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Inbox: That would also fit

The truth can be boring

201001-insider-inbox-2560
QB Aaron Rodgers

Dar from Mansfield, TX

Wes, will you be yelling again today? If so, please be careful how hard you strike those upper-case letters. We don't want your pinky finger to turn out like Rock's.

Sorry, change of plans. I needed to take today's Inbox as Wes and I shuffle the schedule around a bit due to the upcoming Monday night game. I apologize if you were looking forward to more yelling.

Dennis from Appleton, WI

I haven't noticed but have any of the Packer players elected to wear the COVID-style protective face shield?

Not that I'm aware of.

Laura from Arlington, VA

Should we be concerned that the Falcons are already in desperation mode after losing the two games like they did?

Given how their last two fourth quarters have gone, they might be willing to try anything late in a game to get a win.

Ross from Roswell, GA

Living in the Atlanta suburbs it sure sounds like if the Packers get ahead early that there may be some "quit" in these Falcons. Let's hope we come out of the gate fast.

If those players love and respect Dan Quinn as much as they appear to, they won't quit on him.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

What do you think the analysts would say if the Falcons come in and beat the 3-0 Packers? It seems the narrative flips every other second in the NFL. BUT instead of seeing it as a week-to-week league, they crucify whoever is losing no matter the level they are playing at or what they did well. The Falcons have done a lot of things well...

The truth, such as the NFL being a week-to-week league, can be boring, which doesn't generate viewers on national talk shows. I'm perfectly content to tell the boring truth. Oh, and if you missed it, there's more boredom from my live chat yesterday.

Tom from Vista, CA

I haven't seen so few three-and-outs in years from the Packer offense. What seems to be the difference?

Third-down conversions. The Packers are at 50% through three games. They were 36% last year. The biggest reason for that is manageable distances. Aaron Rodgers has needed needed 10-plus yards on third down only seven times in 38 instances (including third downs converted by penalties, which don't show up in the final stats). They faced long-yardage situations far more often last year.

Joel from Sand Springs, OK

Insiders, Atlanta's secondary seems to be struggling, which would hopefully lead to a good day for our WRs. I haven't heard much about their line and LBs though. How do they stack up against the run?

Dennard going on IR is a blow to that struggling secondary. Up front, Grady Jarrett is a beast. He'll be a tough challenge. But I think Atlanta's ranking of 13th against the run is misleading because their last two opponents have been so far behind all they've done is throw in the second half. I don't think this run defense is as strong as the Saints'.

John from Green Bay, WI

Regarding the ongoing speculation about what No. 12 saw on tape of himself in the offseason, I believe it was addressed by the TV broadcasters in the opener. I got the impression during their work week leading up to the game they got the answer. I'm paraphrasing from memory, but I think they said he noticed he had been throwing from a more solid, stable lower body base in the past and dedicated himself to lower body work. The old adage is that it's not a QB's arm that goes first, it's his legs.

True enough, and Rodgers did mention in a media appearance if I recall correctly that not having any on-field offseason team work was really good for his knee, the one that got messed up in Week 1 of 2018. So that would also fit with what you heard.

Ryan from Colfax, WI

With the record-breaking scoring through the first three weeks, it tells us the offenses are ahead of the defenses most likely due to the pandemic. At what point during the season do you expect the defenses to "catch up"? And in a "normal" year, is the offense or defense further along at the beginning of the year?

I've always thought defenses had the edge early, by and large, and maybe the virtual offseason just gave offensive coaches more time to scheme up unscouted looks, I don't know. I do think penalties being down is the biggest culprit, though. I read offensive holding calls are down 40% through the first three weeks compared to last year. That's a big shift. It's similar to the strike zone in baseball being expanded for the short COVID season, which has depressed offensive numbers across MLB.

Derek from Sheboygan, WI

What needs to be done to help gain some consistency on the defensive side of the ball?

Get back to tackling better first, like the Packers did in the first two games, and go from there. Consistently strong defense is the toughest thing to accomplish in an offensively geared game. Only five teams in the league have allowed fewer than 60 points through three weeks. Better play in the red zone can get the Packers climbing the rankings. Allowing seven TDs in 10 red-zone trips won't cut it.

Paul from Johannesburg, South Africa

I may be the only person rather enjoying the lack of fans. It is nice to see which team is actually better, not which team is most hindered by excessive noise. I'm not saying I want this to go on forever but it is refreshing to be able to see, and hear, the players play. Of course if the Packers were 0-3 with multiple home losses I might feel differently...

It's working to the Packers' advantage, but the elimination of a key human element to sport does make it less enjoyable to me. It just soundly beats the alternative in the current climate.

Derek from Norton, KS

Do you find it odd that the "rule expert" on the TV broadcast and the field officials come to separate conclusions so often? I would expect, following replays, the officials to agree at least 90% of the time.

I think that was often the case a handful of years ago. In my opinion, since Al Riveron started calling the shots from the command center in New York, replay decisions have become far less predictable, which speaks to the disconnect with the TV rule experts.

Zach from Green Bay, WI

Aside from Favre and Rodgers, when was the last time a Super Bowl-winning quarterback started a game for an NFC North team? Would it have been Brad Johnson during his second stint with the Vikings?

Correct.

Duane from Oak Creek, WI

Are you a little worried about getting a full season in after what has happened with the Titans?

I said several times over the spring and summer the NFL's ambitions here are extensive, to play a full season, on schedule, amidst all this. It's a gargantuan undertaking. If we get to the quarter pole with this recent Titans situation the only glitch, that's an accomplishment in itself that won't be easy to repeat multiple times. But the dedication and commitment appear to be there.

Robert from Salem, WI

Do you think we will see AJ Dillon getting more play time as we progress through the season?

I do, but I know LaFleur is only going to use him in spots he feels comfortable with him.

Nicole from Denver, CO

Who is the most valuable player on our team right now?

Aside from Aaron Rodgers? It has to be Aaron Jones.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Tight ends! The arrow in the quiver that I've been most waiting for. Will Davante Adams coming back make those TE routes even more effective or was that just our offensive diversity on display no matter who was playing the parts?

I think it was mostly LaFleur and Rodgers finding a matchup concept that was working in that particular game, seeing the defense fail to take it away, and not overthinking it.

Brandon from Baldwin, WI

Spoff, hot air rises, heat flows from high concentration to low concentration. So since most fans are full of hot air, their hot air should rise while being displaced by colder denser air. Without that it might actually be warmer in the stadium. Theoretically anyway. However, my question is, over in Minnie-soda, their angst is directed at a porous O-line and a multi-year failure to address it. Is it just a matter of nobody can address everything? Pick your poison...

Every team has deficiencies. If the moves don't work, it gets costly because eventually positions of strength are going to have guys up for new contracts and become other areas to address, which can then snowball. It took the Packers a long time to get their secondary squared away (Kevin King in the '17 draft, Jaire Alexander in the '18 draft, Adrian Amos in '19 FA and Darnell Savage in '19 draft) because previous moves at the same positions didn't pan out. For the past few years, I wouldn't say the Vikings failed to address their O-line, I'd say they failed to succeed right away in addressing it. It took a while, but that unit (when healthy) is in the best shape it's been in a while, in my opinion. If that's where Vikings fans are directing their angst, it must be because they're just not accustomed to being concerned about the defense, which has surrendered 102 points in three games.

Robert from Verona, WI

For receivers that don't have blazing speed (relative to other receivers) but still excel in the NFL, what do you think is the biggest factor in their success? As fans it's easy to think that an incredible 40-yard dash time is a requirement, but good route running, fearlessness, great hands, and a connection with the quarterback are all critical, too. What receiver that you've covered had the least impressive measurables but still excelled?

Probably Donald Driver or James Jones.

Dave from Kaukauna, WI

Paraphrasing Rodgers, "LaFleur's in a play-calling rhythm; it's made my job easier." At first, I thought of play selection, that LaFleur's doing a good job choosing plays, mixing run with pass, keeping defenses guessing, being unpredictable, etc. Could it be something else? Not play selection, but the speed LaFleur gets plays to Rodgers? If LaFleur gets play calls in immediately without delay, Rodgers has more time to read the D, change the play, adjust protection, draw the D offside, etc.

I think it's all of that – selection and timing, which both keep the QB comfortable and in rhythm. He also starts anticipating what calls are coming in because he and the play-caller are on the same page.

Richard from Greenwich, NY

Hi guys, Kingsley Keke's first sack against the Saints came on a delayed stunt. Was that a specific defensive call or somewhat improvised, a la Jaire Alexander's freelanced safety against the Vikings? Obviously offensive plays are tightly scripted, but defensive players seem to have a longer leash.

A defensive line stunt like that is almost always planned. Guys have to know which rush lanes they're responsible for most of the time, especially when it's a four-man rush.

KB from Kaiserslautern, Germany

We usually talk about players like AR12 having a chip on their shoulder, but is it possible that Matt LaFleur has one too? After having his 13-3 rookie season called a fluke he's been exceptional in their three wins.

That is totally contrary to his personality, and if that is his attitude underneath what we see, he does an incredible job of hiding it.

Steve from Richland, WA

Hello, this is probably a dumb question, but I keep hearing about the amount of verbiage in some of those offensive plays. Any chance you could give us a play as Aaron would call it in the huddle?

That's a good one. I'll file that away to ask sometime in a one-on-one future setting. I don't think it would be appropriate to ask over Zoom.

Jim from Burlington, KY

It appears that the Packers are designing a lot of plays in which they reverse the direction of play and seem to be successful doing so. Do you think defenses will be able to adjust to these?

They will eventually, but I guarantee you LaFleur has another wrinkle to those plays aside from just changing directions.

Joel from Green Bay, WI

Another graphic TV broadcasts could work on would show that Rodgers now has as many TD passes to first-round picks as he does to the other team. Which do you think he'll have more of when his career is over? If they're still equal (or close to it), I wonder if it'll be the ratio closest to 1:1 of any HOF QB.

Ha, I bet you're right. Hadn't thought of that angle. If we see it in a TV graphic at some point, we'll know there's a producer out there who reads the II. That would be cool. Hello October. Happy Thursday.

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