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Inbox: One thing's for sure with LaFleur

Those experiences can feed a team

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WR Allen Lazard, RB Aaron Jones

Matty from Durango, CO

Has II readership skyrocketed since our global hibernation? My family and I personally read and share it more than ever. Normally in May it would be a low priority.

Glad to know where we stand. Ha, just kidding. I do think page views are up a bit for the offseason, and participation is certainly up. There are more questions than usual to sort through each day for this time of year.

Mike from Bel Ai, MD

To Daniel from Potosi: There was a one-hour made-for-TV movie in 1973 called "Legend in Granite" about Lombardi starring Ernest Borgnine. He had a front-tooth gap like Lombardi. I watched the first run at the time. Thanks II. You do a great job. Nice diversion from all the divisiveness on social media. Who do you think would play him today?

Dozens upon dozens of readers chimed in about the '73 Borgnine movie. I could see Christian Bale or Hugh Jackman taking a shot at playing Lombardi today.

Rachel from Appleton, WI

With ML's emphasis on the run game, how important are fakes, e.g., how Aaron Rodgers moves after a handoff or how the runner moves after a fake handoff? Do you see the virtual training camp hindering that or is it something that is perfected after the rest of the play/playbook is mastered and can be done after the games start?

LaFleur wants his passing game's foundation to be play-action, so carrying out fakes is critical. It takes reps and studying the details on the practice film to make them second nature and most effective. The absence of on-field work until training camp will require those details to be monitored closely once the team is back together, but it's not as though carrying out play-action fakes is a new concept to anybody. Lapses are easily spotted and fixed.

Matt from Minneapolis, MN

With Allen Lazard, Devin Funchess , and Equanimeous St. Brown, the Packers have three WRs that are 6-4 or 6-5 and 215-225 pounds. I think that we didn't draft anyone as our No. 2 WR because we want a big and physical WR who can be a solid possession guy and dominate smaller defensive backs in the running game as our No. 2. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a better deep threat than those other players, but does he need to become more physical both in the run game and as a route runner to have a shot to emerge as our No. 2 guy?

Anyone can still improve, but I thought MVS proved to be a reliable blocker. His work on the outside sprung Aaron Jones for that long, clinching TD run at Minnesota in Week 16. One thing's for sure with LaFleur – receivers who won't block won't see the field.

Jess from Little Chute, WI

I am surprised by the number of people unaware that ML wants to run the ball. When he was hired, he said exactly that he was going to run more, and he stated this many times throughout the offseason. Then our offense had more rushing attempts in a season than in the past three seasons. Why is this news a year later?

Because the apparent commitment to it is unusual, generally speaking, with a two-time MVP and HOF QB under center. I think Packers fans also heard the same proclamations plenty from McCarthy, and some years the commitment was evident, others not so much. But that's also reality in the NFL – coaches have to do what's working and what it takes to win. LaFleur has a vision for how he wants his offense to look, but the priority is to win games.

Scotty from Lombard, IL

Insiders, why are so many teams changing their uniforms?

To sell more merch, man. Why else?

Josh from Denver, CO

Jace Sternberger in 2020, over or under Jimmy Graham's 2019 production (38 rec, 447 yards, 3 TDs)?

I'll take the over.

Lori from Broomfield, CO

Are any of the injuries Oren Burks has suffered in the career-ending category

Not at all. He's just been dealt some difficult blows at bad times – during training camp when repeated padded practices (as opposed to one per week in the regular season) are crucial for the development of young players.

Erik from Sisters, OR

Am I the only one who doesn't see the SF game as a big game or a must-win game? From the stats we've already discussed, it is near impossible for a team to travel and win those things. I'm racking that up as a loss and I'd use the prep week as a bye and rest the guys a little more. Maybe take a whole new approach and say, "Hey boys, let's play some schoolyard ball!"

The rest comes after a Thursday night game. You take your best shot. As much as the travel stats show the odds stacked against the road team, Thursday nights can also be wildly unpredictable games. Both teams will be coming off big divisional matchups heading in (Vikings at Packers, 49ers at Seahawks on Nov. 1).

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

Doesn't home-field advantage have much more to do with the little things? Using your locker. Using your shower stall. Sleeping in your bed. Not stuck in a plane seat for hours. Coming out your tunnel. Fans travel, too. Fans impact it, but aren't the intangibles just as important to home-field advantage?

I do think length of flight and other travel elements play a part, but the rest is all tied to the human element, in that not every human reacts the same way to certain circumstances. Crowd noise against you can be psychologically deflating for some, adrenaline-inducing for others. Charles Woodson used to say there's nothing more galvanizing to a team than walking into a locker room with just your guys and your equipment, then taking that field and beating the other guys. Those experiences can feed a team. That's why I felt it was so significant the Packers won at Soldier Field in Week 1 last year with a new head coach, after not being able to get a road win to save their season the year before.

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

Spoff, does Wes talking about his wee-little one give you baby fever and make you want to jump back on the saddle to have another kid?

Uh, no. I realize becoming an empty-nester in a couple of years will have its difficulties, so while I may not be desperate for that phase to arrive, it beats any desire to turn back the clock.

Braden from Aurora, CO

Mike, it's fascinating to me that someone of Michael Jordan's talent level would need to create or hold onto internal battles with an opponent to motivate himself. With Rodgers' memory, have you ever heard him mention a similar tactic?

Not specifically, but I don't recall Jordan revealing much about his internal mojo publicly at the time, either. The ultra-competitors aren't interested in telling anyone in the moment what makes them tick.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

What is your opinion of Matt Stafford? When you watch the Lions he seems to have the talent of the top third of QBs but he doesn't win with enough regularity. Does that mean he doesn't have the same level of talent – he can't carry a team – or does it mean that his supporting cast is much worse? If Stafford and Rodgers switched teams with no other changes, which team wins more games?

It's impossible to answer the last question. I think Stafford is a darn good QB when healthy, but he's not on Rodgers' level, and several big-game losses are his black eye. He couldn't beat Rodgers and the Packers in a pair of Week 17 division-title games ('14 at Lambeau, '16 in Detroit), and he's 0-3 in the playoffs. In his defense, he likely had the Cowboys beat in '14 if an obvious DPI is called in the fourth quarter. Also, the Lions have never been able to sustain any level of success, which I don't put on Stafford. They made the playoffs in '11, dropped to 4-12 in '12; playoffs in '14, 7-9 in '15; playoffs in '16, just missed in '17 when the Packers fell off the map. They moved on from Caldwell after 9-7 in '17, haven't won more, and it sounds like it's now or never for the current regime.

Dan from Toledo, OH

Recently saw a "redoing the Packers' 2015 draft" article. It was interesting to see available players at our picks such as: Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos, who of course are now playing for us. So it seems part of BG hitting free agency last year was because we had no rookies we wanted to re-sign from 2015. Do teams commonly look to hit free agency when rookie contracts from an unfruitful draft are up to "make up" for a poor draft class? Or was this simply coincidence in this instance?

It was not a coincidence. When you aren't re-signing your draft picks to second contracts, you have the cap space to spend elsewhere.

Levi from St. Paul, MN

In "Three Things," Rock mentioned that Wayne Larrivee is getting a much-deserved induction into the Wisconsin Broadcasters HOF. I love Wayne and Larry but I really miss Jim Irwin and Max McGee. Living in western Wisconsin in the 1980s all we had on TV were Vikings games on Sundays. Never Packers games. We were in the metro area as far as TV contracts were concerned. So I listened to Jim and Max and they were all I knew. How lucky are we to have Jim, Max, Wayne, Larry and Bob Uecker to entertain us.

I would add Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas on Badgers games, as well as Ted Davis on Bucks games. Our state is blessed with top-notch radio voices across all sports.

Al from Green Bay, WI

In a league where there is equity via the salary cap, in order for teams to win, they have to have a number of players who overperform versus their cap hit. One could argue the Smith Brothers did just that last year, despite their hefty contracts. Aside from players on their rookie contracts, which players do you expect to "overperform" versus their cap hit in 2020?

I think it's difficult to gauge anyone getting paid at or near the top salaries at his position as "overperforming," but I hear where you're coming from on the Smiths. It's also tough to measure offensive linemen in such terms, though Bulaga qualified last year (and why he cashed in big-time this year). Given all that, I'll submit three veteran names to consider for 2020: Dean Lowry, Marcedes Lewis and Funchess.

Nick from Richmond, VA

With the virtual program going on now, and no physical gathering I was wondering if you thought, 1. that might affect team chemistry with new players in the locker room at all, and 2. the concentration being on information and learning, that players become hyper-focused and we see less mistakes on the field? I know AR12 puts a high value on players who know and understand the scheme, and there was frustration with young players at times last year with that. What are your thoughts?

With the chemistry issue, it happened so organically last year that as long as no one's hung up on re-creating or forcing something that best occurs naturally, I think it'll take care of itself with new players. Regarding the scheme, I can see the current environment helping reduce mental mistakes, but there's still no substitute for live reps. There's the offense on paper, and the one that unfolds in real action.

Ethan from Holly Springs, NC

Rodgers set to meet with the media Friday at 2 p.m. Central. Any guesses on what he might say?

I expect very thoughtful, well-reasoned comments, as usual.

Jason from San Diego, CA

I'd like to add to Zak's "II" mental pronunciation list: I personally prefer "the column." Not only is this a daily "column" written by you two gents but you support this fan base and hold us up regardless of our occasional insanity. Thanks for everything you guys do!

That metaphor made my day. Happy Friday.

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