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Inbox: He's now a targeted player

The eye test tells a lot

LB Rashan Gary
LB Rashan Gary

Todd from Brighton, MI

So it would appear based on the Brian Baumgartner mail room delivery, that Spoff does indeed have a mail slot. But empty? Sad.

I'll be OK. Honest.

Eric from York, PA

Morning Mike, who would you say is/are the unsung hero(s) through Week 12 for this year's team? Try to narrow this down to only a couple. Thanks and have a great day!

Sticking strictly with players, I'd have to go with Yosh Nijman and Jon Runyan on offense. I've seen other teams around the league just collapse when they have to dig that deep at a premier position like left tackle. Meanwhile, Runyan has been filling in for a Pro Bowl left guard pretty much all season and he's hardly mentioned. On defense, I'll say Dean Lowry. He's never going to have flashy stats or make a lot of highlight reels, but he's always out there doing the dirty work, and doing it well.

Mark from Verona, WI

Morn, do you think the Pack are kicking themselves for signing David Bakhtiari and Aaron Jones to massive contracts that greatly affect the cap when they have excellent cheaper players in Yosh Nijman and AJ Dillon?


Bob from Oshkosh, WI

Trying to take advantage of the bye week to ask a simple question. You already addressed Lucas Patrick putting his hand inside his jersey. Why does he turn around and face the defense during the huddle? Or do all centers do that and I just haven't noticed?

I just assumed he was getting a sneak peek at the defensive personnel and perhaps how they're going to line up, to get a head start on his declaration and line call.

Steve from Ankeny, IA

With constant questions about when the injured players are coming back, I think Rashan Gary deserves a shout out. His injury looked horrific, he took a week off and returned against the Rams to play arguably the best game of any of the D-line/linebackers. Kudos to Rashan, I love to watch his motor run!

The attention he is commanding from opposing offenses is growing more and more. He's now a targeted player.

Shilo from Murrieta, CA

Spoff/Wes, let the record show that NEIL DIAMOND, not The Monkees or Smash Mouth, wrote "I'm a Believer." Neil also sang it on his 1970 Bang Records compilation album titled … "Shilo"! (yes, I'm named after the Neil Diamond song).

Can I take a wild guess at your (sweet) sister's name?

Aaron from Rhinelander, WI

If the defense allows under 26 points in a game, Rodgers and LaFleur (as a duo) have 33 wins and 0 losses. That's just crazy. Out of the remaining games, which do you think has the most potential to be a shootout?

Baltimore, Minnesota and Cleveland all have that potential in my mind. Lamar Jackson could go nuts at any time, we already saw a shootout with the Vikings, and if Baker Mayfield's shoulder gets healthier, who knows?

Ben from Northbrook, IL

If the league found it appropriate to discipline Antonio Brown for misrepresenting his vaccination status, why not Aaron Rodgers as well? I don't see the distinction. Help me out here!

It's obvious. The difference is the audience of the misrepresentation. For Brown, it was the league and his team. For Rodgers, it was the media and public.

Matt from Roseville, MN

One of my favorite things about the team this year is how well they tackle. The number of open-field tackles and yards after contact seem way better this year than I can remember in a long time. Is there any ranking or stats that look at how well a team tackles?

There are some metrics, but I don't have the list in front of me. The eye test tells a lot about how this defense plays.

Jerry from Ventura, CA

Has this been mentioned at all or talked about because I think it's it's really big deal. With the 17-game schedule, how on earth is it fair that 16 teams have nine home games and 16 have nine road games? How on earth would any league do this?

The "extra" games are all hosted by one conference (this year the AFC), so all the teams within a conference competing for the same playoff spots have the same number of home/away games.

Brandon from Pleasant Prairie, WI

What's the soonest we can clinch a playoff spot and how?

The simplest way to put it is the Packers are in with three more wins, which clinches the NFC North (as explained in Path to the Playoffs, whose season debut is today). Get to 12, done deal. It could happen sooner with help, but that would involve multiple teams that entered this week with six losses losing more games.

Matt from Algonquin, IL

Hey guys, was wondering in regards to when players come back from injuries, there is rust that needs to be shaken off so to speak, and in Alexander's and Smith's cases they can play limited snaps to get acclimated to game shape. But curious if the same could be said for Bakhtiari in that is it common for offensive linemen coming back from injuries to play a limited number of snaps, as I can't imagine it's as simple as that for the position?

Stenavich didn't rule out that possibility the last time he spoke with the media.

Davy from Watertown, WI

Mike, any thoughts on the lockout? Is it a big deal? If not, when will it start to be a big deal?

When the MLB owners or players actually start losing money, which would mean delaying the start of the regular season. If it gets to that point, then it's a big deal.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Not quite the "same old Jay" but I had a feeling we could count on Stafford to help us Sunday, albeit he led the Lions to some big victories over GB during his tenure there. I was equally bemused about Cousins lining up behind a guard and costing the Vikings in a key game. II has long listed all the numerous QBs of our division foes during the GB Favre-Rodgers era, who would you pick as the "best of the best" for the Vikings-Lions-Bears since 1992? Am I right in thinking no HOFers?

Warren Moon is in the Hall of Fame, and he quarterbacked the Vikings for a few years in the mid-1990s. Randall Cunningham was darn good for Minnesota, too, though like Moon, the bulk of his career was played elsewhere. Stafford is the best Lions QB since '92, and it's really not close. I'd probably go with Cutler for the Bears, despite his horrible career numbers vs. the Packers. Jim Harbaugh wasn't bad, but his two double-digit win seasons for Chicago were pre-Favre.

Mike from McFarland, WI

What's your favorite sports blooper?

The baseball bouncing off Jose Canseco's head for a home run. I don't think that'll ever be topped, in terms of a blooper that materially impacted a game/score.

Dan from Morehead City, NC

Rasul Douglas looks so fast on the field, yet when I looked up his combine speed it was 4.59, which is on the slow side. His play speed is so much faster than his 40 speed, it reminds me a little of Al Harris. How are some players able to play so much faster than their 40?

On the defensive side, that comes from anticipation, which is developed through film study, which breeds confidence in what the player is going to see, which produces trust in those instincts…

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Hi Mike, what's the contract status of Douglas and Campbell?

They're both on one-year deals.

John from Austin, TX

Just an opinion more than a question, is Willie Buchanon the best ever to wear No. 28 for the Packers with hope that someday it will be AJ Dillon?

No objections.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Aside from resting and recovering, another added bonus the bye week offers is a mental reset for Mason Crosby. A few days off has many a time quelled the bad habits forming in my golf swing.

Also no objections.

Will from San Diego, CA

Hi Insiders, how does the actual process of post-game player grading play out? Is every play from every game analyzed and critiqued with each player, and if so by whom and when?

The position coaches go through the game film and grade every player they're in charge of on every play. To what extent the grade sheets are shared with other players, I don't know.

Tom from Green Lake, WI

Now having the bye week and the Bears up next, do the coaches look ahead at the schedule and jot down thoughts about the rest of the upcoming opponents? I'm not saying to overlook the Bears. With a bye week this late, I'm just wondering if the coaches might make time to do some advanced preparation for the final stretch run. Or will they only focus on the next game?

They pretty much stick to the next game. After their self-scouting process, they need to unplug, too. It's difficult to summon any creativity or problem-solving skills from exhaustion or solely adrenaline. From a preparation standpoint, it also helps that three of the last five games are against division opponents they've already faced this year. So even when they come back, they can spend that much more time fine-tuning from within to try to reach a peak.

Craig from Appleton, WI

When the coaches are using the bye week to self-scout are they looking more at big-picture trends of the offense and defense or at players specifically and what they are doing well or not well?

Mostly the former. As noted, they're grading their individual players constantly.

Rudy from Cedarburg, WI

The Ravens game appears to be the biggest challenge in the remaining five games. I know we only look at the NEXT game, but have the games against Murray, Mahomes and Wilson helped prepare for the best QB scrambler/runner?

It certainly hasn't hurt.

Glen from Green Bay, WI

Signing Rasul Douglas off the Cardinals' practice squad has been so impactful it got me wondering, do personnel departments have the ability to talk to a player before claiming him or do they have to rely completely on scouting reports, pre-draft interviews, and film study? Since team chemistry is so important, it seems getting a feel for whether a player is able to fit would be almost as important their physical abilities.

For waiver claims and practice-squad poaching, any communication is via the player's agent. A street free agent not subject to waivers can be brought in for a workout, conversation, etc., but depending on the player and level of interest there may not be time.

Rob from Wilmington, NC

And now we have references from "The Outsiders." I think Sodapop and Ponyboy would be Packer fans.

Not Two-Bit, though. Not a chance.

Nathan from Minot, ND

With how well Douglas is playing at CB and Jaire's return looming, do you think the D could run a package where Jaire plays in the slot and lines up against the likes of an Antonio Brown and also use his athleticism in some exotic blitzes?

Definitely. If the defense can get Alexander back, I wouldn't take anything off the table in terms of his potential usage.

Derek from Norton, KS

Do games being flexed count towards the number of primetime games a team is allowed to play in a season?

No. The limit of five only applies to the original schedule.

Brian from Pleasant Prairie, WI

Bye week question: Your comment about reporters not in the locker room (still) got me wondering; Do you think no "outsiders" in the locker room last year and this year affected team(s) dynamic? As in, maybe the players are a little more "themselves" all the time now vs. being on their best behavior and shielding their personalities some so as not to be media fodder? I don't mean that as a knock on the media, but I'm wondering if all the players are able to bond a little more now because of it?

I'm sure the players prefer not having reporters in the locker room, but I doubt the pre-pandemic standard access period of 45 minutes per day (plus postgame) would have any outsized influence on team dynamics. They still always had the cafeteria, lounge rooms, etc., all to themselves 24-7.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

I predict that the rare Margeaux from Solvang, CA, misprint card will be a valuable collector's item.


Jonathan from Leeds, UK

Following on from Thursday's Inbox, I've compiled a list of the 10 stages of II greatness.

1. Have a question answered

2. Have your question inform the subheading

3. Have your question inform the heading

4. Be the first question answered

5. Be the last question answered

6. Have 2 questions answered in 1 column

7. Have your question referenced the following day

8. Initiate a long-running II joke (e.g. laser goalposts)

9. Have a recurring slot (e.g. Dean and Derek)

10. Insider Inbox MVP

11. Provide Spoff a comment via which he can ridicule Wes.

Adam from Phoenix, AZ

So let me get this straight...we have to root for the Lions AND Bears this weekend? Yeesh.

Fun times, right? I'm hoping to open up the Inbox on Sunday night to write Monday morning's column and see everyone's observations on the Packers-less slate of games. Let's talk everyone else for a day.

Stephanie from Flowery Branch, GA

Just rest, relax, recharge, recover, return to form, run the table...rejoice!

Happy Friday.