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Inbox: That's the best way to learn

Fresh legs and deep rotations are keys to any dominant defense

DL Karl Brooks
DL Karl Brooks

Keith from Middleton, WI

I think that was possibly a perfect win. Beat an upstart rival in their house. Look good in every phase. But they left a lot of plays on the field, leaving the coaches with tons of opportunities to "coach 'em up." Thoughts?

That's the best way to learn. The Packers won in dominant fashion but there's plenty left to improve upon for Atlanta. Green Bay played well but this young team knows it can play better – and it will as the season presses on.

Greg from Marlton, NJ

I am very excited to watch this team grow and develop. I am so pleased to see the attitude and support this team has for each other. I think the credit can go to Brian Gutekunst's team in selecting quality people and Matt LaFleur's leadership bringing them together. At this point, we can only watch.

The Packers not only have the right players in that locker room but also the right leadership. Aaron Jones and Kenny Clark, specifically, are two veterans who've always led by example but now are doing more with their words, too. The culture is exactly where it needs to be with this football team. It'll keep them balanced through the successes and failures.

Mark from Westminster, CO

I sure am glad Gutekunst and the Packers organization focus on developing an elite offensive line year after year. We probably take it for granted as fans, but it's easy to see why such focus is needed to be a successful organization.

We've written over and over again how the Packers do as good a job of identifying and developing prospects on the offensive line as any team in the NFL. Impressively, they've done it without having to invest multiple first-round picks into the position. It is a quarterback-driven league, but a king is only as strong as his court. Successful teams protect the QB (O-line), while also understanding the importance of pressuring (defensive front) and intercepting (cornerbacks) the opposing signal-caller. That's how the Packers play it.

John from Celebration, FL

It's now two days after we learned about Aaron Rodgers tearing his Achilles. I can't help but think the football gods are so cruel. It reminded me of the two years we had to go without David Bakhtiari in the (playoffs). I personally believe that was the reason the Packers lost those games and how much a QB needs his offensive line to be above par and healthy. The games are truly won in the trenches. To play like Bakh did this first Sunday with barely any practice time is beyond remarkable!

Bakhtiari's situation reminds me of Charles Woodson. There was a stretch from 2006-08 where didn't practice often because of a litany of shoulder and toe injuries but was still lights out on Sundays. The biggest lesson the Packers learned last year with Bakhtiari is just get the guy to Sundays and he'll take care of the rest. The great ones always find a way.

Keanu from Park Forest, IL

How will the play-calling change once Christian Watson is back on the field? In what ways can Aaron Jones be utilized more?

It's another premier downfield target in an offense littered with young playmakers. The Packers have an array of quick and explosive players who can do damage to a defense in space. You got a taste of that against the Bears but Watson's return – whenever it happens – expands the possibilities.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Good morning, Wes. How far-fetched would it be to have Jayden Reed accumulate 2,000 yards this year? Between pass receiving, running jet sweeps, and returning punts, he'd have to average about 120 yards per game. Against the Bears, Reed had exactly 100 yards combined. Thanks.

I'm not saying pump the brakes but be careful with the gas pedal. Sunday was a great start for Reed. I've personally been impressed with how natural he looks on punt returns. If Reed stays healthy, he'll get his yards but let's play some games before creating statistical markers for the young man.

Bubba from Kenosha, WI

Green Bay used 28 stunts against the Bears – the most in the NFL by a wide margin. The Packers averaged just seven stunts per game in 2022. Future opponents will undoubtedly see this and be prepared to counteract it. What will we see teams do to attack this if the D continues to liberally stunt?

The Packers repped stunts and twists quite a bit this summer and it's allowed the unit's athleticism to shine. It's on film now, so teams will scheme for it but that doesn't mean the Packers' plan will be a carbon copy of Chicago. What makes Green Bay's defensive front so dangerous is it's not beholden to twists. It can mix things up and play power football with the best of 'em, too.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

I still cannot get over the difference in D-line play from last year to this year. Tons of "games" and twists, aggressive up-the-field mentality, and noticeable uptick in athleticism. Talk about scoring well on the eye test, this unit was spectacular on Sunday.

The other factor in the stunt game is keeping rushers fresh. I mentioned Preston Smith's workload but you know what else quietly happened Sunday? Kenny Clark played just 38 snaps (51%). That's big time for a defense that struggled to take Clark off the field in recent years. Kingsley Enagbare led all defensive-front players with 41 snaps (55%). Fresh legs and deep rotations are keys to any dominant defense.

Jerome from Monticello, MN

Insiders, thanks for all your insights after the game. On Jordan Love's no-look pass to Jayden Reed, is that a practiced plan or just a Jordan reaction?

A little of both. Love must anticipate the throw, but he also learned from one of the best. The no-look pass also was a core tenet of the Aaron Rodgers era. Love played around with them in training camp, too.

Brian from Sussex, WI

Playmaking ability of Atlanta's rookie RB is something to be ready for. But any idea if GB could take advantage of his pass-rush blocking?

The Packers need to take advantage of that against Robinson this weekend and Jahmyr Gibbs in Week 4. Once those two get comfortable in pass pro at the NFL level, they'll be hard to keep off the field.

Ty from Jamestown, IN

AJ Dillon's struggle on the ground is something many have pointed to...but please tell me I wasn't the only one that noticed the tutorial on pass-blocking in the backfield that man did on Sunday? One play to watch especially was the fumbled snap big toss to Luke Musgrave...all in basically one fluid motion Dillon noticed ball out and starts to go for it, peels as he reads Love is getting it and that Tucker Kraft needs help...but then peels off that after a bump to pick up a free defender coming.

Case in point, there's more to playing running back than just running the football. We talked about it all offseason. For all the inexperience on the offensive side of the ball, the Packers have trusted veterans who've seen and done it all at two critical positions – offensive line and running back.

Kevin from Kirkland, IL

Concerning the ground game and AJ Dillon struggles – he performs better from an I-formation or pistol. You can't expect to line him up in the spread and perform like Aaron Jones, they are two different types of backs. Jones is shifty and has more acceleration, Dillon needs space to generate power, ala Derrick Henry.

It was one game. Dillon is going to have his days, too. Regardless of Jones' status for Sunday, Dillon will have a big part to play against the Falcons. The Panthers made too many mistakes with the football but still ran for 154 yards against Atlanta last weekend, the fifth most in Week 1.

Jake from Decatur, GA

Insiders, a plus defense with a plus rushing attack is one of the few tried-and-true recipes for success in this league, and the Falcons look like they have both – or do they? The Panthers didn't look a whole lot better than the Bears last week, and they were missing their WR1 to boot. Either way, Atlanta looks like a team built to play with a lead. Here's hoping for a fast start.

Ball control is paramount every week, but especially in this game. Neither the Packers nor the Falcons turned over the football in Week 1, finishing plus-two and plus-three in turnover differential, respectively. The winning team's defense likely will need to break that trend at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.

Tom from Southfield, MI

II, it's probably a good thing this (excellent) column is read by few – if any – opposing players because Anthony from Madison would have given the Lions major bulletin board material with his "fluke" comment. Which begs the question: Is bulletin board material really a thing?

I think so. Devonte Wyatt talked after the game about how nobody on ESPN picked the Packers to beat the Bears in Week 1. I'm not saying that made a difference in the game, but internal motivation is a powerful thing. It can be that extra splash of gas in the engine deep in the fourth quarter.

Joe from Liberty Township, OH

The debate continues over the risk/reward of playing starters in the preseason. I don't know the right answer, but what always concerns me with key starters playing in the preseason is that most of the players on the field are fighting for their NFL lives. A big hit on a tackle or a QB sack will get them noticed by the coaches and maybe secure a roster spot. And it could end the season of one of our key players.

You're not wrong, but I also think that can be a confidence-booster. Look at Rasheed Walker. After barely playing last year, the former Penn State tackle was blocking the blindside for Jordan Love in the preseason (and doing a heck of a job, too). It comes down to knowing your football team. When everything's equal, I do think there is value in a young squad getting the game reps together.

Bill from Menominee, MI

Giving any player a three-year learning window is great if you're afforded the opportunity. We've seen the alternative, as well, where a coach and GM favored the "feed the young ones to the wolves" approach to accelerate learning curves. If Marcedes Lewis is in the game, Tucker Kraft or Ben Sims is not. If Pat O'Donnell is punting, Daniel Whelan is not. If Randall Cobb is in the slot, Jayden Reed is not. "Get em' good fast" and "showing patience" is as much a crystal ball as the draft. Each player/position is unique.

For sure. Again, it comes back to how you see your roster. Playing rookies can be beneficial but the Packers also developed a three-year starting tight end in Robert Tonyan after sitting for two years behind Jimmy Graham and Lewis. It just depends on the player, the team and the situation.

Julian from El Paso, TX

Do you think Aaron Rodgers considered the turf he would be playing on for at least eight games? For that matter, do players consider this prior to making this huge decision? Injuries happen anywhere, everywhere, but this could be prevented. Grass and dirt make plenty of sense.

I don't know and don't care to speculate on that part of Rodgers' decision to play in New York this year. I'm sure there are veterans who consider a team's playing surface before signing, but I don't have any specific examples.

Andrew from Big Flats, NY

If players want teams to get rid of turf, then during free agency, they need to sign with franchises who play on grass. Changes will be made if teams struggle to acquire the talent that drives ticket sales.

I mean, sure, but like two thirds of the players in the league were drafted to their current team. What leverage do they have? Put in the complaint in the lunchroom comment box?

Scott from Hamlin, NY

I'm not saying playing surfaces don't contribute but I never see anyone bring data. What percentage of NFL stadiums have artificial turf? What percentage of games are played on artificial turf? What percentage of season-ending injuries occur on artificial turf? What percentage of games missed from injury is due to an injury on artificial turf? We just blindly blame the turf because we need a reason, any reason. Most fields are artificial so it's an easy scapegoat.

It's not blind criticism. JC Tretter and the NFLPA did an entire report on it last year. If Soldier Field can improve its playing surface, I see no reason an outdoor team doesn't have grass. I remember watching facilities people shoveling off the snow at MetLife a few years ago. I just kept thinking, "How is it safe to play on a surface that slick?"

Dustin from Kansas City, MO

Wes, off-topic a bit, but where do you rank the Sean Strickland win over Israel Adesanya in terms of all time UFC upsets? I don't think it's quite Matt Serra over Georges Saint-Pierre level, but it's up there.

It's the biggest upset in UFC history in a fight ending in a decision. In a way, that makes it even more decisive than GSP and Serra. Admittedly, I didn't give Strickland a chance at beating Stylebender but he proved me wrong with his defensive boxing.

Aaron from Tucson, AZ

Part of the allure of competitive sports is the respect each side shows one another for simply putting in the effort to play the game, to show up and not roll over, to overcome and demonstrate resilience even in the face of defeat. Chortling is a direct contradiction to this paradigm. Not only does it introduce "bad juju," but it's also just classless and undermines the spirit of competition. Win with grace, lose with class. That's the kind of character I want my kid to have.

Well put.

Jeff from Cedar Rapids, IA

Favorite restaurant in Green Bay?

Barley's Deerfield Diner. That is my Tom's Restaurant.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Mike is onto something with the throwback press uniform. Maybe an old timey camera with the huge flash bulb around your neck and an unlit cigar in your pocket!

One of my favorite photos in the entire building is the media scrum around Jim Taylor outside the press box, including one salt-of-the-earth reporter with a cigar in his mouth. Have a great Thursday.

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