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Inbox: It's a simple answer

To succeed, teams need to find those diamonds in the rough

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Running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

With cut-down day in the rear-view mirror, are rosters now able to go to 55 and will teams be able to dress 48 Week 1? Also with no preseason, how different has the second-guessing and criticism been this year compared to years past?

I expect every team will dress 48 players (and eight offensive linemen) this year. The active roster is still 53 but teams can elevate two practice-squad players without requiring a roster transaction like past years. For example, the Packers signed and cut Evan Baylis twice last year when they were short on tight ends. This year, the practice-squad player can play (and get the standard base salary) without needing a corresponding move to make room on the 53. To your second question, there's definitely less second-guessing this year. Brian Gutekunst said the scouts miss preseason games because it helps evaluate young players across the league. I think the same is true for fans. It's harder to fuel the hype train without seeing any of these young guys play.

Jeff from Mesa, AZ

Will each team have to publicize which four players on the practice squad are protected each week? If so, is there anything we will be able to interpret about a team's personnel strategy from this?

I don't know if that's something that'll be accessible to everyone on the media transaction wire or if the NFL will treat it like tryouts and keep that on the personnel wire. Either way, we'll find out soon enough.

Rich from Bemidji, MN

If the Packers were/are so receiver needy, why is it two of our releases were picked up by other teams?

Because maybe the Packers' receivers weren't as maligned as advertised?

Bubba from Kenosha, WI

A lot of Packer fans are critical of the current and last year's WR talent and depth without taking into account the true embarrassment of riches at arguably the deepest position year in, year out the last decade and a half. Fans were maligning TT when he traded out of the first round and then took some guy named Jordy Nelson at a position of strength. That said, which non-QB position group is the deepest?

Maligned? Hey, that's my word! It's a simple answer. Running back. I think Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are both capable of being starters who rush for 1,000 yards, and the organization feels AJ Dillon also has that type of potential. Aaron Rodgers even spoke on how Williams took as big a leap as anyone this offseason. Throw Tyler Ervin in there and the Packers pack a potent punch with the offense they can generate out of their backfield.

Packers LB Za'Darius Smith celebrates his birthday on September 8. Check out photos of him from training camp and his 2019 season.

Greg from Chelsea, MI

Tulane alum here. The Packers got a good one in Parry Nickerson.

Nickerson had some eye-popping numbers at Tulane (Started 46 of 48 games, with 16 career interceptions and 31 pass breakups). He also ran a 4.32 time in the 40 at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. He's bounced around a little bit but there's a lot to like.

Brian from Maple Grove, MN

Who do you think gets the majority of snaps at TE to start the season?

It depends on the situation and game plan, but I keep saying the table is set for Robert Tonyan to break out this year.

Dale from Lima, NY

If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, the Packers have a lot of players who started their NFL careers as undrafted free agents (either for the Packers or for another team before they came to Green Bay): 12 of the 53 on the active roster and 12 of the 14 on the practice squad. Is this unusual or fairly standard in the NFL today?

The Packers are probably above the curve when it comes to using undrafted free agency for roster construction but every team does it. It's tough to build a 53-man roster with only draft picks. To succeed, teams need to find those diamonds in the rough.

Dan from Allen, TX

What is the strategy behind 14 on the practice squad? I know it leaves two spots open for other players that could come free, but can't they just release one of the 16 to grab a player they like that is out there?

If teams sign players other than those they released, they have to wait until those new players pass all their COVID-19 tests before officially signing them to the practice squad.

Dave from Rockford, IL

Lombardi mentioned many times that with Paul Horning as the PK it opened up an additional spot on the roster. Can someone explain to me why all teams need an additional spot for a long snapper? Why can't a center also long snap to save a spot? All I can think of is NFL centers were not centers in college. With lots of training and practice they should be talented enough to learn to long snap. They would probably also earn a pay raise.

Because the margin between winning and losing in the NFL is so small that it doesn't make sense to leave anything to chance. It's easier just to have a bona-fide long snapper whose sole focus is on that aspect of the game than a center or tight end who has larger concerns. Also, rosters are a lot larger today (53/55) than they were in 1961 (40). There's plenty of room to comfortably carry three specialists.

Derek from South Point, OH

Hello II. I'm ready for some football. I'm a diehard cheesehead, but a student of mine was picked up for the Jaguars' practice squad. His name is Austen Pleasants, and he's only the second NFL player in our high school's history. Can you explain the basic job responsibilities of a practice-squad player? Also, how and when can they be picked up by another team?

Congratulations. Practice-squad players take part in all the meetings, walkthroughs and practices. They might not get as many reps at their actual position in-season due to their responsibilities on the scout team, but they're part of the game-planning process like everyone else. Historically, practice-squad players can sign to a 53-man roster at any time, though there was a slight change this year with teams being allowed to protect four of their 16 every week. All the best to him.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

So no undrafted rookies made the 53? When's the last time that happened?

2004.

Jay from Sheboygan, WI

Good morning gentlemen. Not a question, just a pick for first play of the game. It would be great to see a handoff to AJ Dillon, have him run over a couple defenders while taking it 75 yards to the house!

It seems unlikely Dillon starts over Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams on Sunday, but I appreciate outside-the-box thinking.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

It has to be a fake hand off to AJ, LBs bite, and a completion to Davante Adams for 10-plus yards.

Assuming you're referring to Aaron Jones, this sounds like the perfect way to open a season for the Packers' offense.

Roger from McGrath, AK

I read that the Cowboys picked up Malik Turner expecting a contribution on special teams as a returner. It made me wonder about our depth behind Tyler Ervin. Now that we have a roster there should be an answer. Who do we have in that backup role?

With the new practice-squad rules, the Packers can elevate Darrius Shepherd at any time. He has experience handling both return jobs. Chandon Sullivan stepped in on kickoffs a little last year and Jaire Alexander has helped on punts before. First and foremost, I'm excited to see Ervin get a full season in that role. He has a lot of ability and now appears to be in the right system for it to show.

Ken from Racine, WI

Wes, thanks to you and Mike, et al, for helping us through the offseason. My question has to do with your not being able to attend games in-person. Presumably, you will be at home headquarters to view the game. Is there an enhanced viewing system for you guys, or will you be confined to the same network broadcast that's publicly available? I would think an expanded form of coverage would be helpful to your reporting.

The Prince of Platteville and I will still cover home games at Lambeau. We won't be next to each other in the press box this year (another question for another day) but watching home games will be relatively normal. The most abrupt change happens this Sunday, when I'm covering the opener off the network broadcast from Lambeau. I could work from home but it's not as quiet with a dog and a 2-year-old running around, and I'd rather use the resources at Lambeau. It's going to be a challenge but it's something I have done before. I didn't travel to road games outside the NFC North during my first year on the beat in 2012.

Bob from Riverside, CA

Wes, your closing question in the interview with Gutey and his answer brought it home for me. Without minimizing the great impact Wolf and Thompson had on the Packers' success, I think we really have a jewel in Gutey. It is clear he listens to his team in making his decisions. He is also quite comfortable and open when talking to the media which is refreshing compared to Thompson. I am happy knowing we have Gutey helming the Packers' ship now.

I feel like what the Packers' organization has continuously done right over the last 30 years is identifying the right GM for the right time and place. Wolf and Thompson fit perfectly into their respective eras, and Gutekunst is hitting his own stride now going into Year 3.

LeeAnn from Carefree, IN

I'm concerned about kick coverage and kick returns on special teams. With little or no reps with tackling in camp and no preseason games to work out problems, is this a potential problem this Sunday?

Yes. For all 32 teams.

Mike from Ames, IA

Will Rodgers/Brady challenge the record set in 2007 when Brett Favre and Vinny Testaverde were the oldest QBs to face off in a game?

No. Rodgers and Brady will combine for 80 years and change in October. Favre and Testaverde were 82 years, 44 days when the Packers and Panthers played in 2007.

Mark from Grand Rapids, MI

Are we really going to rely on the league to insure the Vikings don't blast that blasted horn over 100 decibels? If they do I hope we have a revenge plan for when they visit Lambeau.

Hell hath no fury like the "Beer Barrel Polka" at 100 dB.

Kevin from Park City, UT

Please tell me there will be none of those cardboard cutouts and irritating virtual fans at NFL games! Beyond cheesy! Lol.

Cheesy? Well, this is Green Bay. I'll see myself out.

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