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Inbox: The competition should be intriguing

Nothing matters until the games are played

LB Oren Burks

Scott from Fredonia, WI

If you could take a pill to make yourself 10% smarter, but seem 20% dimmer, would you take it? Asking for an enemy.

June is almost here, folks. Hang in there.

Dan from Allen, TX

Could we stop, or at least take a pause on the onside kick/fourth-and-15 talk? Between that and the McCarthy two Super Bowl thing, my head hurts. That said, isn't it time to talk more about the huge Rodgers/Love controversy?

Or not.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Pettine confirmed what Blake indicated earlier that for the LB position, the expectation is to read and react to the play up front rather than owning a gap. When I combine this with the coaches' comments about Oren Burks  still learning to train his eyes, it seems to indicate that he has not been able to read the plays well enough to see playing time. Are there teams in college that teach this same thing? It seems unusual we have had such difficulty finding a player for this role.

It's been about finding a second player for the role, realistically. Burks was supposed to be the guy alongside Martinez last year, after learning the system as a rookie, but he got hurt again. Then Curtis Bolton got hurt, too. Now Christian Kirksey needs a partner, and Burks must put all his learning and eye-training together, and he can't afford to miss any more time in training camp and preseason games. The competition involving him, Bolton, Ty Summers and Kamal Martin should be intriguing.

Lucas from Carrboro, NC

Would the fourth-and-15 option be timed or untimed? Could a team potentially go up by three with a field goal with about 10 seconds left, then elect to go for the fourth-and-15, and run out the clock (maybe taking a safety)?

It would be a timed play, unlike PATs. It could result in teams, when setting up for a game-winning field goal not on fourth down, calling a timeout with enough ticks left to get a second chance after a botched snap/hold. They know they wouldn't have to kick off and risk a lateral-rooski because they could kill a handful of seconds by lining up on offense, rolling out of the pocket and throwing a deep ball out of bounds.

Thomas from Cedar Rapids, IA

When I heard about the possible fourth-and-15 rule, I thought the same thing as John from Belleview, FL. I would go for it every time if I scored a TD on the first possession. The worst that could happen is a 7-7 tie (barring a two-point conversion) and you basically reset the game with their defense a little more spent than yours. Same at the start of the second half if a long scoring drive puts you up by 7. Belichick will do it. Mark my words.

I could see some teams trying it in those scenarios, sure. But I think we've covered all the meaningful angles now and I'm done talking about it unless/until it becomes an actual rule. I still have my doubts it'll pass.

Hansen from Waukesha, WI

Sean from Boulder, CO, referenced the short list of coaches who have coached multiple teams to Super Bowls, but omitted the Packers' own Mike Holmgren! How he could he forget him?

Stop it. Dan already said his head hurts.

Chun from El Monte, CA

Will we see more variations of formations and new plays in Year 2 of the ML transition? I figure he didn't throw the whole playbook at them in Year 1.

Playbooks are constantly evolving in the NFL. LaFleur's will be no different.

Robert from Verona, WI

Has the NFL considered any special roster exemptions for teams to deal with the loss of players who test positive for COVID-19 during the season? I could see a scenario where a team loses multiple players for several weeks due to the virus, on top of those players who will simply miss games due to injury, putting a team is an incredibly tough spot. Hopefully that won't happen, but hoping really isn't a great plan.

I would anticipate some different roster rules and sizes being negotiated.

Arthur from Altoona, WI

I can't recall any division that has had coaching changes on the order of the NFC East. Three of four teams with new coaches. Does that give the Eagles an advantage due to their coaching stability?

We'll find out. For what it's worth, in 2006, the NFC North had three of four teams with new coaches, and the only team with a returning coach was the Bears. They went 13-3, won the division by five games, got the NFC's No. 1 seed and went all the way to the Super Bowl.

Mike from Cascade, ID

ESPN posted its football power index for the 2020 NFL season. For the NFC North they have: Vikings 8.6 wins/54% chance of making the playoffs. Packers, 8.1 wins/43%. Bears 8.0 wins, 41%. Lions 6.6 wins, 17%. Packers going from 13 wins to eight? Your thoughts?

It goes back to what Rodgers said on his conference call recently. The Packers were considered by many a fluke 13-3 team, but he doesn't care. I second the motion. He likes the team and likes its chances. Also seconded. Every year is a new year. The Vikings will have a lot of rookies playing key positions, so they could flourish or have growing pains. The Packers could regress to the mean with all their close games. The Bears have to figure out their QB situation. The Lions are fighting to save the Quinn/Patricia regime. Nothing matters (e.g., the baloney) until the games are played.

Miguel from Monument, CO

Draft trivia: Packers drafted three players using picks acquired in player trades, where the traded player isn't even with the team that gave up the pick anymore. Jon Runyan with a pick they acquired from the Raiders for Trevor Davis, who is now with the Bears. Jonathan Garvin with a pick acquired from the Ravens for Ty Montgomery, now with the Saints. Vernon Scott was selected with an improved draft pick in a trade with the Browns for Justin McCray, now with the Falcons. Who's next?

No one needs to be. The Packers' extra picks next year should be compensatory ones.

Nicholas from Portland, OR

Running back contracts are extremely top heavy. The highest paid four guys are making $13-15 mil/yr, while the next tier is roughly $8 mil. Now if I'm Aaron Jones, I'm taking as much as I can get, given that it'll probably be the one and only major contract of his career, but while he's been fantastic, I don't consider him to be a superstar. Of course, next season could change that. However, how does a GM resolve this impending contract situation?

I don't speak for Gutekunst, but if the Packers are comfortable with a middle ground, you probably start there on an extension, with no guarantee Jones will be interested. He may prefer to play it out and accept some risk. It's never about one side "resolving" anything. It takes two to reach an agreement.

Daniel from Northridge, CA

I can't take another criticism of our receiving corps. For years the Packers went with one of the worst running back corps in the league. We even won a Super Bowl with an undrafted rookie and a bunch of others who were no-names. And to top it off, we went all those years without addressing it until 2013, and drafted receivers multiple times instead of RBs during that span. Now the same situation but with WRs, except we have a top receiver and capable others. Our offense will be fine.

For the record, Starks was a sixth-round pick, but I get where you're coming from. The best coaches maximize the personnel they have.

George from North Mankato, MN

What metrics would you use to deem a prior draft as successful? The number of starts made by draftees, percentage of draftees that make the final roster and practice squad, percentage of draftees that get a second contract, the number of All-Pro or Pro Bowl nods?

For me, it always begins with how many draft picks eventually become regular starters, because backups and special-teamers are eminently replaceable. Multiple starters plus a Pro Bowler or two takes it up a notch, and if there's a Pro Bowler at the premier, highest-paid positions (QB, OT, Edge, CB) that's yet another level due to the salary-cap bargain achieved on the first contract.

Kevin from Custer, WI

I'm excited to see what Rashan Gary can do with more snaps at OLB and believe he can easily replace Fackrell's edge-rushing and run-contain responsibilities. However, I can't help but think we do not have an adequate replacement for an OLB who can drop back into coverage, which Pettine's defense normally requires to disguise scheme. Do we have an answer on the roster or will he need to retool the scheme?

Preston Smith dropped into coverage some, but not as often as Fackrell. You're right, that may be an element of disguise lost, but then other disguises can and will be implemented.

Jeremiah from Madison, WI

Not sure if you saw the "McAfee and Hawk" interview with Jordy Nelson, but I particularly liked the characterization of Jordy that A.J. Hawk said, "Football was something Jordy did; it wasn't who he was." Everything else in the interview seemed to show Jordy was more than content to walk away from football with no regrets. His "retirement" isn't in some beach house. He went straight back to working on a farm. It was touching to see a top NFL athlete that much down to earth.

Nelson was so rare and so refreshing.

Michael from Montréal, Quebec

Good afternoon II. Spoff's well-written article on Marc-Antoine Dequoy is spot on. Professional football in Canada is a distant third to hockey and basketball (ahem, Raptors). That Dequoy's play attracted media attention, and the attention of pro scouts from the NFL, as a collegiate player in Quebec is a miracle. It's like an NCAA rugby player from the U.S. being scouted by pro teams in New Zealand or South Africa. It rarely happens. Hoping to start a Montréal Packers bar soon. Go Habs!

His story absolutely fascinates me. There are so many different pieces to it that grab you, from quitting the sport to lighting up the Canadian college game to posting sick pro-day numbers, literally and figuratively. In our phone conversation, he struck me as both confident and a realist. It's a combination that gives him a chance.

Lyle from St. Louis, MO

Check my math, but thankfully I can't think of any combination of scenarios where starting with a fourth-and-15 at the 25-yard line could result in exactly a fourth-and-26 attempt. The closest I can get is fourth-and-26.25 after the offense commits two successive false starts (ball at 15), followed by two successive unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, each 1/2 the distance to the goal (ball at 3.75), followed by three successive defensive encroachment penalties (ball at 18.75). My sleep depends on your peer review.

Now my head hurts. Happy Wednesday.


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