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Inbox: One step at a time

If the players earn the coaches’ trust, they’ll be granted more latitude

LB Lukas Van Ness
LB Lukas Van Ness

Jodi from Grand Rapids, WI

If owners are eligible for the Hall of Fame, shouldn't the Packers' shareholders be elected? Who do we need to talk to about this egregious oversight?

A popular sentiment judging by the last couple days of submissions. Good luck with that.

Evan from Mexico City, Mexico

No question, just a big applause for Spoff’s article on the Alexander and Douglas DB communication. Might be one of my all-time favorite articles. Gives great insight and I love how you intermix Ja's and Sul's quoted comments with the tactical game points you stress. Kudos!

I appreciate that. I don't make it a habit of tooting my own horn, but for those who missed that Monday morning feature, it's different from the traditional story so I encourage you to check it out. Last week, Rasul Douglas engaged me and another beat writer, without cameras around, in an interesting conversation that prompted me to follow up with Jaire Alexander for a quick one-on-one to flush out some details. It was a fun one to put together.

Benjamin from Holly Springs, NC

Have you noticed any progress from Carrington Valentine? Thought he was a steal in the draft and I am excited to see what he can do on the field.

I wrote about him yesterday. He's gotten himself noticed for sure.

Jeannie from Huntley, IL

Will the Packers play outside the U.S. again?

If another team isn't willing to move a home game against the Packers overseas, I'd say it won't happen until 2030 when the Packers can be forced to give up one of their home games again.

Clipton from Pasadena, CA

Mike, if this isn't the dumbest suggestion you've ever received at the Inbox it's likely only because I'm competing against myself. Would you consider a live blog for a single practice? You could comment on who's winning reps, what the Pack is focusing on, who's standing out, etc. I'd think you'd get a big following. (Full disclosure, I got the idea from flipping through the AM dial last weekend and discovering live radio coverage of a Rams practice – complete with color commentary.)

The app formerly known as Twitter is your source there, and Wes is your guy there. The media setup on this beat does not have any seating for reporters, so working on a laptop during practice is impossible. We are standing for the duration of every practice.

Dave from Middletown, CT

Preseason games are often derided as not real games because of vanilla schemes and keeping the ones largely on the bench. At the same time, one of the biggest adjustments for a rookie is the speed of the game. How much does a preseason game acclimate a rookie to the raw speed of a real game, despite the limitations?

The speed of a preseason game is faster than practice, but not quite as fast as a regular-season contest.

Dennis from Beavercreek, OH

Mike, I understand that negativity and pessimism are damaging but the opposite is just as bad if overly used. I tend to be pessimistic, but I am a realist. Just because a comment or question is negative it should not be discounted because negative comments and questions can be beneficial. After all we have seen that some of the negative comments and questions last year were spot on.

I'm going to separate the issues here, and apologize in advance for the soliloquy. Pessimism is a personal choice of tone that serves little purpose in my headspace, so that's a preference that won't change. I don't consider myself blindly optimistic, but I tend to think positively to make my days brighter, which doesn't disqualify me from being a realist. Regarding negativity, I don't automatically dismiss a submission because it's negative, if that's what you're suggesting. I think my track record defends me there, particularly on Mondays after losses. I do have to exercise discretion, though. If a critique is fair, well-reasoned and doesn't assign blame in an oversimplified or agenda-driven manner, I'll consider posting it and responding. But if the criticism is based on nothing but assumptions, calls for someone to be fired, cut or traded, unnecessarily impugns someone's character, and/or unfairly singles out an individual's performance when failure was more collective, it's not appropriate for this forum. There are plenty of talk radio stations that'll take your call. I also have no interest in revisiting a past frustration that's already been beaten to death, so if you missed my initial/only response to such a topic, that's on you. All right, enough of that. This is too close to breaking the first rule of Inbox.

Adam from Rapid City, SD

How much time does the coach have to communicate with the QB after he has relayed the play to the team in the huddle?

The communication system shuts off with 15 seconds left on the play clock, or as the players get lined up for the snap, whichever comes first.

Bob from Forest Junction, WI

I know that the players and coaches put in a lot of work all year. I'm curious though, how many hours does a coach put in daily, during the season? Does ML even sleep during the season?

He must at some point. I can't fathom a legitimate guess, but the hours that coaches in this business put in are insane. The profession isn't for everybody. I always chuckle when fans just assume a retired player wants to coach in this league. Most players wouldn't go anywhere near the work schedule required, and I don't blame them.

Matthew from Sheboygan, WI

Around this time of year, we often hear of the ability to play special teams being a deciding factor for who makes the final 53. I've often wondered how that ability is established. Supposing, for example, that running back X knows he needs a role on teams to make the final roster. Does he self-advocate for an opportunity to try out/practice there? Or, is participation in teams more a top-down decision based on previous experience, or physical traits?

Pretty much every non-lineman who's not a starter is on the special-teams depth chart somewhere on the core four (punt/kickoff return and cover), and likely in multiple places. They will get their reps in practice and the preseason games, and they have to show what they've got. All the film is being scrutinized every day, even what appear to be the most mundane of drills.

Walt from Toms River, NJ

Matt LaFleur made a comment about Christian Watson's flexibility that he could line up at the "Z" on one play and then move him to "F" or "X." What positions do these refer to?

Without getting into a confusing morass of playbook jargon, they refer to various receiver alignments. Z and X are outside receivers, usually on opposite sides, with one on the strong side with the tight end, the other on the weak side. The F is the slot (different from the F tight end, which is more of a fullback). There are also variations to everything so it's best to just stop there.

Gretchen from Dousman, WI

Both of you have told us that the wind swirls in the Lambeau Field bowl. Does Anders Carlson practice in there as well in Ray Nitschke Field?

He will on Family Night as well as at other times when circumstances allow. That was part of Crosby's annual prep as well.

Rudy from Tempe, AZ

Hi Mike, do you see LVS playing OLB, or more so along the defensive line? When Rashan Gary gets back healthy, it seems to me opportunities to rush from the outside (especially on third down) will be limited with Preston Smith also in the picture. Thoughts?

I think that's a bridge the Packers will cross when they get to it, meaning when Gary is indeed back at full strength. For now, Lukas Van Ness is playing on the edge and I'm not anticipating a lot of interior reps until we're further down the road. Eddie from Fort Myers brought this up, too, and while the possibilities are indeed intriguing, I'm looking at it as one step at a time.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

The defense again seems to be saying the right things but there are a lot of the same players and most of the same coaches. What do you see could be the difference this year in showing some consistency and big-play ability?

We're hearing a lot about the defense lining up more aggressively, especially coverage-wise, which the players seem to prefer. Even Jordan Love commented on their approach. It comes down to whether they can play that way without surrendering explosive plays, because coaches loathe allowing those and will always lean toward guarding against them. If the players earn the coaches' trust in that regard, they'll be granted more latitude with aggression. From my perspective, the bottom line as I said all offseason is the defense has to level out its play and not swing wildly back and forth, or up and down as it were.

Gary from Bealeton, VA

Where does the defense improve more this year? In the play or the coaching?

It all works together and the results are what matter.

John from Rhinelander, WI

If the two-point stance is enforced in the future, do you feel the offensive line or the defensive line has the advantage, or is it going to be fairly equal?

On the edges it seems fairly neutral, as guys on both sides play that way a lot already. On the interior, my gut says the offense gets an edge in pass pro but loses some in the ground game. Would that mean an even greater emphasis on passing in the future? I would guess so.

Brian from Fort Atkinson, WI

Good morning, Mike. I have a thought regarding the battle between Yosh Nijman and Zach Tom I would like your opinion on. If the battle is truly neck-and-neck or if Tom even appears to have a very slight edge, isn't the smart move to make Yosh the starter? If/when an injury occurs on the offensive line, having Tom available as a backup means you only have to replace that lineman because of his versatility. Otherwise you may have to shuffle two or maybe three spots in case of an injury.

Others have mentioned this as well. It's one school of thought, and there's merit to it. The other, which LaFleur has always adhered to, is to get your best five on the field, and as I explained in yesterday’s “5 things” story, that thinking is taking firmer shape. Tom was snapping at center with the first-team offensive line in practice, revealing the competition at that spot with Josh Myers we thought in the spring might materialize but hadn't until now. My read at this point is the same as Larry's from yesterday's "3 things" video – Tom, Myers and Nijman are competing for two spots in the best five, with David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins and Jon Runyan the three mainstays. Maybe Tom is the fourth, which means it comes down to whether Myers or Nijman is the fifth. As always, stay tuned.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

I enjoyed watching Big Dog and was glad when he came to GB. But he was primarily a blocker, so why couldn't he be replaced by a lineman? Wouldn't a third tackle make for a better blocker? That would also allow for both Nijman and Tom a chance to get in the lineup. What did Lewis bring to the table that a sixth OL couldn't do?

He could reliably run routes and catch passes, forcing the defense to honor that potential threat. A sixth OL? Not so much.

Reese from Phoenix, GA

I see Keisean Nixon was catching passes. Will we possibly see him on offense in some preseason action?

If a wrinkle like that is in the plans, I wouldn't put it on film for any other teams to see.

Sue from Tomah, WI

Good morning, gentlemen! An observation: I dearly love to see all the pictures of the players and kids with bikes. And I do giggle to see one of the really big Packers nearly fold themselves in half to bend down and greet a tiny little one. Of course, the giggles continue with seeing big guys and little bikes. But the crown is the glowing faces of those kids when their bike gets picked or the joy of carrying a helmet nearly bigger than they are. Thank you to the photographers for those moments.

If Jim Nantz hadn't ruined the line in perpetuity for the rest of us, I'd be inclined to say it's a tradition unlike any other. Instead I'll just say I hope the giggles and glowings never stop. Happy Wednesday.

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