Skip to main content
Powered by

Inbox: Every play that comes their way is a learning experience

The evolution of the defense will be ongoing


Jeremy from Rice Lake, WI

I was reading the piece on Graham and AR getting on the same page, and Graham noted that he doesn't have to worry about the blindside with AR throwing the ball. That got me thinking. There are only a handful of passes that I can remember where AR left his receiver in a bad position to take a hit. Are there any stats that would compare defenseless hits based on the QB that threw the ball? Seems like AR is one of the best.

I haven't seen any stats, and I don't recall any such "highlights," either. Every year in training camp a group of officials will come through and show a video of the rule changes and emphases. The "defenseless player" rules have been part of that video for a number of years now, and I can't recall a Rodgers pass ever being shown.

Kyle from Eden Prairie, MN

The most exasperated I have ever found myself as a fan was in 2011, when following another suspect defensive performance, Clay Matthews motioned to Rodgers and said something like, "It doesn't matter when you have this guy." Do you think the message Pettine is sending leading up to this season will finally change that attitude on the defensive side of the ball?

I don't think that's a fair characterization or interpretation of how the defensive players have felt the past handful of years. Matthews, Daniels and others have repeatedly said they need to hold up their end, and it hasn't happened consistently for any number of reasons. Significant changes have been made, and yes, attitude and approach have been emphasized as I noted in **my Pettine story the other day**, but it still comes down to results when the games are for real. I'll add right now that no definitive conclusions should be drawn after just the first few games. It's a long season, and the evolution will be ongoing.

Joe from Kaukauna, WI

I never know what city I'm supposed to enter when submitting a question. Is it the city I was born in, currently live in, or the exact location from where I am writing this question?

To each his (or her) own.

Bryce from Ames, IA

There seems to be a general consensus when it comes to Tramon Williams being one of our starting cornerbacks this year. Could you see a situation where rookies Josh Jackson and Jaire Alexander make that early leap to stardom like we saw last year with Marshon Lattimore?

I wouldn't rule anything out, and with the amount of nickel and dime defense that's played these days, the young corners on this roster are going to get their chance to make an impact even if Williams plays every snap. What I like about having veterans like Williams and House on the roster is the defense shouldn't be forced to play too many young guys at once before they're ready. The Packers can use the preseason and the first few games of the regular season to gauge their true readiness.

Paul from Gorham, ME

How does one correctly pronounce Mr. Mbu's surname? Unrelated, one of my favorite moments of camp is showing non-Packers people the pictures of players riding kids' bikes.

It's pronounced EM-boo, and while the Packers' bike-riding tradition beats the pants off of what I grew up with, which was the Bears players buzzing from the locker room to the practice field on motor scooters, it was rather humorous to see two big linemen on a little Honda Spree. More than once I saw license plates shooting sparks.

Craigly from Grand Rapids, MI

"The inside rush can aid the effectiveness of the edge rush." The league seems to agree with you. Look at the defensive line tandems being put together. Donald and Suh, McCoy and J.P.P., obviously Mo Wilk, Mike Daniels, and K. Clark. With blitzers coming from every level, are we seeing a decline in the pure OLB pass rusher? Make it a two-parter, can you recall of a duo of very dominant DTs lined up next to each other like those combos? Kevin and Pat Williams come to mind, but were they even good?

First off, ideally you don't have to send blitzers. Every defensive coordinator dreams of that, so you still want effective edge rushers to get pressure from a base look. As for interior D-line tandems, the difference now is both players in the pair can get after the quarterback. The Williams Wall in Minnesota was really effective, but Kevin was the pass rusher of the two. Pat was purely a run stuffer. Green Bay's 2010 unit used Ryan Pickett in the middle a lot, next to Jenkins or Raji. Other strong defenses earlier this century used run-pluggers there exclusively, like the Chicago pairing of Keith Traylor and Ted Washington. Defenses aren't being built like that anymore, because an ineffective pass rusher puts the unit at too big a disadvantage on any given snap.

Chris from Minneapolis, MN

Which tandem will be more productive this year? Diggs-Thielen or Adams-Cobb?

I think the more pertinent question is which team will get more from its other options.

Dave from Minneapolis, MN

Is there a stat that reflects how a QB responds to a sack at a crucial moment by, say, throwing an insanely perfect ball on the run that's sets up an epic walk-off field goal to win a playoff game?

Good one.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Looking back, some Super Bowl teams dominate a season start to finish (Packers 1996), sometimes it's a close pack of contenders with one edging all the others out (Eagles last year) and then finally the ones that jell in December and run through the playoffs (thinking Giants 2007). How would you see the Packers fitting into any (or all) of those scenarios this year?

Given all the changes and potential contributions needed from the draft class, the third scenario is the most likely, but the second applies to the NFC as a whole once again, in my view. In general, the days of dominating from start to finish are long over. I realize the '96 Packers won 13 games, but here's some perspective on dominant regular seasons. Since the turn of the century, a dozen teams have gone 14-2 or better, and only three won the Super Bowl – the '03 and '04 Patriots on last-second field goals, and the '16 Patriots thanks to an epic comeback/collapse. All dozen easily could have failed to win it all.

Jeremy from Rice Lake, WI

King seems like the real deal. We've seen a lot of talk from Alexander, which is great, but not a lot of direct comments from King or Jackson. I love the "walk softly, but carry a big stick" guys. Is that their gig?

Jackson is definitely quiet. King might not talk as much as Alexander, but he's not short on words. In fact, he's a very engaging interview at times. He didn't do any 11-on-11 work during the spring, though, so he's just now getting back out there.

Richard from Madison, WI

What means it, "tolled"?

Essentially halted, like it's frozen in time.

Packers from Burke, VA

Receivers are typically described as excelling in one area over others (hands, route-running, etc.). What area stands out with Kumerow?

Nothing specific, just that he keeps getting open and making catches in practice. That's the name of the game for young guys in a crowded depth chart like him. If he keeps this up, he might start getting more reps against first-string defenders. That'll be a significant step, but he's already taken a few in the right direction.

Jeff from Dubuque, IA

In regards to Lee's question on the players riding kids' bikes to practice being the best tradition in sports, the Iowa Hawkeye wave to the children's hospital ranks pretty high on the chart as well. I'm humbled to report that I have witnessed both traditions and both are worthy of the top honor.

Duly noted.

Bill from Oskaloosa, IA

I heard James Jones on NFL Network talking about the relationship he built with the 8-year-old boy whose bike he rode every year as a Packer. That little boy is now a collegiate golfer and is teaching James how to golf!

Another of many reasons JJ is one of my all-time favorites. It was great to see him at practice Saturday, and it was fun to reminisce with him about the year ('09, I think) when he boarded the plane for road trips wearing a custom-made college jersey of one of his receiving mates. He had Jennings' Western Michigan, Driver's Alcorn State, Nelson's K-State, even receivers coach Jimmy Robinson's Georgia Tech. You name it, he got his hands on it.

Eliot from Denver, CO

Insiders, today is an era unlike any other in terms of fan access to knowledge of the game's intricacies. That said, I find it shocking that I have no clue what any positions are on kickoff and punt teams, aside from kicker, punter, snapper, and gunner. Does Zook just call guys "the guy who lines up over here" or is everyone generically dubbed a "special teamer"? How are these guys distinguished, and, on kickoff, are there certain body types apt for certain lanes?

On the punt team, I think they still refer to them as guards or tackles depending on where they line up. On kickoff, I've heard the labels "L-3" or "R-5" for which side and how many spots away from the kicker. As for body types in kickoff lanes, different coaches have different strategies, but a common alignment is to have your fastest coverage players both farthest from and closest to the kicker.

Micah from Dumaguete, Philippines

Who looked most like a big defensive lineman in pads?

I love it when the Inbox never forgets. But hey, Wes wasn't kidding in "Three Things" when he said it wasn't hard to notice Montravius Adams.

Mike from Exeter, PA

I can't even put into words how excited I am to see our new-look defense this next month. I hope the pundits doubt us and we can sort of stay under the radar. Let them all pick the Vikings. I feel we play a lot better that way. Also, I'm rooting for Geronimo but out of the three rookie WRs, which one do you see emerging?

They've all had their ups and downs so far. On Saturday, Valdes-Scantling made an impressive leaping grab for a TD with a safety draped all over him, and J'Mon Moore ran a great skinny post for a TD catch in traffic. But Moore also has had a drop here or there, and Valdes-Scantling missed his chance to be the story of the first day in pads. He separated impressively on a go route but dove (when he maybe didn't need to) and couldn't come up with a well-thrown deep ball in the end zone. It's still early. Every play that comes their way is a learning experience.

Jacob from Green Bay, WI

I am one year removed from living in VMC at St. Norbert and my biggest question all year was "which Packer player had my room?" I may never know. Is there any way to find this out? Either way, I will always hope that I shared Room 208 with a few legends.

You probably won't ever know, but that also means no one can ever prove you wrong.

Brett from Green Bay, WI

After three days of camp, how do you think the backup quarterback battle is going? This is one of many battles I'm very interested to watch play out this preseason!

It will play out in the preseason games. Practices won't decide it, in my opinion.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi guys, I saw Larry's video about the one-on-one drills between OL and DL players and have some questions. I have trouble understanding who won many of the battles. Is a winner always obvious? Is there some jawing back and forth about who actually won? Who ultimately decides who won? If the OL player performs an obvious hold is he automatically the loser? Is someone keeping track of who went again whom and the result?

It's not always obvious who won, and the only ones keeping track in the moment are some beat reporters on the sideline. The players and coaches will go back and watch the film to review technique and fundamentals (and penalties), to figure out how to improve. Whether or not there's a clear winner, the players know whether they had a "good rep" or not.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Have any players been sighted spinning footballs in the end zone, perhaps seeking to challenge AR in the pregame ritual?

Not yet, but maybe on Family Night. The Packers traditionally do their actual pregame warmup for the first time that night.

Mitch from Oak Creek, WI

Hey guys, I know the label of "starter" doesn't matter when it comes to players in the secondary because they will all be needed to step in at some point. However, who would you give the edge to at this point for the primary safety alongside Clinton-Dix? I tend to think it's Brice who I feel is quite underrated, with Jones, Burks, and others occupying more hybrid type roles. Would you say this is an accurate way to look at the safeties?

Three days into camp, yes. But it's three days into camp.

Michael from Manitowoc, WI

This is for Spoff, I guess. What do you think of the Moustakas trade?

A bold and unconventional move. If it pays off, it won't be the first.

Darren from Kingston, Ontario

"How can I take on a guy with no junk in his trunk?" What a way to end "Three Things"! And then to hear Larry's genuine instant reaction, "I can't believe I said that!" Priceless, a definite "Three Things" all-timer from Larry! It made me wonder about something. My impression watching "Three Things" is that you guys pull it off on the first or second take. With Larry's spontaneity, has he ever said something so outrageously funny that it derailed the video, necessitating another take?

Nope. If we have to do a second take, it's because Wes or I botched something on our turn. We have to hold it together enough on Larry's impromptu stuff or we know the true effect is lost.

David from Redding, CA

Thank you for the Inbox. It's helped keep my sanity during the hell we're enduring out here. Say a prayer/do a rain dance/keep us in your thoughts.

Will do. Stay safe. Make it a good Monday, everyone.