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Inbox: The best defenses build toward something special

It’s more than just a competition against your position.

CB Jaire Alexander, LB Oren Burks
CB Jaire Alexander, LB Oren Burks

Chuck from Santa Ana, CA

I feel like the kid in the car driving to the lake for vacation.... "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are ..."

Don't make me turn this car around, Charles. Good morning!

Barry from Angola, IN

I was listening to Dan Le Batard on ESPN while they were going over the leading tacklers from last year. They didn't know who Blake Martinez was! How can Martinez be flying that far under the radar?

Then they're not paying close enough attention to the topic of discussion. Blake Martinez isn't some Johnny-come-lately. He's started 41 games in the NFL at this point. Come on.

Kyle from Osceola, WI

With Mason Crosby in a so-called contract year, is it unreasonable to wonder how many years he may have left in the tank? I'm not worried yet, even after last year's anomaly game.

Crosby turns 35 in September but kickers are playing as long as they ever have. I hate to keep using the Robbie Gould example but Chicago thought he was on the decline at 33. Now, here Gould is getting the franchise tag and a two-year extension at 36 years old. As long as the accuracy remains steady, NFL kickers are built to last. I don't think Crosby is any different.

Steve from Alexandria, VA

On the assumption it won't be both, would you rather see the defense or offense hit the ground running the first month of the season? I vote defense.

Offense. That's the phase responsible for scoring points, which is what determines a winner and a loser. The best offenses hit the ground running and stay ahead of the curve all season. Even the best defenses experience ebb and flow over 16 regular-season games, but the special units mature and peak at the end of the season (e.g., the Packers' 2014 defense).

Steve from La Crosse, WI

"It's just Savage." What a great line! It is too difficult to try and use stats to predict a defense's ability. Just like with a Hail Mary, a good defense is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Appreciate both when they work in your favor.

That's what I was getting at with my last answer. The best defenses build toward something special. They don't come out and play well one week and then poor the next. They're consistent. Consistency breeds confidence, and when those 11 guys step on the field, you can feel that swagger.

Bruce from New Canaan, CT

What makes a successful defense? For me, it is forcing a fourth down when the opposing offense has a third down. Turnovers are great, but getting four in one game does not compensate for getting zero in another. Lacking the ability to force fourth down has been the Achilles heel of the Packers' defense over the last however many years, in my opinion. If the Packers defense could rank in the top 10 in the league in third-down conversion against, I would be happy as a pig in slop.

And what's the key to stopping them on third down? Stopping them on the first two downs. The longer the conversion, the greater rate of success. That's the other aspect Mike Pettine is preaching to his players this offseason.

Andrew from Shalimar, FL

If you could clone any existing player on the Packers so that both would be playing at the same time, who do you think would give the team the biggest boost?

This answer has to be Davante Adams, right? You can line that guy up anywhere and have success in a spread offense.

Chun from El Monte, CA

What are the odds the Packers keep seven receivers on the roster to start the season with Adams, Allison, MVS, EQ, Kumerow, Davis and Moore?

They kept eight receivers on the opening 53 last year (and then put Kumerow on injured reserve the next day), so I don't see why that scenario couldn't play out again. The special-teams flexibility of Trevor Davis, and the three second-year receivers make it feasible. It's up to them to earn it, though.

Ron from Waukesha, WI

I kind of like where we're starting at inside linebacker with Martinez, Burks, Crawford and Summers. There isn't much experience beyond Martinez but there's plenty of speed and desire in those other three guys. Is that spot next to Martinez an open competition or is it just Burks' to lose?

It's more than just a competition against your position. Remember Burks is also competing with the hybrid safeties and defensive backs to stay on the field on passing downs.

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

Who in the Packers' front office is the funniest and who has the best stories? Care to share any?

Former Packers executive Alonzo Highsmith probably takes the cake from a comedic standpoint. Sam Seale also has won over the Green Bay media corps with his personality over the years. I find Jon-Eric Sullivan to be very personable and engaging. He'll do well in front of a GM podium someday.

Jason from Austin, TX

I think that if a challenged play is upheld, the ref who made the original call should do a celebration. Players celebrate all the time for making a hard play. Refs should be able to celebrate for making a hard call!

I just want to see a ref turn on his mic and go, "Told you so."

Don from Florence, WI

We talk about the players, coaches and personnel group, but how about those that get the fields ready, get all the equipment set up, make sure the footballs are the correct pressure and fill those water jugs? There are a lot of people who make sure we get to see a practice and a game. How many people does it take to make sure everything is ready to go for a practice?

If you count everyone from the players on the 90-man roster to the folks driving veterans to the practice field, I'd say maybe upwards of 200. That's a total guesstimate, though.

William from Alexandria, VA

If the players hate Thursday night games so much, and I can understand the reason, why doesn't the league schedule byes for the Sunday preceding a Thursday night game? It would eliminate the midseason week off for players in exchange for two periods of three/four days off and rid them of the brutal Sunday/Thursday back to back.

It's too difficult with scheduling. There are no byes the first and last three weeks of the regular season, and a handful of teams also play twice on Thursdays during a season (like the Packers this September).

David from Phoenix, AZ

You mentioned if teams charge admission to practices, it would allow scouts from other teams to attend and presumably spy on their practices. What's to prevent scouts from any team dressing up like Aunt Harriet and Uncle Bud from Bonduel attending a Packers open practice and doing the same?

I'm glad you asked this because that rule actually changed back in 2014 (it wasn't until 2017 somebody actually reported it, though). Scouts no longer are allowed to attend practices, even if a team charges an admission fee. What's preventing them from doing so is the potential for fines and penalties, like the loss of draft picks.

John from Madison, AL

Spoff, your reply to Carson from Salt Lake City kind of miffed me. I see absolutely nothing wrong with the Jerry's world video of Michael Irvin shouting "Finish the fight!" during the Cowboys playoff game vs. the Packers. Isn't this part of the NFL game-day experience and isn't that why they call it "home-field advantage"? It's not like he said "(Harm) the Packers!" So should NFL officials now start penalizing the home team for their fans booing the opposing team when they take the field?

I want to chat with Spoff about this one when we get back together next week. While I won't argue the Irvin promos were annoying, I found them to be less intrusive than all of the Vikings' new shenanigans at U.S. Bank Stadium and the advantage Seattle gets from the way CenturyLink Stadium is designed and the two speakers located directly behind the opponent's bench.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Many good movies have villain characters (The Joker, Cruella De Vil, etc.). The NFL has villains, too. Years ago, Jack Tatum ("the assassin") was notorious. Bears fans would tell you that Packers Chuck Cecil and Charles Martin were villains in their day. Packers fans point to Randy Moss, Ndamukong Suh, and Chris Hovan as NFC North villains. Which NFC North players fit that role today? What NFL villains conjure strong images for you?

Chris Hovan. Wow. Now that brings me back. I don't know if there's anyone today who compares to Warren Sapp or the three you mentioned. Maybe Anthony Barr, but he's not a villainous personality off the field.

Bill from Kronenwetter, WI

Morning Wes, Eric from Greenville may not be able to prove a short season is better but the owners pushing for 18 games proves something. Their greed is showing. It's been an interesting down time. You and Mike have made it fun. Thanks.

Evolution and innovation are critical for any business to succeed long term, but I don't feel 18 games is how the NFL does it. Those 20 weeks (plus a five-week postseason) are sacred in my mind. I don't want to see that compromised.

James from Greenwood, IN

If the NFL went to an 18-game season and had the players play 16, that would mean you would also carry two punters, two kickers, and two long snappers for a period of time on the roster. How big of a roster would need to be created so it would have room for all the specialists?

The only thing I like less than an 18-game regular season is an 18-game regular season with a cap on 16 games for individual players. That's ridiculous. If it really happened, I feel like they'd have to use roster exemptions for specialists.

Beau from Indianapolis, IN

One of the unintended consequences of the 18-game season, but only suiting up for 16, is the consecutive start streak set by Brett Favre could never be broken. I don't think it will be broken because of the awareness of safety, but this change would completely eliminate the chance.

It would create a tier of unbreakable records like Major League Baseball pitchers from the early 20th century.

Troy from Westminster, CO

I don't think money is going to get the NFLPA to agree to another regular-season game or two. It would have to be a significant pawn. Something along the lines of rescinding marijuana testing or eliminating the franchise tag; neither of which I see the league giving up. What are your thoughts?

It looks like quite "The Butter Battle Book" brewing to me.

Burt from Hudson, WI

For many, many years we, with friends, used to attend preseason games at Lambeau. Now we are steps-, bathroom-, and (excessive) heat-challenged, but we would like to attend a practice session. Are the practice facilities favorable to our needs, and if so, which practice time/day would you recommend? Thank you in advance for any suggestions/wisdom, provided!

Steps shouldn't be an issue, but as someone who lives in Hudson, I'm sure you know Wisconsin Augusts can be toasty. The only other question is whether you're bathroom-challenged or porta-potty-challenged? If so, then it's a little hike back for running water to Lambeau Field or the Tundra Tailgate Zone.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

If the microchip tracking technology was readily available to the public, don't you think Wes would have put one in his lunchbox by now?

Oh how I've tried.

Tom from Cork, Ireland

I cannot wait for the training camp to begin and your coverage of same. Perhaps equally so I am looking forward to a return of "Packers Unscripted." Any plans for when the first return will be? A new "Unscripted" the first day of camp would be great! Thanks for all the continual work through the quietest part of the off season.

We're back early next week. The first episode of Season 4 will post some day before the first practice. Man, how the time flies.

Cody from Paris, France

You know how in Europe we have several divisions in pro sports, and teams can go up or down based on their results and ranking. I know it doesn't happen in pro football, but is there such a thing at the collegiate level? I know there are at least three divisions. Can a team go from one to the other? What would it have to do (or not do) for that to happen?

Colleges are free to move up or down divisions, though it's pretty rare to see one move down. While not strictly based on performance, many successful Division I teams in the Football Championship Subdivision have moved up to the Bowl Subdivision in recent years.

Max from Minneapolis, MN

Since we are talking about journalism and the quality of reporting, what would you think if journalists self-regulated like attorneys? Licensed journalists would need to adhere to a code of journalistic ethics. Ethical violations could be reviewed by a professional board with the power to revoke licenses. Articles could be posted with the author's credentials, so the public would know what is credible journalism versus all of the other content on the internet.

Self-regulation (ala attorneys) won't work because anyone can write and post a story on the internet. I think we need to work towards properly vetting and verifying content on social media. That oversight is severely lacking at the moment.

Aaron from Monroe, LA

Read in an article about best FA remaining and I saw Muhammad Wilkerson looking to return to Green Bay for a year once he's fully healthy. Is this fake news? Wasn't he doing well until his injury?

Exhibit A. Fans struggle to distinguish the subtle difference between a team having actual interest and what a writer/pundit says makes sense. They're two completely different things.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, with the quantity and quality of II submissions you sort through daily, all year long, it seems the verbal equivalent to what Andy Dufresne had to wade through to find freedom. Thanks for all your work in providing updates and commentary, especially in the doldrums of summer. I hope there's a sleek boat and a big blue expanse of the Pacific somewhere in your future.

Me too, Mike. Me too.

Rick from Harrisburg, PA

Hey guys. How do you know when you are banned? Do you get a nasty email or something?

I read the name of the submission and click delete. I don't even bother reading it. You disappear – which I plan to do until Monday. See you then.


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