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Inbox: It's only happened twice in Green Bay

Not everyone will be successful

Linebackers Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary
Linebackers Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary

Beau from Greenwood, IN

Am I the only one who forgets when he usually looks to read II and winds up pulling it up multiple times a day and then remembers that I've already read it? I typically read it in the morning, but with the pandemic, my schedule has been thrown off.

We appreciate the extra page views nonetheless.

Matthias from San Antonio, TX

This team has pieces for this year that could boost the Packers to February glory for sure, the question is if the Packers can stay half as healthy as they did last season. Is it possible?

Half as healthy? Sure. As healthy? Unlikely. I fully expect the Packers' depth to be tested more than it was last year.

Matt from Minneapolis, MN

It seems like when Ted Thompson was drafting for Dom Capers' defense, there was a desire to have one more versatile OLB that could cover such as Clay Matthews or Kyler Fackrell, and one bigger OLB such as Nick Perry or Julius Peppers. The players Gute has brought in for Pettine – the Smiths and Gary – were all 270-plus-pound defensive ends in college. What is different with Pettine's 3-4 scheme that results in a preference for two bigger OLBs, rather than one lighter and more versatile OLB?

Capers' down linemen were more gap-control guys, whereas Pettine asks them to penetrate and disrupt here and there. That can require both edges to have to hold the point on certain calls. Also, Pettine is more likely to have an extra safety play a cover-linebacker role (the hybrid we always talk about), though Preston Smith did drop into coverage plenty last season.

Jim from McLean, VA

In regards to the question by Michael from Eden Prairie, I have never considered resubmitting a question that I thought was really good (and better than some of mine that have been answered). I always thought that if it didn't get posted you guys just don't think it warranted being published. Should we be rethinking this?

I won't speak for Wes, but some days the quality of the question doesn't matter. What does is whether I feel like answering it.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, I've seen the 2020 AFC West characterized as a "track meet," while the NFC East was described as "a resistible force vs. a moveable object." Do you have a pithy metaphor for the NFC North this season?

I don't know, ground and pound? We know LaFleur's desire, Zimmer has been pushing for a more run-oriented attack for years, the Lions are going to feed their feature back like crazy once they find one, and the Bears need to run the ball with their questions at QB. Not everyone will be successful, and any focus on the ground game these days is all relative to the QB-dominated offenses prevalent today, but the NFC North definitely wants to run the ball.

Jim from Beaver Dam, WI

Just wanted to start with the fact that I'm a big Inbox fan. It's always an entertaining read plus all the interesting perspectives. My question: Between zero and 100, what are the only numbers that were never worn by a Packer in an official game?

Only zero and 100.

Sal from Hailey, ID

The second-year jump I'm most looking forward to isn't Ka'dar Hollman, Darnell Savage, or even Allen Lazard, but LaFleur and his coaching staff. A virtual offseason wasn't what I'd expected for his second year, but do you think he might weather it better than some since he's not locked into a year-over-year routine yet?

Coaches in this league know it's adapt or die, and every head coach makes scheme adjustments/additions from year to year. I'm curious whether LaFleur has cut back on the scheme tweaks he had in mind because they'll have no on-field reps until training camp, or if he's confident the staff can effectively teach everything they want to change and still implement it with the potential limitations this year. In all honesty, it may be an ongoing trial-and-error process as the season unfolds.

Jason from Rockton, IL

Julian from Gastonia and Spoff's comment about splitting those tough road games on the schedule got me to wondering. How many teams in NFL history have had a winning record on the road and still missed out on the playoffs? I can't imagine that has happened too many times.

I don't have access to a league figure, but I can tell you since the NFL went to a divisional format in the '60s, it's only happened twice in Green Bay – 1968 and 2006. In Phil Bengtson's first year as head coach, the Packers went 4-2-1 on the road but 2-5 at home, finishing third in the division. In Mike McCarthy's first year, a 5-3 road record produced just an 8-8 mark overall, missing a playoff spot via tiebreaker.

Joe from Clio, MI

Mike, I hope I'm wrong, but I see an 80-game baseball season that will not get completed. The knowns and the unknowns of this virus makes the chance of another shutdown 50/50. Football might not make it either.

I think the question all sports leagues have to ask themselves is whether they're willing to put in the immense effort and investment required to play a season in our current environment, while also being willing to see that effort and investment go for naught if it becomes necessary to pull the plug entirely at some point. That doesn't strike me as an easy call to make.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Maybe 15 years ago SI did an exhaustive article on home-field advantage and the conclusions were that it does exist, and it's mostly from a subconscious bias refs experience from the crowd "intimidation" of sorts, e.g., their minds make slightly biased calls under a duress of fear they are unaware of. All refs know as the leave the field and stadium after games, they will hear it from fans and it gets baked into their psyche. This year could test that theory.

Maybe, but as I recall, the officiating was not the only element that had an influence, and that study was done long before replay review in all major sports reached its current level.

CJ from Marshfield, WI

Marquez Valdes-Scantling was on pace for 950 yards through Week 7 last year, but the scary and awkward looking knee/ankle injuries (on one play) apparently took their toll. He wasn't placed on IR, but only had 36 receiving yards the rest of the year. If MVS doesn't get injured and ends with 950 yards, pundits probably do not predict a WR drafted No. 1, and fans are probably content with no WR drafted. What is your take on the injuries and his season? What do you think of his potential?

Preparing and playing with/through injuries, finding a way to help the team when you're not at your best, and bouncing back from rough games and missed opportunities are all parts of becoming a seasoned pro. The players who get there in two years are the exception, not the rule.

Brett from Onalaska, WI

Follow-up to your response to Kevin. The last time the NFC North was basically settled in early December was 2017. Three-quarters of the way through the season, the Vikings' 10-2 record led the division while the Lions and Packers were tied for second at 6-6.

Even then, it still took until Week 16 for the Vikings to officially clinch, because with three games left they were 10-3 and Detroit was 7-6 with a previous head-to-head split. The only time in the past decade the NFC North was clinched any earlier than Week 16 was in 2011 when the Packers ran away with it.

Ken from New Berlin, WI

To this point in time, has the defense improved?

On paper, no. But if Rashan Gary, Savage, Jaire Alexander and other young players have not yet played their best football at this level, it certainly can.

Ted from Las Vegas, NV

Since TV is the primary cash machine for the NFL do they have the most input for the schedule? After their input, who else are the major players having any input to the schedule?

TV dictates most of it. Any other input is minimal at best.

Mackenzie from Fort Worth, TX

Little does Ed know that you two and your banning ways may be CHILDISH, but neither of you are actually CHILDLESS.

Wes made me promise not to edit it.

Craig from Johnson City, TN

Love the way you guys and the rest of bring it every week. I think Devin Funchess gives us the same move-the-chains player as Graham in a smoother package. My concern is OL. Who will be able to step up if Wagner is not the answer or if God forbid David Bakhtiari goes down?

At this point, I see the Packers' other options at tackle being Billy Turner, Alex Light, Yosh Nijman, John Leglue and maybe Jon Runyan. What order, I'm not sure. The Packers have more proven depth at guard ( Lucas Patrick, Lane Taylor) so I'm wondering if Turner wouldn't be the first option to step in at tackle.

Chuck from Atlanta, GA

Any chance that the Packers develop a series of plays that allow Jordan Love to play a Taysom Hill-like role in Years 1 and 2? That way, we can keep three QBs active on game day. I also think it is CRITICAL that they keep Boyle on the 53. If Rodgers goes down in Year 1, we need Boyle to go in, not Love.

LaFleur did not indicate he had any Hill-like plans for Love, and I would think in a truncated offseason the formulation of something like that would be difficult even if he were inclined. I've said many times I expect the Packers to carry three QBs on the 53 in 2020.

Frogger from Marinette, WI

Spoff, what other nicknames have you had?

None as colorful as yours.

Jesse from Bonita Springs, FL

I recall how the "flu bug" was going through the Packers' locker room before the end of last season. Just wondering if any of those players have been tested for the antibodies?

That was some sort of stomach virus, not a respiratory one, as far as I know.

Take a look at the opponents the Packers will be facing during the 2020 NFL season.

Lane from Louisville, KY

I found Spoff's answer regarding which position group has the most fun to be very interesting. His mention of O-lineman requiring the thickest skin has me curious though. What about that specific position requires thick skin in film review? Is it sometimes just a matter of, "That guy ate your lunch on this play, gotta be better than that"? Or is there something else I'm not thinking of?

There's that, and it's also the position group that requires the most teamwork within the unit – teamwork that isn't always obvious or easily understood from the outside. If you're leaving your mates hanging or making them look bad, you're gonna hear about it in the room, because they aren't calling one another out when the media questions come.

Kent from Whitehall, MT

Hi Mike, thanks for your Favre /Rodgers comments in II. The realities and subtleties of leadership are well defined here, as roles, time available and responsibility to the team come into focus for Rodgers. This is Love's responsibility to adjust to all constraints above to get the most out of his immediate situation.


Kevin from Louisville, KY

My mom died of cancer on Mother's Day. While she was never a football fan (at all) she attended and cheered at all my games, starting with my age 9 season playing for a youth team called the Packers. She and my dad bought me Green Bay Packers gear right down to a kid-size Ray Nitschke ensemble with shoulder pads and padded pants. Would love if you could shout her out and remind the II family how special all family is. Cheers, fellas.

You did it for us. Condolences on your loss.

Zak from Verona, WI

Long ago in a land far away, AV became II. Legend tells of a debate, the details of which are lost to history, about the proper mental pronunciation of "II." Is it "two" or "eye-eye"? Can modern scholarship shed any light on a thus far interminable mystery?

Sometimes there's beauty in uncertainty. Happy Wednesday.