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Inbox: He's putting the league on notice

A week off will do the Packers’ defense a lot of good

RB Aaron Jones
RB Aaron Jones

Donny from Chisago City, MN

The Packers have put themselves in the position of playing meaningful football games every week from here on out. We made it, guys.

And that's all you can ask for 10 weeks into a season. Good morning!

Meagan from Wausau, WI

No. 12's quote, "Maybe it's time to start talking about Aaron Jones in the MVP race," is 100% correct. CMC and Jones are now tied with 14 touchdowns apiece. I love that Jones is under the radar but what will it take for him to get the recognition he deserves?

Jones' time is coming. For all the debate about the value of running backs in 2019, the position itself remains one of the most visible (thanks to fantasy football). Jones is on pace for 1,508 total yards and 21 touchdowns. He's putting the league on notice, one game at a time.

Al from Green Bay, WI

There are a number of eye-popping stats behind the Packers' 8-2 start. Which is more startling – Aaron Jones with 14 TDs or Davante Adams with zero?

Jones' 14 touchdowns. As I said on "Unscripted," commiserations to those who have Adams on their fantasy football team but that's where this touchdown discussion ends. As Adams said after the game, he doesn't care who gets the credit and scoring if the team is 8-2. And by the way, Adams' 118 receiving yards were critical Sunday. His two catches of more than 35 yards helped set up two of Jones' three touchdown runs.

Venny from Montgomery, AL

As stellar a year as Aaron Jones is having and he is still not likely to get into the Pro Bowl. Is that correct? Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Ezekiel Elliott look to be on the inside track.

Pro Bowl voting starts today and Jones deserves to be in that conversation. What's more, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' locker room wants Jones to be in the MVP conversation.

Eric from Goodhue, MN

From high school, I remember that the worst basketball practices of the year were always the ones right after Thanksgiving and Christmas. Taking a couple of days off and loading up on a ton of food seemed to suck all the conditioning out of your body. How do players cope with this during the bye week? How do they balance resting their worn-down bodies but also staying in elite shape and not overdoing the rest?

Rodgers spoke after the game about accountability and buy-in required from players to be successful. That was his challenge to the young players on the roster. According to Adams, Rodgers gave a similar speech privately to the team. It's pretty simple – do your workouts, eat right and be smart the next few days.

Jim from Tucson, AZ

Can a general manager be picked as MVP?

I'm sure Brian Gutekunst won't take credit for it but signing the Smiths, Billy Turner and Adrian Amos is one reason the Packers are 8-2 entering the bye. From Day 1, Gutekunst talked about the upside with all four of those guys but that's been especially true for Preston, who now has a career-high 10 sacks after recording only four last year. When a young player in the first year with a new team emerges like that, the scout did his job.

Kevin from New Lenox, IL

How do we get Carolina to let loose of Kyle Allen? I know Rodgers has a ways to go, but I think I saw our next green-and-gold HOF QB playing against us this past Sunday.

I'm sold on Allen. He looked the part against the Packers. He made a couple elite throws that you simply have to tip your hat to. The Panthers have Allen under contractual control for two more years. If Carolina doesn't want him long-term, somebody will.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

Kenny Clark was not credited with any QB hurries in the stat sheet but he clearly had a good day collapsing the pocket and keeping Allen deep in the pocket so the outside rushers could get home. Blake Martinez moved Kyler Fackrell right before the snap on the last play and possibly put him in a better position to make the play. Does the coaching staff have a more advanced stat sheet that acknowledges these types of contributions?

Clark's four tackles (one for a loss) against Carolina don't tell the whole story. I think he was Pro Football Focus' highest-rated defensive player. He was credited with 10 pressures. A lot has been made of Clark's 1½ sacks this year, but the hourglass to get the quarterback isn't as long this year with the Smiths coming off the edge.

Perry from Ishpeming, MI

I was on my way home to watch the game and had the pregame on the radio. Wayne nailed each aspect of the Panthers team! What great insight, from the D-line, to Allen, to McCaffrey. My biggest take from the game was the play of the Packers' O-line! Yes, there was pressure but only two sacks! What's your take?

The offensive line is playing together and playing well. Elgton Jenkins has jumped in there and fit right in. I felt like they imposed their will against Carolina, plowing the road for the team's 163 rushing yards. Plus, Rodgers shouldered the blame for both sacks. Overall, I thought that was a nice bounce-back game for the O-line.

Chris from Ontario, CA

Insiders, with December football just around the corner, is the vulnerability of the "D" fixable?

I just think those guys need a week to rest. The Packers run their rotations pretty tight. Nine players have played at least 70 percent of the total defensive snaps this season.

Braden from Aurora, CO

What do you think the contributors are to the lack of production from Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling this season? Is this a case of nagging injuries not letting them play at 100% or something more concerning?

Marquez Valdes-Scantling has been playing through ankle and knee injuries, but I think it's been more a product of Green Bay's offense rotating a lot of receivers and skill-position players in. They aren't just running the same guys on the field in the "11" personnel group 60 plays a game.

Darrell from San Antonio, TX

An honest and legit question, how does this defense get back to playing the way it did the first three games? Since then they have taken a nosedive – 28th in total defense is poor by anyone's standard. Granted our scoring defense is in the middle of the pack but we can't seem to get off the field on third down. I don't agree with Troy Aikman often but he was correct in saying our secondary has problems when the front four don't apply any pressure. How does this get fixed moving forward?

So Aikman was saying the secondary has issues when the pressure doesn't get home? Dynamite drop-in, Monty. Christian McCaffrey got his yards but that was expected. The real story is how the Packers kept McCaffrey without a game-changing, explosive gain. Undoubtedly, there are improvements the defense must make but the Packers made it to the bye. A week off will do that unit a lot of good.

Rob from Muskego, WI

I noticed on Tramon Williams' interception as soon as the ball hit his hands, he was rolling himself onto his back. I assume it was a conscious effort to take away any chance of it hitting the ground? Is this something that is coached or just something that he (and I think a few other CBs) do themselves?

Experience. You can coach it, but that's a veteran leaning back on more than 200 NFL games over the past 13 years.

Bryan from Omaha, NE

I don't understand the call reversal on Jimmy Graham's touchdown. Yes, his right foot did not touch down inbounds before possession, but his right knee touched the pylon before he was out of bounds. I thought the pylon was considered part of the field of play which should have made the touchdown stand.

That was my understanding of the rule but I guess not.

Isaac from Columbia, TN

Maybe because it happened right before halftime, but much of the TV commentary seemed to focus on the (non) roughing-the-passer call on McCoy in the end zone. I might be biased, but the two (non) OPI calls on Allen Lazard and Davante Adams seemed more egregious and just as costly to me.

Bad call, but bad calls happen. You have to rise above, which the Packers did. My biggest gripe about the Lazard OPI is how dangerous that sequence is for the landscape of the NFL in 2019. The side judge was too far downfield to be the one making that call and only saw the defensive back flailing to the ground. At no point did he see physical contact – he was reacting to the player. That's where review should mitigate the blown call, but the league office won't have it.

Bob from Cadillac Ranch, Zimbabwe

When the Packers' defense was called for offside with around 10 seconds remaining, giving the Panthers another shot with a first down, the replay clearly showed the ostensible offender's feet never moved. He did lurch forward momentarily, but kept his balance and held his ground. Shouldn't there be a provision in the rules forcing a review of such game-altering calls made with less than two minutes remaining? Of course, the officials also missed the hold that allowed Aaron Jones' touchdown...

Sure, but refs need to get pre-snap penalties right. Plain and simple. Preston Smith obviously felt a certain way about the call. It is what it is.

The Green Bay Packers beat the Carolina Panthers, 24-16, in snowy conditions at Lambeau Field on Nov. 10, 2019.

Henry from Brown Deer, WI

Good morning II. Just a statement. Maybe Coach will learn about taking the points. If I recall right there was a similar situation during the fourth-and-26 game where we passed up the points. By going for the field goal in both games it would made the endings moot.

There's a time to take the points and a time to shoot your shot. Call me foolish but I liked the call to go for it. The Packers were pounding it between the tackles with Jamaal Williams on that series, and for much of the game really. Considering the Packers were getting the ball after halftime, I liked the confidence Matt LaFleur showed in his offense there.

Jordan from Downers Grove, IL

Isn't it funny how Mike McCarthy was decried for kicking the FGs against Seattle in the NFC Championship Game (a game where points were going to be at a premium going against that defense), but LaFleur is also criticized for going for it instead of kicking the FG (against a defense that hadn't shown it could stop us on the ground). I guess whatever you do, just make it work.

Revisionists are never wrong.

David from Jerusalem, Israel

On the final play, the Packers' D did a great job! But when Panthers guard Greg Van Roten tried to (illegally) pull McCaffrey over the line, the irony is that he had his man wrapped up so tight in a bear hug, McCaffrey could not extend his arms to get the ball over the plane of the goal. Only fair they failed! Could the Packers formally complain to the league that the "aiding the runner" penalty is not being called?

The Packers can submit that video to the league for clarification but that's a tough play to officiate. Referees are so focused on whether the ball crossed the plane of the end zone, who's actually watching to see if a lineman is pulling his ball carrier in?

Kevin from Pardeeville, WI

I am a faithful reader of the Inbox, but I've never submitted a question before. I thought I read in the Insider that it was illegal for an offensive player to pull a ball-carrier forward. It was very clear at the end of the Panthers game that Van Roten was trying to pull McCaffrey across the goal line. If he had succeeded, would a coach's challenge have rectified the situation?

Yeah. That's the really tough part. That's not a reviewable part of the play. So if Van Roten actually pulled McCaffrey in, that goes down as a touchdown.

Richard from Eagle River, WI

Was at the game. Noticed that the rookie tight end Jace Sternberger played quite a few snaps. Looked to me that he is a pretty good blocker and not afraid to get after people. Did I see that right?

That was unexpected but LaFleur is serious about getting two and three tight ends on the field. Sternberger didn't have a catch in his 14 snaps but he battled and held his own in pass protection.

Kirsten from Madison, WI

Just an observation: At Lambeau earlier this season, I loved the flickering lights as part of a touchdown celebration. But watching the game at home on Sunday, I realized it looks awful on TV. The screen went so dark my daughter thought something was wrong with the television. I'm torn on whether that's something the Packers should consider.

It's not just the Packers. Alabama was doing it on Saturday night in its game with LSU. It's an adjustment we all have to get used to. It takes time but I'm noticing it less and less.

Bill from Menominee, MI

Prior to a Packers kickoff, I told my dad sitting next to me in the bleachers to focus on No. 27 Tremon Smith. He didn't disappoint. He made a dead sprint to the ball for a fearless hit and tackle. He's going to be an important special-teams player down the stretch.

He plays fast. As much as we talk about him as a returner, Smith offers a lot as a coverage tackler, as well. Hopefully everything checks out for Smith, who was ruled out after being evaluated for a concussion.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

For the bye, do the players stick around Monday to look at film and go through positional meetings, or were they free to head out for the week Monday morning? Also, will the coaches be doing self-scouting this week?

It was a normal Monday. The team lifted in the morning and had meetings in the afternoon. The coaches will do some self-scouting before taking a little time off later in the week.

Dale from Wilton, WI

Do players stay in Green Bay for treatment during the bye week? Do some get a list of things to do while they go to wherever they go?

Many injured players will stay back for treatment. Davante Adams said he had the option to leave and do his workouts remotely but is going to stay in Green Bay this week to continue his treatments with the toe.

Scott from Hayward, WI

As much as I did not want to see the Vikings win Sunday night, I have to admit the consolation prize of watching Dallas pick up another loss was very soothing. With the Saints, Lions, Panthers, and Rams all losing, the football gods were smiling down on us. Can we agree that even though it might be one game at a time right now, these NFC losses can have major playoff implications for the Packers in a couple months?

It takes me back to something Rodgers said after the Packers lost to Atlanta in the 2016 NFC title game – the importance of home-field advantage. There are six big games ahead, but Green Bay has put itself in that conversation with how it's played. The Packers have been chasing for so long, but they're back in the driver's seat again.

Abiegail from Santa Clarita, CA

That MNF game to me felt like a heavyweight boxing match with all the back and forth going on. The winner deserved it. My question is will the Packers be the No. 1 seed if they win their next game?

That took some emotional twists and turns I wasn't expecting but the result certainly makes a big game bigger. With the 49ers having to play the formidable Cardinals this weekend, the Packers could be positioned to take the reins of the NFC over the next two weeks. The 49ers played very mistake-free football for the first two months. They didn't on Monday night and lost their donut in the loss column. That's a banged-up team right now, as well, and facing seven straight games to end the regular season.

Dan from Allen, TX

Just saw that Zeke Bratkowski died. He and Bart, the best of buddies, and they die within the same year. Always thought Zeke was kind of an unsung hero on those '60s Packer teams. He was always prepared, even though Bart rarely came out. He could have been a starter on other teams in the league.

A true gentlemen and a great ambassador for the game of football. Our thoughts go out to Zeke's family and friends.

Tom from Draper, UT

Did Wes bring Mike an oatmeal raisin cookie or did Mike find one of Wes's cookies?

I run snacks for Spoff at halftime. Ma Hod ain't no baker.

Amy from Bayport, MN

Wes, the Panthers game was an important win for us. Sure, there were a lot of great plays made on the field, but let's give credit where credit is due. Daniel from Castle Rock made the tough call to bury that Packers shirt in the back of the closet and we came away victorious. Self-scout, make adjustments and execute. It's what champions do.

You the real MVP, Dan from Castle Rock.