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Inbox: The defense gets another crack at that process

It will need to happen this year

LB De'Vondre Campbell
LB De'Vondre Campbell

Joel from Weston, WI

How do you guys feel about Jordan Love and his future?

Curiously optimistic. Or maybe it's optimistically curious. Something like that.

Dale from Fenton, MI

Anticipating the live blog this season, will "Third and Cobb" become "Third and Reed" or "Third and Love being pushed by Caleb Jones"?

I appreciate the sense of humor, but for the league to fail to address QB sneaks turning into QB shoves is a dereliction of duty, plain and simple.

Jason from Buchanan, WI

LVN has a hockey background. That's a good enough start for me. I know of a couple, Wisconsin-born, NFL Defensive Players of the Year who also started out as hockey studs. I would assume that sport is the best one to prepare an athlete for potential success in football. Which other might come close? Thanks for my daily lunchtime entertainment. Preferably stolen...tastes so much better that way. Just like free beer.

I'm still trying to get my head around how big someone like Lukas Van Ness (or the Watt brothers) would look in skates and pads on a high school hockey rink. I know they all were a bit smaller in their hockey days, but still.

Ed from Hilltown, PA

Last year the Packers had a difficult time stopping the run. I was present for the Philly game which really stood out. With the loss of Reed and Lowry, have the Packers done enough (draft choices) or have enough (Kenny Clark, Devonte Wyatt, T.J. Slaton, Ford) to improve this part of their game? There's a lot of focus on Van Ness as a pass rusher but what about run-stopping skills?

Van Ness took his share of snaps at Iowa as an interior lineman and has the size the Packers prefer to set the edge against the run. There's always a learning curve at this level, but with him I don't expect it to be too steep. Overall, that is a major area of improvement for the defense, maybe the biggest one considering how much that facet sets up everything else. For me, there are three guys on which improved run defense will hinge – Wyatt, Slaton and Quay Walker. They're all young, ascending players with major run-stopping responsibilities who must join Clark and De'Vondre Campbell as reliable veterans in that phase.

Eric from Minneapolis, MN

Hey II, so when Nathaniel Hackett comes right back and takes a lesser job after getting fired from a contract with guaranteed money, does he sacrifice some money compared to a Mike McCarthy getting fired, then taking a year off while getting paid from the previous organization?

No. Hackett simply saved Denver some money because whatever the Jets are paying him is subtracted from what the Broncos owe him.

Craig from Gilbert, AZ

I find it interesting people are quick to point out the mistake being made when a team throws a rookie quarterback into the mix and essentially ruins the athlete, and yet they are so quick to put a negative spin on Love taking three years to learn a very complex position. No team should be putting a rookie QB on the field. They are setting him up for failure.

Not necessarily. Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert all won Offensive Rookie of the Year. Situations and circumstances matter.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Hi Mike, I've seen the quote in this space several times. "It's not whether the young QB is ready, it's whether the team is ready for the young QB." Are the Packers ready for a young QB?

That was one of Mike McCarthy's great lines and I think it makes a whole lot of sense. Given a young QB's best friends are a strong running game and pass protection, and the offense's most experienced areas are in the backfield and up front, I'd say the Packers are close to as well-positioned as they can be. Defensively, the thought last year was that side of the ball would rise up in the early going while the offense made a big transition without Adams. That didn't happen. It will need to happen this year.

Gary from Engadine, WI

With all the discussions on a new QB and young receivers I'm of the belief our success on the offensive side of the ball actually will rely on the cohesiveness and health of the O-line. It is highly likely opposing defenses will send everything but the kitchen sink to see if Jordan Love and crew can deal with it. Even an extra half second of protection can result in a successful play/drive.

As rough as that day was back in 2021 at Arrowhead, it should benefit Love, the coaches and everyone involved in 2023.

Rudy from Tempe, AZ

Is it fair to have top five expectations for the defense this year? Packers have a premium player at every layer of the defense, with others having loads of potential.

I don't look at expectations in terms of rankings. I think Gutekunst made it clear the expectations are for the unit to be better, and particularly to start the season better. The end of 2021 was supposed to carry over to 2022 but didn't. Now the defense gets another crack at that process after a strong finish last year, and the start to 2023 will likely tell us if the reasons for the previous year's shortcomings were discovered.

Nate from Manitowoc, WI

The Packers seem very high on Caleb Jones. What role do you think he can legitimately compete for? Is swing tackle realistic?

Maybe, but I wonder if he'll be best served settling in on one side and refining what works for him. We shall see.

Nick from Fredericksburg, VA

When the NFL releases the schedule, do they prepare press releases for each team (just saying when each game will be played, no analysis or anything), or do you have an intern quickly scramble to copy the Packers' schedule and hope there's not a mistake hiding somewhere so you can post it quickly?

Ha, no. For the website, we are given the nuts and bolts of the schedule with a brief amount of lead time the day of, so we can get graphics, stories and videos prepped and finalized in time to post everything when the league says go (7 p.m. CT). It's always a bit of a mad scramble, for sure, but in the midst of that we're triple-checking and cross-referencing all our materials so there's no confusion or contradictory information.

Jeff from Montclair, VA

With the Pack apparently moving on from Crosby, it appears as if certain aspects of special teams are yet again under transition/rebuild for the third or fourth year running on an area that's been sorely lacking. I have faith in Coach B, so my question is...what's going on? Or is this constant change similar to all positions on the team and we have to take it as it comes? Thanks for your service.

I think it's only natural, with the Packers changing their roster-building approach and emphasis last year as they relate to special teams, for the continued focus and scrutiny to follow. That's when "good enough" no longer becomes good enough, and when a certain amount of change creates less resistance to more change if and when it's needed.

Ed from Windsor, CO

I hope Marcedes Lewis finds a spot to play one more season. With his departure, who is your pick for first player off the bus?

I certainly wish Lewis the best, too, in finding the right fit for his 18th season. I also think the conclusion of his time in Green Bay should conclude this readership's obsession with the first player off the bus. Vic gave us many great discussion threads and ongoing references. That was not one of them.

Curt from Westby, WI

Vince Lombardi's philosophy on offense was to keep it simple but execute it perfectly. Do you think the Packers will simplify the offense for Jordan Love and the new receivers/tight ends, or will they get the whole enchilada?

The coaches will have to figure out how much everyone can handle and what they do best. It'll be a process. But they're not going to draw conclusions in advance just so they can say in Week 1, "This is our playbook for 2023." The volume will grow with the players.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Insiders, at what point do the veteran free agents looking for work swallow their pride and contract demands and take what is offered?

You can call it swallowing pride if you want, but I don't begrudge a veteran who's not interested in putting his body through this brutal sport again for X amount of dollars. They have business decisions to make, too. Along those lines, some will almost certainly wait until training camps and preseason games are underway when injury situations spike the interest of clubs to pick up the phone.

Brett from De Pere, WI

Coming out the first minicamp, the Packers cut Jack Coco, and signed a LS from Old Dominion. Did you see that much of a problem with Coco last season? And was this a Coach Rich B. decision?

Bisaccia definitely has influence on personnel decisions regarding special teams, so I would imagine his input was sought, though every final say still lies with Gutekunst. I wish Coco the best, and he was an intriguing story last year, but I've mentioned several times in recent months the consistency in his snaps was lacking as last season wore on. Those gigs can be as tough to hold onto as they are to get in the first place.

Jeff from Lake Forest, CA

Wes, to your response about Matthew Slater … in my mind, those credentials have to equal the Hall of Fame. I don't care what position you play, if you are the best to do it, you have to have the ultimate recognition for it. There are no stats that are traditionally counted for offensive linemen, yet we know who the good ones are and they still end up in Canton. If Slater is that much of a standout and has that much longevity, he's earned that bust.

I'm taking nothing away from Slater here, but don't hold your breath on Hall of Fame induction for him. Steve Tasker was the previous generation's Slater (five-time first-team All-Pro, seven Pro Bowls) and he's never been a finalist for Canton. He made semifinalist eight times, which is one more than the number of punts he blocked.

Scott from Green Bay, WI

Good teams always seem to have at least one guy, usually on D, that's tough, assignment-sure, and that holds things together when things aren't going well. Which Packer(s) should I look for?

I'd say the last couple of years those players have been Kenny Clark, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos. It's natural, if not a necessity, for a safety to be one of those guys, and the Packers had one in Morgan Burnett before Amos. If another changing of the guard does come to pass, it'll be interesting to see who takes on that role and personality.

David from Janesville, WI

Mike, it seems odd, but I feel like I'm looking forward to this season not so much to see how the Packers do record-wise but more so to see how the player development sets the team up for 2024. I know that is getting ahead of oneself, but it really feels different than the recent "push for the SB while the window is open" years and I don't mind it. I believe we'll see youthful mistakes, but also a lot of growth and entertaining football.

I believe we'll see all of that and then some.

Kevin from Indianapolis, IN

Which would you prefer: Having our first game at Lambeau or having the first play from scrimmage be the same play as last year with the exception that Christian Watson catches the pass and scores?

Ha. I don't know, but LaFleur sure has to be tempted. Doesn't he? Happy Wednesday.

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