For those of you who are unfamiliar, Alex Tallitsch over at Packers Lounge has a (healthy?) obsession in trying to pick fights with me. We decided to do a civil back and forth on this lazy Sunday looking at the Packers offseason so far, the good and bad of 2009 and we took a look forward to 2010 and beyond.
We each got to ask five questions, while the opponent got the opportunity to retort. Think you'll enjoy.
1. For the record, what is the Packers biggest need in the first round?
I've said it once, and I'll say it again, if there is a top flight running back on the board take him. However, I am still a big fan of taking the chance on an impact player. You saw Minnesota do it last year with Percy Harvin. When the Packers have anything but a top-ten pick, you rarely see them draft a heralded player in the first round. I hate to use Justin Harrell as an example, but apparently I just did. Personally, and all the draft guys can say what they will, I like Taylor Mays. He has super-star potential, and fills several needs in both the secondary and at the line of scrimmage as a backer. He is an athlete plain and simple. I think Green Bay is the perfect place for Mays. Yeah, yeah, I can hear it already.
They don't really have a 'need' in the first round. They have a solid squad and should take the most talented player on their board. Fans love to plug roster holes with draft picks, but that's the easiest way to kill your squad for years to come. The whole point is to stock your cupboard with talent, as much as you can find. As for Mays or any other specific player - sure, why not? I've read and seen the same things you have, but as I wrote last week (that's just for you Alex) the people over 1265 Lombardi Avenue have seen a hell of lot more of these players than you or I ever will. If they say Mays is the pick, cool. Let's roll.
2. Daryn Colledge - Leave him alone, or let him have it?
Never have I longed for a subscription to the JSOnline's Insider chat more than I did this week when I heard the Greg Bedard was going to tell fans to lay off Darren Colledge. I have, and still, vehemently disagree. Darren Colledge should shut the hell up, and get his rear end into Green Bay. In my book, Darren Colledge has proven nothing. Every employee is asked to make a lateral move at some point in his career. The good employees adjust and embrace the opportunity. The bad employees bitch, moan, and don't attend company functions. I know they are friends, but you can hear Jason Spitz smiling from here.
I say leave him alone. What's his biggest crime again? Wanting to stay put at one position? Wanting some public support from his coaches? Wishing he got a better offer from the Pack? None of those exactly scream "I hate Daryn Colledge!" to me. As for his supposed "bitching and moaning" what exactly has he said? Sure, Bedard had reported he's not happy. But until I see a direct quote, I'm ready to give him the benefit of the doubt.
3. Who do expect to improve the most this year? Why?
I am surprised to say this, but I am going to with Will Blackmon. I hate to throw the health card in there, but if Will can stay healthy, he will have the opportunity to make strides. There are going to be plenty of reps to go around for Blackmon this year in training camp. With Al Harris gone, and as many questions as answers, the time for Will is now. I know he called Green Bay boring, but you can tell the guy is both embracing his peers and his fans. Only good things happen when you do that kind of thing in Green Bay. Will Blackmon - mark it down.
Jermichael Finley. People see what he did last year and think that "he's arrived" What I see is a guy who started to get it. He and Rodgers clearly have a connection and he did a great job down the stretch of finding seams in zones and winning one on ones. But I fully expect him to improve his blocking now that he's been named the starter. Finley told the story of how he went to the coaches at halftime of the playoff game and said he needed to be split out wide because Arizona was doubling him inside. They had that luxury without threat of a running game. If Finley can become a better blocker, and I think he will, the Packers' use of playaction will get Finley even more opportunities. The sky is the limit for this kid.
4. To what do you attribute the change of attitudes in the Nick Collins' situation this off-season?
A lot of people tell me that it's all on the Packers for the sudden change in the Nick Collins attitude. I firmly believe it's Nick Collins himself. I think Nick learned a lot about being a man and a person last season. With the death of his father, the negativity from fans, and his contract situation, I think Collins just needed a cleansing. I think the young man started to learn that there are greater things in life, and perhaps, last season put the perspective on that. No matter the reason, I applaud Nick Collins for everything he has done in 2010.
No idea. Really, what's the point here? It's nice to play psychoanalyst from afar, but we'll never know. We can't know. And who even says his attitude HAS changed. His business tactic may have changed, with his agent saying they were going to try a different tactic. But who knows if that's true. The biggest change that I can see is that he was much more consistent on the field. Not as many flashy plays but he eliminated most of the horrific breakdowns he saw at the end of the 2008 season. And if there's one thing Ted Thompson likes its consistency. Collins got paid because of it. Everything else is just guessing.
5. Where do you place Aaron Kampman on the list of greatest Packer defensive ends?
I have to put him at number two right between Reggie and Willie. Aaron Kampman defined, much like the other two, what it means to be a Green Bay Packer. I don't care about the numbers on this one, Reggie is the best, and Aaron is now number two. It is remarkable the similarities of both if you get right down to it. Aaron Kampman was a class act all the way, and as a future Packer hall-of-famer, I don't see how he falls any farther on the list.
Have you lost your mind? Kampman ahead of Davis? Hell, ahead of Sean Jones? Kampman was a great Packer and I'm sad to see such a great person leave the Packers but lets get serious. The guy was smart and talented and did more with less in a way I've never seen at the pro level. But to say he's better than Willie Davis or even, again, Sean Jones is ludicrous. I mean, I liked his thank you ad to the fans as much as the next guy, but let's not lose our senses because of it.
1. Are the Packers serious Super Bowl contenders?
They are indeed. I'm one of those that thinks the 6-10 year was more a fluke than anything. Lots of injuries on defense coupled with a predictable scheme along with 7 brutally close loses just doesn't happen every year. Even Football Outsiders acknowledged there had never been a season like it. Now, all that said, there's still plenty of work to be done. They need to improve their pass rush and they need guys to get healthy in the secondary. But a little help from the draft and improvement from within and this team is ready to take a shot.
Hey, I actually agree with something that Aaron said. I also think the 6-10 was an anomale mostly due to distraction. And again, I don't care who you are, get that many guys hurt and you're done. I will concede we are closer to the SuperBowl than I think we have been in years. You can reference 2007, but this team is going to be much more solid. Stay healthy this year, and domination is a possibility.
2. Can Brad Jones be the starter opposite Clay Matthews?
I don't see why not. The guy did a decent job last year when injuries to guys in front of him got him into the lineup. He was stout against the run (surprisingly) and showed a move or two rushing the passer. I'll be very interested to see how an offseason in the weight room and the classroom effects his game. And I have no doubt the Packers will draft someone at the position to provide some competition. But without question, I think it's his job to lose.
Can he be? Sure. Can he be a superstar? The jury is still out on that one. There are a lot of scouts shaking their heads wondering how they missed the potential of Brad Jones. For god sakes, the guy came in as a rookie and held is own for almost day one. Let's see how he plays when he's playing for his job in 2010.
3. Should the Packers be looking for Donald Driver's replacement?
Absolutely. Driver has been a great Packer. He's said he wants to play until he's 40. But you can't deny the guy slipped a bit down the stretch last year, if even ever so slightly. It's always better to phase a guy out a year too early than a year too late. I know people think the Packers are set with "all" these receivers the Packers have, but all it takes is one injury for everything to go to hell. The Packers got pretty lucky last year in that department, though I found it incredibly interesting that when Finley went out the offense became much less dynamic. Nelson and Jones, talented though they are, both have some pretty big glaring holes in their games. Neither is a worthy heir to Driver's throne. The time is now to find that guy.
This isn't much of a battle so far Nagler. The answer is indeed yes. Like I wrote in the past (touche) Donald Driver is the next Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce in hiding. It's only a matter of time for Donald. On the other hand, I think our depth is fine right now. Jordy, James, and let's not forget Swain have shown they can play at a high level. Yes, we need a replacement for Driver. Is it a concern THIS year, no.
4. Was the offensive line as bad as people make it out to be last year?
No. Alan Barbre was beyond atrocious. Daryn Colledge definitely struggled in spots, especially when he was asked to play left tackle. But overall the line, man by man, played pretty well. Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy had a large part to play in the number of sacks they gave up the first half of the season. Rodgers held the ball far too long on occasion and McCarthy seemed determined to bring back the days of Don Coryell. People like to say Mark Tauscher 'saved' the season, but he didn't do anything that T.J. Lang didn't do in his start against the Cowboys. The biggest failure was on McCarthy, Philbin and Campen for two things - having half the line move positions for one injury (Clifton) and not giving Lang a serious shot in training camp. The fact they thought Barbre or Giacommini could be the answer, and STILL seem to think that, is a frightening thought for any Packers fan.
Yes, but it wasn't always their fault. The line at the beginning of the season blew. Barbre sucks and so does Colledge. After Spitz went down, I really feared the worst. However, credit Tauscher for saving the day. Whether he played lights out of not, he solidified that line. The minute he stepped in the confidence level rose ten-fold. Let's not leave are beloved Aaron Rodgers and long route play calling out of the conversation either. I put a third of the sacks on Rodgers and the lack of offensive play calling adjustments.
5. If the NFL locks out the players in 2011, will you still watch the Packers and the NFL when and if the games resume?
Not a chance. If they miss even one game because of this stupidity, I am done. Forever. I know Greg Bedard has called me a liar on this one, but I'm as serious as a heart attack. If a bunch of multi billionaires and a whole lot of millionaires can't get their shit together between now and September 2011, there will be no reason for me to care anymore.
I'll watch, but only because it will give me plenty of material to bitch about. Will I buy anything, at all? Hell no. But, I will watch as a curious onlooker nonetheless. I'm sick of the way money plays a role in professional sports enough as it is, and I knew it was only a matter of time before it hit the NFL. Will there be a Packers Lounge to talk about it? Probably not, why bother?