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Inbox: He's a huge asset for the defense

Everyone has been told to adjust in no uncertain terms

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Cindy from Los Angeles, CA

Hi Mike, Washington has been hard to gauge in their first two games. What do you see as their biggest strengths against the Packers?

Alex Smith plays efficient, smart football. It's very difficult to force him into a mistake. It'll be on the Packers' defense to make a game-turning play at some point, but it won't be easy. I think tight end Jordan Reed is the toughest matchup for the defense, and Smith has always used a big tight end as a go-to guy (Vernon Davis in SF, Travis Kelce in KC). Josh Norman is still a top corner, too, and another challenge for Davante Adams. I know there are a couple of balls Adams would like back, but I thought he won his share against Rhodes.

Daniel from Wichita, KS

Moving on from the rough game that is in the past, I have to tell you, I'm very excited to have Aaron Jones back this week. From what I've seen he can be a difference maker. J. Williams did very well, especially on blocking, but as for the run, Jones is so elusive. What are your thoughts?

I like what Williams and Montgomery bring to the table, but of the three, I think Jones is the best combination of elusive and explosive. Assuming Rodgers continues to get healthier, with Graham's involvement after a quiet Week 1 and now a more dangerous backfield option, I look for the offense to take the larger step Rodgers regretted not seeing in the Vikings game.

John from Los Angeles, CA

I love the explosiveness and vision Aaron Jones brings to the run game, but it seems the obstacle to more playing time for him has always been Williams' superiority in the pass-blocking department. With Aaron Rodgers already hobbled, do you think Aaron Jones will get even less snaps?

Not necessarily. Ty Montgomery has improved considerably as a pass protector. No reason Jones can't as well. I expect he'll get the opportunity to prove himself in that regard.

Zach from Clarkfield, MN

AR was still sacked four times and hit many other times, but I was still impressed with the blocking from Williams and Montgomery. In my opinion, without those two backs picking up the Viking blitz, AR would've been hit many more times.

If you haven't checked out my WYMM from this week, there are some great examples on the film.

Brian from Worthing, SD

With the NFL being a billion-dollar industry, why not move all replays to a central location? Instead of having 16 crews take their interpretation to what happened, have five people who do nothing but watch the replay and make the call so they can be impartial and consistent.

Um, when did the Van Winkle descendants reach South Dakota?

Richard from Gunnison, CO

I guess my concern on the Clay Matthews tackle is the league backing it up. The NFL officials made a mistake. If you cannot admit that then I don't know anymore. What's your take?

The league has admitted mistakes in the past, not that it's actually done much good. But I take the approach this time as a message regarding how seriously the league is going to protect quarterbacks, and how much it is demanding the players change their ways, as difficult (and perhaps unreasonable) as it may seem. Everyone has been told to adjust in no uncertain terms.

Dan from Newport News, VA

With the league sending out the rule tape regarding why both sacks (yes both, Kendricks' was identical), would they also discuss the many non-calls the officials missed such as the PI on Graham?

Those are part of the officials' grades, but when a particular issue is not a league-wide emphasis or problem, it's not necessarily on the teaching tape.

Tom from Blaine, WA

A lot of the joy in watching football is the instantaneous celebration of big plays. The last two games have made me wonder: is the NFL in danger of losing that joy? Is the continuous threat of a game-changing penalty going to rob us of the moment?

A lot of that joy already has been diminished by every scoring play and turnover being automatically reviewed. It's a sacrifice but a worthwhile one to me. You used the word yourself – the celebration is instantaneous, the result is on the books forever.

Caleb from Wasilla, AK

I don't know that I've ever seen a game like Sunday's. It felt like we gave it away, got robbed, and got lucky, all at the same time.

Is your nose getting brown or are you just copying your homework? Postgame editorial headline: Packers feel like they gave one away. Lede: The Packers were lucky, unlucky and their own worst enemy all on the same day.

Brad from Calgary, Alberta

Sorry, one more question on the Vikings game. I agree the officiating was questionable and the hit on the quarterback was beyond questionable; however, I thought the game changed on one big play. Leading 20-7 early in the fourth and letting Diggs go off for 75 yards changed the complexion of the game. Did either of you ask anyone if that play was caused by a lack of communication on the back end or if the coaches would like a do-over?

No question that was the game-changer. It blew the doors off a controlled, contained game. McCarthy said the Packers didn't handle King's injury well. I interpreted that comment to encompass multiple facets, from matchups to communication to execution.

Jonathan from Paducah, KY

Maybe we can all be positive and have hope from the Matthews call. The missed fumble call in the playoffs that led to the T.O. touchdown contributed to instant replay. The missed interception call that led to the Golden Tate touchdown contributed to the end of the referee strike. Maybe the Matthews call leads to some more clarity if not change. Oh, and this time it took a tie and not a loss for the league to take notice.

I like the way you think, and if you include the Dez catch/no catch (the one that went Green Bay's way), then the key question is really the one Wes asked me right before we turned on the camera for "Unscripted" yesterday: How in the world are the Packers always involved in all these messes?

John from Marion, IA

Here's a conspiracy theory: NFL doubled down on Matthews penalty because Packers don't have an influential billionaire owner who would complain.

Except the other shooter on the grassy knoll is named Kendricks.

Mike from Jackson, MI

Has a team ever had two ties in a season? If they would have two ties, is that in essence one win and one loss for determining playoff implications?

I don't believe any team has had two ties in one season since the implementation of overtime in 1974. In the standings, a tie counts as half a win and half a loss, so yes, two ties would be equivalent to one win and one loss. At 1-0-1, the Packers and Vikings each have 1½ wins in their two games for a winning percentage of .750.

Brett from Oshkosh, WI

Did you guys notice all the running backs getting double-digit catches this week? Christian McCaffrey, Chris Thompson, Saquon Barkley, and I think a couple others. Obviously we've seen running backs become more of receivers in the past few years, but we've seen it significantly more these past couple weeks. Do you think it's becoming a bigger part of scheming, or is it more the result of dump-offs from what seems to be a lack of good O-line play league wide?

I'm sure checkdowns are part of it, but the league is also more and more about matchups, and if a defense has run personnel in the game against a McCaffrey or Barkley type, an offense can scheme to get that player the ball in space against a run defender, potentially a slower linebacker, for example. The Packers will have to make their matchup decision regarding Thompson this week.

Kary from Sheboygan, WI

Either you haven't been asked or you haven't posted, but are you surprised by the start of the year the Saints have had? Sure, Tampa looks like a surprise team this year, but the Browns game would be concerning for me if I were a Saints fan. Maybe that first-round pick next year is higher than we think?

It's still early, and a veteran, accomplished quarterback can turn a team around at any moment. But the Saints are fortunate not to be 0-2, especially in that division.

Joel from St. George, UT

Hello. Nobody has mentioned our new punter. I saw a couple of booming punts!

JK Scott was a significant weapon against the Vikings. In the first half, the Packers were backed up a lot, and he prevented the Vikings from getting any real field-position advantages. He's a huge asset for the defense.

Lane from Calgary, Alberta

Watching the 'Boys and Giants on Sunday night we saw two onside kicks. While I think the new kickoff rules are good for the play and make the game safer, I think we have a problem when it comes to lining up within one yard of the kick line. Although the Giants recovered the first, that was more a result of a Bobby Boucher "Waterboy" kickoff where a front-line defender fails to catch the kick. I don't see how anyone can make it down the field to recover a kick without a head start.

During the offseason, as soon as I took the time to understand the new kickoff rules, my immediate reaction was the percentage of successful onside kicks would noticeably decline. I'd find the day I wrote it in this space, but it's not the offseason anymore.

Tim from Windsor, CO

The Seahawks vs. Bears onside drop-kick attempt had me thinking, why not have your punter kick it 10-15 yards straight up in the air? Sets up a "Hail Mary" for the onside kick, no?

The Inbox never ceases to try to outsmart the next guy. In this case, the fair catch is your foil.

Phil from Boise, ID

With the first two games of the season both showing big comebacks late in the game, it has me wondering: is the more offensive-minded NFL making these big comebacks more likely? Anecdotally it feels like there are more fourth-quarter comebacks from 14 or more points down in the last few years. Do you have any data around that?

I don't, but the league certainly isn't going to complain.

Olle from Kallunga, Sweden

Does Vontae Davis get half a game check?

Good question. Better question: Does he have the guts to ask for it?

Ben from El Cerrito, CA

To me the real question regarding the new passer protection rules is how can we exploit them? I want to see Rodgers flinch to make a defender ease up, only to scamper out of the pocket and toss a bomb downfield. The next evolution of the offside cadence perhaps?

Goodness sakes, I sure hope not.

Mike from Morgantown, IN

With Clay's roughing the passer being used as the example of what the NFL doesn't want, are QBs going to be coached to jump if they're being hit to draw the flag?

Ditto.

Dan from St. Louis, MO

Washington feels like a trap game. I hate to use that buzzword, but the players just battled through two emotional rivalry games and the head coach is still analyzing roughing-the-passer rules. Has the team moved on?

It's their job to, and trust me, there's no way McCarthy and the coaching staff spent an ounce of their time after Monday on the rules hullabaloo. Once the game-planning starts Tuesday and moves into the on-field preparation Wednesday, potential distractions are only brought up due to media obligations.

Evan from Milford, CT

Maybe the league just reviews personal fouls in the last two minutes of each half?

Or align it with the clock-stoppage rules – last two minutes of the first half, last five of the fourth quarter. I could get on board with something like that.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Hit for the cycle twice in a month. Does Yelich win the NL MVP?

I'm sticking to my original answer: Only if the Brewers overtake the Cubs. Otherwise, I think Baez gets it.

Tim from Greensboro, NC

Enough about the refs. We must get better in the red zone on offense and limiting big plays on defense. Our hyped DL line depth needs to show up more in the pass rush. Our hyped DB depth can't implode when one of them is out. Your thoughts?

All valid. With that, I'm going to direct anyone still looking for answers on certain hot topics from the past two days to my mid-week chat, which covered many items also found in the Inbox.

JT from Whitewater, WI

Love picture No. 21 in the Jerry Kramer ring ceremony gallery. He's alone, in his HOF jacket with his hands behind his back and the look on his face is content. So well-deserved.

It's worth saying one last time what a privilege it was to be in Canton to cover his induction. Ranks way up there for me in my career.

Brian from Sussex, WI

Your answer to why the football gods didn't make sure Zimmer's TO was too late – because they wanted a tie. The tie doesn't give MN a true advantage, but not giving GB the win brings attention to the impact of the Matthews call. Although, I think the response by the NFL to the Matthews call may have angered the football gods. Expect some really crazy games this week.

I love it when the Inbox makes me laugh. All the "laws of physics" comments related to roughing the passer deserve a shout-out, too. Please know I read them. I just didn't have a good answer for you, but I did smile.

Mike from Lake Mills, WI

So the Pack goes 1-0-1 against our two biggest rivals who made huge acquisitions this offseason, and Rodgers was not 100 percent. Even aside from most Packers fans feeling like we've had some calls go against us, I'd say we should feel good about the current outlook. Arrow pointing way up.

The early results would indicate the Packers have a huge opportunity over these next four games heading into the bye week. One at a time. Just beat the Redskins.

Greg from Downers Grove, IL

There is spilt milk from every game. Our goal is to make the playoffs and hopefully have home field if at all possible. There are only two 2-0 teams in the NFC and the Packers are right where we need to be. Let's all stay focused on the real prize and 12 staying healthy throughout the entire season.

The winning percentage referenced earlier equates to 12-4. Who wouldn't take that? Happy Wednesday.

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