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Inbox: If he has to, he will

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

Mark from Carmel, IN

Packers v. Bears. It’s almost here! To quote from one of the best movies of all time: “Oh boy, is this great!”

I couldn’t be prouder for my last official offseason Inbox of 2019 to start with “Animal House.” Long live Flounder.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Why did NFL have the 100th season begin at Soldier Field instead of Lambeau?

The league was nice enough to let the Packers open their 100th season last year at home against the Bears. I don’t see what there is to complain about.

Mike from Ames, IA

James Crawford was thought to have a big role on special teams through the preseason, but he was cut when the Packers picked up B.J. Goodson, who ESPN reports was on the block in NY partially because he didn't contribute to special teams. Who do you see being the key players on coverage/return units this year?

Wes and I talked about this a bit on “Unscripted.” Kyler Fackrell definitely could be one. Raven Greene and Tony Brown as well. Trevor Davis will be a top gunner on punt coverage.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

Why would a team trade for a player, such as Goodson, who was released? Team thinks another team will claim him on waivers?

Clearly. It falls under the “take no chances” approach. One team gets something instead of nothing, the other gives up something minor to make sure.

Adam from Rochester, NY

So Gute thinks Goodson > Crawford?

No other way to read it. I was glad to see Crawford get claimed and wish him luck. He’s a heck of a special-teamer. But he gets added to my list of cautionary spring tales. He looked great in OTAs and solidly in the two-deep at inside linebacker. He looked nothing like that player in the preseason games.

Nathaniel from Eagle, CO

On Tuesday's Inbox it was stated, "However, the elite runners are still having the difficulty getting paid what they feel they’re worth." In your opinion, are elite runners in today's NFL worth what they feel they are worth?

A select few are, but I think some who believe they’re among the select few aren’t, and therefore they aren’t. Did you follow that?

Jim from Des Peres, MO

Who should be the first player off the bus in Chicago?

Danny Vitale.

John from Lebanon, PA

How is it that the Packers have so many players on the injury report and the Bears have only two? Seems like these two teams have a different perspective on who gets reported and who doesn’t.

I would agree. All that really matters is the final report with the designations, and since anyone who previously would have been listed as “probable” gets removed from the report now, I’m anticipating the Packers’ list getting much shorter very soon.

Ken from New York, NY

The reality of it just hit me. There's a real, live, this-one-counts Packers game on this week! A tip of the hat to all of the fans who are still able to formulate meaningful football questions this week. My head is too dizzy with excitement and anticipation to do that right now.

Easy there, Big Apple. It’s just football.

Troy from Westminster, CO

I'm very tired of the perpetual narrative regarding Ted Thompson by some fans. I'm excited for Brian Gutekunst and think he's doing pretty well in his short time as GM. However, to hear some fans talk, you'd think Thompson was unaware, undisciplined and unsuccessful during his time at the helm. That couldn't be further from the truth. Perhaps the Packers kept Thompson a year or two too long but Gutekunst has a ways to go to reach the accolades Thompson earned over the course of his career.

The disappointing 2015 draft led to all the spending in free agency this offseason. Gutekunst essentially bought himself a ’15 draft class in the Smiths and Amos. But the 2016 draft will still have a big say in how this team performs. Clark, Fackrell, Martinez, Lowry and Davis are important pieces for the new regime.

Rich from De Pere, WI

I see Kevin King returned to practice. We sure need to see him stay healthy this year! With him missing so much time this preseason, however, do you see him stepping right in and starting against the Bears or will we see Tony Brown starting like he has in the preseason games?

Whether or not King starts, his snaps are going to be limited after missing a month. Pettine pretty much said so at the podium the other day.

Kevin from Orlando, FL

I’m so ready for this first game. A new season brings new expectations and excitement. I expect a heated race in the toughest division in football down the stretch. What are your expectations and what matchup are you excited about for Week 1? I got my eyes on Mack vs. Bakh, both the best players at their positions.

Mack will move around and line up in different places, but I think it’s Bulaga who’s going to see him the most. That’s a big matchup in this game, as is the Packers’ run game against that entire Bears front.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

Time for Jimmy to do something Thursday.

Jimmy wasn’t happy with his first season in Green Bay. Banged-up finger and all, Jimmy has a chance to put it behind him now.

Chun from El Monte, CA

Savage didn't play too much in preseason but has locked up the starting spot. Has he impressed that much during training camp and in practices?

He was drafted to play right away and they’ve stuck with that plan. It’s unfortunate he missed time early in camp, but there’s been no equivocation in their expectations for him.

Mike from McFarland, WI

You said on “Packers Unscripted” the rookies had to stand in front of the team and announce their name and signing bonus. What purpose was this to serve?

Just your typical icebreaker in a unique environment. Believe me, money is a frequent topic of conversation in that locker room when players are amongst themselves.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Thinking back to the year where “the book” was that the Packer receivers couldn't get separation and comparing that to now. When Aaron goes deep, or throws a quick out or middle pass, how would you rank our new WR and TE group on most likely to be catching which of those? Of course, ignore that as the gorilla in the room Adams gets whatever he makes happen, I'm excited to see this play out and watch new and improved cast of characters define themselves.

Adams can do it all, and as far as I’m concerned, the quick out can go to just about anybody, including the running backs. But aside from that, your best deep threats are MVS and Davis, with Graham, Kumerow and Allison the better targets in traffic in the middle. At least that’s how it looks to me at the moment.

The Green Bay Packers practiced inside the Don Hutson Center on Tuesday before heading to Chicago for the first game of the regular season.

Elyada from Boca Raton, FL

What are your expectations for this game, and how much of the playbook do you think they are going to reveal this week?

LaFleur is going to use as much as he needs to in order to win the game. Game plans are always extensive, but often teams don’t get the chance, or have the need, to use everything they’ve put in. But if he has to, he will. It’s his first game, against the defending division champs. The champs are the champs until they’re beaten. This is a chance to announce the NFC North is truly up for grabs.

Chuck from Kenyasi, Ghana

Finally! The bologna stops Thursday. GBP makes the playoffs if they go x-x versus division opponents?

I’ll say 4-2 or better.

Collin from Kirkwood, MO

I have to believe many fans are excited to see what the new offensive design will look like. Understanding it won’t be a finished product on Week 1, there must be a few fundamental differences that will stand out. Can you share a few thoughts on what could look markedly different about our offensive system this year based on what you’ve observed so far?

Pre-snap motions, jet-sweep actions and bunch formations are all employed with greater regularity than I’ve seen in a long time.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

When Thompson took over as GM it was noted/criticized how quickly the roster turned over in just a few years. Now that we are in the age of analytics and have readily available data as to the success rate on third contracts and situational production based on systems, is there less objections to the similarly quick churn we are seeing with Gute? Going into his second year the roster is almost two-thirds replaced.

I see more similarities than differences, frankly, and for good reason. The Packers went to the playoffs four straight years from 2001-04, then missed two years in a row. After eight straight from 2009-16, they’ve now missed two years in a row again. I would expect the roster to be vastly different in both instances, analytics be darned.

Nicole from Rowlett, TX

Who is a sleeper going into the season that could play an important role in the team’s success?

Geronimo Allison.

Zvonimir from Mountain View, CA

I caught myself not as worried about Bears as I was the last year. I realized that is because they don't have Vic Fangio as their DC anymore. In your opinion, how much weaker/stronger/different is the Bears’ defense going to be this year compared to the previous one? Do you expect Pagano to install his own ideas or continue the path Fangio stamped? Personally, I consider Fangio to be the greatest defensive mind in the NFL after Belichick.

I’m no football coach, but if I’m Pagano, I’m not changing much from a unit that ranked first in the league in points allowed, first against the run, first in first downs allowed, third in total yards, first in takeaways … and changed only two front-line players, a safety (Clinton-Dix) and nickel corner (Buster Skrine). New coordinator or not, the hardest parts to repeat will be the 36 takeaways and six defensive TDs. To me, that’s going to tell us whether Chicago’s defense is any different, not so much the coordinator.

Tony from Chanhassen, MN

I am surprised Gutekunst didn’t use his high waiver status at cut down day. At what point in the season does that priority change?

After Week 3.

Jake from Athens, GA

Now that we know the 53, and from everything you’ve heard this summer, does this team remind you of any other recent NFL squads? The coach, the go-to WR and RB, and the investments on the D-line are all giving me a strong 2017 Rams vibe.

I’m not going to go anywhere near a comparison until I see this team play a game or six.

Bob from Atlanta, GA

Any thoughts on whether or not the Bears will assign one cornerback to cover Davante?

In the past, for the most part, the Bears haven’t matched up with Adams that way. Last year, both Fuller and Amukamara took their turns. But you never know.

Jody from Grand Rapids, WI

How would the game change if the NFL actually prohibited picks and nobody, offense or defense, could wear gloves? Sometimes it feels more like basketball played by Spidermen. Just one grumpy old man's opinion.

The picks have always bothered me more than the gloves. The offense has enough rules in its favor, so I’ve never been a fan of picks, but we’ll see if the ability to challenge for OPI on a key play changes their frequency of use.

Scott from Hamlin, NY

It's a lot easier to work uphill from mid-September than it is from mid-November.

True enough, and the Packers have five of six games at home after this opener, followed by four of the next five on the road through Thanksgiving weekend. So trying to climb uphill in November becomes especially difficult this year.

Phillip from Wonder Lake, IL

Who do you think will score first touchdown, defense or offense against the Bears?

After the Bears’ defense scored six TDs a year ago, it would really be something if the opposing defense scored first against them this year.

Trevor from Cherokee, OK

Longtime reader, first time asking. I want to know what you think was the best move we made this offseason and is Gary gonna make a name for himself this season?

The best roster move the Packers made was infusing the outside linebacker position with young talent. Matthews is one of the franchise’s all-time greats, but adding two 26-year-olds and then supplementing them with a first-round draft pick gives the defense a whole new look. Gary will get a chance to make a name for himself, because I expect him to get a lot of opportunities to rush the passer on third down.

Patrick from Paducah, KY

Offense or defense, the one Packer newcomer that makes the biggest impact on Thursday night in Chicago will be...?

Za’Darius Smith.

Joshua from Houston, TX

What excites you the most about the regular season compared to offseason and preseason?

Is this a trick question?

Malcolm from Fennimore, WI

I don't care what the first play on offense is as long as the second one is an extra point.

That was too easy.

JJ from Cape Coral, FL

Is it too early to put my bear meat in the crock pot?

So was that, though very original.

Scott from GA

Mike, having worked with Vic side-by-side did he actually say, "The baloney stops now," but didn't use the word baloney, out loud just before the first kickoff of regular-season play? And just think, this year we get to say it before anyone else.

Oh, he said it all right, every time, right when the kicker raised his hand. No baloney. Happy Wednesday.

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