I had the opportunity to interview Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders about his chapter in their 2010 Football Outsiders Almanac (now available through Amazon.com) about the Green Bay Packers. Yes, this is in part a plug for their book, but I've been reading it every year they've ever published it, and I've never read a better primer for the football season.
I posted Part 1 of 2 earlier today.
Acme Packing Company: You seem more disappointed in Hawk in the 2010 edition compared to your 2009 edition, but his stats against the run were much better in 2009. I'm in agreement: Hawk is one of the weakest links on defense and not worth his draft position. But was he actually worse in 2009? Is there a good reason why Chillar should take over full-time from Hawk in 2010?
Bill Barnwell: Hawk hasn't grown as a player. As he gets further into his pro career, that becomes more and more disappointing. I think he's an effective run defender, but he's just a liability in pass coverage. I think he works well in a platoon with Chillar; the reason for replacing Hawk with Chillar on a full-time basis would be financial.
APC: I've come to appreciate Bigby's pass defense at safety because his replacements have been disasters. I realize he always gives opposing receivers a comfortable cushion to sit down in, but is he really that bad compared to a typical strong safety?
BB: It's hard to say. I think he's a little too aggressive, making foolish mistakes and trying to create too many SportsCenter moments when a simple play would've worked better. That also contributes to his injury problems. I think he's a second-division starting safety on talent, but with the injury issues, I can't say that I think he's a good idea to rely upon.
APC: I can't remember a season when Tramon Williams didn't have a problem with penalties. Do you think he can overcome it, or is a penalty prone player unlikely to change his ways?
BB: We've actually never done a study on whether penalty-prone players tend to get better as their careers go along. It's a good idea, something we should do in the future. I know that part of it is the Packers' scheme, which is aggressive and encourages their defensive backs to try and make plays.
APC: How much did the playoff loss factor into your evaluation of the defense? I don't expect it shows in any of your stats, and I don't think I should read much into one game. But it left me struggling to understand how they could stop anyone next season.
BB: In all fairness, that was without Kampman and Harris and against a Hall of Fame quarterback at home. Then again, I watched that game again on NFL Network last week, and it was astonishing how bad that defense played. I think they'll be able to stop some teams, but I don't believe that the defense will be among the league's best this year, the way it was a year ago.