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Inbox: Rashan Gary is quickly becoming a nightmare for offenses to deal with

The pads going on means we’re getting closer to real football again

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LB Rashan Gary

Jeff from Muskego, WI

Who's the Packers' biggest challenge in their division?

That's an easy one – the Packers.

Tim from Rosario, Argentina

Hello Insiders, really love the "Three Things" during training camp to get your views on who is impressing and who is lining up where and when. Have to say Monday's episode was very entertaining with the "blood, crayon and poopy pants" comment. Hope Larry can get some sleep for the Packers' first padded practice on Tuesday for his insight on the line play.

Larry offers incredible insight. He is a wealth of Packers knowledge, both past and present. But "Three Things" is at its zenith when the grandkids take a trip to Green Bay.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

There always seems to be a big deal made about practicing "in pads." As in, "it's not really football unless it's played in pads." But with padding getting smaller and lighter, is practicing with pads really that different than without? Or is practicing "in pads" more about the physical contact (blocking mainly, since live tackling is scarce) being more at game-level intensity?

The difference is night and day. For example, Monday was the first time we saw Jarran Reed play with true physicality and I was impressed by how well Reed defended the run. The brute strength of Devonte Wyatt and speed of Rashan Gary also were on display during one-on-one pass rush. The pads going on means we're getting closer to real football again.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Dear Wes or Mike, which three position battles would you rank as the most competitive as camp heads towards Family Night? Thanks for all the great camp coverage!

Cornerback is a big one. There's always an under-the-radar hopeful who makes a big play in front of the crowd at Lambeau Field. Receiver is a close second, as we look for Romeo Doubs, Samori Toure and Juwann Winfree to build on the positive things they've done in practice so far. The competition on the offensive line will also be something to watch for. The Packers are still alternating O-lines, with Zach Tom at left tackle and Jake Hanson competing for a starting spot at right guard.

Bob from Grand Rapids, MI

Wes, one of your favorite reporters had a story that Rich Bisaccia ran 30 yards to yell at a punt team that they didn't break out of the huddle quickly enough. What other differences have you noted about the special-teams practices?

The sense of urgency. If somebody messes up, they're going to hear about it. Because that's how it's going to get fixed.

TK from Grafton, WI

Can "12" develop chemistry with his new receivers strictly in practice, or does he HAVE TO play in some exhibition games? Thanks, fellas! Keep up the great work. Still reading daily!

*Aaron Rodgers doesn't have to play in the preseason. Because that chemistry you're talking about…is already being established at Nitschke Field. Take Sammy Watkins and Doubs for example. Neither practiced with Rodgers during the offseason program but both receivers – at different junctures in their careers – have started building a rapport with the MVP quarterback in practice. *

Jim from St. Pete Beach, FL

Hi Wes! What has surprised you most in camp thus far?

How quickly the rookies have gotten up to speed. Beyond just the receivers, I thought Wyatt had a great practice on Monday and Quay Walker continues to be all over the field. It's fun to watch the defense at work. The Packers have so much team speed right now.

The Green Bay Packers held training-camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022.

Evan from Durango, CO

To follow up on Mike's answer to Jim about player-led teams in the McCarthy era, having the caliber of men the likes of Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers plays a huge factor in that as well. Not only future Hall of Famers, but true on-field leaders. I've seen that under LaFleur with Rodgers, Mason Crosby and De'Vondre Campbell.

I'd toss Marcedes Lewis in there, too. Big Dog is usually the one who speaks to the team before every game.

Randy from Highland, IL

Hello II, regarding the talk of Astroturf and natural grass. Several years ago, my wife and I visited Lambeau Field for the first time, and we weren't allowed to go on the field during the tour because they were using some kind of machine that integrated artificial grass with natural grass. Is that something that still happens with the field at Lambeau?

Not routinely. What you witnessed was the microfibers being stitched into the field to keep the dirt and sand in place. It just helps balance the growth and integrity of the field. There may be some standard upkeep in the offseason, but that process was completed the year the new field went in.

Steve from Colorado Springs, CO

Reading about who made the big plays in practice makes me wonder, is there any difference for the coaching staff in the value of making a big play in practice as opposed to a preseason game? The only thing I can come up with is the quality of the opponent, but we have some pretty tough coverage over there in practice, as well. What else comes into play if anything? Thanks II team!

They're often one in the same – at least for the guys competing for starting roles and jobs. The coaches and scouts want consistency, with players carrying over what they did in practice into preseason games and vice versa.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, which preseason game was Jordan Love's most exemplary? Would you please remind us of a few stellar stats from that start?

What's wild is Love is in Year 3, but we've only seen him play in two preseason games due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the shoulder injury that sidelined him against the New York Jets last summer. I thought Love did some good things last year against Houston, including the 22-yard touchdown pass to Kylin Hill. Comparatively, Davis Mills – who wound up being the Texans' starting QB – went 11-of-22 for 112 yards and an interception in that contest.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

Do you think the Packers carry a third quarterback on the practice squad and how has our new QB3 looked? While it's fun watching unknowns at QB during the preseason, so few actually become good NFL backups, let alone starters. Who is backing up Cousins, Fields and Goff?

Dana, I know you didn't just ask me who's backing up Jared Goff. I'm going to forget that part of the question and focus on Danny Etling, the Packers' QB3. Like Rico Gafford, Etling is a 28-year-old veteran who's been around for a few years and still chasing his NFL dream. It's difficult to get too much of a read on him based on the limited reps the third QB gets. He should get some work behind Jordan Love in the preseason, though.

Thomas from Madison, WI

How has Gabe Brkic been looking in camp so far? Any insight into the long snapper competition?

Brkic has a strong leg and looked good on Monday, drilling a pair of kicks from 50-plus. The long snapper competition is ongoing with Jack Coco alternating with Steven Wirtel on field goals and punts.

Shaun from Bayside, WI

There have been some comments from attendees of other camps that the guardian caps are encouraging more hitting with the helmet. Would you agree having seen practices firsthand?

I definitely can see the danger. The Packers do a good job of stressing fundamentals, but it's ultimately up to players to stay disciplined. Because those caps can give you a false sense of security once the games start.

Jeff from Indian Lake, NY

Hey Wes, hope you're enjoying camp so far. Just want to say I have big hopes for Josiah Deguara this year. He's got such a unique skill set and seems to have a great mentality. Has he flashed at all yet or should we wait for the pads to make a better assessment of the tight end room?

That "F" tight end role is a tough position to "flash" at because it's such a thankless, get-your-hands-dirty spot. That said, you know the impact of that position when you see it. Deguara has been in with the first-team offense for most of camp and made a nice catch in the middle of the field during two-minute on Monday.

Bill from Clive, IA

Good training camp morning to you, Insiders! I recall several times last year seeing articles referring to Davante Adams' use of "late hands" as one of his most effective weapons. Do you see that same trait developing in anyone in the receiver room so far?

Adams was on a different level when it came to fundamentals, but Doubs has the type of football IQ teams are looking for. On a few occasions now, the rookie has gotten separation from the cornerback and made sure not to give anything away when the ball is being delivered.

Craig from Brookfield, WI

Let's get ahead of ourselves. Assuming that Romeo Doubs was drafted in part because of his ability as a returner, would he be used for returns if he cracks the starting WR lineup? Who (Whom?) do you see as candidates for the kickoff and punt returner roles? It sure would be great to see someone give the Pack decent field position (rather than giving it to their opponents)!

I have no idea what happens if Doubs becomes a starter, but he's in the conversation for punt returner now. He fields the ball naturally, too. I'm less convinced the Packers would use him on kickoff returns, but you never know.

Dale from Kettering, OH

Are any of the rookies standing out on special teams, a traditional route to the 53?

Doubs or Walker. He was running with the first-team punt units on Monday.

Tom from Walker, MI

Do any of the UDFAs look the part yet?

Wisconsin's Danny Davis has had a nice start to camp. I made this remark to Spoff the other day. I get the Packers don't have prime Davante Adams or Jordy Nelson on the roster, but the coaches and scouts have to like what they've seen so far from their receivers. All the wideouts have stepped up.

Orv from Myrtle Beach, SC

Given that pads were not worn last week, help us visualize what you meant when you said, "Rashan Gary makes a great impact on every play."

He looks like he was shot out of a cannon at the quarterback. The guy is quickly becoming a nightmare for offenses to deal with. Gary could always rush speed to power but now he's mixing in more technique and fundamentals. Pads or no pads, it's becoming increasingly more difficult for offensive linemen to get their hands on him. That's why Matt LaFleur said last week that Gary might have had four sacks in last week's practice if he were allowed.

Anthony from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Do the Packers have an X factor you could point to that no other NFL teams have other than AR12?

The Packers have one of the best all-around backfields in the NFL with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon when you factor in how effective both running backs are in the passing game.

Jeffery from Brooklyn, WI

Hello, I am excited about our defense this season and beyond for that matter, we have consistently been adding top young talent over the last few years and it appears to be coming together. When was the last time the defense was the stronger part of the Packers' three phases and is this contributing to making the special teams better?

Probably 2010. Rodgers was great but he wasn't an MVP yet. I do think there's a correlation between a strong defense and good special teams. The Packers had a good core of specialists that year with Jarrett Bush, Charlie Peprah and Pat Lee.

George from Kennebunkport, ME

Last week I saw a clip from Packers practice on the NFL Network that looked unusual. The clip showed a play where Aaron Rodgers had the ball pitched to him as he was sprinting to his left followed by him passing the ball. They showed them running this play multiple times. Having watched every Packers play for decades I do not recall seeing this play design. Is this a new wrinkle or maybe just a "head fake" to force defenses to plan/practice defending it?

It's not a designed play. Team periods are restricted. What you saw is an individual drill that works on play-action rollouts. It's been a standard drill under LaFleur.

Clipton from Pasadena, CA

The discussion of the call on the Shemar Jean-Charles pick prompted me to wonder who the practice refs are. Are they current or perhaps recently retired NFL refs? College or maybe high school?

They are retired area referees. The NFL officials should be coming in this week, though. At least, the Packers have historically had them here for Family Night.

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

Do y'all have access to the same cafeteria as the players? If so, how is the food? If not, I think y'all should ask for access to help with Mike's stamina.

I ate a salad from 1919 Monday. I think Spoff had yogurt.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Good morning, Wes. Last week, Aaron Rodgers had some straight-faced fun with the concept of "going from Hall of Famer to Hall of Famer." Well, it's all fun and games until we have to alternate between Mike and Wes every day. The Inbox just has a different tone. Mike likes his PUP and salary cap questions while Wes is more about the human-interest side of the team. How should a bewildered reader decide which HoFer to ask what question? Thanks.

Hey, I like the PUP, too.

Joe from Wausau, WI

Weston, based on the live tweets youse guys and gals are providing, the disruptive speed of the defense seems to be a common theme...and how is the mustache coming?

Mine? Poorly. Rodgers'? Solid. Tyler Gajewski's? Immaculate.

Jim from Santa Maria, CA

Good morning gentlemen! My question is with the pads going on the potential for injuries increases, does that hold true for yous guys? I'm concerned Wes will pull a hammy and Spoff will find himself in the concussion protocol over stealing his last lunch?

We're ready. The ramp-up period was for players and media alike. Buckle up, it's time to get to work.

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