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Inbox: Every comeback needs that first step

The Packers’ defensive philosophy makes everyone better

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CB Jaire Alexander

Bill from Menominee, MI

It's easy to say that Justin Fields adds athleticism to the QB position over Andy Dalton. However, Fields has been sacked fourth most in the league in only 10 starts versus 12-13 for the other QBs. He's a QB that you just go after hard and then go after again. He's not breaking free any more than the rest of the class. Then, throw in Fields' nine fumbles as added motivation.

I don't care if it's Fields, Dalton, Nick Foles, Jim Miller or Shane Falco under center. The Packers need to stop the run and get takeaways. That's it. That's the path to victory. You can't let the Bears live in third-and-manageable. That's where things could get interesting. One thing to keep an eye on: David Montgomery missed practice Wednesday with shoulder, groin and glute injuries.

Paul from West Allis, WI

After the Packers vs. Rams game, we saw how frustrated Aaron Donald was with the Packers' linemen. Who would the Packers like to see become frustrated the most during the Bears game?

Robert Quinn, though I'm not expecting that. He's a bit more even keeled than Donald. It's an odd-numbered year so Quinn is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Without Khalil Mack, Quinn is the face of the pass rush, and really the entire Chicago defense right now.

Nick from New York, NY

I know that it doesn't absolutely guarantee a return, but it's great news that Jaire Alexander is back practicing this week. What do you think the cornerback lineup will look like with a healthy Jaire on the field? You'd have to think Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes stay out there and Kevin King moves full time to the bench.

Every comeback needs that first step. These guys have missed a lot of time and need to practice again before they can play. That's why it was good to see Alexander back at practice Wednesday. I won't lie to you. When I saw Alexander grabbing his shoulder after that hit on Najee Harris in Week 4, I figured that was the last we'd see of Alexander in any capacity this year. Yet here he is.

Tom from Burlington, WI

Good Morning II, regarding in-game ramp up, is OL the exception for continuity of the line? Could you see the team playing David Bakhtiari for the first quarter before relinquishing time to Yosh Nijman? I can't recall seeing that in the past.

I don't think they'd platoon the two tackles. If the doctors and training staff feel it's unwise for Bakhtiari to play every snap, then he won't go. If Nijman is playing, then the extra snaps will help establish a rhythm.

Mike from Las Vegas, NV

Knowing what we know now and with further development gained from experience, when all five preferred starters are again available, I would replace Bahktiari with Yosh Nijman if "69" suddenly had to miss some time. Rather than move Elgton Jenkins to T where he is very good, I would leave him at LG where he is Pro Bowl exceptional. For a guy that was virtually invisible for his previous two seasons, Nijman has turned into a dependable LT. He sure looks the part. How would coach II handle this scenario?

In the wake of Jenkins' knee injury, Nijman is "the man" behind "the man" for the rest of this season and perhaps into 2022. It's unfortunate how things went down with Jenkins but Nijman has proven Adam Stenavich right for his faith in the former undrafted free agent. Whoever starts at left tackle Sunday, they're in for a big assignment against Quinn.

Spencer from New Orleans, LA

Where do you think this defense ranks in comparison to the 2010 SB team?

They're a few steps off the 2010 squad's pace but not by much. The Super Bowl XLV defense was fifth in total yards (309.1 yards per game), fifth against the pass (194.2 ypg), 18th against the run (114.9 ypg), second in scoring (15.0 points per game) and sixth in takeaways (32). The 2021 unit is seventh in total defense (321.7 ypg), ninth against the pass (219.2 ypg), eighth against the run (102.5 ypg), fifth in scoring (20.2 points per game) and tied for ninth in takeaways (19).

Jeff from Wauwatosa, WI

Hi guys, last year Mike Pettine was dropping Preston Smith back into coverage a lot. This year I don't know if he's ever dropped back into coverage under Joe Barry. Last year, at this time, people thought that the Packers would let Smith go and keep Za'Darius Smith. Now it looks just the opposite. Interesting the way a simple change in philosophy can affect a player's career.

First things first, nobody is getting let go. Secondly, it was pundits and "experts" projecting that, not the Packers. Preston Smith has dropped into coverage at times this year but I keep going back to what De'Vondre Campbell said a month or two ago – Barry's scheme lets linebackers be linebackers and defensive backs be defensive backs. I think that overarching philosophy makes everyone better.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

Kurt Benkert. He's now on the 53-man roster. He's running the football team and taking first-team reps. He's jousting with Mike Florio on social media and winning. And he's got dreamy hair (albeit now a bit shorter than during camp). It's a good week to be Kurt Benkert.

Benkert came in as a tryout player this past spring and won over a lot of people. Hopefully Jordan Love gets healthy soon, but this is a great opportunity for Benkert to guide the ship this week.

Douglas from Bemidji, MN

Do you think players care more about winning the Walter Peyton Man of the Year over other awards like MVP, OPOY, DPOY, ROTY? I know they aren't doing it for the award, but I would rather be recognized for being a great person than be recognized for being a great football player.

The MVP and Walter Payton Man of the Year awards are the two most prestigious accolades the NFL has to offer. Those honors are bigger than just a single season or moment in time. They last forever. Who knows whether Aaron Jones will win the award or not? But I do know the world is a better place for Aaron, and his parents, having stepped foot on it. I hope Jones and his foundation get serious consideration.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Wes, could you ever see GB only throw the ball three times even in the worst of conditions? GPG!

In 1921? Absolutely. In 2021, with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback? I'm not so sure. I appreciated Davante Adams' extremely honest answer about the Pats-Bills game. If you're a receiver, that game plan would be difficult to swallow. But the proof is in the win column. With four games left, the Pats stand atop the AFC.

Mark from Seattle, WA

Hi, should you be in favor of adding an additional bye for each team, two total for the season?

It makes sense from a player safety perspective, but there are only 52 weeks in a year. The season is already long enough. Unfortunately, I think everyone just needs to bite down on the mouthpiece and keep going. I would like to see them do away with the Week 13-14 byes, though. Just go from Week 5 or 6 until Thanksgiving.

The Green Bay Packers held practice on Clarke Hinkle Field on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021.

David from Appleton, WI

Hello Insiders! It's Bear Week (or shall I say Bear Weak?) and I am loving hearing the opposition sports media squeal like a stuck pig. Mike McCarthy was dismissed with four games remaining in the season. Matt Nagy looks to be Dead Man Walking. What is the better move – remove the coach before the end of the season, or fire after the season is complete?

It depends on the circumstances. When it's obvious a coach is no longer in the team's future, then I feel it's best to rip the band-aid off and move forward. I'm not saying that's where the Bears are at with Nagy. I'm just saying it's not an exact science. I've always felt like Mark Murphy did the right thing with how he handled McCarthy's departure. As awful as that week was, it also would've been a shame to see such an illustrious era of Packers football end with a 31-0 shutout home loss to the Lions.

Emmanuel from Emerald Isle, NC

Big fan of you guys and try to read the questions and answers as much as possible. My question is do you think with all that has happened in Green Bay Aaron Rodgers will still walk in the offseason?

OK, let's this nip this in the keister before I'm sure the national media tries to run with it in the months ahead. I'll believe No. 12 not playing for the Packers when I see No. 12 not playing for the Packers. I'm not a cap specialist. I'm not a general manager. I'm a sentimental man and what I see is a 38-year-young quarterback playing at an elite level and having a blast with this football team. If every disagreement resulted in divorce, nobody would be married. In my experience, the best path forward is often the one directly in front of you.

Drake from Huntsville, AL

Football is the most popular sport in the U.S., and second place isn't really even close. I just wonder if the NFL needs to evaluate itself with respect to injuries. Green Bay has three Pro Bowlers that haven't played most, if not all, of the season, and our injury report isn't unique. Derrick Henry, J.J. Watt, Jalen Ramsey, Christian McCaffery, Sam Darnold, Khalil Mack, Brine Blawga (Aiwa), Danielle Hunter, Jameis Winston, Blake Martinez, etc. Many of the biggest stars are out due to injury.

As many of you know, I feel some type of way about the 17-game regular season, but generally speaking, the NFL and NFLPA are continuously evaluating injuries and player safety – and the game is much safer today than it was 25 years ago because of it. Unfortunately, no different than UCL injuries in baseball, soft-tissue injuries and ligament tears are going to happen in football. To me, the challenge the NFL must continue to tackle is brain injuries and trauma. The focus needs to be on the Sundays after the cleats are put away as much as the upcoming game.

Steve from Ankeny, IA

Although I am not a Tom Brady fan, I think it's an interesting battle between Brady, who went to play for the most loaded team he could find, and Bill Belichick, who in two years has totally rebuilt the Patriots and turned them into a contender. I'm guessing those two men keep a close eye on what the other is doing because they each feel they were the reason for the Patriots' success. Inside I'm hoping we get a rematch in the playoffs, because I believe AR is the GOAT!

It would be a fitting way for the Packers to finally get back to the promised football land.

Mitch from Bettendorf, IA

Everyone seems overly concerned about when players will be back, when they come back, is it too soon, etc. I am no doctor, but I am sure they are getting tested if they can withstand taking a hit or making a hit. Didn't Charles Woodson even say something along the lines of taking it upon himself to do a bed test? He rolled out of bed and fell onto his shoulder to test the collarbone following the SB season. Not doctor approved, but effective.

Thankfully, I have yet to find out.

Damien from Boston, MA

Which upcoming Cardinals opponent is most likely to hand them a loss? It must be one of the Rams (home), Colts (home), and Cowboys (away). That would be my list in order of most likely to least likely.

The Colts might not be the highest on everyone's list here but I don't think I want any part of them right now. That team has a run-the-table feel to it (no Jonathan Taylor pun intended). The Cards have some tough games coming up – and that's their problem. The Packers just need to worry about winning the games in front of them.

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2022 Pro Bowl Vote

It's time to cast your votes for the 2022 Pro Bowl!

Richard from Woodruff, WI

Hello Mike and Wes, do either of you have a cheesehead? I don't, but I'll get one if we win another Super Bowl. I remember after winning Super Bowl XXXI, I got a yellow sponge and cut it into a triangle and pinned it to the top of my hat. I wore it to my workplace job in Kokomo, Ind. Some people were humored, some were irritated.

The Kokomo-ians who were irritated need to get over themselves. You have a 17-foot grasshopper statue in the middle of your town, for Pete Dougherty's sake.

Neil from Saint Paul, MN

Your line: "And when Chicago is struggling, Green Bay and its fan base don't want to give no quarter" made me laugh. Double negatives are a staple of 'Sconnie grammar and as a native, my own included. My family has always (playfully) jumped on anyone who uses them in our discussions. When I read that line, all I could hear was my sister saying: "So they want to give ALL the quarter." This isn't an attempt to correct your writing though, no.

Neil was like one of two people who actually got what I was going for there.

Joshua from Houston, TX

I enjoy Aaron Rodgers Tuesdays, but my favorite part might be seeing all the articles written about what Rodgers says on that show. Pat's a better reporter than he's given credit for.

Wrestler too.

David from Hilliard, OH

Just want to say a huge THANK YOU to Cliff for the best Christmas gift I have ever given myself! "The Greatest Story in Sports" is truly the greatest!

I feel like this is going to be a popular sentiment this holiday season.

Jeff from Victorville, CA

Wow! On behalf of all Inboxers, we all are sending warm thoughts to Eric from Roscoe, IL. That was tough to hear. I sure hope everything turns out well. We're all family here and as long as we can all agree to disagree on matters such as free agents, Jordan Love being the future, Kevin King being worthy, validity of a draft pick, etc. (and keeping politics out of the comment section), we can rest assured we all have each other's back. We all have the same blood type...GB positive!

We may have our differences but it's important to remember we're all on the same team. When times get tough, it's good to see the Packers can be a good binding agent, too. My thoughts and prayers go out to Eric and his daughter.

Roger from McGrath, AK

I spent the last year and change away from home fighting cancer and associated evils so I can relate to Ashley Herman when she basically said upon learning of her cancer, "Okay, what next?" You need that focus and you need an outlet. Her outlet was art. Mine has been the Packers and II, in particular. So, thanks. If ever there was a year to just enjoy the ride, for me, this is it. Today, I'm good. This week, I'm good. Just beat the Bears.

And we're thankful for you, as well. If any of you haven't had a chance to catch Part 2 of Ashley's story, be sure to give it a watch. It's well worth your time.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

There once was a Matt in Green Bay,

Who coached football players for pay.

"Do your 1/11th ," he'd preach.

"Battle!" "Next man up!" he would teach.

"Family." "One-zero, gameday."

Oh Dean…Lori may be coming for your throne.

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