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Don't underestimate the value of a capable safety

Uneven regular-season schedule starts in Jacksonville


Nathan from Tampa, FL

I feel like it has gone largely unnoticed and unmentioned that starting next week the Packers will be entering a series of four consecutive road games. How do you think such a long stretch away will affect the team's performance in the first two regular-season games?

It's going to be a test. No doubt about that. I still tend to focus more on the two consecutive road games to start a regular season than the month away from Lambeau Field. I can see why you'd want to finish the preseason at home, but the bigger challenge is going to be when the games truly matter. You'll likely open the season playing in a hotbox in Jacksonville and then you venture into a hostile and energetic environment at U.S. Bank Stadium. Trying to get a grip on an uneven schedule will be the most difficult part of the Packers' season.

Edward from Canton, SD

Very pleased with Friday night's game, saw recorded video from NFL Network on Saturday. QB Joe Callahan certainly showed he was worthy of at least a practice squad spot. I don't think he had a single three-and-out in his half and the two-minute drill TD was a thing of beauty. Way to go, Joe!

Callahan handled himself very well. He was a little shaky early on, but settled in nicely. He seemed to develop a rapport with the tight ends and calmly led the offense 80 yards down the field on the two-minute drive. He seems to have a good feel for the pocket and when to pull it down, which is important when you're not 6-5. Three more games to be played, but the debut was promising.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Wes, "Moneyball" is all about identifying under-valued and over-valued assets. I assume the same holds true for the NFL. What position or skill is under- or over-valued today?

Under-valued? Safety. A year ago I would've said tight end, but the safety position continues to grow in prominence. You're going to have a hard time building an elite defense without a versatile pair of safeties who can roam centerfield, cover at the line of scrimmage and defend against the run. After having some issues there in 2013, the Packers now have several guys who can handle that complexity of the position. Plus, a lot of NFL teams are using their safeties to help defend against athletic tight ends. Over-valued is tough to answer. Would be interested to hear everyone's thoughts.

Justin from Sherwood, AR

Joe Whitt went out of his way to say that there were 10 corners in his room and Sam Shields was the only player who had separated himself from the pack. Not to worry too much about a press conference comment, but do you think the fans and media might have a higher opinion of Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins than the coaches do at this point in time?

I wouldn't say that. Whitt is as high on his guys as anyone. What I think he's saying is he wants more out of them. Shields is the only cornerback in his room with a proven track record. To your point, I think the media and fans can get carried away with how quickly they board the hype train, but I don't blame them. Rookies are exciting. They're the unknown. To what Whitt said, this is the time of the year when Randall, Rollins and LaDarius Gunter need to step up and prove themselves because nothing is certain at cornerback other than Shields. Every job is up for grabs.

Terry from Jasper, IN

If Jeff Janis is not available, who takes his gunner slot on punt coverage?

Rollins, Randall and returning practice-squad cornerback Robertson Daniel all have taken first-team reps there recently. The Packers also have Demetri Goodson, who played opposite Janis last season. The only problem is he's slated to miss the first four games due to suspension. Gunners were an area of strength for the Packers last season. They'll need someone to step up in Janis' absence.

Philip from Midwest City, OK

What are Kyle Steuck's chances? What are the chances his jersey will be available to us underdog-loving cheese eaters? I love his story, it goes well with that of our Green Bay Packers!

Kyle Steuck is a great story. He's traveled the long road from the NCAA Division II route, but never gave up on his dream. I think it says a lot about Steuck that the Packers reached out to him when injuries mounted on the offensive line. They obviously saw something they liked in his tryout at the rookie camp. As for his chances, Steuck will be the first to tell you he faces an uphill battle at a stacked position. I'll be interested to see him in a preseason game. Need to see him to get a better feel on him as a player.

Adam from Laurel, MD

Was the touchback coming out to the 25-yard line intended to be motivation to take more touchbacks? Won't more kicking teams just kick a lob within 10 yards of the goal line and hope their coverage teams can make a play (similar to punts currently)? Wouldn't that make kickoffs more dangerous?

The theory that the NFL is testing this year is whether teams will be more likely to take the touchback to get the ball at the 25-yard line rather than running it out. It's done in the name of player safety, but I have my reservations. You can talk to any special-teams coordinator in the league and they'll tell you how the likelihood of scoring multiplies as you start farther down the field. I doubt they're going to be willing to concede the extra five yards. That's where this idea of mortar kicks comes in with teams purposely pooching them inside the 10-yard line to make returners run it out. It's on a one-year trial, so I guess we'll see how it goes.

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

Speaking of the punting competition, Mason Crosby has had Tim Masthay hold for him on field goals for a while now. This could be why Crosby has been much better the last few years. If Mortell somehow wins the punting job, will this affect the way Crosby hits those field goals now that Peter Mortell would be holding the ball for Crosby?

Well, Mortell did proclaim himself the Holder of the Year this past year, so he has that going for him…which is nice. All kidding aside, the two punters have alternated holding for Crosby in camp. Obviously, Masthay has the natural advantage as the incumbent because coaches often don't want to mess with the kicking operation if you don't have to. At the same time, Mortell seems to be developing chemistry with Crosby better than Cody Mandell did last summer. If Mortell prevails, Crosby would adapt to the change.

Matt from Janesville, WI

Can teams attempt an onside kick while punting after a safety?

Yes, they can. If you recall, the Lions actually pulled off a successful onside punt against the Packers in December 2014. Randall Cobb tried to call for a fair catch on the play (which is allowed), but it ended up hitting another member of the Packers and Cassius Vaughn recovered it.

Gary from Davenport, IA

Would Cleveland have kicked an onside free kick after the last safety if it had not been the preseason?

Without a doubt, but I commend them for not doing it. I was able to get home a little earlier.

Nick from State College, PA

I missed the first preseason game. How did Clark look?

Clark played fine with the reps he was given. He had some nice gap fits in the middle of the defense. The larger sample has been in practice where he's been productive. He's bigger than Mike Daniels, but kind of built similarly. He uses leverage to his advantage and is extremely active with his hands.

Matthew from North Plainfield, NJ

I really think there should be a week where, every day, the writer for Insider Inbox is anonymous and the readers need to guess who it is. This is assuming, of course, that the writers wouldn't go out of their way to make it obvious.

A good idea for our holiday Inbox, though I'm pretty sure it would be easy to tell the difference between Vic and me.

Mike from Collinsville, OK

I've been deployed and missed a lot. What has happened to Vic?

Thank you for your service. Vic's enjoying the fruits of his labor in South Carolina. You still can find his column in this space the day after every game.

Young faces lit up on Monday when Packers players rode to practice down the DreamDrive on bicycles. Photos by Evan Siegle, Matt Becker, Ryan Hartwig and Andrew Temperly,

Kathy from Kaukauna, WI

Are the kids who have Packers players ride their bikes random or are they pre-selected kids?

It's a mixed bag. Some players pick a bike kid and stick with him or her throughout camp. Others will choose a new kid in the bike corral each day. It just depends on the player's preference.

Amber from Garnavillo, IA

Hey Insiders! What is it like living in Green Bay and being so close to the action all the time?

I think it's easy to take Lambeau Field for granted when driving down Lombardi Avenue or Oneida Street, especially when you're born here. It's unlike any other place in the NFL. Not only because it's the league's smallest market, but also how invested the people are in the franchise's success. There's such an insatiable desire for any kind content that we produce and that's what I respect about Packers fans. As it relates to the team, fans want to get their hands on as much information as possible. They're educated and passionate about their favorite team. It shines through during these camp practices.

Tim from Upland, CA

Hi Insiders, does our first-team defense benefit from practicing against a QB like Aaron Rodgers? Same question for a receiver like Jordy. I mean, do the reps great players get with the defense during practices mean that much?

Absolutely. Micah Hyde said on Monday how much it's benefited the defense over the years because Rodgers knows their every move. Every call. Every check. It makes it essential for**defensive players to disguise everything***they're doing and let's be real. They're going up against a two-time NFL MVP every day. Iron sharpens iron.  *

Fred from Monroe, WI

Maybe it's a trademark thing, but before we get too far into the football season, I'd like the answer. When I see Spoff, Biff and Larry I can't help noticing the little finger. Please tell us a story.

Jammed my index finger on a football in middle school. Hasn't been the same since.

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