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Inbox: That's his next step

The overriding context is the here and now

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LB Rashan Gary

Trish from Columbus, OH

"...I have issues." That made me smile! (You have company.)

Just being honest.

Allen from Kaukauna, WI

Do you think the Packers will sign J.J. Watt?

I don't know. Also honest.

Joel from Green Bay, WI

Mike, welcome back! Was your smile about the Watt news also perhaps from knowing that Wes was having to deal with much of the fallout? Where does that rank relative to enjoying Biff's lunches? How about if Ma Hod didn't cut the crusts off his sandwiches?

I have no ready response for this, but for some reason I felt compelled to post it.

Sam from Melbourne, IA

How is this year's tackle class perceived? Given David Bakhtiari's injury, looking for new talent at tackle seems prudent. This year's line was unbelievable, but do you think there is a quality LT (Turner?) on the roster right now who can fill Bakhtiari's shoes until he's ready?

Billy Turner is the best option on the current roster, but left tackle is not his best position. I don't know much about the draft class of tackles yet, but I would expect one to be high on the Packers' priority list.

Sal from Hailey, ID

New coach and the inevitable personnel changes means we are looking at a new (and improved?) defense next year. I really thought 2020 would be the year we saw Rashan Gary bust out the hump move in a game. There's something to look forward to in 2021!

I don't care what moves he uses. Gary just has to keep setting edges and disrupting backfields like he has and his future is bright. His bursts of energy and flashes of dominance remind me of a young Clay Matthews, the biggest difference being Matthews could look like that while playing every snap. For Gary, that's his next step, progressing from his part-time role and doing what he can do for an entire game.

Thorben from Bochum, Germany

Good morning Mike. Towards the end of last week Wes told us multiple times that he believes the pieces are there for Green Bay to field a dominant defense in 2021. Do you see it? Or is he too optimistic? I would love nothing more than watching a Rodgers-led offense backed up by a smothering defense. Like a top-10 defense in all the major categories and not just one of them.

There are pieces with accompanying questions. The Packers have a premier defender at three major spots (Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, Za'Darius Smith), but will there be a partner at those positions whose play approaches the same level? Gary and Darnell Savage look like rising stars in this league, but how high is their ceiling? Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin showed they belong, but how big a Year 2 jump can they make? To me, those answers will determine whether or not the defense can be dominant.

Sebastian from Montreal, Quebec

Regarding Coach Barry's orientation, what is the process like when providing him with player profiles, game tape, etc., in order to get him up to speed with his personnel? Is there a standard with what this looks like or does it primarily come from practice and team meetings? Does he get notes that Pettine left behind? My impression is that player evaluation wouldn't change THAT much from one coach to another for it to take an entire year to know their strengths, weaknesses, etc.

Coaches watch film. A coordinator can see and study what a player does best and have an idea how to utilize that in the scheme he wants to run. It doesn't necessarily take a whole year to learn the personnel, but it's much easier to make more-than-minor scheme adjustments in the offseason, prior to Year 2, than on the fly in the heat of the fast-paced season.

Scott from Hamlin, NY

I can't believe it hasn't been asked yet. Will Barry be calling the plays from the booth or field? The people need to know so they can start complaining he's not doing the other thing.

Good one.

Michael from Manitowoc, WI

So, is it too early for a Brewer question yet?

I spent the bulk of my week off reading baseball books. That's become my favorite way to transition mentally when the football season ends.

Dave from Germantown, TN

With the overall salary cap situation, wouldn't it make sense for the Packers to offer Aaron Jones and Corey Linsley a Kenny Clark-type of contract, e.g. a big signing bonus and low salary, particularly in 2021? From the players' standpoint they get the money now and avoid the risk of injury. Isn't this a win-win structure for this year at least?

It's how any significant offer will probably be structured. The larger question for the players is how much money in the deal is guaranteed beyond the bonus and first-year salary.

Keith from Yorktown, VA

The Packers signed David Bakhtiari to an extension in November and reworked it in February to free up cap space. What is the reason they didn't do it on those terms originally? They had to know the cap was going down.

The original structure was to create the cap charge and cash outlay they were comfortable with for 2020. If the roster bonus being converted to signing bonus now had been all signing bonus from the beginning, they would have had to pay it all in November and the prorated cap charge for '20 would have been higher.

Elliot from Hopkins, MN

Who would you say are other players likely to have their contracts converted into signing bonus? Is there only so much you can convert in one year?

I don't know which players have large roster bonuses coming due that can be converted. The other option with some players could be to extend their deals, increasing guaranteed money via a signing bonus but lowering the 2021 salary (and immediate cap charge). Davante Adams would be a possibility here.

Tyler from Green Bay, WI

Wait until you hear about the Stanley Cup.

Hockey has some of the best traditions. No denying that.

Jeff from Greenwood, MN

Mike, what do you think is the general consensus on the importance of preseason games now that a season was completed successfully without one? Do you think play suffered or is it something the league can do without?

I don't think play suffered, but starters stopped playing significant snaps in the preseason long ago. I think GMs and coaches will still want them for evaluation and developmental purposes, and the owners will want the revenue they generate as a supplement to the regular season. The league hasn't needed four preseason games for a long time now, but the owners were never going to reduce the number without adding a regular-season game.

Gary from Cross Plains, WI

Read a draft article that said this year's WR group may be better than last year's and that GB could "redeem themselves." Made me wonder if teams look ahead at potential position strengths/weaknesses as a factor in what positions they draft in the current year. For example, if we don't draft a CB this year, there's a good class next year and we can cover the position then. Certainly not main factor, but maybe choosing where to build depth and as a tiebreaker if players grade the same.

Maybe there's some of that, but I would suspect very little. A lot can change in a year with college prospects via injury, regression, and other factors, so to me that sounds like a dangerous game to play. Teams look to get the best value they can out of each draft slot at the time they own it, and the overriding context is the here and now.

Sean from Baltimore, MD

Packers have lost six NFC title games dating back to 1995 (right?). Is that an NFL record for conference title games lost?

It's the most since '95 yes, but not the most since the 1970 league merger. Since '70, if my impromptu research is accurate, San Francisco has lost nine, Pittsburgh eight, the LA/Oakland Raiders seven, followed by Green Bay, Minnesota, Dallas and the Rams with six each.

Sue from Tomah, WI

Welcome home, Mike. Everyone is concentrating on Jordan Love, and seems to be ignoring Tim Boyle. Don't get me wrong: I am totally looking forward to seeing the young man play, but wouldn't Boyle be played more since he is the No. 2 QB?

Boyle has two summers of game snaps under his belt in his career. Love has none. I'm not saying Boyle wouldn't play in the 2021 preseason, but I'm sure Love would play more snaps.

James from Appleton, WI

I sure would like to keep Marcedes Lewis around, especially if AJ Dillon has an expanded role – a road grader blocking for a bulldozer. But when everyone is healthy, isn't the tight ends room getting a little crowded? Who's the odd man out? Dominique Dafney?

With this offense, LaFleur would love nothing more than to have five capable tight ends in training camp fighting for roster spots and playing time. He'll let the players decide if there's an odd man out.

Mike from Lisle, IL

As long as we are changing the rules, can we also get rid of the coach's challenge? Let the coaches worry about their players, and let the NFL worry about the officials. A constant eye in the sky might even engender more consistency on all the calls.

I wouldn't object to that, but if the league is going to stick with the challenge system, make it simple and sensible. Two strikes and you're out. It makes zero sense that coaches who go 0-for-2 and 1-for-2 get the same number of challenges.

Katherine from Milwaukee, WI

What position is most needed for an upgrade?

As suggested earlier, another defensive lineman comparable to Clark, or another cornerback with Alexander's ability (whether or not King is re-signed) would improve the defense the most, in my opinion.

Jerome from Midland, MI

All I want is a true 3-4 defense not this hybrid crap. You referenced it before and after the Tampa Bay game (Week 6) that Tampa Bay's ILBs were studs. That is what the Packers are missing, game-changing ILB. Our executive team needs to acknowledge value to that position (first, second round) first. They have passed on those opportunities in the draft.

I won't argue, and I'll be curious to see if bringing in a new defensive coordinator alters any thought processes. Scouting and coaching are their own areas of authority, but I never felt it was just a coincidence when Capers arrived in '09 that the first two draft picks were needed linchpins for his system – a nose (Raji) and outside 'backer (Matthews). Pettine's arrival in '18 preceded two early picks at corner, but the Packers needed an influx at that position no matter who the coordinator was going to be. That was different. The '20 defense was by no means the '08 defense, so these situations aren't parallel either, but we'll see.

Mike from St. Louis Park, MN

Can we please get a video recording of you and Wes reading the Inbox submissions in real time? It would be like those reaction videos on YouTube. I'd love to see your facial expressions and hear your tone when laser goalposts come up, and perhaps we could all get a coveted look at Wes's lunch.

Trust me, watching a video of reading Inbox submissions would do nothing but cure insomnia.

Matt from Bloomington, IN

I don't know, Mike. Bitter cold is certainly rough, and does wear on you, but I've never had to shovel a foot of it off of a walk, driveway, or concourse...

It feels more meaningful to spend a day shoveling than feeding a fire or cranking up a furnace. Maybe that's just me.

Jodi from Grand Rapids, WI

I was rewatching the recording of Charles Woodson being told of his induction into the HOF. I wanted to see the part again when he turned to his family and said, "We" are in the Hall. Not "I" am in the Hall. Little things sure can say a lot.

Words matter. Happy Tuesday.

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