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A new year means new opportunities

Packers increased speed on defense without forsaking size


John from Crivitz, WI

Just an observation from a casual fan, but it seems like our overall team speed on the defensive side of the ball has dramatically improved over last year.

The "Nitro" package was a good first step toward ramping up the defense's overall speed, but the Packers have even more personnel to match the scheme this season. Perhaps the most impressive thing is the Packers improved their speed without forsaking size. It's an athletic defense.

Dan from Houston, TX

How about Aaron's comments on his 12 man emphasis being "body blows"? It shows the purpose is more than just five yards and a free play.

It's a great analogy. It's about wearing down a defense both mentally and physically, and taking advantage of the opportunities those free plays create.

Jeff from Loves Park, IL

What is it about the 12-to-87 hook-up that made it so beautiful? I can't stop watching that replay.

My favorite movie of all-time is "The Outlaw Josey Wales." My dad and I used to watch it endlessly when I was a kid. I've probably seen it 100 times and I never get sick of it. I think Rodgers and Nelson have that same familiar feel for Packers fans. It's nostalgic and extraordinary all in the same breath. No matter how many times you've seen it, it's always worth watching again.

John from Chippewa Falls, WI

Insiders, it looked like the receivers struggled a little bit with separation on Sunday. So my question is, with the return of Allison, is he more of a guy to get separation or is he an option for Rodgers to just throw it up and let him fight for it?

He did both this summer. Improved technique and footwork has allowed him to gain separation tactically rather than leaning on his athleticism, but his catch radius also lets him make plays on those 50/50 balls.

Kevin from Tucson, AZ

I recognize the first win is tough to get, and one would expect the team to pull out all the stops to get it. However, do you think MM and crew saved a few formations and personnel groupings for Atlanta without giving them the benefit of tape from Week 1?

Absolutely. You don't show all of your cards in the first week of the season. Remember how long the Packers waited to show the Jeff Janis reverse last year? Plus, there are certain to be plays and packages the coaching staff schemed this offseason in their advanced planning for Atlanta.

Joe from Fond du lac, WI

With all the hype of the rematch with Atlanta, and the way last winter's game was so lopsided, I am really looking forward to the effect a healthy group of defensive backs is going to have on our pass rush. This Atlanta O-line could be in for a long day! Here's to hoping.

I thought Ha Ha Clinton-Dix hit it on the head when he told reporters after the game Sunday that was 2016. This is 2017. A new year means new opportunities.

Dave from Saint Peters, MO

Jordy lined up in the slot after breaking from the huddle for the 12-men-on-the-field touchdown. Was that by design in order to entice a linebacker to cover him up the seam? It seems like Aaron audibled to a free-play formation in the huddle and everyone sprinted to their spots and snapped the ball.

The versatility of the receiving corps is what makes this year's offense so dangerous for defenses. At any moment, Nelson or any of the other skill-position players can line up in the slot or a bunch formation. The Packers have tried to maximize Nelson's skill set in that way for years. It's one more thing to keep defenses guessing.

Thomas from Park Falls, WI

Any answer as to why Aaron Jones was chosen to be the inactive RB in Week 1? He was clearly the most explosive and productive of the three rookie RBs, and it wasn't even close.

It's a numbers game. The Packers like Jamaal Williams as the No. 2 option to Ty Montgomery right now and seem to like Devante Mays on the coverage units of special teams.

Daniel from Eau Claire, WI

Anybody who still doubts Ty Montgomery's ability as an RB1 needs to go back to the highlight reel and watch his catch-and-run out of the flat. He turned a 3-yard gain into a first down and more, made two tacklers look like middle schoolers (Earl Thomas being one of them), and the only way the third tackler brought him down was by what should've been called a horse-collar penalty. Seems like a pretty dependable back, no?

That 20-yard gain was impressive, but Montgomery's ability to continually fall forward is what showed me this guy has what it takes to be an every-down back. That's not easy to do against Seattle's front, but Montgomery consistently picked up those extra yards and first downs.

John from Madison, AL

What is the status of Montravius Adams? Will he play this year? I watched him play at Auburn last year and he's a beast.

Adams returned to practice on a limited basis last week. The Packers have a good thing going with Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry leading the line, but Adams and Quinton Dial likely will be needed sooner than later with the release of Ricky Jean Francois.

Ryan from Bloomer, WI

I have not paid close attention to how well Ricky Jean Francois has played up to his release. Honestly, I could not have told you he played six snaps on Sunday. But are the Packers really that deep in the D-line that they can bail on a healthy vet?

You could tell how much the cuts of LaDarius Gunter and Jean Francois pained the Packers listening to McCarthy speak on Wednesday. But if Jason Spriggs is going to be out for a few weeks, the Packers needed another tackle. Those are the tough calls teams have to make sometimes.

Michael from Wausau, WI

In last week's games, I saw Tom Brady also take advantage of a slow defender for a free play and an easy five yards. Do other teams try and emulate the success Rodgers has with the free play, or is it just a comment on the seriously out-of-this-world mental toughness of the great quarterbacks.

Many try, but few execute it as proficiently as Rodgers.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Which matchups are you looking forward to most against Atlanta?

I'm interested to see how the Packers defend Julio Jones with a healthier secondary and which packages Dom Capers leans on to defend against the Falcons.

Max from Milwaukee, WI

Wes, are you going to get Spofford some earplugs to help him handle the noise in Atlanta?

I have earplugs on me at all times. My parents both worked in a paper mill for 40 years. I'm well-educated on the importance of proper ear protection.

Dave from Franklin, WI

Butler, Sharpe, Driver and Holmgren are finalists for the HOF. Realistically it seems that Holmgren has the best shot at making the Hall someday. Do you feel he has the body of work to get in?

My guess is Butler has the best odds, but I think Holmgren has a shot. History has been kind to that generation of Packers football, but there are far too few representatives in the Hall of Fame in my eyes. Ron Wolf built it and Holmgren made it work. As impressive as it was for Holmgren to lead Seattle to a Super Bowl, I wonder what it would've done for his resume had he stayed in Green Bay.

Mike from Naperville, IL

I understand this is a good team, but I think the Inbox has forgotten how hard it is to get to the postseason. We've been spoiled by our success.

If you need a reminder, check out how many teams are hemming and hawing over who is going to start for them at quarterback this Sunday.

Geoffrey from Rosemount, MN

I wrote in on this topic last season, and am still a firm believer in my opinion. I think the key to stopping Atlanta's high-powered receivers is to get to Matt Ryan early and often. I'm looking forward to the battle in the trenches on Sunday night.

Ryan and Russell Wilson are two very different types of quarterbacks, but I think the blueprint to having success against both is largely the same – stop the run and get forward pressure inside.  Less time and longer third downs are key for the Packers' defense.

Brett from Boonsboro, MD

Sam Bradford and the Vikes don't impress me. Much like Romo, he is a September only QB. Weren't they 4-0 last year? Then, reality.

*As someone who wasn't giving Minnesota much respect this preseason, I'll say Bradford and the Vikings impressed me in Week 1. Adam Thielen appears to be the real deal. *

Josh from Denver, CO

Kyle Murphy seemed to perform well, but how is Bulaga doing?

Murphy got better as the game went on. I don't have an update on Bulaga, who was sent home with an illness Wednesday. You can try again with Spoff today.

Tyler from Cross Plains, WI

Longtime reader, first-time writer. So we released Gunter and Francois, then activated Allison. Doesn't that leave us with an empty roster spot? I haven't seen or heard of any other additions to the roster.

The Packers signed Adam Pankey, an undrafted rookie out of West Virginia, from their practice squad. He's a big guy (6-5, 313) and gives them a little extra depth at tackle with Bulaga, Spriggs and Barclay on the mend and now David Bakhtiari nursing his own hamstring injury.

Ryan from Green Bay, WI

So in the Insiders' opinion was losing Ringo, Guion, and RJF all worth who we picked up? Seems like we took a hit on our D-line now.

The Packers are running only two and sometimes one defensive lineman on a majority of their plays and they still have five guys at the position. They needed the extra depth at tackle more. Plus, they could always bring back Ringo or Jean Francois at some point. Guion wouldn't be available right now anyway due to his suspension.

Ana from Brasilia, Brasil

Are we going to see Clay Matthews line up against his cousin Jake? Has this happened before? If so, how did it go?

They've played each other like two or three times now. I think Clay got a sack against him when they played at Lambeau Field in 2014.

JD from Evansville, IN

You can go four-wide without taking out a RB or TE when No. 88 or No. 18 is one of your four-wide.

It's a nice benefit of the Packers' cross-training. It can be daunting for a defense when Montgomery motions out of the backfield to receiver. That's an ace in the hole that Green Bay's offense turned to several times against Seattle.

Jordan from Lino Lakes, MN

In one question you say we can't anoint T.J. Watt as a great player this soon, and in the next you said the Vikings have found their new "featured back" in Dalvin Cook after one game. Which is it?

Apples and oranges. Spoff was saying Watt is off to a fast start, but a fast start doesn't make a career. He didn't put Cook in the Hall of Fame with his next response. He simply said it appears the Vikings have a featured back, which is true. Cook only touched the ball 26 times against New Orleans.

Andrew from Ettrick, WI

Is LaDarius Gunter practice-squad eligible if he clears waivers? I was a big fan of his. A second-year undrafted guy can only do so much against Julio Jones and Dez Bryant.

If I understand the veteran-exemption rule – which I'm not always entirely clear on – Gunter still maintains his practice-squad eligibility because he doesn't have more than two accrued seasons. It's a moot point for now, though, because he was claimed by Carolina.

Mike from Somerset, WI

Kentrell Brice's play when in "Nitro" was solid. Davon House did not allow a completion. Morgan Burnett shut down All-Pro Jimmy Graham for eight yards. Randall and Rollins were blanketing their men. Props to the secondary. What do they have to do to get a repeat performance in Week 2?

They need to keep battling because the Falcons are going to be looking to turn the tide. It's not just Julio Jones, either. Sanu, Gabriel, Hooper and two solid running backs all must be dealt with. Better health helps, but the secondary needs to keep that effort level pushed to the max like it was against Seattle.

Ken from Des Moines, IA

Did Davon House have a better game Sunday than it looked like to me?

The Seahawks had 135 total passing yards. Are you not entertained?

Ben from St Joseph, MI

Can we get a shout-out to packerseverywhere.com? Thanks to that website, my wife and I had a blast watching the game surrounded by Packer fans in Louisville, Ky., last weekend.

Absolutely. I'm glad you were able to tune in.

Theodore from St Louis, MO

Hey Wes, today (Sept. 14) is my twin brother's birthday. He's a Steelers fan, which makes him the evil one. Can you give him a shout-out anyway? After all, football is family, or so we're told. Thanks.

Happy birthday Theodore's evil twin brother.

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