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Inbox: It's always a work in progress

Nobody said life was fair

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Packers defensive unit

Joe from Swansea, IL

You brought this up, so I'm curious: What chips come out of that vending machine on I-55? I'm partial to Cheetos or Combos myself, but that's likely due to my Wisconsin roots. What's your preference?

You really had to mention Combos, Joe, so now I'm going to be hungry the entire time I'm writing today's column? A highly underrated snack.

Dan from Lowville, NY

Should the Packers cut Mason Crosby if he calls tails again?

Ha. Actually, I felt prior to this last game, losing the coin toss was working pretty well in Green Bay's favor.

Blaine from Philomont, VA

Most of Russell Wilson's big plays are high lofty passes over the top to the receiver. He does this over and over in every game but the defenses never seem to prepare for or adjust to it. No DC am I, but it seems to me that our defenders should focus on staying downfield from the receivers to take those big plays away.

Wilson generally throws those high lofty passes when the defense is in man coverage and the DBs have their backs to the ball, trying to stick to their assignment. If the receivers don't give away with their eyes or their hands that the ball is on the way, the DBs have no idea the ball has been hanging up there seemingly for an eternity. Against zone, when the secondary has better vision to the ball, that high lofty stuff is much riskier.

Jim from Arkdale, WI

Hi Mike, two questions if I may. What have you heard about Jaire Alexander's, Allen Lazard's and Josh Myers' returns? How have the three interior offensive linemen graded out so far this year?

Lots of folks asking about the timelines for the Packers' starters on IR. No timelines have been divulged, so we're just as much in the dark as you. As for the interior linemen, we aren't privy to the coaching staff's grades. Amongst Jon Runyan, Royce Newman and Lucas Patrick, I think they've all played well at times and had some rough moments. I don't know if any one guy has consistently been the best of the three every week. It may be a matter of who's playing best at the time of the decision.

Allan from Austin, TX

The road games against SF and Arizona were both short weeks, and the two home games against Seattle and the Rams are both when they get off their bye. Short stick against the best division.

So be it. Nobody said life was fair.

Margo from Solvang, CA

Hi Mike, I was intrigued to see that the team is only on the field for around two hours of practice. That seems pretty limiting since we're always hearing that backup players don't get many reps. Obviously, they also spend time in the weight room and meetings … but I gotta think they could squeeze in more field time if they wanted it. Is that two hours something negotiated with the players' association?

The CBA limits practices to three hours, but coaches are always walking the fine line between how much to practice while keeping the players' bodies ready for games. As we get to late-season football, practices tend to get a little shorter, and coaches will use more of their allotted on-field time for walk-throughs.

Anndrea from Ithaca, NY

I'd love to hear from you guys about what makes good color commentary during games. I'm not a fan of comments like, "That's a ball you've got to catch," but I imagine it's a tougher job than it looks (sounds like?). Are there things that you guys listen for? It also seems like when a good commentator comes along, other networks try to find similar guys. Like, John Madden for a while, and now Tony Romo. Do you think that's true?

For me, it's always about whether the analyst teaches me something about the game. When I was growing up, I learned a lot about pro football from John Madden. He was outstanding at explaining the finer details from a coach's point of view, until he became such a big celebrity that he morphed into a parody of himself with his telestrator drawings and quippy one-liners. Then he was no longer teaching anything, just putting on a show. I've learned some things from Romo in the few times I've gotten to watch his games, but work limits my opportunities there. Fans get so caught up in what announcers are saying about their team, positive or negative, and trying to decipher a bias. Who cares? Listen to see if they can teach you something. If not, tune 'em out.

Michael from Floyds Knobs, IN

Meh…the Packers didn't NEED OBJ anyways, he needed the Packers, but now Matt needs to build the confidence back up in the WR room since seeking to add a big name so late in season can sometimes have the opposite effect if unsuccessful.

These guys are pros. They aren't lacking confidence. If anything, they'll be out to prove OBJ wasn't a need but would've been a luxury.

Jake from Greenfield, WI

Seems like the ILB position has always been an afterthought to the Packers. With the success of the defense in the wake of all these injuries, the staple has been the good ILB play. Do you think they might put that spot more at a premium going forward? Lots of good ILB talent has been passed up in the draft in recent years.

De'Vondre Campbell was originally a fourth-round draft pick and Krys Barnes was undrafted. I'm not sure they'll change their approach so much as make sure they have the right type of guys, now that they know what it looks like.

Ted from Beaverton, OR

One thing announcers try to point out is the defense getting tired. A trademark of great defenses seems to be the opposite. And it definitely looks like our defense is trending in this direction. I notice they love being on the field, don't get tired, swarm toward the ball for four quarters and get stronger as the game goes on. It may be a time-of-possession thing (strong offense), but it sure is nice looking forward to our defense getting out there on game day.

It's always a work in progress to me, because it's really difficult to play four full quarters of strong defense the way this league is geared. I thought the defense really benefited from Green Bay's TOP advantage in the Pittsburgh and Arizona games, but even then the Cardinals were rolling offensively in the second half until the last play. The defense also had some late-game breakdowns against San Francisco and Cincinnati that almost led to losses, but the Packers survived. The trends are all pointing the right way, and some major reinforcements could be coming, but no one can ever assume it's all squared away.

Karen from South Beloit, IL

I know there's no math in the Inbox, but based on the percentage of $14,650 on AL13 and AR12's salaries, then figuring an average American salary of $50,000, Allen Lazard would be paying $1,085 and Aaron Rodgers $22. For the same infraction. Why is the NFL not fining percentage of salary?

Because that's not how the union negotiated the fines into the CBA.

Neal from Fort Worth, TX

In his tenure as HC, ML's most common self-criticism of his play-calling is that he got away from the run when he shouldn't have. I know there's no simple answer, and I'm not being critical, but if he knows it's an issue in every loss and quite a few close wins, why does he continue to make the same mistake?

That's the question on a lot of fans' minds, and as you said, there's no simple answer. When things aren't going well on offense, a play-caller is always caught between easing the burden on the QB by running more, or getting the QB into a rhythm by throwing more. In the heat of the moment, LaFleur seems to lean toward the latter. When it doesn't work out as intended, you're always going to regret the choice made.

Josh from Seattle, WA

What is the best identity for our offense this year? It feels like we have so many weapons that we lose sight of fueling the engine that makes the system run. Literally committing to running the ball with our dynamic one-two punch in the backfield seems like it will then open up more for us. What do you think?

I agree enthusiastically and wholeheartedly.

Laura from Crown Point, IN

I am glad to see the defense step it up at the Kansas City game. What could the offense do to step it up to give better protection to both Rodgers and Jordan Love?

See above. Make the pass rushers play run on the way to the quarterback. Only the very best can effectively do so.

Hannes from Glendale, WI

Following up on Mike's answer to Joseph from Salt Lake City, if offensive game-planning starts with identifying the opposing defense's weaknesses, how about defensive game-planning? They would have to try anticipate how an opponent might try to attack whatever perceived weaknesses they put on tape in previous weeks I'm guessing. Is that anticipation part of what makes a good coach great?

There's more to it. When I said the coaches were figuring out how best to attack Seattle's defense, that's within the context of what Green Bay does best. Teams want to run what they're good at, and they'll figure out how to do so against a particular scheme to go after vulnerabilities. Conversely, defenses start by figuring out how to try to take away, or limit, what an offense does best, knowing where it might be leaving itself exposed in that effort. The other "weakness" part is more about individual matchups, in my view. Both sides look at how to get this guy matched up on that guy, because they feel they'll win that matchup and can exploit it, and the converse is understanding the potential bad matchups and figuring out how to avoid them.

Dave from Germantown, TN

Do you think Pete Carroll is preparing a full-out pressure package for his defensive game plan, assuming Love will play QB, or does he go with a Cover 2 scheme assuming Rodgers plays?

I would suspect he's planning for Rodgers and he'll adjust if it's Love.

Bob from Honolulu, HI

Aloha all, just curious on your thoughts: Which GM(s) had the best first three years 1) drafting 2) trading 3) signing free agents amongst Ron W., Ted T. or Brian G.?

For trading, it's Wolf. He traded for Favre. Case closed. Signing free agents? Talking strictly offseason UFAs, Gutey's 2019 quartet of the Smith Bros. plus Adrian Amos and Billy Turner is strong, but both Wolf and Thompson signed a HOFer within their first three years – White and Woodson, respectively – and had another major early signing work out well, Sean Jones for Wolf and Ryan Pickett for Thompson. I call it a draw between those two. Drafting in the first three years? All have an impressive collection of major contributors, but I think Thompson's A-list (Rodgers, Collins, Hawk, Jennings, James Jones, Crosby) stands above Wolf's (Brooks, Bennett, Chmura, Simmons, Dotson, Evans, Taylor, Levens) and Gutey's (Alexander, Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage, Elgton Jenkins, AJ Dillon) at this point, though nothing can be considered a final analysis regarding Gutekunst yet.

Jim from Tucson, AZ

What is it that allows Elgton Jenkins to be so very versatile? All offensive linemen are very strong and athletic, probably beyond what the average man could possibly imagine. I've got to assume that most of them are fairly intelligent, at the least for football intelligence. You don't make it in this league without a good effort. What's left?

Natural adaptability. No position feels foreign to him.

Daniel from Allen, TX

Not sure if you've noticed Spoff, but now that Wes has new glasses can he now see all obstacles in his way?

I must have read that lyric more than a dozen times. Another classic set-up by Wes, just to annoy me.

Thomas from Irving, TX

Just a thank you to Spoff and Wes for the time and effort you give to II. Last month I was diagnosed with leukemia and begin chemo next week. I have been a Packer fan for about 60 years and read II just about every day. Your insight, analysis and fun wit along with the positivity and focus on facts/reality make II enjoyable. My faith in God, marriage, family, friends and enjoyment of the Pack will guide me through this journey. Your work will help me endure chemo and I wanted to thank you.

Consider yourself in the thoughts and prayers of II Nation, Thomas. This community is behind you. All the best in your fight.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Looks like some football weather is on the horizon!

The Packers play five of their next seven at home, and the cold is starting to settle in. Timing is everything.

Dave from Huntsville, AL

What's at stake? The streak of not losing two in a row under LaFleur. Let's keep that one going.

All in favor, say aye?

Greg from Long Beach, CA

Just beat the Seahawks.

Happy Friday.

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