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Inbox: That’s how you do it

Evan Siegle, packers.com
WR Jake Kumerow

Jeff from Madison, WI

Still cool and rainy around here. Football season?

This spring has been awful. I demand a refund. Good morning!

Tim from Spokane, WA

The football pundits keep saying the Packers didn't do enough to add to our offense this year and that they focused too much on defense. I couldn't disagree more. We have easily a top 10 receiver in Davante Adams, and Geronimo Allison was on pace for a breakout year and we have exceptional depth at WR3. Plus, we have an improved O-line, one of the best left tackles in the league and a formidable RB trio and, of course, an all-world QB. It sure feels like our offense is being overlooked, which has me excited.

I’ve felt since the beginning that the Packers have the right pieces on offense. They just need them to stay healthy. I think the conversation right now is much different if Aaron Jones plays all 16 games, Jimmy Graham doesn’t hurt his knee and Geronimo Allison doesn’t have the core injury. Brian Gutekunst and the Packers’ front office trusted their eyes and are betting on internal improvement this offseason. It’s a bold strategy. Let’s see how it plays out for them.

Ross from Hudson, WI

Last year, the receivers, secondary, and pass rushers were all three much maligned and underachieved as groups – individual performances notwithstanding. The Packers are not being mentioned nationally as contenders more than likely due to this underwhelming result from last year. I feel all three will greatly improve year over year. Which do you feel has the most potential to be extraordinary this season?

I believe the pass rushers have the best chance of being extraordinary because the Packers are really deep at outside linebacker after signing Za’Darius and Preston Smith, who are both in their prime. Long term, I think this secondary has a chance to be special for years to come.

Nick from Denver, CO

A lot of attention has been directed towards Za'Darius Smith and Rashan Gary as impactful prospects to the pass rush this season. Perhaps lost in the shuffle to some degree is Preston Smith. What does he provide that is different from others on the roster and worthy of one of the biggest outside contracts in recent free-agency memory?

An argument could be made Preston is the most well-rounded outside linebacker on the roster. Some fans get caught up on his sack totals, but Smith plays the run well and is natural dropping into coverage. He has a great skill set for the rotation. I think he and Za’Darius complement each other well, especially as they continue to grow together in this defense.

David from Hilliard, OH

Picking up blitzes seems to be an important, yet difficult responsibility of a rookie running back's development in the NFL. What training techniques do the Packers use to help the backs learn how to pick up such a variety of blitzes? Is it mostly film study or live on-field drills?

It’s a little of both. Ben Sirmans has drills he reps with the running backs to perfect footwork and properly absorb incoming blitzers. A lot of the work is also performed in the film room, where running backs review the playbook and dissect tendencies to improve awareness.

Keith from Normal, IL

Good morning. I'm not sure if this has been asked before but when the Pack practices against the Texans, where will it occur?

That’s a great question. I’m sure they’ll use Nitschke Field but they may also need the Hutson Center or Clarke Hinkle to accommodate 180 players.

Justin from Hoboken, NJ

Good morning Insider Inbox team! Which notable Packers players became regular starters after being claimed via waiver wires? Thanks for your answers!

Current or all-time? My colleague, John Kuhn, was one of their top ones during the Thompson/McCarthy era. At the moment, the Packers have three returning players from last year’s roster who were waiver claims: Fadol Brown, Natrell Jamerson and Kapri Bibbs.

William from Plymouth, IN

Spoff, of the 40 stadiums you have visited, which are your (three or so) favorites and why? I’m assuming Lambeau Field is No. 1 for all the obvious reasons :) Thanks!

I’m not Spoff, but my favorites are CenturyLink in Seattle and AT&T Stadium in Dallas. I love the locations, the cities and overall design of the stadiums. CenturyLink also has free Starbucks in the press box.

Charlie from Cameron, NC

As always, thanks for the efforts of you and your team. Not a question, just an observation: When I read Wes’s II, I hear Wes’s speaking voice in my head. When I read Mike’s, I hear a different voice than his speaking voice. It is neither better, nor worse. I have no explanation for this. It just is.

So what voice do you hear? Hannibal Lecter?

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, Baltimore Ravens' defensive tackle Michael Pierce came to camp out of shape and was not allowed to practice. Did any of the Packers have this problem?

During my time on the beat, I don’t recall anyone being unable to practice because he reported to camp out of shape. There have been a few players over the years who weren’t in peak condition in the spring but not to the point of being told to sit out entirely.

Jason from Des Plaines, IL

Can you please address the elephant in the room? No, I mean literally, there is an elephant in the room. Have you seen the size of Danny Vitale? He is massive. Cannot wait to see how he fits into our new run game this year.

Speaking of being in good condition, Vitale is absolutely yoked right now, which is perfect for the position he plays. I had a fun conversation with Vitale in the locker room on Wednesday about his love of weightlifting. What’s more, Vitale incorporates boxing, Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai into his offseason preparation. The LaFleur/Shanahan offense is built for fullbacks and Vitale seems like a great fit for the scheme. He also has a history with special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga, whom Vitale played for in Cleveland.

Nate from Kewaskum, WI

I sat behind Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Za'Darius Smith at UFC 238 in Chicago this past weekend. Who do you think would make the best UFC fighter on the team?

You had some good seats. I was in the 200s. I don’t know how Vitale would fare against the rest of the roster, but he told me earlier this year he wants to have at least one amateur fight whenever his NFL career is over. I believe Mike Daniels does some MMA training in the offseason, too.

The Packers practiced inside the Don Hutson Center on Wednesday for Day 2 of mandatory minicamp.

Bob from Port Saint Lucie, FL

One of Mike’s answers really struck me this week. In training camp, players "are not tackled and taken to the ground.” One of the biggest problems that we have seen and noted in the Inbox is the frequent occurrences of missed tackles, particularly by our DBs, some of whom are now gone. Is it the same rule for all teams? Is this lack of actual tackling practice part of the problem and if so, how does technique improve?

It’s obviously trickier to teach proper tackling after the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, but all 32 teams are playing by the same rules. You get what you emphasize. Coaches have to be smart, preach fundamentals and get the most out of padded practices.

David from Minneapolis, MN

Who is the II's Jake Kumerow this year? Jake Kumerow?

Guys like Kumerow don’t come around every offseason. He is Mr. Consistency – from the way Kumerow carries himself in the locker room to his play on the field. That approach allowed him to make the roster last year despite facing extremely long odds from the onset. If you’re an undrafted guy who wants to make an impression in the spring, turn on tape of Jake Kumerow. That’s how you do it.

Eric from Arlington, MN

I like the Packers’ approach to defensive backs this season. Besides linebacker, I feel DBs will be the best competition come camp. Who do you see as probable starters from that talented and young group if all are healthy?

If all things are equal, I see Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Tramon Williams, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage as the top five in nickel right now, with Josh Jackson, Tony Brown, Raven Greene and perhaps Josh Jones competing for spots, as well.

Anthony from Rochester, NY

Is Kevin King’s shoulder an issue in drills? Has he seemed to be healthier this year?

King is healthy. The Packers are just being smart with him right now. As I’ve said before, the goal is getting King to Sept. 5. King is doing everything he needs to do to get there.

Greg from Chelsea, MI

I saw a minicamp photo of Yosh Nijman the other day, and all I can say is, holy moly. Even standing with the other O-linemen, he stood out. I know he's a raw UDFA with everything yet to prove, but as someone who puts some stock in the "planet theory" of linemen, I'll be listening for his name once the pads go on. Any other newcomers who are passing the eye test so far?

I don’t need to look at the roster page to know Nijman is one of the biggest players I’ve seen stroll through the Packers’ locker room. We’ll see how it translates on the field this summer. Gary has come as advertised this spring. He has a great first step coming off the edge. Ka'Dar Hollman also has looked good early on.

Tony from Marquette, MI

How many All-Pro tight ends have the Packers had?

Unless I missed someone, Green Bay has never had an AP All-Pro tight end.

Geoff from Beaver Dam, WI

I may have missed the answer to this already. What are the circular patches bookmarking the nameplate on the jersey used for? It looks like they have something sewn under them.

That’s the GPS technology the Packers utilize.

Rick from Rhinelander, WI

Are the Packers happy they signed all their rookie picks?

Sure.

Michael from Manitowoc, WI

I toured the Packers HOF and loved looking at all the different jerseys they wore through the years. Do you think they will ever change their jersey/uniform again?

The team has only been around for 100 years, so I imagine there will be some evolution in the next century. I don’t see them ever overhauling the uniforms, though.

Brian from Fanwood, NJ

At the moment, there are 20 games (16 in the regular season). I know the preseason is used a lot for evaluating talent on the roster bubble, so do you guys think that a 2-18 split would be feasible? Each team gets a home and away preseason game, then adding two games against non-conference opponents who finished in the same position in their division the prior year? I understand the 3-17 split for neutral sites, but then wouldn't some teams have eight "home" games and some would have nine?

I don’t see the 16/4 and 18/2 splits as equal. Teams have access to 90-man rosters during those four exhibition games and established veterans only play one or two times in the preseason. If the NFL moves to 18 regular-season games and two preseason contests, those veterans are probably playing 19 times (plus postseason). I don’t want to play 18 regular-season games. I don’t want 15. I don’t want 17. I want 16!

David from West Fargo, ND

At what point does a player join the NFLPA? Right out of college, if they are signed to a contract, etc.? If you take away a preseason game, then 37 guys have one less chance to prove themselves; add in free agents and that would be close to half your union and probably an unpopular opinion, no?

Players join the NFLPA when the pen meets paper. What you outlined is one of several reasons the players’ union pushes back on a change to an 18-game season. It’s a lose-lose for the PA – more games played for veterans and fewer opportunities for undrafted players to prove themselves.

John from Oxford, UK

"...leaving me with the StubHub Center as the only currently in-use NFL stadium I have not visited..." We were hoping to see you both at one of the London stadium this year. Now off to google Bert Bell.

The 2020 season will be special for me because it’ll allow me to hit the only two established stadiums where I’ve yet to cover a game – NRG in Houston and Lucas Oil in Indianapolis (though I have been to the combine there).

Joe from Bloomington, IN

Wes, you tweeted Josh Jones has a hamstring. Is that a disadvantage against players with two?

Boy, did I get slammed for this on Twitter. Geez, I was tweeting with my left hand at practice. Give me a break. It does remind me of a funny story from a few years ago when I asked Mike McCarthy why undrafted linebacker Josh Francis didn’t practice. “Josh Francis? Josh has a hip. Actually, he has two hips – one of them is injured.”

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