Thanks to everyone for the record-setting number of questions that came in this week. By unofficial count, I’d say there were about 100,000 questions. OK, not quite, but it was a lot. Keep ’em coming every week.
Here are my answers to this week’s questions in the latest edition of Packers Mailbag:
Q: Paul, how come our speedy corners had trouble staying up with the much bigger receivers and tight end of the 49ers? — Jesse Delaney, Waukon, Iowa
Q: I think San Fran will be one of the best offenses in the NFL, but when are the Packers going to be able to find a shutdown corner? Anquan Boldin is not an elite wide receiver and he embarrassed the Packers secondary. — Tom, La Crosse, WI
Q: Boldin is definitely not the fastest on the field. How is it that GB’s CBs can’t cover this guy one-on-one and shut him down? Bump him at the line and double if needed. Really, against a better receiver this secondary is going to get hurt much more. Credit to Boldin for his skills as a receiver, he’s just outplaying the secondary with his craftiness. — Frans Swart, Seattle, Wash.
Q: Would having Burnett and Hayward back in the secondary made a difference and give us hope that the secondary can only get better? — S. Shannon, Oshkosh, WI
Q: Hi Paul. Will the Packers go get a vet free agent safety? Burnett will be out awhile. Hamstring injuries take at least 5 weeks. Thought? — Joe, North Carolina
A: I’m wrapping these five questions into one because it can’t be forgotten that the Packers were without starting safety Morgan Burnett and nickel back Casey Hayward against San Francisco. Had Burnett been available, Jerron McMillian wouldn’t have had to play every snap and M.D. Jennings would have been able to split reps with McMillian situationally. Green Bay’s lack of depth at safety showed itself in San Francisco, and it’s why Chris Banjo might see a lot more action against Washington. But, to answer Joe’s question, no, I don’t think Ted Thompson will suddenly abandon his team-building philosophy and sign a veteran safety.
Anquan Boldin exposed the middle of the field in the Week 1 matchup. Boldin caught all four passes in which he was being defended by McMillian and caught both against Micah Hyde. Though Boldin wasn’t perfect with Sam Shields in coverage, he still caught 4 out of 7 passes in that matchup for 102 yards (according to ProFootballFocus.com). Boldin was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week, which is both a credit to his own performance and also, obviously, a knock on Green Bay’s secondary that was without Burnett and Hayward.
Q: DBs and Safeties stink again this year. Is it time to dump the coaches? — Jim Cockcroft, La Habra, Calif.
Q: Why doesn’t LeRoy Butler coach the safeties? — Curtis Vieth, Sparta, WI
A: I really believe that cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt and safeties coach Darren Perry are very good at their jobs. After the Packers gave up 400-plus passing yards to San Francisco in Week 1, that’s a tougher sell to make, but the position coaches can’t be “dumped” based on that. As mentioned above, don’t discount how big the loss of Burnett and Hayward was in that game.
Q: Where is Charles Woodson? Better call him. — D. Beyer, Hayward, WI
A: Woodson is busy playing for the Oakland Raiders.
Q: Why do the Packers seem to be so poor at making in-game defensive adjustments? It’s very frustrating to watch when whatever is going wrong at the beginning of the game is still going wrong in the 4th quarter. Is the coaching staff that committed to their original game plan and unwilling to change? Are injuries at the end of last year and beginning of this year limiting what they can do? — Joe, Green Bay, WI
Q: Dom Capers must go. He is no longer an asset to the team. His pass defense has (been bad) year after year. His approach seems to be that no change is a good thing. We need some fresh ideas. He may have been a Guru years ago but things change and he hasn’t. You watch the other teams coverage and say “Why can’t we do that?” We live by the Big Play while our opponents just thrive on our pathetic pass coverage. Poor players? Bad coaching? Both! — Rich Krause, Waukesha, WI
Q: When will Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy fire Capers? — Bob, San Antonio
Q: When will the Packers change back to the 4-3 defense? This loss came at the hands of the Packers inability to make Colin Kaepernick uncomfortable. Our secondary couldn’t hang onto receivers for 5-6 seconds. That’s how much time Kaepernick had to throw almost every time he dropped back to pass. — Michael Coron, Wautoma
Q: The defense has been scorched in many ways over the last two seasons, and it’s not having a good start this year. I think the fans patience has run out with Dom Capers because we feel his schemes have failed. Is Dom Capers on the hot seat? — Mike Brody, Plainfield, IL
A: Capers is definitely on the fans’ hot seat. This isn’t new, though. There was an outpouring of Packers fans who didn’t want to see Capers return for this season after the way Green Bay lost in last year’s playoffs.
To Bob’s question, will Thompson and McCarthy fire Capers? No. Don’t plan on it. It would take a major collapse for that to happen at any point this season. Changing coordinators is a very difficult thing for a team to do in-season.
With Michael’s question, as long as Capers is the defensive coordinator, the Packers will run a 3-4 defense.
Capers commented the day after the San Francisco game that Boldin was double-teamed on a touchdown catch and on a third-down reception, and that it was a missed tackle that allowed the 49ers to get into the end zone on that one play.
Q : What do the Packers do on defense to keep RGIII under 300 yards? — Jeff, Portland, OR
Q: Next week we play another very mobile quarterback with another good arm. What adjustments do the Packers need to do to slow down the passing game while still staying good against the run? — Jared Haldeman, West Salem, WI
A: That’s definitely been Green Bay’s issue the past two times its faced off against mobile quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In the divisional-round playoff game, the 49ers beat the Packers mostly because of Kaepernick’s ability to run. In Week 1 this season, it was Kaepernick’s arm that beat Green Bay.
With Robert Griffin III leading Washington into Lambeau Field this Sunday, defensive coordinator Dom Capers somewhat has to pick his poison. Which aspect of Griffin’s game does Capers feel is the bigger threat? Considering that RGIII is coming off of major offseason knee surgery, didn’t play in preseason and only rushed for 24 yards in Week 1 against Philadelphia, Griffin has yet to show that he’s back to his old self running the ball. Kaepernick proved he can beat the Packers no matter which part of his game Capers tries to take away, but RGIII (especially so soon after knee surgery) should be able to be controlled better by Green Bay’s defense.
Q: I don’t think it’s a secret that GB runs a finesse offense. Is it time to rethink the zone blocking scheme and get some hogs upfront for Lacy? — Craig, North Bend
Q: As I watched the game, it looked like the offensive line got a little better run blocking, but still struggled pass blocking. Do you see Green Bay putting emphasis on the depth of the offensive line in next year’s draft, with depth being the key word? — Robert, Beloit
Q: Our lack of a running game seemed to start with the use of the zone blocking by the O-line. Would going to a conventional type of blocking help? — Harry, Ripon
A: Just like the answer about Capers and a 3-4 defense, the Packers will almost certainly use some form of zone blocking as long as McCarthy is head coach. It’s a scheme that can work, but certainly it’s been a problem area for Green Bay for several years. The Packers haven’t finished better than 20th in team rushing yards in the past three seasons, and they haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Ryan Grant in 2009.
Keep in mind that Thompson intended for Green Bay to have two first-round picks as its starting offensive tackles. First Bryan Bulaga in 2010 and then Derek Sherrod in 2011, but injuries to both players have forced the Packers into Plan C with fourth-round rookie David Bakhtiari at left tackle and second-year undrafted player Don Barclay at right tackle.
Green Bay certainly lacks quality depth on its offensive line right now, but if / when the Packers get back Sherrod and fourth-round rookie JC Tretter (both are currently on the Physically Unable to Perform List and could return midseason), as well as Bulaga next season, you would begin to see that there actually is depth. It’s just that injuries are haunting that group right now. However, yes, I do still think the Packers will go into the 2014 draft looking to add at least one — maybe two — offensive linemen.
Q: In watching the 49ers game, there was only one person who stuck out to me: Jerron McMillian. Every time I saw a play downfield, he appeared to be the one out of position OR not in position to make the play. Casey Hayward and Morgan Burnett being out of this game was very apparent. Did McMillian stick out to you when watching this game? — Steve Trojan, Milwaukee, WI
Q: Both Jerron McMillian and MD Jennings looked horrible against the 49ers. Hopefully Morgan Burnett will be back soon, but do think there is any chance Ted Thompson tries to trade for Jairus Byrd from Buffalo? He would be the perfect replacement for Nick Collins. — Dan K, Madison
Q: Why can’t the Packers come up with better players at the safety positions? Time after time the middle of the field is wide open to the receivers on the other team. It seems our defensive backs can’t play in the middle of the field. Either lack of speed or no talent at all. — Claude Duernberger, West Bend, WI
A: To address Dan’s question about Byrd, he clearly wants out of Buffalo, but it’s unlikely for the Bills to trade him — after all, he’s very talented and only 26 years old — and it’s unlikely that Thompson would consider giving up enough in a trade to get him. There is a local connection with Byrd, however, as he began his high school football career in Pulaski (just northwest of Green Bay).
Yes, Steve, McMillian stood out to me in Sunday’s game as clearly being the Packers’ worst defensive player that day. McMillian likes to hit, but he struggled to wrap up players, especially Boldin. McMillian has always struggled in coverage, and he showed more of that against the 49ers.
If fans haven’t yet fully come to appreciate just how good and how important Burnett is to Green Bay’s defense, I would think the loss in San Francisco made it obvious. Yes, the Packers were not good in the secondary, but playing without Burnett back there is playing without the quarterback of that group. It certainly doesn’t excuse a poor performance by McMillian — and, to a lesser extent, by Jennings, but there should be a noticeable improvement when Burnett returns.
Q: Looking at the stats for the game I did not see anything on the defense listed for Datone Jones. Watching the game I was looking for this help that Matthews was to be getting from Datone. How did he grade out against San Fran? — Dave R, Valley City, ND
A: Datone Jones had a forgettable NFL debut. Playing only 20 snaps, Jones was mostly in on passing downs and didn’t produce any pressure on Kaepernick.
Q: How can the Packers generate some pass rush? The secondary has no chance with the amount of pass rush they put on San Fran. — Dan Peterson, Amery
A: It will help when Green Bay isn’t playing a team that is capable of running read-option (like San Francisco was and Washington will be). That threat freezes some of what the Packers would typically be able to do. But Clay Matthews is hoping that some combination of Nick Perry, Mike Neal, Datone Jones, B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels (along with some blitzing from the cornerbacks and safeties) can help Green Bay have some form of consistent pass rush.
Q: Do you think the Packers are disciplined enough to make the Super Bowl? They have championship caliber talent, but always seem to make stupid mistakes… against the 49ers you cannot fumble, throw interceptions, and have personal foul penalties and they seem to consistently do this…. not the mark of a Super Bowl team. — Pablo, Rocky Mountains
A: Fumbles and interceptions happen. With Aaron Rodgers at QB, interceptions are certainly rarer than they are on most teams. The Lacy fumble, as the coaches have said all week, was unacceptable.
As for the Super Bowl, sure, I think they’re disciplined enough to make the Super Bowl. But talent-wise, I think the Packers rank behind the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. In my opinion, it would take an upset win on the road in mid-January for Green Bay to make it to Super Bowl XLVIII. It can happen, but it would be as the underdog. But, hey, that worked well for the Packers in 2010.
Q: That hit by Clay Matthews on the 49ers quarterback was utterly horrible. I myself don’t like Colin Kaepernick myself but Clay Matthews was way out of line and should have been ejected from the game and fined 20,000 dollars for being an imbecile. — Larry Wodosky, Casper, Wyoming
A: Larry, you’re not the first person to suggest that Matthews could have been ejected. Not for the late hit on Kaepernick, but for the punches (or one punch, one slap if you ask Jim Harbaugh) in the scuffle that ensued. I think Matthews’ hit was certainly late and deserved a flag, but I didn’t see it as a cheap shot.
Q : Why didn’t Coach McCarthy take the play to make it 4th down, rather than give the Niners another shot at the end zone? — Theo, Fort Atkinson, WI
A: McCarthy’s explanation this week is that his spotter thought it would be fourth and inches. He added that he has to at least consider accepting the penalty to move the opposing offense back five yards if it would be fourth-and-4 or more. McCarthy said that other game situations affected his decision, too. However, I was surprised in the moment that McCarthy chose to not decline the penalty and force the 49ers into fourth down, no matter how short the distance to a first down would have been. After all, Green Bay’s run defense performed at a very high level in that game.
Q: How do we get rid of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck doing the Packer games? I thought the announcers were supposed to be unbiased! NOT! They made their favorites very clear. Have to turn off volume and turn on (the radio)! — Carol, Shorewood
A: I hear this quite often from Packers fans. To the delight of Carol and others, Aikman and Buck will be broadcasting live from Lambeau Field for Sunday’s Week 2 matchup against the Washington Redskins.
Q: Why is Jeremy Ross AND Tramon Williams STILL ON Packers roster? One can’t follow directions, and the other is afraid to tackle. — Tom Goldbach, California
A: Well, Tramon Williams is one of Green Bay’s two best cornerbacks. His play has decreased since suffering a shoulder injury two years ago, but he’s still a mostly dependable veteran who had a nice game in San Francisco. Though the 49ers had a big offensive day, very little of it was Williams’ fault. He performed well.
For now, the Packers are sticking with Ross in kick return and will continue to switch him up with Randall Cobb (and perhaps Micah Hyde, too) in punt return. The coaching staff assessed that only one of Ross’ two poor kickoff returns was his fault. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum wasn’t happy with Ross, but he was also upset with the blocking in front of Ross on those returns.
** Thanks again to everyone for their questions. We’ll do this again next week. **