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Inbox: It’s going to be a group effort

Special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga
Special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga

Dylan from Belgrade, MT

Got your Hiura jersey ordered yet?

It’s going to be a popular one soon enough. Big thanks to Wes for taking the column one day during his off week so I could attend the employee outing to the Brewers game on Wednesday without having to sneak my laptop into Miller Park.

Myles from Mesa, AZ

As the Packers look for Allison or MVS to solidify themselves as the No. 2 receiver in the offense behind Adams, who do you believe finishes the season with more receiving yards?

I can see MVS having more yards while Allison has more catches and touchdowns.

Tom from Denver, CO

What presently stands out as the most dangerous aspect of each of our first three opponents in the regular season?

Chicago: Turnover-producing defense. Minnesota: Dalvin Cook. Denver: Pass rush.

Bob from Chandler, AZ

As more states continue to legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal use do you see the NFL changing its stance or will it take a federal legalization for them to do so?

I’ve been saying for a while I expect it to be part of this next round of CBA negotiations. I’m just not sure how high a priority it will be for the players.

Tom from Iron River, WI

Who will be the surprise rookie early in training camp that looks like they will make the team (e.g., Jake Kumerow last year)?

First of all, let’s be clear Kumerow was not a rookie last year. Far from it. He had spent three years in the NFL, mostly on the practice squads of the Bengals and Patriots. Second, I refrain from talking up young unknowns until they’re practicing in pads and have played in at least a preseason game or two. But of the undrafted rookies and first-year players, linebacker Brady Sheldon definitely caught my eye this spring.

Dale from Palmyra, NE

Is “gotten” a word? If so, when should it be used?

It is the past participle of the verb “get.” Today I get (present), yesterday I got (past), and I have gotten (past participle), as in: I get tired of reading poorly written Insider Inbox submissions, I got a break while I was on vacation, and I’ve gotten dismayed at the lack of basic grammar knowledge I’ve encountered (though I’m at least somewhat encouraged by those who’ve gotten interested enough to ask questions).

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

II, a couple of days ago someone asked who did you think would be the backup QB. You said you didn't have a clue. Would you have gotten any serious flak from the organization if you had named someone?

No, but now we’re wearing out Dale. Kidding aside, if I thought someone had the inside track and someone else were an underdog, I’d say so. I gave my honest assessment. I think it’s wide open.

Tom from Burlington, WI

It came up briefly, but has become over shadowed by this 18-game nonsense. I think a 3/17 split of preseason and regular-season games could find real traction with the added game being a neutral/international game. Nothing's perfect, but what would some of the biggest drawbacks be?

The biggest drawback to me, potentially, would be altering the current schedule format with an odd game, but I could live with it. The formula now has teams in one division playing essentially the same schedule except for two games that are determined by the previous season’s place standing. If the number of “placeholder” games increases to three (which, to answer a question from Jeremy from Evansville, would be the most logical way to add a game and yet maintain a steady annual formula, matching up by standings finish with a division from the other conference), does that skew certain schedules as too “tough” or “easy”? My initial reaction is no, so I think it could work.

Matty B from Janesville, WI

One key thing in my mind that'll show improvement on defense: QB passer rating. It's a QB-driven league, need to stop that guy in critical situations. GB allowed a passer rating of 100.9 in 2018 (28th overall in the league). QBs picked apart the Packers’ D last year in critical situations which drives up the passer rating. They need to make the critical plays at critical times in the games. Whether it's a third down, a red-zone stop, or the series after an offensive score.

To clarify, passer rating is not determined by “critical times” in the game. It’s a formula that takes into account (primarily), completion percentage, yards per pass attempt, and TD-to-INT ratio, with no regard for timing. But to your stat, last year was the second straight year the Packers allowed an opposing passer rating above 100, the only two years that happened in the McCarthy era, and yes, it must start going the other direction. The biggest culprits in 2018 were a lack of interceptions and too many big plays allowed. The Packers picked off just seven and allowed six pass plays of 45-plus yards (four for TDs). They improved on the latter as the season went on, with only one of the 45-plus completions coming after the bye week, but the turnovers were missing all season. Pettine’s emphasis on them indicate that’s the next step.

Scott from Fredonia, WI

I find it hard to understand why you both accept that stats like turnovers, third-down percentages, etc., are important to be successful at, yet your view on a successful defense appears to be "you know it when you see it." Why the aversion to defensive rankings? It seems to me that you believe a successful defense is just one that gets lucky by having a higher concentration of impact plays later in the game or in important situations, which isn't sustainable.

Every stat and ranking is a barometer of some kind, and they’re useful reference points. But while making big plays at crunch time may not be sustainable, as you say, doing it more often than not can be the difference between six wins and 10, and by no means would I characterize it as “lucky.” These players are the best at what they do. Being the best when it matters most is not lucky.

Andy from Verona, WI

Once training camp starts, do players use the same bike kid throughout camp or are there lots of potential opportunities for kids who come to camp on a random day to be chosen?

Both. Players do it differently. Some have the same bike kid throughout camp (and over the years as well). Others come out and select a different bike every day.

Mackenzie from Fort Worth, TX

What temperature is considered toasty in Wisconsin?

Depends on your age, perhaps. For a long time, 90 always felt like a definitive line for me, but lately anything above 85 – because it doesn’t get that warm around here without a thicket of humidity coming with it – quickly gets uncomfortable. I think I’m just getting older.

Derek from Norton, KS

MVS stated that the main thing Aaron Rodgers wants from his receivers is consistency. As a leader of people myself, I can say that I would love a team full of consistent members rather than a mix of all-pros and practice-squad players.

Don’t overlook the value of difference-makers in the NFL. A bunch of average players who don’t make mistakes won’t win enough games. But the consistency Rodgers seeks in his receivers has to do with making the proper adjustments regularly, being in the right place at the right time, reading defenses the same way he does. He can’t afford to wonder whether a given receiver is going to adjust or read something differently from time to time, because often the ball has to be out of his hand before that adjustment is made.

Jeff from Victorville, CA

Good morning! One week of dead zone left and the excitement for fans is ratcheting up a notch I'm sure. A lot of questions will be answered and new ones will be raised over the next six weeks. Mike and Wes, you both have heard all the things the fans are most excited about, but what are two or three things you are most excited about other than the long days ahead?

I’m mostly excited to see what Matt LaFleur’s offense is going to look like, though I don’t expect to have a really good grasp on it until a few regular-season games are played. Defensively, it’s just seeing how all the new pieces fit together – the Smiths, Amos, Savage, Gary, etc. I can’t remember a season where this many starting spots were being turned over to newcomers on one side of the ball.

Craig from Sheboygan, WI

Sounds like there may be a reasonably good chance for a players strike next summer. Do you think this is just posturing on the players’ front or do you think this may happen?

Anything this early is posturing.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi Mike, the letter about NFC North villains got me wondering. In the cases mentioned (Cecil, Martin, Sapp, Barr, et al) it seemed there was a conscious disregard for the opponent's job, how they provide for themselves and their family. My impression is that most football players intend to hit their opponents as hard as they can, but do not intend that hit to injure or end a career. Do you see it like I do? Or do most players think anything they do in the arena that doesn't get flagged is OK?

I believe the vast majority of players have no intent to injure, and a lot of previously legal hits that could cause injury and give cover to a player with questionable motives (blindside blocks, helmet hits, etc.) are being legislated out of the game anyway. So if they’re still doing it, their motives aren’t so questionable anymore. We’re also now a decade removed from the Saints’ bounty scandal. Since then, the careers of guys like Suh and Burfict stand out that much more. I consider that a good thing, if you follow.

Jeff from Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Any thought on getting a Packers’ first 100 years commemorative book together? I think there would be a ton of interest, and a way of preserving some history.

Cliff has been working on one for quite some time. It should be out soon. Our “100 Seasons” microsite and the “100 Seasons” section in last year’s Packers Yearbook were supposed to tide everyone over in the meantime.

Jason from Austin, TX

If the league ever increased the game-day roster size from 46 to 53, would that mean the cap would have to increase accordingly? Do game-day players get paid more than active roster players that are inactive on game day?

Some veterans have per-game bonuses built into their contracts for every week they’re on the 46, but it’s not a large number of players. It’s a type of injury insurance some teams work into veteran contracts.

Jim from Eau Claire, WI

Excluding kicker and punter, which player do you think will have the biggest impact on special teams?

I’m assuming you don’t want a generic answer like “the returner” when we don’t know who that’s going to be yet. So I’ll say it won’t be one player, because a big impact on special teams can come from reducing penalties, and it’s going to be a group effort.

Patrick from Ashland, WI

Mike, I (and many others) would also like to see a three-game series in the MLB wild card. If so, would you have the higher seed go “away, home, home” or “home, away, home” or possibly “home, home, away”?

Good question. Darin from Toronto suggested a modified wild-card format in which the top team would need to win just one game, with the second seed needing to win two. I’d still prefer a best-of-three series, but I like the other effects of Darin’s idea – putting a premium on the first wild-card spot and minimizing the layoff for other playoff teams. So I say, let the top wild-card team host the whole series, no days off for travel. Too tough on the second wild-card team? Don’t be the last one to the party. Too taxing on the wild-card winner? Then win your division.

Justin from Dacula, GA

About the Irvin videos at the Dallas game ... I believe y'all are both missing Spofford's point. It's not about how intrusive, unfair, or "rude" they were. The point is that his call to fight may encourage a sort of violent tendency in how fans approach their "opponents" in the stands. Vic used to talk about this a good bit in regards to all this "DEFEND THIS HOUSE" nonsense that's become so popular.

Precisely, thank you. My comment about civility had nothing to do with how the home fans cheer for their team but how they treat opposing fans around them. That was what started the whole conversation.

Craig from Laramie, WY

Regarding discussion about journalistic integrity, no one can change the whole world but anyone can change their contribution. Same holds for readers! We may not be able to discourage them but we can at least not encourage the click-baiters and first-breakers by ignoring them. I say, do the right thing and let the whirling dervishes whirl.

It always comes down to the consumer, which is where I began that discussion as well. Free societies get the evolution they desire, for better or worse.

Jeff from Greenwood, MN

Mike, if the league goes to an 18-game schedule will you and Wes have to sit out a couple?

Ha, good one. Thanks for looking out for us. Happy Friday, everyone.

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