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Inbox: Everyone's after that ideal combination

He’s at the top of the list, no doubt

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RB Aaron Jones

Benjamin from Burlington, VT

Wes developed literal callouses from beating a figurative drum?! Dang, that's hardcore.

Or something like that.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Our special teams improved last year on reduced penalties and gradually less coverage breakdowns. Early in the year teams were popping at least one big return/game then we brought that down under control. Did the coaching staff ever give a postmortem on why/how the coverage breakdowns stopped?

Not specifically, but I think it was mostly just young guys settling into their roles. I rattled off last week all the top tacklers from the coverage units the Packers have back in 2020. A year ago they all were less experienced players.

Dale from Lima, NY

If you were the Packers' head coach right now, what would be your pull-a-rabbit-from-the-hat trick play?

If linebacker Ty Summers can handle the personal protector duties on the punt team, I wouldn't mind having a former high school QB in that spot to maybe take a direct snap sometime.

Jennifer from Middleton, WI

Watching the live press conferences, there was an annoying number of people in the comments section posting things like "I'm done with the NFL because __." You've taken the time to tune in live, to an N-F-L team's press conference. But OK. That's like saying, "I'm lactose intolerant so I won't eat dairy," while eating an ice cream cone.

Are you suggesting some people couch their outrage in fake ultimatums? Surely you can't be serious.

Nic from Hopkins, MN

Have you seen the stories about retired top OL shedding tons of weight? It seems like linemen have gotten bigger and bigger over the years through this quasi-arms race between teams but it's demonstrably not good for the individuals involved. I know they're grownups and make a conscious choice, but do you think there's anything that can be done so that players aren't in an environment where they're effectively pressured to force feed to always be bigger?

Short of the NFL putting weight limits on players, which will never happen because of the lawyers that would get involved, not really. I applaud the former big guys who have returned to a more normal size after their playing days. It can't be easy but they've set themselves up for a better and longer post-football life. I shudder to think what might happen if some of these extremely large men contract the virus.

Larissa from Minnetonka, MN

Follow-up to the follow-up. Is it redundant to invest heavily in both OL and RB because the marginal gains don't justify the cost? Should you pick one or the other and then invest capital elsewhere? Zeke is very good but that Cowboys line has been excellent for years and has helped many RBs perform well. Could they have gotten much of that production at a fraction of the cost with a merely solid starter and then used the high pick on another needy position?

I believe a strong offensive line can make a running back look good. I also believe a strong running back can make an offensive line look good. Everyone's after that ideal combination to get an edge on everybody else.

Shawn from Kissimmee, FL

With another running back in the mix with AJ Dillon, I think the offense could do a no-huddle and utilize two running backs at times. Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams as the potential runner/pass catching back along with AJ on the field would be a defensive nightmare.

I think it would be a lot to ask of a rookie who hasn't had a traditional offseason and will have no preseason games to be adequately prepared for the no-huddle when he's learning an NFL playbook for the first time.

Scott from Noblesville, IN

Am I totally mistaken to believe part of the reason we "stayed the course" with the WRs we have is their outstanding BLOCKING ability?

That's certainly a facet of their game LaFleur appreciates, and at least partly why Gutekunst didn't see any receivers beyond the second round of the draft he thought would be better than the in-house corps.

Corey from Henderson, NV

Whether you print this or not, I have to say it. There is nothing political about "End Racism." It's not a weapon to be used to further some agenda, nor is it designed to be used by one side to make the other look bad. This is simply about human rights and human equality, and anybody who questions that needs to take a long, hard look at themselves and decide what kind of person they want to be. Beyond that, thank you for all you do in providing the II; it is a welcome respite.

I'll reiterate what I said a few weeks ago – just because the political apparatus may be needed to make progress on an issue does not make the issue itself political. That distinction is important.

Steven from Balsam Lake, WI

It still amazes me how many questions/discussions we see about the Packers WRs. I think what most don't realize for whatever reason is that this Packers team is not that of 2011 that runs five-wide often. With the backfield this team has, along with Davante Adams, that Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Marc-Antoine Dequoy plus the TEs are more than enough to make another division and deep playoff run. The Packers don't need Aaron Rodgers to throw 40 TDs when Aaron Jones, Jamal Williams and Company might put up 20 TDs also.

Green Bay's running backs accounted for 17 rushing TDs in 2019 (Jones 16, Williams 1). That's the most by the team's running backs since posting 18 in 2003 (Green 15, Davenport 2, Fisher 1). The only year in between that came close was 2013, with 16 (Lacy 11, Starks 3, Franklin 1, Kuhn 1).

Geoffrey from Rosemount, MN

Can we retire numbers in the Inbox? Like maybe No. 88?

No objection, your honor.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

Is NFL moniker "it's a week-to-week league" going to be replaced this year with "it's a day-to-day league"?

In terms of what the roster looks like, maybe. But the ultimate judgment – the games – will still be weekly.

Steve from Kansas City, MO

Do you think Rodgers would be better served by simply saying he will not answer any questions speculating about his future with GB? Favre made the mistake of saying honestly how he felt during his last few years with GB, and it created all the "will he or won't he retire" BS.

Rodgers didn't say anything different Monday than what he said after the draft. That's why I didn't even include any mention of it in the story I wrote from his media session. I suspect the next time he's asked about the topic, he will respond, "I've said what I'm going to say on the matter, and once again it hasn't changed." Reporters who continue to ask the same question are only going to make his media sessions less informative and newsworthy.

Tony from Cedarburg, WI

I see the biggest challenge to beating the Vikings is going to be Cook. What are your keys for the Packers to beat the Vikings opening week?

He's at the top of the list, no doubt. His absence from the division-deciding Week 16 showdown last year can't be overstated. Minnesota's offense did not look the same.

Bill from Iowa City, IA

MLB has canceled games with just a few players with positive COVID-19 tests on a team. What is your thinking on how the NFL will approach canceling games with positive tests? Do you think they will have some number of players out that will trigger a cancellation? If so, any thoughts on that?

That's a great question. I don't know the answer or how the league will handle it. I think it'll depend on how confident the league can be that no one carrying the virus will be taking the field. It'll be tricky. We've seen in baseball how multiple positive tests showed up over successive days after the initial positives within a team were found. That's where the electronic contact tracing the NFL has put in place with all clubs becomes a crucial measure. If a player/coach who tests positive and anyone with whom he's come in close contact (defined by the CDC as less than 6 feet apart for at least 15 minutes in duration) can be isolated appropriately, I believe they'll try to play the game. If there's legitimate uncertainty as to the potential spread, perhaps not.

Jake from West Allis, WI

Football is described as both a game of replacement, and a young man's game. Will this year be an exception due to roster limits and no preseason? Might it be an advantage to have an older, more experienced roster this year?

Not in the way you seem to be suggesting, I don't think. Second- and third-year players know what it takes to play in this league if they got some experience their first seasons. It's counting on a lot of rookies early in a season like this that could get dicey.

Stratham from Pineview, GA

I have seen several baseball to football comparisons in II concerning travel and the risk it entails. Correct me if I am wrong here, but I see football being far less dangerous in this aspect. Baseball teams travel to other cities and stay there 2-4 nights at a time for a series. A football team can fly in the evening before the game and fly out immediately after. Major difference.

Agreed, and there have been rumors of some NFL teams considering game-day travel in certain situations. I have no idea if the Packers are contemplating any changes, but four of the team's road games (Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago, Indy) require flights of less than an hour.

Gina from Waukesha, WI

Hey Mike and Wes, I was just wondering about padded practices. I know that they are limited to a particular number. But since there is no preseason which involves hitting and tackling, will there be extra padded practices to make up for that? Thank you.

There are 14 padded practices allowed in camp prior to final cuts. I don't have any data in front of me, but that doesn't sound like significantly more or less than a normal camp.

Maximilian from Pasadena, CA

Which position group is most disadvantaged by the lack of in-game preseason reps aside from special teams?

I would say the Packers' backup offensive tackles and young tight ends would have been among those benefiting the most from preseason action this year.

Rob from Louisville, KY

Will the teams that went deeper into the playoffs last year, with more games and more practices, have an even greater relative advantage this year with the abbreviated preseason? Or is the process too different to be valid?

It all starts over for everybody. There are individual young players who can benefit from those extra games in January, though. Jace Sternberger would be a Green Bay example.

Tom from Pine River, WI

In my view, keeping a competitive team together during a crisis is not something new for the NFL. During the 1940s, '50s and '60s, while star players were serving their military duties, teams were challenged to maintain a competitive roster throughout a season. Yet, I don't remember seeing an asterisk next to a team that won a championship during those years. I'm wondering why this season might be viewed any different.

Because in these circumstances, teams could be finding out a day or two before a game – after all the prep work for an opponent has been put in during the week – that suddenly a key player or three will be forced to sit out. It's practically impossible to prepare for every potential contingency or scenario.

Mike from New Orleans, LA

Maybe it was the masks (looking good by the way!) but Mike and Larry seemed nervous during that "Three Things" episode. Was it just a case of shaking the rust off?

I've never spoken on camera wearing a mask before, and it constantly feels like the thing is going to shift out of place. But I'll keep on keepin' on. Happy Wednesday.

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