCarthy would consider this.

Q: How is Derek Sherrod doing in his return to the active roster?– Mike Sciborski, Black River Falls, WI

A: Sherrod practiced this season for the first time on Oct. 16. That opened up a three-week window by the end of which the Packers must decide whether to add Sherrod to the active roster, release him or place him on season-ending injured reserve. That window closes next week and all indications are that Sherrod will be added to the active roster at that time. 

While Sherrod will most likely serve as a backup this season, it’s possible that he could contend for the starting right tackle spot if Don Barclay were to struggle significantly at some point.

Q: Why aren’t we playing Johnathan Franklin more?– Matt Haertl via Facebook

A: Well, Franklin certainly didn’t help himself with his fumble issues. Though Franklin only has 19 carries this season, he’s fumbled two of them. It’s a small sample size, but that’s a horrible fumble ratio.

The other part of the answer is that, right now, Franklin is just not as good as Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Watching what Lacy and Starks did as a running back tandem in Minnesota (albeit with Lacy clearly being the featured runner) was a good indication that those two, when healthy, are very effective.

Aside from his fumble that was scooped up by the Bengals and returned for a game-winning Cincinnati touchdown in Week 3, Franklin did look extremely good that day. He rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries (7.9 average) and scored a touchdown. If this was last year’s Packers team in late October, I think Franklin would be the starter over the likes of Alex Green and the 2012 version of Starks. But Green Bay has enough talent at running back now that Franklin is mostly relegated to the bench.

Q: I have a nickname for Jarrett Boykin. JB Smoove. I know JB Smoove is an actual actor and comedian but the the initials fit and his game as of late has been Smoove (smooth).   He had his 100+ receiving yards in his first start and had some key 3rd down conversions during the Viking game. I want the credit for the nickname.

What are your thoughts on he or Myles White ever making it as more than a 3rd or 4th or 5th option once the Packers get back Jones and Cobb and if Finley is ever cleared to play again.– Steve Waldvogl , Flagstaff

A: OK, you get credit for the J.B. Smoove nickname (well, along with J.B. Smoove himself, I suppose). Boykin has had a few drops this season, but he’s certainly been better than most would expect from a second-year undrafted player who was once cut by the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. Even if the Packers have Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb all healthy this season, it will now be difficult for McCarthy to not get Boykin in the receiver mix somehow.

As for Myles White, I think it will be at least one more season until we see him in a prominent role when this receiving corp is healthy. The plan for White this season was supposed to be “sit and learn on the practice squad,” but injuries forced that to change. With six catches (on nine targets) for 44 yards while playing 107 snaps, White hasn’t taken advantage of his time anywhere near the level that Boykin has. But, again, that should be expected for White, an undrafted rookie. Next season, perhaps White shows then what Boykin is showing now.

Q: Can you do a story on the players on the practice squad? What are their chances for advancement in the future? Especially Scott Tolzien and Garth Gerhart.– Lynn Erickson 

A: So much for Tolzien being signed to the Packers’ practice squad just to give Green Bay some insight about the San Francisco 49ers. Two months later, Tolzien remains the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart and just received a raise from the Packers in order to keep him around. It’s obvious that Green Bay’s front office and coaching staff likes what its seen from Tolzien more than what the team ever saw from 2012 seventh-round pick B.J. Coleman. Tolzien will definitely compete to be Aaron Rodgers’ direct backup next season.

As for Gerhart, though he was with the Packers throughout training camp, he was released at final roster cutdowns and remained a free agent for six weeks. Then, on Oct. 10, Green Bay again signed Gerhart to the practice squad (just as the team did at the end of last season). Gerhart is really just an emergency option for the Packers right now in case they’re hit with a slew of injuries on the offensive line.

Q: When will Casey Hayward be back? And have you guys considered giving Micah Hyde a chance at being the starting safety opposite Morgan Burnett?– Brandon Kohel via Facebook

A: Hayward played his first game of the season this past weekend in Minnesota and was on the field for 23 snaps. He’ll eventually play more often that, especially when Green Bay isn’t going against a team with Adrian Peterson at running back — which forced the Packers to play a lot in their 3-4 ‘okie’ base defense. Hayward, who will primarily play in the nickel and dime packages, likely will only see action when Green Bay goes with three or four cornerbacks. He’s probably come back too late in the season to compete against Sam Shields, Tramon Williams or Davon House for one of the outside cornerback jobs.

As for Micah Hyde at safety, this was a major theme around the time that the Packers drafted him in the fifth round. While Green Bay is deep at cornerback, the team lacks depth at safety — and also lacks a top-caliber starter next to Morgan Burnett. But, to this point, the Packers have continued to publicly downplay the possibility that Hyde will switch to safety any time soon. However, I think safety would be a good fit for Hyde, so don’t rule it out as something that could happen down the road.

** Thanks for the questions this week. We’ll do it again next Thursday (Nov. 7) by analyzing the Packers-Bears game and looking ahead to the Packers hosting the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 10. **

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