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Inbox: That's what scouts are asked to find

Health, bounces and breaks can change at any moment

G Elgton Jenkins
G Elgton Jenkins

Mark from West Bend, WI

Mike, shouldn't your response have been, "Wes and I are going to alternate weeks off in March, and Wes will cover all the big breaking news while I'm on vacation."

Ha, we shall see.

Daniel from Rothschild, WI

Another option for the weekend Wisconsin hosts Notre Dame: Bye week.

Selfishly I'd love that because it would allow me to attend the Badgers-Irish game, maybe even with some out-of-town friends, but a Week 4 bye would not be ideal for the Packers.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

We've had a lot of discussion about the pass rush helping the defensive backs' stats and which is the more important of the two and how they work together. But we never talk about a third element, what about ILB? When you have a Bobby Wagner or Luke Kuechly in there, how does that make the DL and DBs' jobs easier?

Against the run, the D-linemen know if they can occupy enough blockers, the guy in the middle will get there to make the play. Against the pass, the safety might not need to provide as much help in the middle of the field and can read the QB more.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

Can you explain how the Packers (or other teams) prepare for the combine interviews? I am curious how much preparation in general goes into them, as well as whether additional player-specific preparation takes place. For example, who attends, who asks the questions, who all is involved in evaluating the answers? Are they recorded for others to watch? Do they use experts (such as psychologists, for example) to prepare or evaluate interviews? Just curious.

I'm not privy to all the specifics, and teams guard their interview processes closely, but it's a collaborative effort. There are questions from the personnel side (from the scouts and/or GM) and from the coaching side (perhaps drawing plays on a white board or reviewing film clips). The players prepare as well, working with their agents and others to anticipate the tough questions they might get and how best to respond, such as about a bad play on film or an off-the-field incident. Those are the formal interviews conducted in the hotel rooms, and each team is limited to a certain number that are requested and scheduled in advance. The league actually reduced those from 60 to 45 this year, and they're no more than 18 minutes in length. There are also countless informal interviews that are done in more of an open setting, with scouts and position coaches hopping around from player to player, a few minutes at a time, to touch base, gather some info, etc.

Alexa from Eau Claire, WI

What time do the players get to the field before a home game?

They don't all arrive at once, but they are required to be at the stadium no later than two hours before kickoff.

Luke from La Crosse, WI

The league is considering the option to flex games from Sundays to Mondays. TV might be a larger revenue overall, but how can this possibly be good for ticket-buying fans? This seems like short-sighted profits for improved ratings at the cost of alienating fans who pay to see the game live.

The league better think long and hard about this one, because such a move would totally ignore the travel plans and other investments fans make to attend games in person. It isn't as easy as just putting your tickets for sale on the secondary market if you suddenly can't make the game. You're telling fans to beware of their investment and all it entails. I don't see how that's good for the brand or for customer service.

Josh from Winfield, IL

Can you shed any light on what you think happened to MVS this year? I keep watching season highlights and he looked pretty good the first half the year. I just don't understand how he fell so far.

He had to play through some injuries, and when that wasn't going well, it was only natural for his confidence to take a hit. I'm not saying he went in the tank, but at this level it doesn't take much on the physical or mental side for a player to not be himself. This offseason will give Marquez Valdes-Scantling a huge needed reset in both areas.

Ryan from Sheboygan Falls, WI

Will the Packers have a better team this coming year?

With the way Gutekunst manages the roster and with LaFleur heading into his second year, I firmly believe so. It doesn't mean they'll win more games or advance farther in the playoffs, because health, bounces and breaks can change at any moment, but I do think they'll be better.

Steve from Cottage Grove, WI

Is the upcoming draft considered "deep" in general? Are there more than 29 players with a "first-round" grade and a steal will be there at 30, or does the talent drop off in the teens someplace?

We'll have a better idea of that after the combine. The national writers and draft experts use the combine to access a lot of their sources to find some consensus opinions about this or that. Those types of stories trickle out post-combine and are way more meaningful than all the mock drafts that dominate the media landscape.

Eric from Mequon, WI

During the Thompson-McCarthy era, it was draft LT and plug them along the line as needed. Does our current team share that mindset or are they looking for guards to play guard and tackles to play tackle?

Does it matter? They're looking for good offensive linemen who have the tools to play at this level. That's what scouts are asked to find. Whether that's a left tackle like Josh Sitton or T.J. Lang who becomes a Pro Bowl guard, a center like Corey Linsley who's never played regularly anywhere else, or a three-year starting center in college like Elgton Jenkins who becomes an all-rookie guard, what's the difference? Job descriptions create limitations. Attributes open doors.

Scott from Greensburg, IN

Generally speaking, which do you believe would be the less steep learning curve – second-year tight end in the same system, or a veteran tight end learning a new system?

A second-year guy almost always has further to go to become an impact player.

Shaun from Sun Prairie, WI

With Aaron Rodgers having a nice showing at the AT&T Pro-Am this past week, what other Packers enjoy golfing? Any other "good" players on the team?

Mason Crosby is quite good.

Bill from Marietta, GA

What is the current rule about initiating a pass beyond the line of scrimmage? In the asterisk game in 1989, the question was if any part of Majkowski's body was past the line before he released the pass. In the final game of 2013, Cutler clearly stepped beyond the line on his Hail Mary and nothing was called. Against the Texans in the playoffs, Mahomes was almost completely over the line before he released the ball. Has the rule changed that drastically?

I'm not sure of all the permutations of the rule since '89, but I know the rule now is the passer's entire body must be over the line for the pass to be illegal. If his back foot or leg is still "touching" the line of scrimmage, even if the rest of his body and throwing arm are beyond, the pass is legal.

David from Cable, WI

Very curious to see what Mike McCarthy can do with Dak Prescott. If I were Dallas I would franchise him and wait a year. His numbers are good but his level of play says Kirk Cousins. Hope McCarthy can get him to the next level.

I don't know how it's going to turn out, but the entire situation is going to be fascinating to watch.

George from North Mankato, MN

I know it is pointless to talk about free agency until the market gets set for individual positions. That said, what positions do you generally think are better served with free agency vs. the draft? Tight ends seem to need a few years to develop into pro-caliber players where running backs and defensive backs seem to be more game-ready out of college.

I'm definitely a fan of drafting running backs because their careers can be so short, and I agree it can be a tall order for a draft pick at tight end to handle all the responsibilities of the position in the NFL for 50-plus snaps a game right out of the gate. But beyond that, it's more about the player than the position to me. Some free agents are 26, others are in their 30s. Some draft picks played against NFL-bound players every week, others didn't.

Ronald from Panabo, Philippines

Insiders, people can say what they want about our receiving corps, but Matt LaFleur has brought a physicality and toughness that I can't ever remember in Green Bay. Do you think that will continue or will it change to a more finesse group for 2020?

LaFleur established a requirement here that receivers will have to block and help in the running game. I don't see that changing.

Trevor from Cheyenne, WY

I've heard the same four positions of need brought up time and time again: ILB, DL, WR, TE. I'm sure improvement needs to be made in these positions, but from an Insiders point of view, what position isn't being talked about that needs to be addressed, and how, draft or free agency?

Even if the Packers bring Bryan Bulaga back, they have to build young depth at offensive tackle. I think they have to look hard at running back in the draft, too, because Dexter Williams remains a big unknown and it may be difficult cap-wise a year from now to bring back both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.

Karl from Bruce, WI

Speaking to the sign-every-free-agent and extend-the-contracts-of-all-our-top-players crowd, I see the Vikings are $12 mil over the salary cap. In addition they'll need $8 mil for rookie contracts this year and potentially need to extend Cousins' contract. The list of potential cap cuts reads like a Pro Bowl team. We need to trust that Gute knows what he's doing. The Vikings appeared to go all-in and are about to pay for the gamble.

The Vikings have a handful of veteran defensive players via whom they can create a ton of cap relief by releasing them or restructuring their deals, and some of them aren't at the age where restructurings seem likely. Stay tuned.

Adam from Wausau, WI

Hi Mike, do you think the franchise tag should stay or go in the next CBA? I think a fan mentioned a week or two ago that the NFL should get rid of it. I disagree. I think they could modify the terms of it (maybe you can apply it only once or it becomes a three-year deal with top pay), but I believe it keeps teams more balanced. Ask Brewer fans if they would've loved to have that tag when we got CC Sabathia or the Bucks fans in a couple years with Giannis.

The players would love to ditch it, but I don't see them surrendering in negotiations what it would take for the owners to give up a leverage tool like the tag. If anything, a modification is more likely, as you suggest.

Chun from El Monte, CA

What are the missing pieces to transform this defense from good to great? The good thing is we are improving every year but are we missing a good DT to stop the run and a MLB to roam side to side? We have a combination of good cover guys and pass rushers but it still isn't good enough.

Whose is good enough? The 49ers had a top-flight defense by all measures (statistically and the eye test) and gave up touchdown drives of 83, 65 and 42 yards in less than eight minutes with a championship at stake. I'm not trying to be dismissive, just realistic. The way the game is played, everyone's looking for more on defense, but I think the Packers are at a point the offense needs more attention. Of course the Packers could use the next Kenny Clark and the next Luke Kuechly (even if Blake Martinez comes back). Who couldn't? But two years ago they overhauled at corner, last year they did the same at outside linebacker and safety, and now they're drafting at 30 with limited cap flexibility. They'll do what they can, but the biggest improvement the Packers can make on defense might be to have a better offense in 2020. Maybe my opinion will change as the offseason goes along, but that's how I see it right now.

Collin from Kirkwood, MO

Loved your five-tool reference for Mahomes. Spring training is upon us! Rodgers, Mahomes, Wilson, Watson, and Big Ben seem to fit the bill. Oh yeah, what even makes a five-tool QB anyways!? Can one of those tools just be "It"?

That would be the sixth tool, like a sixth sense. Happy Wednesday.