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Inbox: It's always a tough battle

Opportunity earned is a lottery ticket to fulfilling potential

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LB Za'Darius Smith

Ed from South Beloit, IL

Wes, should it have been spoff-balling?

Is that even a question? Of course it should have been, but Spoff isn't vain enough to buy into his own hype. Good morning!

Richard from Madison, WI

How's it feel being literally the only game in town?

Crowded.

Kevin from Custer, WI

Both the Vikings and the Packers have tough schedules in the first half of the season and I would predict a close race between all four NFC North teams midway through the season. Do you agree?

It's always a tough battle. With the exception of maybe 2011, I can't think of many years where there was a clear division winner in early December. It's why I routinely say the NFC North is one of the most underrated divisions in football.

Ben from Menominee, MI

Let's just say, the top three receivers for the Pack end up being Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, and Devin Funchess. For three- or four-receiver sets, would we primarily see Adams in the slot? Where has Adams been the most effective lining up?

Everywhere. One of the offense's biggest strengths since the Jordy Nelson era came to a close has been lining up Adams everywhere – outside, inside and even in the backfield every now and then. Lazard can play inside, too, so it doesn't have to be a single slot option like the Randall Cobb years, either.

Eric from Mequon, WI

I keep trying to think of II-worthy questions but have been getting shut out lately. I will try again. We keep talking about our WR1, WR2, WR3, but do you think the receiver position will become fluid and customized based upon packages and matchups much like we see the LB and safety role on defense? While Adams will always be on the field, Lazard may be WR2 on certain packages while Devin is WR2 on others.

That's the other thing we won't know until the fall – what the Packers' plans are for Funchess and who else is going to step up and earn playing time. How does Equanimeous St. Brown look? Does a Darrius Shepherd jump back into the mix and get reps in the slot? Opportunity earned is a lottery ticket to fulfilling potential.

Mark from Monrovia, CA

Hey Wes, great piece on Jon Runyan Jr. Sounds like a real down-to-earth kid, feet planted firmly on the ground and a good family base, great fit for the locker room. Being picked in the sixth round, maybe he'll have an ice chip on his shoulder which could be good motivation to get on the field. Keep up the good work. Appreciate what you guys are doing. You make my morning coffee a lot better.

Thanks for checking it out, Mark. There are two things that stand out to me about Runyan – he is more than comfortable in his own skin and knows better than anyone he needs to work for his opportunity in the NFL. It's not like his dad was a first-round pick, either. Runyan doesn't want anything handed to him.

Eric from Mequon, WI

I just read an article that says A.J. Dillon ran into a loaded box 44 percent of the time, which is more than double earlier selected RBs. This is important because it will cause DCs fits. Just because they load the box doesn't mean an audible to a pass. It takes the defense's disguises off the table. If the Packers can do what they want, when they want, how do you stop that?

The Packers already have hinted at getting Dillon more involved in the pass game to add a little more unpredictability to his arsenal. If you look at how Dillon was used at Boston College, defenses often knew he was getting the ball on early downs – and it mostly didn't matter. More scheme variance could crack open Dillon's true potential.

Graham from Burlington, Canada

Do you guys believe DC Pettine would be willing to make Rashan Gary a starter at DE (his natural position) in order to see the field more and impact the team greatly in 2020?

An edge rusher is an edge rusher these days so I don't think the DE or OLB label matters that much anymore. I am interested to see whether Pettine continues to use that 4-3 base package he put together with Za'Darius Smith lined up as an end near the end of last season. If so, I could see Gary getting some work there, but his primary duties are going to be as an outside rusher in a two-point stance and work inside in the dime.

Dennis from Black River Falls, WI

As for a name of our new triple-threat running back group, how about Thunder, Lighting and Hail for Jamaal Williams?

That's a much better idea than what I had.

Al from Green Bay, WI

After the NFL schedule was released last year, there was much discussion in these parts about the need for the Packers to get off to a fast start. What will be the discussion this year? Survive the first half?

Pretty much. The two overriding themes I got when writing the story were it's a really balanced schedule and the Packers get a chance to finish strong at home. The Week 5 bye isn't great but they can't all be winners now can they? (Name that movie).

Steve from Las Vegas, NV

My comment is as follows: "Thunder, lightning…and maybe heavy rain?" "Thunder, lightning and hail, with a chance of high winds and flooding." Stay safe and wear your facemask, just like the pros on the field do.

Oh, you know I've been rocking my Bane mask. I'm the coolest guy at the grocery store.

Mike from Ames, IA

Going off the question about home-field advantage not being as important in empty stadium games, do you think scoring might go up dramatically in that setting?

Yes.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

What are Aaron Rodgers' best leadership qualities?

Drive and determination. Have many of you been watching "The Last Dance"? As entertaining as the docuseries is, the glimpse it provides its audience into Michael Jordan's psyche and subsequent greatness is a masterclass in what it means to compete at the highest level. Episode VII was especially powerful. Jordan only asked of his teammates what he asked of himself – because he wanted to win at all costs. And it made the Bulls better. That's true leadership.

Team photographer Evan Siegle shares more of his 2019 favorites.

Jim from McLean, VA

To add on to Mike's response to Wes from South St. Paul, it seems to me that all Rodgers needs to do is treat Jordan Love with the same class and leadership he has treated all backup QBs his entire career. No more, no less.

As long as Love checks his ego at the door and works hard – which those close to him absolutely do not expect either to be an issue – all you can ask is Rodgers shows the guy the ropes the same way he did with Tim Boyle, Scott Tolzien and the rest of the young QBs who have come through Green Bay over the past decade. Again, I think outsiders are making a much bigger deal out of this than what it will be this fall. Also, Wes from St. Paul came out of nowhere to be an early candidate for Inbox submitter of the year.

Tim from Sioux Lookout, Ontario

There's no doubt in my mind Equanimeous St. Brown will be the breakout player for the Packers this year. Who would be your choice?

I have no idea where Sioux Lookout is in Ontario but I need to get there someday. What a cool name. I'm sticking with Jace Sternberger. I think he opens some eyes next year.

Jake from Lake Mills, WI

Longtime, first-time with more of a comment than question. As a HS football coach, our schemes are constantly evolving from season to season as different coaches come and go and to meet the needs of current players, as well. Terminology evolves, too. I'm guessing this is also true at the pro level, if not more so. For this reason, I'm not sure if Christian Kirksey's re-submission into Pettine's D will be as seamless as everyone is assuming. I'm still excited to see this evolution of the Packers D, though!

Thanks for jumping in. The water's fine. You're right it has been a minute but Tramon Williams and Ibraheim Campbell floated seamlessly back into Pettine's scheme. That's the transitive property I'm using to forecast how Kirksey will fare. But you're right in that we won't know definitively until we see it.

Eric from Honolulu, HI

Which undrafted rookie has the best chance to get onto the 53-man roster?

Spoff is going to have a story soon on Montreal safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy. He's an older prospect (25) but is 6-foot-3, has been clocked in the 4.3s, and there is plenty of room for a rookie to win a job in the Packers' secondary this year.

Ryan from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Why did the defense go from being one of the league's best in 2010 to dead last in 2011?

Nick Collins' career-ending injury, and Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson both being banged up didn't help matters. The defense was kind of feast-or-famine – either getting a big takeaway or giving up a big play. The Packers' offense was so explosive a lot of teams had to go pass-heavy to keep up with Green Bay.

Joshua from Houston, TX

Wait, the league doesn't share contingency plans with the writers of team websites?

Strange but true.

Ray from Hawthorn Woods, IL

Hi II! Thanks for helping me cope with all of this craziness. What do you think the league's position would be if they start the season with no fans, then subsequently begin allowing fans at the games? Wouldn't the Vikings scream bloody murder if they hosted the Packers in Game 1 with no fans, but in the game at Lambeau on Nov. 1 the Packers would have their stadium packed?

You want the playing field to be as even as possible, but there are so many variables in play right now nobody can control. For that reason, I'm not really thinking about the comparative advantage of having fans or no fans at a division game. The focus needs to be on doing whatever it takes for these 32 teams to safely play football in 2020.

Alex from Skokie, IL

Looking at the Packers' schedule (if NCAA and NFL schedules take place with no delays), it's hard to believe the Packers couldn't get an away game the weekend of Oct. 3. I want to give a preemptive shout-out to the Packers employees who will keep the field in good playing conditions for MNF following a Badgers game two days prior at Lambeau.

That was the most shocking thing to me about this year's schedule. I didn't think it was a huge ask but the NFL felt otherwise. That not only will tax the field but also takes away an extra weekend of income from the area – profits that could be critical for area businesses depending on what happens over these next five months.

Dave from Germantown, TN

Did I miss an announcement by the Packers hiring a wide receivers coach? The announcement on Ruvell Martin led me to believe he was an intern who would be under a seasoned coach. Or is he the actual wide receivers coach?

The Packers promoted offensive assistant Jason Vrable. He's been an assistant in the NFL for almost a decade now and worked with the receivers last year. So it's not like it's too seismic of a change.

Andy from Verona, WI

Aside from a loved one's house or your favorite restaurant, where is the first place you want to go once the quarantine is lifted?

A baseball game.

Bob from Fort Atkinson, WI

In a follow up to Jarrod's question yesterday, why don't the Packers help the situation by changing the 2-5 Gold Package to 3-6 or something similar as the schedule dictates?

That's a question for the Insider Box Office. I have no idea how that's determined.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, do you know what's better than surviving the fine-particle filters of Mike and Wes to have a question answered by II gurus? Answer: It's having a question answered AND getting referenced in a follow-up by another II reader (Matt from Fort Worth)! In hockey it's a hat trick, and in baseball it's hitting for the cycle. I'd call it a double dip, but the Seinfeld fans would label me a scofflaw. I'm off to buy a lottery ticket.

That's how you know you've arrived in Inbox.

Charles from Omaha, NE

This may be an odd and somewhat random question. I just watched a clip of the Oct. 2009 game against the Vikings where Clay Matthews stripped the ball and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown. In his excitement he then threw the ball into the stands. In a situation like that, would his pay be deducted the cost of one football?

One? More like several.

Jerry from Grantsburg, WI

If Tom Brady really is over the hill and the Bucs tank this year, can we at least see Brady in a creamsicle jersey so the losing looks right?

Are creamiscles still on the menu with all the new uniforms the Bucs rolled out? I haven't seen that anywhere.

Paul from Nevada City, CA

My son just said his fall 2020 college semester will be online. If this is the "new normal," will there even be collegiate sports this fall? If not, what about the 2021 draft? These kids are getting jobbed! As to Baxter's response, shouldn't it have been "A.J. redux"?

All the best to him, Paul. Since we're talking about amateurs, the NCAA has probably the biggest problem of any major sports organization since you need kids back on campus before you ask these athletes to resume competition. The next three months will be telling. The NBA and MLB have put forth their initial phase of reopening. That, and the UFC's relaunch, are the trial cases in the U.S. I have my eyes on right now.

Daniel from Chattanooga, TN

Jerry Stiller passed away; may he rest in peace.

In such times airing grievances might be too much. Let us remember "Serenity now!", and that nothing can save meat that's three weeks out of date. Thanks for all that you do, II.

RIP to a comedy legend. We keep a Festivus pole in the office. I'm not a "Seinfeld" die-hard like many on the Packers beat but that remains my favorite episode.

Ed from Lithia, FL

A person asks a question and you ban them. Rather childless I think. You guys provide a nice service, but don't think you are required reading. Did either of you ever participate in a serious sport? Football, wrestling, lacrosse or even rugby.

Mock trial. I was one win away from state my junior year.

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