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Inbox: It’s officially arrived

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Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Welcome to the dead zone...

It’s officially arrived, which means Wes and I are going to take time off here and there over the next six weeks. But not to worry. We’ll still have this column six days per week. Plus, Wes and I banked several player interviews for feature stories to post between now and training camp. So we’ll do our best to keep you entertained.

Nick from Theresa, WI

I was watching the Lombardi Packers run their famous sweep. Who was No. 76? That guy could run! Was it typical back then for linemen to be that fast? He made Jim Taylor look slow.

No. 76 was Bob Skoronski, who at 250 pounds was about 35 pounds heavier than Taylor. For contrast’s sake, Bryan Bulaga’s listed weight is 106 pounds more than Aaron Jones’.

Jim from Eau Claire, WI

"Bears director of player personnel Josh Lucas explained that he believes adding Clinton-Dix, a former Packer, to replace Amos – who signed with the Packers in free agency – is an upgrade for the Bears based on the last four years of on-field grading." I could understand if he said the Bears had Ha Ha graded very high the last four years, but what did he hope to gain by comparing him to Amos? It sounds like sour grapes to me and will only add bulletin-board material for Amos and the Packers.

I realize this will be a great media storyline this season, particularly Week 1, but for all the hype and hoopla it’s going to produce, don’t forget what’s at the root of it all – two personnel departments having vastly different evaluations of particular players. News flash: That’s nothing new. That’s as commonplace in the NFL as the ball being brown. Teams operate with the courage of their convictions, and differing opinions define decisions every year (and create drama) in the draft, among other times. In this case, the two teams involved happen to be the oldest rivals in the league, so I get it. But I can already sense there’s way too much being made of the safety swap.

Eli from Yardley, PA

I saw the lineup for Donald Driver's charity softball game. I think it's great to see some of those players returning to Wisconsin. I always appreciated Najeh Davenport and Jarrett Bush. I thought it was interesting to see Peanut Tillman on the roster. Do you know the connection there? Did he and Donald build a friendship over years playing against each other?

I don’t know the whole story, but they certainly faced off numerous times. Both players also did (and still do) a lot of charity work, so I suspect their paths have crossed in that realm as well.

Taylor from Story City, IA

With a new coach and new offensive playbook do the veterans play more during the preseason to see what works and what doesn't? Also with all the new defensive veteran free agents, do they play more to get comfortable with the new defense?

I think it’s natural to assume the starters on offense will play more in the preseason with the new system, and the newcomers on defense might get some extra snaps as well. But it could also be a week-by-week proposition during the preseason, depending on how the coaches feel things are going in practice, and how each game goes as well. I think it’ll be a fluid situation. The process, however, won’t be designed “to see what works and what doesn’t.” It’s the preseason, not trial-balloon season.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Mike, did you enjoy the Stanley Cup Finals? I'm really happy for the Blues. 52-year drought. Coach fired half way through the season while they have the worst record in the entire NHL. Interim coach steps in and the players rally around him and their rookie goaltender. That, and the fact another New England team was denied another championship.

I didn’t watch as much of the entire series as I would have liked, but I did see some. I find it remarkable the road team would win five times in a seven-game championship series. St. Louis’ story this season is what makes sports great. I just wish Binnington had gotten the shutout, for posterity’s sake, because that was a Game 7 goaltending performance for the ages.

Ralph from Elkhart Lake, WI

II, there has been a lot of discussion lately about pass rush and how it will help the secondary. The reverse is also true. Ineffective coverage will also make the pass rush look bad. These elements have a symbiotic relationship. Has anyone studied the time opposing quarterbacks had to throw last year?

Not specifically, but Pro Football Focus’s stats tell the story of why the Packers focused so much on edge rushers this offseason. PFF’s “pressures” metric combines sacks, hits and hurries, and I looked up all the numbers when Green Bay made its free-agency splash. Za’Darius Smith had 60 last year in less than 700 snaps. Preston Smith had 53. Green Bay’s highest total from an edge rusher was 30 (Matthews), and the team leaders were interior guys Clark (46) and Daniels (32), who missed a combined nine games.

Curt from Antioch, IL

With the offseason program winding down, and with a new coaching staff and a change at top of the strength and conditioning coaches, have you seen anything significantly different from the past regime (i.e., drills, emphasis, tempo and/or organization of practice time, etc.)?

The biggest difference so far was seeing two sets of team drills (11-on-11) going on at the same time at opposite ends of the field. The first units still appeared to take roughly the same amount of snaps, but with multiple groups going simultaneously, the second units on down all got a lot more reps. We’ll see if the structure stays the same for training camp.

Sonia from Fairbanks, AK

Kevin Durant’s Achilles rupture has brought to light the seriousness of that injury. Do you have any updates on MLF’s recovery? Are we likely to see him coaching from the sideline at Soldier Field for the opening of the season?

I believe that is his desire and plan. I don’t think he expects to be still wheeling around on a cart in three months. He may have to give up basketball for a year or more, but he’ll start walking on his own in a boot as soon as the docs let him.

Jake from Atlanta, GA

Do LBs and DBs practice tackling on the same kind of dummies? How long do you think it will be before someone develops a dummy that actually moves and weighs and tries to break tackles more or less like a real player?

There are prototypes out there.

David from Coeur d’Alene, ID

It seems that there is a fairly simple way to go to an 18-game season and keep both players and management happy. Just add a rule that players can only play in a maximum of 16 games per season. This would require a significant roster increase, which is also a plus to the players. Teams would need to get a little more serious about that backup QB position. Do you see any merit to this proposal?

In a word, no. Many readers have brought this up, but it’s just not feasible on several fronts. Salary cap aside, increased roster size means substantially increased costs for the owners across the board. Moreover, do you want to be the Packers fan with a ticket to a game Aaron Rodgers suddenly isn’t playing? Or a Bears fan when it’s Khalil Mack’s turn to sit? I realize injuries inherently create this risk, but artificially creating it on the paying customer would be a disastrous business model, not to mention the inside information and gambling issues it would generate, regardless of how the policy would be managed. I could go on and on. The complex web of problems this would create for the league would benefit no one.

Jon from West Des Moines, IA

Can we take a vote to have no more questions or comments about expanding the season?

Please.

Ethan from Iowa City, IA

Tim from Spokane said he’s really excited about our offense. I agree but I’m still wondering who’s gonna be second fiddle to Davante? Of our three returning rookies and Jake Kumerow, who do you think is going to see the field the most? We have great depth, but who is most likely to step up in your opinion?

As I mentioned on “Unscripted,” based on what I’ve seen the past month and how reps were divided up in practice, I see Allison and MVS entering camp in a pretty tight battle for the No. 2 job.

Jeff from Waukesha, WI

Great article on Ray Nitschke. Was always curious to know him as a player a bit more since he was one of the ones my grandfather always used to talk about. Reading his honors got me wondering with the NFL's 100th season when will that list come out, and also who would be some standout names for you? There are so many good names to choose from. Walter Payton initially comes to mind for me.

I haven’t heard when, or if, the league is selecting a 100th anniversary team, as it did 25 years ago for the 75th. It strikes me as a near-impossible task.

Todd from Amana, IA

This is my first time submitting a question/comment. Hopefully I am not completely off, but there was a question about All-Pro TEs in Green Bay and saw that the answer was none. Weren't Mark Chmura and Sterling Sharpe All-Pro? Thank you for all you guys do.

Since you’re new I’m going to cut you some slack. Sharpe was a wide receiver, not a tight end. Paul Coffman, Jackie Harris and Chmura each received All-Pro recognition from different media organizations, but not from the Associated Press, which is considered the league’s official All-Pro team. As multiple readers pointed out, Ron Kramer was an AP All-Pro pick in 1962 (first team) and ’63 (second team).

Craig from Appleton, WI

As a follow up to David from Hilliard, OH, why do rookie RBs struggle with blitz pickup so often? Is it because they aren't asked to do it in college, difference between pro schemes and college schemes, the difference between athletic ability, or something else? In theory they have been training all of their football lives at the necessary skills for the job.

They’ve all done it some, but like anything at the college level, technique doesn’t have to be refined if the opponent isn’t a star. You can be effective even if you’re a little sloppy against your average D-I player. But sloppy gets you beat in the NFL, and if you get beat on blitz pickup at this level, you’re putting the franchise at risk.

Chad from La Crosse, WI

Hey guys, when interviewing a player you have to hold the microphone or recording device up for a long time, especially on a 16-minute interview with Rodgers. How do you train for this? Do you follow a certain diet and workout regimen? I urge anyone to hold their arm straight out for 16 minutes.

And with a wrecked shoulder from a college baseball career, no less. I switch arms as often as I can to get through it.

Dane from Franklin, WI

Kumerow looked great last preseason and has been getting compliments from Rodgers both then and now. However, he doesn't seem to have any elite measurables, be it speed, burst, or agility. He's clearly doing something right though. What does he do well that the measurables don't capture? Rodgers has called him consistent. Is he just that good at adjusting his route? Or is he doing something else that's earning him attention?

He’s in the right spot at the right time, which encompasses a lot of elements. He knows the play calls and route combinations, and he can read defenses and make adjustments. It all adds up to making him reliable in Rodgers’ eyes.

Scott from Lake Geneva, WI

Will Aaron Rodgers have any say in which receivers they will keep? For instance, if Kumerow is on the fence, will Rodgers’ opinion sway the coaches?

Rodgers’ opinion is built into where the ball goes, and he’s evaluated based on those decisions as well as the results. It all works together.

Charlie from Cameron, NC

I see the Bears are still experiencing kicking woes. Which is more likely: The pressure becomes too great for any kicker to thrive in Chicago, or a kicker emerges with moxie and newfound ice in his veins?

The latter, but there’s no telling when.

Flavio from Sao Paulo, Brazil

Hi Insiders! Watching some video of Rodgers at Cal I noticed he wore No. 8. Did he specifically request No. 12 as a rookie (which I doubt) or was No. 8 taken at the time?

Ryan Longwell had it.

Monty from Hazen, ND

Hey guys, remember when draft picks weren’t signed until just before training camp started?

Or even after. Yes, and it’s wonderful that’s a bygone era. I hope it never returns, and I don’t expect it to.

Richard from Madison, WI

Suppose one of you two writers gives a personal opinion or anecdote in one of your answers and a reader has a follow-up question about it. But the next day it's the other writer's turn to answer viewer mail. Does that question get held over until the first guy can respond to it, does the second guy take it on anyway, or does it just go straight into the bitbucket?

Any of the above. I’m being totally honest.

David from Desert Hot Springs, CA

The confidence and level of swagger that Davante Adams, David Bakhtiari, and Blake Martinez showed the media this week...Wow. I can't wait for the pads to go on. We have a supreme base of leadership with extraordinary skill sets. This season is going to be fun.

The baloney stops in 83 days. Happy Friday.

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