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Inbox: Preston Smith is one of the best examples of that

The Packers’ defense knows what the expectations are

LB Preston Smith
LB Preston Smith

Carl from Sheboygan, WI

Good morning, guys! How much of drafting a player or signing a free agent is based upon that player's talent level or ability to fit into the offensive or defensive scheme? Also, what position do you feel relies more on scheme than talent to be successful? Hope this makes sense. Thanks for all you do! Love the Inbox…

That's a good question with many layers. Scheme is important but talent remains a prerequisite at this level, especially on the perimeter or at a marquee position like quarterback. Even if a player isn't the best scheme fit, they're usually talented enough to play at a high level. The job of Brian Gutekunst and his scouts is to identify top players who also fit Green Bay's system and culture. Preston Smith is one of the best examples of that. He is a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker who also enhances the character of a team's locker room.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

Packers fans are pretty knowledgeable about their team. I think it's safe to say that, if need be, they will be reasonably patient with the offense. That said, they will be reasonably impatient with the defense. Clearly if the defense doesn't play up to the high expectations that the general manger alluded to, there will be consequences this year. The defense ended 2022 playing solid, winning football and they should be even better in 2023, but it will need to start in Week 1.

I don't disagree. Kenny Clark said himself that the Packers' defense needs to start faster this year. The unit played well down the stretch and now needs to carry that momentum forward. A defense with that much talent and experience needs to hit the ground running for this young football team. To its credit, the locker room isn't shirking that responsibility. The Packers' defense knows what the expectations are.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Good morning. Iowa's Music City Bowl game against Kentucky was rebroadcast after the draft. Lukas Van Ness didn't start but he made a lot of plays from all over the defensive line and even dropped back in pass coverage a few times. I suppose there's an element of surprise to mixing up your defenses … imagine two O-linemen waiting to double team his pass rush only to find out he's not there. Will he be asked to drop back in coverage for Green Bay? By contrast, Will Levis opted out of that game.

That's what it means to play outside linebacker in the the NFL. Now Green Bay's edge rushers aren't dropping into coverage as often as Preston Smith once did but it's still part of the gig. Coordinators need to mix up their looks up front as much as they do their coverages. So, Van Ness' all-encompassing athleticism should provide maximum value. On paper, you can utilize him in every way imaginable.

Hank from Janesville, WI

Everyone keeps referencing Jordan Love's struggles against Kansas City in his start. I seem to recall him having a higher quarterback rating than Patrick Mahomes in that game, with both facing dominant defenses. Love also played well against Philadelphia. What are your thoughts?

It's only natural to put such a heavy emphasis on Love's performances against Kansas City in 2021 and Philadelphia in 2022 because of how little we've seen him play until now. But the truth is we've barely scratched the surface of seeing what Jordan Love, quarterback, is capable of. You can't write a term paper after glancing at the description on the back of the book. You gotta read the novel. Personally, I'm ready to open the book and begin the story.

Paula from Apple Valley, MN

"I mean, it's pressure...that's what comes with the position." I LOVE it. Pun intended.

These men are all professionals. I promise you – whatever pressure there may be externally pales in comparison to the standard Jordan Love has established for himself.

Eric from Springfield, VA

I'm confused. I'm reading things that the Packers are taking no hit on the Aaron Rodgers' contract. But I thought we had $40 million in dead money this year. Which is true?

I don't like to get into money matters because I'm no longer as educated on player contracts as I once was. However, we need to set the record straight on this. The Packers did take a hit on Rodgers' contract, but it's based solely on money already paid to Rodgers after the extension he signed last offseason. His "dead money" figure reflects the bonus money Rodgers received but was prorated against future years. With the trade, the Jets took on the rest of Rodgers' contract, including the bonus due to him before the regular-season opener.

Jim from Superior, WI

With all the angst about our defensive line, what about Chris Slayton? He really looked good in exhibition last year and is 307 pounds. It seemed like he was a good run-stuffer and also put pressure on the QB. Is he still in the Packers' future?

You want to talk about hunger? Slayton has been around the NFL for four seasons but still has yet to appear in a regular-season game. I expect the 26-year-old defensive lineman to push that entire room for a spot this summer and the Packers obviously feel likewise. They wouldn't have kept him around if they didn't feel like he could earn a spot on the 53.

Michael from Berrien Springs, MI

Nate from Manitowoc: The Packers seem very high on Caleb Jones. What role do you think he can legitimately compete for? Swing tackle? Spoff: Maybe, but I wonder if he'll be best served settling in on one side and refining what works for him. Me: First-and-goal at the one! The Pack's version of Refrigerator Perry! Humorous, I know, but come on...wouldn't it be a hoot?

I appreciate the humor, but Spoff is 100% correct on this. If I'm the Packers, I follow the same development blueprint with Jones that they used with Yosh Nijman. Jones is a remarkable athlete for a man his size – teach him one spot (no, not fullback), refine his blocking technique, and let the 6-foot-9 tackle develop from there.

Bill from Fort Worth, TX

There's rightfully a lot of talk about Jordan Love stepping up after decades of Hall of Fame quarterback play, but how about our next kicker? Mason Crosby's been money-in-the-bank for a long time, and Chris Jacke and Ryan Longwell had respectable runs as well. Seeing what the Bears went through after Robbie Gould or trying to keep up with the Cowboys' revolving door, here's to hoping things pan out if Crosby's time is in fact up in Green Bay.

You have to be careful. Kicking in Green Bay and Chicago is different than other NFL cities. Crosby mastered the art of kicking in cold weather like few others, while also understanding the wind patterns inside Lambeau Field's stadium bowl. The Packers believe in Rich Bisaccia and respect his eye for special-teams talent. If Bisaccia is sold on Anders Carlson's potential, that's all I need to hear.

Matt from London, UK

Looking back at last year's draft class, the hit rate was quite impressive. Of 11 guys picked, only three didn't get playing time: Sean Rhyan, Jonathan Ford, and Rasheed Walker. Have you heard any buzz about whether any of those guys could be ready to break into the team in their second season? I'm still hoping they might surprise some people. I'm also hoping the hit rate for this year's draft class is equally good!

I know Sean Rhyan is looking forward to the reset. He was the first player I saw in-person once players reported back to Lambeau Field. Last year, obviously, did not going according to plan but there is still a lot of untapped potential in the former UCLA offensive lineman. His fresh start begins now.

Darren from Wakefield, MI

Hi Wes. Could you explain the International Player Pathway and how teams scout them, etc.? I'm assuming you don't want to play 20 questions, but I think I have that many with regards to this.

It's an interesting process. Unlike the NFL Scouting Combine, where teams offer suggestions on invitees, the IPP is the governing body responsible for identifying international prospects. I have to plead a bit of ignorance on how the allocation process works or how many clubs are involved with the NFL International Combine but certainly players like Kenneth Odumegwu wouldn't be in this position if the league didn't feel they could succeed. He's here for a reason.

Dennis from Beavercreek, OH

So, Gute states the Packers are not rebuilding. I do not know why teams refuse to use that term. Rebuilding is better than staying pat. I will say we are rebuilding the O and not the D. So, what does Gute call the construction on the video board? Has he prohibited the use of the term in all Packers' facilities?

You know, an old coach around here used to say, "That's a polluted mindset." And the videoboards aren't being rebuilt, Dennis…they're reloading.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Other great Mike McCarthy quotes. "Stats are for losers," "We don't hang banners around here for division titles, "We're nobody's underdog." Have any others?

Nothing's coming to me.

Dan from Cudahy, WI

Now that Aaron Rodgers is gone, we may have a rookie kicker and the youngest team that Matt has ever coached. What are the chances of Matt receiving Coach of the Year honors if he simply gets the team into the playoffs?

That probably means this is the year a coach is honored who has the league's oldest team and wins 14 games. I have great respect for the Associated Press voters, but I don't spend much time thinking about the Coach of the Year award…and I promise Matt LaFleur thinks about it even less than that.

Evan from Durango, CO

The Seahawks of the early 2010s absolutely crushed their drafts. Wilson, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, as well as undrafted Doug Baldwin. They supplemented their needs by bringing in Marshawn and Michael Bennett and they made two straight Super Bowls. Is it likely we'll ever see the Packers or anyone else have that much success in back-to-back drafts ever again?

The Seahawks won a Super Bowl on the back of what they did in the draft from 2010-12. There were key additions on both sides of that stretch, but John Schneider hit it out of the park for three straight years – especially outside of the first round. In addition to drafting Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright in the second round, Seattle unearthed a franchise quarterback in the third and filled a secondary with elite Day 3 talent (Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and Byron Maxwell). If a team advances to a Super Bowl, always be sure to look at two or three of its most recent drafts. Chances are they were fruitful.

Adilson from Rotterdam, Netherlands

Jason from Buchanan, WI, wondered which sport might come close to hockey as it pertains to best preparing an athlete for football. I would argue wrestling. Just look at Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark.

I wholeheartedly agree, especially linemen. Wrestling teaches young athletes so much about balance and physicality. Keep in mind, Mike D was a pretty muscular and lean high school athlete. It's not like he was cutting weight to make heavyweight and then bullying kids all over the mat. He won with technique and discipline. Frankly, those lessons translate to all walks of life, not just football.

Dennis from De Pere, WI

Are you excited for all the noon games this season? I know I am.

Nah, that ain't it. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best of all time, but the Packers are still a draw nationally, especially this year.

George from North Mankato, MN

If the schedule makers have the Packers playing on a holiday this year, which do you prefer? Thanksgiving or Christmas?

Thanksgiving. Last year, I traveled to Miami on Christmas Eve. I'm fine not doing that again until my son is in college.

Jonathan FROM Richmond Hill, GA

Wes, I think what you meant to say was Odumegwu will have to wrestle Kevin Owens for the "KO" moniker. Also, would not mind seeing him take on Omos for the "Nigerian Giant." Or even join Omos and become the "Nigerian Giants" and take on Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. OK, that's enough wrasslin' talk from me...almost. What would be your wrestling moniker as the letter-typing, question-answering, article-writing, best-player-interviewing son-of-a-gun! WOOOOO!!!

"And I'm having a hard time holding this pen down…WOOOOOOOO!"

James from Appleton, WI

Clearly, it's not easy to become a tight end in Green Bay, mainly because a TE has to learn the blocking scheme and the route tree, both of which – along with the defensive backfield – are complex schemes that demand the most awareness of and precise interaction with teammates. Do the Packers take advantage of their unique draft and have Luke Musgrave focus more on the route tree while Tucker Kraft focuses more on the blocking?

Maybe over time Musgrave turns out to be the better pass-catcher and Kraft the superior blocker, but the overall responsibilities of that position will still be what they are. So, they're gonna get the whole menu straightaway. John Dunn's job is to coach the entire group on the nuances of the position and show those players how they fit into Matt LaFleur's puzzle.

Kevin from Starr Pass, AZ

Insiders, thanks for the great insight this offseason as usual. As LaFleur refines the playbook for 2023, do you think he has a few wrinkles that will involve Luke Musgrave lining up in the backfield? That would sure add some more sparks to the Inbox!

I'm publishing this with faint hope readers will stop sending in No. 88-related questions. You have no idea how many of these submissions the Inbox dam has caught over the past two weeks.

Jim from Eau Claire, WI

I see that Luke Musgrave was given No. 88. Do you think that means he may see time at running back? Please don't ban me for life.

See what I mean?

Dave from Comer, GA

When should we expect Luke Musgrave to transition to running back?

I am Weston's complete lack of surprise. Have a great Thursday, everyone.

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