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Inbox: Coaches are always paying attention

That doesn’t mean decisions have been made

Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick
Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick

Jon from Rockland, WI

Do you think the NFL and Packers could work in the tradition of bike riding to training camp into the introduction of draft picks for the first round of the draft in 2025? Wouldn't it be great for the whole NFL to witness the Packers' great tradition?

That would be outstanding. Kevin from Dalton Gardens, ID, had the same thought, which others have brought up previously as well. I sincerely hope the league gives this due consideration.

Duane from Oak Creek, WI

Do you think joint practices are here to stay?

Yes, and they're only going to become more common. When handled effectively, starters get so much more out of them preparation-wise for the long season ahead without the same level of injury risk as a preseason game. LaFleur even said Thursday he'd love to continue doing this with two different teams every training camp.

Karen from South Beloit, IL

Maybe joint practices aren't such a good idea after all. I hope nobody was injured in those many skirmishes?

The way the tempers flared on Day 2, I started wondering whether just one joint practice prior to a preseason game would be the way to go moving forward.

Paul from West Allis, WI

Hello. Who gets more out of these joint practices, the players or coaching staff? I mean can ML look to use anything different that Bill Belichick might be doing with his team, or might an old dog be looking for new tricks?

I can't speak to the ultimate level of incorporation, but coaches are always paying attention to how other coaches do things. The good ones, anyway.

Tait from Rhinelander, WI

While watching the roster bubble guys in practice/preseason, would you rather see more consistency without any eye-popping moments, or less consistency but a handful of "wow" moments?

You want players who are capable of making an impactful play, because otherwise they're eminently replaceable. But the "less consistent" moments can't be major breakdowns that compromise an entire play/call/unit. That won't fly.

David from Henderson, NV

Good morning! In your observations, what do see as Christian Watson's strengths as a receiver vs. Romeo Doubs'?

Watson has the top-end speed that can scare defenses and force coverage adjustments. He commands attention. Doubs has the size and strength to fight for contested catches. Both need their hands to be more consistent, but they've already improved on that aspect from their rookie seasons, I believe.

Shannon from Ovilla, TX

Both of you have talked about the youthful energy surrounding this year's team. In past years the team chemistry has been widely hailed as part of the reason for success. Does this year's energy equal chemistry or does chemistry develop as the year progresses?

Chemistry develops when teams battle through adversity, whether it's during an individual game, during a week of preparation, or over the course of several weeks. Whether they overcome it, or how close they come, and how they do so all factor into the bonds that develop. Getting to know each other over steak dinners on the road certainly helps on the personal side of things, but battling back down 10 in the fourth quarter in a hostile stadium when some key guys have limped off with injuries … that's when players discover their collective capabilities as well as what's really inside their teammates.

Scott from Norwalk, CT

I'm continuously surprised by the irrelevance of the pundits outside of Green Bay who insist we *must* sign a veteran QB. After seeing Sean Clifford's poise, sense of command, and resiliency, and after Brock Purdy's performance last year, I'm more than comfortable having someone of Clifford's caliber back up 10. But what is the likelihood of retaining Alex McGough in some way (assuming he's third on the depth chart)? Seems like he'd be too in demand to make it through to the practice squad.

That's for the personnel department to gauge. I don't know how "in demand" McGough was after the USFL season ended, but I'm sure the Packers do from discussions with his agent. What he puts on film in these preseason games will also play a factor. We'll just have to see.

Paul from Ledgeview, WI

Mike, do you think there is ever any gamesmanship on who makes the 53, and who is exposed? Could Patrick Taylor be a low-risk unlikely signing elsewhere for instance, whereas Emanuel Wilson might be scooped because of the game speed he put on film?

I'm sure it occurs on occasion, but honestly that stuff's way above my pay grade. The other factor clubs have to keep in mind is cutting a player and having him clear waivers doesn't mean you're automatically getting him back on the practice squad. Some players will decline and seek a practice-squad opportunity elsewhere. It's happened plenty of times. The bottom line is if you want to be sure to keep a certain player around, don't cut him. Anyone cut you must be willing to live without.

Bob from Grand Rapids, MI

While the only insights I have about training camp come from II, nevertheless I would propose an alternative interpretation of the competition at safety. Instead of saying that first Ford, then Owens, and now Moore is at the top of the depth chart, might it be just as logical to say that the coaches are rotating each one in order to evaluate both talent and chemistry? Or am I displaying my lack of understanding of how things work?

You may be entirely correct on that. I honestly don't know. In years past, I've seen rotations for the reasons you describe, but then they stop when the preseason games start and someone's pegged the front-runner. This particular competition feels as though it has taken on a different tone. Jonathan Owens was back with the first unit on Thursday instead of Tarvarius Moore, so go figure. All I know based on observations of practice reps is what the depth chart reads on a given day, but that doesn't mean decisions have been made.

Dominic from Chesapeake, VA

Hey Mike, the general consensus has Darnell Savage secure in one starting safety position, but what have you seen from him so far this camp? While it appeared that he made some improvements in his tackling toward the end of last season, I have always been concerned about his ability to cover and attack tight ends. What are you seeing? Thanks!

Savage made a couple of splash plays early in camp. Since then, not a lot has jumped out (though I confess I watched mostly the offense during the three joint practices vs. Cincy and New England), but Savage hasn't been moved out of his spot with the ones. The coaches want him to do his job consistently, be a stabilizing presence, and then make the plays that are there. Trying to force those plays threw the defense off-kilter at times last year and sent him temporarily to the bench.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Is the competition over? Is there anyone who still has a shot to beat out Carrington Valentine as training camp MVP?

It'll be tough, but with two preseason games left, there's still time.

Jason from Austin, TX

Having a joint practice with the GOAT of late-round draft steals in Bill Belichick is high risk/high reward. On one hand, you get an up-close view of all the fringe roster players he drafted/signed in case they don't make the Patriots' final 53. On the other hand, he gets to do the same to the Packers' fringe players. I don't remember from past years, but did the Packers sign or lose someone from a team they had a joint practice with in previous years after final cuts were made?

I went back through the roster cut-down transactions from 2019 (Texans), 2021 (Jets) and 2022 (Saints) and did not find any waiver claims made by the Packers, or their joint-practice opponent, of each other's players.

Kelly from Stoughton, WI

All the talk yesterday about the JA and JJ rivalry got my heart pumping. So close to the real thing yet so much to work through yet. My question is, is there a better rivalry (1 v 1) brewing in any division or really the league than Jaire v Jefferson 2x a year for the foreseeable future? Maybe all the young AFC QBs v Mahomes? AR12 v NE 2x a year? It must be one of the most anticipated matchups this league has to offer.

As far as receivers vs. corners, Alexander vs. Jefferson in the same division would have to rank right up there. Sauce Gardner vs. Tyreek Hill in the AFC East would be in a similar vein. Patrick Surtain II vs. Davante Adams in the AFC West maybe. Quarterback matchups are a whole different category.

Fredrick from Bluffton, SC

Heaven forbid this would happen but what if we had four or five injured starters that are out for the whole season? Since I assume they would retain their salary, is there any exemption to the cap with regard to their salary that would allow us to bring in new players? Also, do they hold a roster spot in any way that reduces are overall team numbers?

The salary of players on injured reserve still counts in full against the cap, though some (not all) contracts have split-salary language based on whether the player is on the active roster or IR. Players on IR do not count against the 53.

Dan from Columbus, OH

When comparing joint practices vs. preseason games is the defense of the Bengals/Patriots playing "tougher" or "more complex" in one or the other?

Teams will always dig deeper into their playbooks in a joint practice rather than a preseason game, on both sides of the ball.

Ash from Pelican Town, WI

Is the plan for Eric Stokes to take over for Keisean Nixon once healthy? Has he ever played slot corner before?

Stokes has played some nickel but never extensively in game action that I'm aware of. With Valentine's emergence and Stokes' eventual return, I'm more curious than ever how the defense is going to utilize all its secondary parts once everyone's available.

Nathan from Williamstown, MA

It seems like the Packers may have a number of starting-caliber corners, as well as a number of safeties who are worth having on a roster but also have some question marks. Do you see the Packers testing any creative personnel or scheme ideas that could optimize this?

See above answer.

Johnny from Fort Myers, FL

Simple question. Is there any single or double-digit jersey number that has never been worn by a Packers player? I can't imagine so.

Nope. The two worn by the fewest players in regular-season games would be No. 1 (Curly Lambeau, 1925-26) and No. 2 (Charlie Mathys, 1925-26; Mason Crosby, 2007-22).

Rick from Trempealeau, WI

I enjoy having friends, relatives, etc., in all three of the NFC North adversaries' fan clubs. At this point in time, I would rate the excitement/expectation levels (1-10) for this season as: Lions – 9, never higher in the last 25 years. Bears – 7, cautiously optimistic but definitely looking to move up. Vikings – 4, nobody I've talked with, and I live on a border town, feels that the Vikings did anything to improve and probably let too many key people go. Would your ratings be similar?

Haven't given it a thought. When it comes to fans, all the numbers are going to change based on Week 1 results anyway, right? Happy Friday.

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