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This is what they've worked for

Posted Dec 16, 2017

Aaron Rodgers gives the Packers a mental edge on every play


Venny from Montgomery. AL

I really think Aaron Rodgers is coming back to a better team. Many of the pundits were saying that Rodgers "covered up many of the team’s deficiencies.” However, during the last eight weeks, it's been all three phases that have stepped up and kept the Packers in the mix. The offensive line has stabilized, there have been a few more burst plays from special teams, and the defense has shown a bit more edge the last few weeks. I like their chances.

There’s no question this team got stronger after Rodgers’ injury. The players had to pull together, especially during that three-game skid. This is the reward for everything the Packers have done over the last two months. The offense Rodgers returns to features more stability on the offensive line, a better run game and his three trusted weapons at receiver. This is what they’ve worked for – an opportunity with No. 12 at quarterback.

Tom from New York, NY

Since the Packers are throwing out the playbook after Hundley's respectable run, does this pose a considerable advantage for the Packers as they head into Carolina? Is this basically a new season with very little available tape?

I’m intrigued to see what concepts the Packers go with in Rodgers’ first game back. Unpredictability should work in the Packers’ favor Sunday. Of course, there’s a decade of film out there on Rodgers, but how Green Bay uses Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones will be interesting to follow. Those two backs should be facing the friendliest box they’ve seen all season with Rodgers back.

Russ from Bowie, MD

Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams remind me a lot of Dorsey Levens and Edgar Bennett, respectively. Jones/Levens are home-run hitters and Bennett/Williams are the guys you call on for the toughest yards. I liked what happened the last time Levens and Bennett were playing together.

Levens and Bennett were exactly how teams draw it up when building a thunder-and-lightning backfield. Lacy and Starks also were a formidable duo, though their running styles were similar. The Packers have options for this year and beyond with Jones and Williams. 

Sean from Helena, MT

So, two weeks in a row Jordy Nelson provides a pivotal block on the edge for the game-winning touchdown in overtime. Do people really think Jordy is finished? The man is committed to his team.

I’m not a fan of this narrative of questioning a receiver’s ability when he loses his starting quarterback. The same narrative was used with Larry Fitzgerald after Carson Palmer was injured in 2014. He responded with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2015-16. He made the plays that needed to be made in Rodgers’ absence whether it was blocking or short-yardage pickups. Nelson is still Nelson.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

So much has been made of the Martellus Bennett FA signing and subsequent big-downer departure. It was disappointing to say the least, but overshadowed a bit has been the solid job Jahri Evans has done. I forget his signing details but I hope he is back next year.

Evans has been a quiet rock on the line. He comes in and does his job every day. He’s a natural leader who doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves for what he’s brought to the locker room. Evans hasn’t missed a practice let alone a snap this season. He’s been a great signing for the Packers, especially with all the injuries they’ve weathered up front.

Joe from Denmark, WI

Given recent injuries in the secondary the last few weeks, we are going to have to rely heavily on young players like last year. Unlike last year we are more prepared because we went through the same situation. One of the beneficiaries of last year was Josh Hawkins. How has he looked so far this year, and how well do you see him holding up as our No. 2 corner?

Spoff hit it on the head in his One Last Look column in comparing the situation in the Packers’ secondary to last year. Injuries reshaped both units. Hawkins’ all-around game isn’t as refined as LaDarius Gunter’s, but I like his upside. He has prodigious speed and incredibly lengthy arms for the position. Hawkins has been working toward this moment since the Packers signed him as a college free agent out of East Carolina. He’s ready for this.

Richard from Madison, CT

Why no buzz about LaDarius Gunter playing for the Panthers?

Well, why no buzz about Greg Van Roten playing for the Panthers? It’s because Gunter hasn’t played much. He’s played in only four games and hasn’t been active since Week 7. Ron Rivera said it’s mostly been a product of him having to learn a new playbook in-season. That’s not easy to do.

Jon from Summerville, SC

Second collarbone comeback game for Rodgers. How'd that first one turn out again?

Randall Cobb is still running.

Ben from New York, NY

If it is shown conclusively that injuries are caused by the “bigger-faster-stronger player” of today's game, would players “downsize” to reduce injury, or is that just a no-go?

It’s more players listening to their bodies, particularly as they get older. It’s been well-documented how Aaron Rodgers changed his diet in recent years and reported to training camp at his lowest weight of 218 pounds. It works both ways, though. A.J. Hawk and Mike Neal dropped weight during their time in Green Bay, while Mike Daniels, Joe Thomas and David Bakhtiari put more on. It all depends on the position and player.

Ryan from San Diego, CA

Insiders, if the Packers lose this weekend but beat Minnesota and Detroit, would 9-7 be enough to sneak in?

It would be tough, which is why Mike McCarthy talks so much about the importance of winning 10 games. Under the scenario you presented, the Packers would lose the tiebreaker against New Orleans, Carolina and Atlanta. The only way they likely sneak in as a No. 6 seed is if the Falcons lose out and the Seahawks drop two of their last three.

George from North Mankato, MN

Is anyone else worried about Julius Peppers putting a big hit on AR?

No more than any other week. Rodgers wouldn’t be out there if he wasn’t able to take a hit on the shoulder. Peppers is arguably the best pass rusher of this generation when you factor in his durability and consistent production. He presents a challenge, but I’m not worried about him injuring Rodgers if that’s what you’re asking.

Joe from Amarillo, TX

I was shocked to read today that your most popular question has been regarding the meaning of 12's assertion that he's not coming to save the team. It's a leader's mentality, and a sentiment he's espoused in word and deed for as long as he's been QB1. It's the attitude that no one man is bigger than the team, and he has a role to play like every other member of the organization. It means accepting responsibility for his role, asking for others to play theirs, and trusting them to give their all whether or not he's on the field. It means the game and the team are greater than himself. I'm surprised more people didn't understand that.

As Spoff said, everyone knows it’s going to take all 11 players on offense, defense and special teams to come out of Carolina with a victory. Rodgers is a big piece, but it’s going to take more than one to finish the puzzle.

Joe from Bloomington, IN

Coach McCarthy said if they didn't think the play could work, why have it in the playbook? He also said Hundley had called about five changes at the line of scrimmage last Sunday. Considering the modern complexities and disguises of defenses, wouldn't getting the offense into the right play be the biggest benefit of getting Aaron back?

To win on the field, you must win the mental chess match as well. Rodgers gives the offense a mental edge on every play. He can think two steps ahead, accurately diagnosing everything that’s going on around him – on his side of the ball and the opposition’s. The refs better get their whistles ready. The penalties for defensive offside and 12 men on the field are coming.

Steven from Pampa, TX

When Scott from De Pere made the comment about laughing out loud, it brought to mind a question. Is Coach McCarthy’s dry humor an ever-present amusement every day in the workplace? Nearly every press conference I watch makes me LOL, especially when he spoke the other day about joining the end zone dance. Something about his dry, witty sarcasm gets me laughing every time.

It’s omnipresent during most of his press conferences, win or lose. I’ve always been a big fan of it. I think we all sometimes can take ourselves too seriously in those settings. It keeps things light.

Justin from Eden Prairie, MN

Not to jump ahead, but do you think there will be any lingering emotion towards Anthony Barr when the Packers face the Vikings? I myself am curious to see how Rodgers responds if there's a similar play where Barr is right in his lap at some point in that game.

Let’s save the Vikings talk for Vikings week, but I’ll admit the major media outlets probably have the graphics ready for Rodgers’ second meeting with Minnesota.

Andrew from Memphis, TN

One constant head scratcher for me is why Packers fans never had the same level of disdain for Ryan Longwell's departure to Minnesota as we did for Favre's. Looking back, if memory serves me correct, it was essentially the same situation with Crosby (future all-time leading scorer) succeeding Longwell (the all-time leading scorer at the time) and Rodgers (future Hall of Famer) replacing Favre (considered at the time a first-ballot lock). Could the nature of the QB position as the face of the franchise, always being in the limelight have affected our perception? Why do y'all think these situations were received so differently?

As steady as Longwell was over the years for the Packers, quarterbacks often are the faces of the franchise. Seeing Favre go to the rival Vikings was too much for many and is what led to the vitriol directed toward Favre from Packers fans. Longwell made a few headlines with his Applebee’s comment, but that was about the extent of it.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

I was surprised to read that when the Packers had a padded practice Thursday it was one of only three that they're “allowed” in the last six weeks of the season. This season has produced a lot of sloppy, bad football in the NFL. I think the lack of practice time contributes to poor play and without sufficient, proper training it leads to more injuries in the games. Do you think this thinking has any merit?

There are two schools of thought here. The old-school coaches likely would agree with your assertion that more contact leads to better technique and execution. In the post-CBA environment, however, the general consensus is less contact is better for player safety. I think both sides have a point, but I do think the reduced number of padded practices has contributed.

Bob from Lakeland, WI

With all the injuries for all the teams this year, my observation would be that the players are not in top condition.

OK.

Ryan from Bloomer, WI

I just watched the “Packers Life: Pennsylvania Packers” video, and I thought it was fantastic and a good watch for any Packers fan. I have lived across the country for the last 17 years in five different NFL cities before settling back in my hometown, and I can tell you there is no other fan base like ours. While away I always hoped I could find a place like the one in this video but never could find it. Packer Fans have something no other fans of any other sports team have as far as our connection to our team and other fans, and this piece nailed it. Playoffs or no this year, I love watching this team and it's even better when there are meaningful games in December. GO PACK GO!!

That’s a product of the blood, sweat and tears of our producer Mike Atkinson and our uber-talented video department of Adam Hoebelheinrich, Tyler Gajewski, Mike Vandersnick and Nicole DeGrandpre. They don’t get headlines on their video projects like Spoff and I do with our stories, but their work shouldn’t go unnoticed. They put in countless hours to tell those stories.

Jim from Huntertown, IN

It’s a small world Wes. I, too, turned 30 on the 14th and love GOT. Were we separated at birth?

Mind. Blown.

Tony from Oak Lawn, IL

I love Packers football and great flicks! What flicks do you have as your best of 2017 so far? I have “The Big Sick,” “Wind River,” “The Disaster Artist,” “Get Out,” and “Ingrid Goes West.” Happy Belated Birthday, as well.

I don’t get out to see many movies anymore. I cannot wait to see “The Disaster Artist” and the new “Star Wars” movie, though.

Jonathan from Paducah, KY

Can an OLB wear No. 32? I really think we should draft a pass rusher and it would be cool if his new number matched the spot he was drafted.

I see what you did there.

Doug from Evergreen, CO

Hod, I can't believe you joked about my comment on your hair. The reactions were priceless. I almost fell out of my chair. Vic would be proud. Spoff, when did you get perfect hair? All this talk about the Packers and this and that, we just need a few laughs to lighten the mood so we can just enjoy football.

Like a five-tool player with intangibles, Spoff has hair you can’t coach. You have to appreciate that kind of lettuce.

Joshua from Desert Hot Springs, CA

During Friday’s player interviews there was a certain reporter who asked questions. Well, yelled them it sounded like. I was wondering is that a new reporter or something? Sounded like he had the mic too close to his mouth, maybe Wes can give him some pointers...that man knows how to hold a mic.

I spend my offseason working on my upper body strength to be able to properly hold the mic. Good sound doesn’t get itself, you know. Gotta work at it.

Adam from Wausau, WI

The last Packer game I missed was the 2013 Packers vs. Bears collarbone return game. I will be missing this game due to my wife's graduation for her Master’s degree. Cue “The Twilight Zone” music. We’re in good hands, folks.

Unfortunately, this also will be the first game I’ve missed during my time on the Packers beat. My wife is a few days away from giving birth to our first child, so I’m staying back in Green Bay this weekend. The current plan is for me to handle the Monday Inbox to make life a little easier on Spoff back in Carolina. So I look forward to talking to you all then. Enjoy the game.


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