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Inbox: That’s what you want to see from a leader

LB Blake Martinez
LB Blake Martinez

Ryan from Westfield, IN

Happy Thursday question mark made my day.

That’s what I’m here for: Part-time staff writer. Part-time day-maker. Good morning!

Ryan from Westfield, IN

What does (italicized for emphasis) Blake Martinez still need to improve? I mean he’s the model of consistency, toughness, seems to have a fantastic football IQ, has a bajillion tackles, is dreamy (says my wife)...

Martinez reassessed his situation after the season and realized he wasn’t as big as he probably needed to be in 2018. It’s not that he didn’t make tackles – it’s not giving up that extra yard or two after contact, so he bulked up. He also wants to improve in coverage. Martinez wants to get better. That’s what you want to see from a fourth-year veteran. That’s what you want to see from a leader.

Josh from Pullman, WA

I really like the formation flexibility look of the defense right now. I'm hoping that Josh Jones gets used as a linebacker more than a safety, because he seems to be a stud in the box attacking the ball. I think him or Oren Burks could play base next to Blake Martinez and have the athleticism to cover running back and tight ends.

I’ve received quite a few comments in recent days about why the Packers aren’t pursuing Zach Brown or these more traditional inside linebackers. They already have that player in Martinez. That second ILB position needs to be more of a hybrid player in today’s NFL, which is why I’ve been so high on Burks filling that role. The presence of Jones also gives the defense flexibility depending on the formation.

Jeff from Kenosha, WI

Charles Walls could not contain his excitement when talking about Kingsley Keke. I got the impression that he thought the Packers stole him. Do you think Keke slid down because he switched positions?

I don’t know why Keke slid, but I know the Packers were happy to land him in the fifth round. NFL.com had a third- or fourth-round grade on this guy. Green Bay is going to have a specific vision for how he’ll be utilized. Once he settles into his body, Keke should thrive. He has great athleticism for a big man.

Carroll from Madison, WI

"You’re so vague you probably think this answer’s about you." Great response. And I'll try to avoid a reprise by being specific here. With the II mantra of "What matters in December is who's hot and who's healthy" in mind, what changes – if any – have you noticed in the new staff's approach to injury avoidance? 

That’s a good question and one we probably won’t know the answer to until camp begins. The most obvious change is moving in-season practices back to Fridays. I’m sure the beat corps will count balls and strikes with that shift this year. Beyond that, it depends on what we see in practice and the stuff the training staff has players doing off the field.

Connor from Detroit, MI

I am a recent grad from U of M and had a class with Rashan. Let’s just say he found a way to take intro-level marketing seriously knowing full well he was headed for millions in the NFL. I have zero doubt about his drive and work ethic. He will win this fan base over.

There you have it, folks. A first-person account of your first-round pick.

Tim from Charlotte, NC

I couldn’t help but notice Dexter Williams was given Kapri Bibbs’ No. 22. Will Bibbs be changing his uniform number?

Bibbs is now wearing 35, which he previously wore in Washington and Denver.

Jeff from Meridian, ID

I like what Amy from Bayport, MN, is selling. I’m thinking and believing our special teams are going to improve bigly. Lots of athleticism, speed all-around. Now the pro-level execution and football IQ training and development ... the teaching, talking, taking it in ... starts. What a great feeling, perfect for this time of year. Think I'll go fishing tomorrow, let me know what happens.

It’s a new day for the Packers’ special-teams units with Shawn Mennenga running the show. I’m excited to see whom he features on those units this summer and maybe even mixing a little trickeration here and there. As I’ve said before, Green Bay’s special teams were at their best when they were unpredictable.

Kevin from Lakeville, MN

It sounds like a whirlwind with the draft, then a few days later you're in GB practicing for the life of your career. I can't imagine much time to scout out a home or apartment. Where do UFAs and tryout players live when they arrive in GB? Does the team have arrangements in advance?

Undrafted rookies – and by proxy tryout players – stay at a local hotel until they make the roster.

Evan from Middleton, WI

Death, taxes, and Packer fans wanting to move player X to position Y. Do you know if that applies to fans of other teams as well or is this quirk of Packer fans only?

Ever hear of a guy named Tim Tebow?

Robert from Aiken, SC

Why does it matter how many people you have on the roster when you have a salary cap in place? If you can get 90 guys under the cap so be it. If you think you can win with 22 really good ones then go for it. I don't understand why both are in place. Imagine if there was a scuffle, 90 against 22...

You don’t need to get 90 under the cap during the offseason, though. Only 51.

Kevin from Park City, UT

On the fifth-year option, such as recently signed by Kenny Clark, I’m wondering how the salary for this is constructed? Is it based upon some percent of salaries at the position across the league? Or does it have something to do with your draft position and the round you were taken in? Thanks.

You nailed it. For players taken outside of the top 10, it’s based on the average salary of the third through 25th highest salaries at the player’s position.

Brandon from Lakeland, FL

Darnell Savage Jr. could have had his jersey No. 21. I mean think about it – 21 Savage!

That sure would’ve been something.

Craig from Seymour, IL

Which draft pick do you think will have the biggest impact this season?

26 Savage is going to have a chance.

Adam from St. Louis, MO

How have our four newly acquired free agents fared against the Packers in their first few seasons? Any of the defensive players get a pick or sack on Aaron Rodgers?

Za’Darius Smith has only played the Packers once, but Pro Football Reference credited him with three QB hits in that game. Preston Smith had the sack-safety against Green Bay in the 2016 NFC Wild Card game in Washington. Amos has 54 career tackles in eight games against the Packers.

James from Durango, CO

Biff, you’re cherry-picking your stats and you should “reconsider your position.” Three out of our seven receivers were on IR last season. Our rookies combined matched the stats of Michael Crabtree. Plus, I’ll have you reconsider Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Wallace, and last summer’s Inbox fave Dez Bryant. They are low-risk and potential high-reward FAs to consider signing. What is there to lose at this point? BTW they are all available on May the 4th, and May the fourth be with you.

Don’t ever accuse me of being a cherry-picker, James. I haven’t cherry-picked in almost 20 years. I was supposed to go last summer, but then it stormed. If you’re going to accuse me of anything, then accuse me of being an apple-picker. Get your facts straight. As for your question, this is a young man’s game. When you ask what is there to lose? Summertime snaps. I want those three young receivers to get all the reps they need.

Bruce from Green Bay, WI

When GB was spending money during free agency, it was saving money to sign its draft choices and maybe have to pick up a FA. Now that the draft is over, how much money did they save by trading away two of their picks? I'm not sure how to do the math, keeping in mind we traded up in the first round and we had two first-round picks. I would think that position matters in the salary they would require to be paid.

Not much. I don’t know the exact math, either, but the cost of the 21st pick over the No. 30 spot probably cancels out the cost of the two lost fourth-round picks.

Gina from Waukesha, WI

Hi Insiders, thanks for answering our questions. I don't know if this has been asked before but during rookie orientation who will be the QB? Is Boyle allowed to participate?

The full list of rookies participating in the rookie camp will be released shortly before practice, but most players who don’t have an accrued season of NFL experience are allowed to participate. Boyle was on the 53-man roster for the entire season, so he’s not eligible. However, I believe Cole Madison, Kendall Donnerson and a handful of returning practice-squad players will be out there this weekend.

Kevin from Whitehall, WI

I see fans in the II and other sites are asking if Crosby may be on his way out. If you take away the mulligan game in Detroit, he made 29 of 32 FGs last year (90.1 percent). Is his job realistically in jeopardy or are the extra legs just to give him a break in camp. 

I don’t consider Crosby’s job in jeopardy, especially after how he bounced back and performed the rest of the season. I don’t know all the reasons why the Packers claimed Sam Ficken, but his presence will take a few snaps off Crosby’s leg. And yeah, it is a great opportunity for Ficken to show Green Bay and the rest of the league he can kick in the NFL.

Max from Mankato, MN

I never put much stock in combine statistics, especially 40 time. That being said, I saw that Rashan Gary is the heaviest player to run a 40 time under 4.6 since the 1980s. There are numerous "freak athletes" in every draft. After hearing this as well as evaluating his college tapes (including the highlight where he gets triple-teamed without getting pushed back) I believe we have drafted a true specimen.

After seeing Gary up close on Thursday, I agree the Packers have a true specimen on their hands. He looks the part of a premier elephant rusher. Again, I acknowledge potential doesn’t always equal production, but Gary has serious gifts.

Jake from Athens, GA

When do NFL teams’ pro scouts begin studying their upcoming opponents’ new draft picks? Can they get everything they need to know at this point from a report or a sit-down with the college scouts who studied those players pre-draft?

Coaches put their preliminary game plans in place throughout the offseason and make adjustments as players are acquired. I’m sure part of it is re-evaluating those pre-draft scouting reports, but real game film is what influences game plans the most.

Brannon from Greenville, SC

After watching Mike and John discuss the draft and the new free-agent acquisitions on defense, do you think Mike Pettine wakes up in the morning, looks in the mirror and starts giggling? He has a lot of firepower to play with.

As a good friend of mine likes to say, “Now we’re cooking with gas.” Pettine did a fine job implementing his system despite all the circumstances last season, so I can’t wait to see what he comes up with now with all the additions Brian Gutekunst made on the defensive side of the ball.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Wes, Chris from Philly's question about rating the 2016 draft was awesome! With all the slop on the internet this time of year, I think that would be a great debate. Instead of grading things that we don't know about, grade the things we do!

Draft grades are always subjective, but at least reviewing drafts three or more years in the past requires some logic and reasoned analysis.

Michael from Winnipeg, Manitoba

Wes and Mike...are you guys coming up to Winnipeg to visit me? If so, can you inform us what the Packers have to do to prepare, not just for a road game, but a preseason road game, out of the country? #GetYourPassportReady

Nothing is finalized, but I do hear Canada is beautiful in August. I don’t think it would be too much of a burden for players to play in the great white north. If anything, it probably would mean a few late nights for those arranging team travel.

Pete from Caledonia, MI

Love “clear the mechanism.” I just thought writing, “Tell them I’m through, for love of the game” – Billy Chapel, before his perfect game was complete, was a classic moment.

Meanwhile, a new ownership group reportedly buying the team and planning to trade a 40-year-old pitcher has to be one of the most preposterous narratives in cinema history.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Alluding to "You're So Vain," does everyone in Inbox think that Wes in the intro to "Unscripted" is pointing at them as I do?

Alluding to Drake’s “Best I Ever Had,” you know, a lot of Inboxers be thinkin' my comments are about them. This is not to get confused. This one's for you.

Jeff from Hagerstown, MD

So if “the third rule of Inbox is if you don't have anything to complain about, then find something to complain about,” what were the first two rules? I must have missed the memo.

I’m not allowed to talk about that.

Jennifer from Champaign, IL

Which Packer draft pick will be cut this year?

The ninth one.

PJ from Minneapolis, MN

Question: "Just for fun, have you ever thought of grading the media ‘experts’ on their mock drafts?" Answer: "No. I have better things to do." New opinion piece on packers.com – Wes’s top 10 list of things he'd rather do than grade drafts or draft graders ... and then grade each item on that list.

Now there’s an idea. PJ is going places.

Rocco from Green Bay, WI

How about grading the II responses to questions about grading the draft? If I had to – and I don't, but hey, it's the offseason – I’d give Spoff a solid B+/A- for his answers, and Wes...well, Wes has only been here a couple years, so he's still on the pass/fail system, but definitely gets a pass. Enjoy your weekends!

Wes Hodkiewicz, passing by the skin of his teeth since 1987.

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