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Inbox: The defense must play as one against a back of his caliber

The Packers have to bring the best version of themselves to Florida

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette

Cliff from Kentville, Nova Scotia

Every time they play, the pundits' focus is on the "Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady" hype. Don't these commentators realize the only time the quarterbacks are on the field together is when they shake hands after 60 minutes? It's quarterback (or more truthfully, offense) versus defense in each direction. The team whose eleven 1/11ths add up to more in BOTH directions wins the game. Why can't we just sit back, understand, and appreciate the drama, instead of being told a different story?

Aaron Rodgers and Brady are perhaps the best QBs to ever play the country's most popular game, so I get it. Narratives build anticipation, but at the end of the day, it's the Packers playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. That's the focus – at least, on

Tex from Suamico, WI

Can Rodgers and the Pack put away the past few years that have been haunting them, go down to Florida and a get a win?

Certainly. You can't do anything about the past. It's about this team and this opportunity. As Spoff said, it's a tough assignment with the game also being Tampa Bay's home opener. In all three phases, the Packers have to bring the best version of themselves to Florida.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Last week, Coach Matt LaFleur basically "called his shot" by telling the media there would be more involvement by the running backs in the Bears game. What shot would you call for this week's game plan? More quick rhythm passes to keep Rodgers upright.

Run to daylight. That would be my game plan. The Packers have to make Tampa respect their run game. You can't get one-dimensional against the Bucs. Their coverage is too stout. Carlton Davis is one of the league's most underrated cornerbacks and Antoine Winfield is a budding playmaker.

Jerry from Luck, WI

I hate Florida heat. How much of a factor do you think it will be for the two-RB sets? I'd hate to see either cramp up in the third quarter with the game on the line. Similarly, any chance we see Christian Watson or Amari Rodgers join one of the AJs for a two-RB set?

The weather will be a challenge, but the Packers should be conditioned for it on both sides of the ball. While the Packers incorporated more two-RB sets into the game plan for the Chicago, they still only did it like 10 times. They'll be smart and keep Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon as fresh as possible.

Patrick from Marvin, NC

Hey Insiders, love the fact that we are running more and going with shorter, higher-percentage passes. Are the number of plays per drive this year up from last year? Seems like we are seeing more nine-, 10- or 11-plus play drives so far.

That's what the Packers have strived for under Matt LaFleur – chip away at defenses, dominate time of possession and build to explosive plays. It makes sense when you have a quarterback like Rodgers who's so proficient in protecting the football. Not every QB is that patient and disciplined (e.g. Jameis Winston vs. his former team last Sunday).

Connor from Minnetonka, MN

Is the Mike Evans suspension confirmed?

It is. James Thrash, jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA, upheld the ruling. The Bucs will be without Evans Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers held practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.

Ryan from Bloomer, WI

I really like our prospects for moving the ball this week. Consider this. Last few meetings, little to no jet sweep or pre-snap motion. Now, look at what GB just put on tape, just about every variation of jet sweep and pre-snap motion used, and actually ran multiple concepts from them, reverses, push passes, pitches, dives, cutbacks and RPOs all in the same game. I think ML may be playing four- or five-deep chess here and can't wait to see what he has cooked up for TB after putting all that on film.

The Packers will need all of it. As Spoff outlined, Tampa's defense is still one of the best in the NFL. The Bucs are deep at every level. Evidently, nobody told Lavonte David players need to age, either. Even at 32, David is a problem.

Sean from Palatine, IL

Good morning, Wes! My keys to the game whenever Tom Brady is involved are capitalizing on mistakes and controlling the tempo of the game. With the injury to Akiem Hicks, the latter of those keys became much more doable. What say you?

Sure. Hicks is a disruptor, but Tampa already had a formidable defensive front before his signing. Vita Vea is a tough puzzle to solve in the middle, too.

Mike from Baraboo, WI

With the injuries to the Bucs' WRs, along with the suspension of Evans, it seems to me that the Bucs will heavily game plan with Leonard Fournette. After the Packers' defense got gashed by the Bears last weekend, what adjustments will be made to improve our rush defense?

I felt the Packers tackled well in Week 1. The problem against the Bears was they didn't tackle well to the ball and no position picked up the rest. Against Leonard Fournette, the defensive front needs to narrow the gaps and the defenders at the second level need to fill better. It's all correctable but the defense must play as one against a back of his caliber.

Markus from Aurora, CO

Gents, da Bears are behind us, the Bucs are ahead of us – on the road, nonetheless. While I have an inkling how this game may end (which team will have more points), I am looking forward to seeing how the O and the D will try to establish their game in a hostile environment. Thanks for instilling this "wisdom" to not have too high of expectations and rather to just see what will develop.

The two are intertwined. The Packers need a fast start on both sides of the ball. They can't fall behind like they did in Minnesota against a team quarterbacked by Tom Brady.

Jason from Austin, TX

Last time the Packers played the Bucs, Jaire Alexander had two picks. Here's hoping Brady will throw his way again this week.

No. 23 will be waiting.

Bil from Stateline, NV

Hats off to Jaire Alexander, not for his outstanding interception which was BRILLIANT, rather for his play on the goal-line stand. That pile was moving forward until Ja crashed the party. Him sticking his nose in there was the impetus to sending the pile backwards. Fields falls forward, the Packers get the ball at the 25 after a kickoff, instead of the 1-inch line.

Football players are football players. While Jaire Alexander makes his money keeping passes away from receivers, he also is not afraid to get dirty and make a play when there's one to be made.

Andrew from Burke, VA

What is the status and depth of the TB O-line? If the most reliable part of their offense is RB, I imagine our front seven coupled with limiting our turnovers will be the key to a W.

Tampa is banged up. It started in training camp when Ryan Jensen injured his knee in practice. Longtime left tackle Donovan Smith sat against New Orleans with an elbow injury and didn't practice Wednesday. Josh Wells started at left tackle in Smith's stead, but then he was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.

Hap from Graham, WA

Gents: The Rock in his Report: "...620 pounds of rompin' stompin' fury..." in describing a dominant O-line effort. A perfect adjectival phrase to describe what is needed from our O-line against TB. Pretty good description, eh? GPG

Exactly. As that group gets healthier and continues to gel, I expect to see big jumps week-to-week. Even with Elgton Jenkins back in the lineup last week, I thought the offensive line played with a lot more confidence and swagger.

Miranda from Rochester, NY

Good morning. all. Did you happen to see the block from Elgton Jenkins on Roquan Smith during Dillon's run at about the 10-minute mark in the second quarter? My God, he drove Smith backwards about seven yards. It's not often you see a grown man being manhandled like that. Yes, there's a little size difference, but that has to be a shot to the ol' ego!

There is a size difference, but that advantage is neutralized by how difficult it can be for a 310-pound lineman to get in front of a quicker, more elusive linebacker in space. The most encouraging thing about the performance of the Packers' offensive line was how well it blocked against Chicago, specifically at the second level. The Packers have placed a major emphasis on athleticism with the O-linemen they've drafted recently, and it's showing up in that area.

Lou from Syracuse, NY

We know Sammy was a No. 4 draft pick. Have the Packers ever had a No. 1, 2 or 3 pick on their roster?

At the same time? I'm not sure. But several top 3 picks have spent time in Green Bay (who weren't originally drafted by the Packers): Russell Maryland (No. 1), Ki-Jana Carter (1), Tim Couch (1), Julius Peppers (2), Rick Mirer (2), Vince Young (3), Blake Bortles (3), Akili Smith (3), etc. Charles Woodson was a No. 4 pick, too.

Brian from Chicago, IL

Do you know of anything Tom Clements is doing to continue to work with Jordan Love to assist him in getting game-ready while he's not able to play or take many first-team reps.

Oh, yeah. That process doesn't stop because the Packers need to make sure Love is sharp if called upon. I mentioned this earlier this month, but Love is still very much involved with the game-planning process. He's still walking through the installation process alongside QB1.

Douglas from Bemidji, MN

Someone asked Spoff in the Mid-Week Chat about why Sammy Watkins wore sleeves even though it was warm. While I can't speak for him, I know I always wore sleeves unless it was ridiculously hot because it kept my muscles warm on the sideline and protected my skin when I went to the ground. If you always practice and play like that, your body gets used to it.

For sure. Some players prefer to wear long sleeves all the time. I remember Damarious Randall usually did that in Green Bay.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Wes, are you concerned about the lack of receiving production from the tight end position?

Nope. The Packers have a conga line of options on offense – running back, receiver and tight end. You don't have to use them all every week.

Michael from Winona, MN

Good day to you, Wes. I see the presence of Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb on this team this year could be one of the biggest difference-makers as the season plays out. What do see are some of the greatest intangibles that might be attained based on what these two wideouts bring to the table? P.S. This sure beats the Packer Report from the '70s, even though I loved Ray.

Their wisdom and perspective. I love that Instagram post Cobb had Tuesday where he showed him and Watkins after both the loss in Minnesota and win against Chicago with the words: "NEVER TOO HIGH. NEVER TOO LOW. RIDE THE WAVE." Those two have seen so much football, in Green Bay and elsewhere. I feel like you always need a few of those players in your locker room to help shepherd that next generation of receivers. The best part – as I touched on Wednesday – is there's no ego involved with Watkins and Cobb. They're both giving with their time and knowledge.

Kyle from Pittsburgh, PA

If you told me after the last cut-down that Jack Coco's name would not be mentioned in any obvious or outstanding way through two games, I would have been ecstatic! I know it's just the long snapper. And our special teams, as a whole, were awful last year. But so far, so good on keeping Coco on the 53. All you have to do is go back and watch the Week 1 Cincy-Pittsburgh game to know, if the announcers don't talk about your long snapper, it's a good thing!

Just one snap after another. That's all Coco needs to do – just keep stacking. They won't all be perfect but Coco isn't alone. He has a good holder in Pat O'Donnell. The Packers' special teamers lifted each other up last week. That's something that didn't happen enough the past few seasons.

Craig from Sheboygan, WI

Why do receivers point to the sidelines before the snap?

They're checking with the referee to make sure they're on the line of scrimmage. You need seven players on the line of scrimmage for it to be a legal formation. The official can tell them if they're either in the neutral zone or too far behind the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped.

Jeff from Muskego, WI

Do you like the idea of not playing the starters in preseason games?

I do. The Packers didn't lose a single starter to a season-ending injury in training camp or the preseason. You can work out the kinks of your team in September. The 2015 Packers couldn't bring Jordy Nelson back, though.

Jeff from Dorr, MI

Who should we be pulling for in the Lions-Vikings game? After Week 2, this game has become a lot more interesting.

Maybe a tie? It's so early that it's hard to say, but Detroit isn't going anywhere. If you go back to my posts last winter, I felt like the Lions could be a dark horse this year with how well Brad Holmes and his front office have drafted. The Lions have my attention.

Greg from Glen Ellyn, IL

Good morning, Wes. Can you briefly go through the nomination process for the Pro Football Hall of Fame? And how does a player find themselves on the preliminary list?

Somebody nominates them. That's it. Anyone can nominate eligible players, coaches, or contributors. You just have to write the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bette from Chamberlain, SD

Who will be your toughest opponent this year?

Packers Daily (with Taylor Rogers) after night games.

Warren from Lutz, FL

Good morning, will you guys be at the Packer rally in Tampa Saturday night? If so, hope to see you. It's a beautiful location.

We will be there. Spoff will be wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Crocs.

Fred from La Crosse, WI

As a person who has been recognized in a bar by Insiders as, "So you're Fred from La Crosse?", I'd like to think we are on the cutting edge of word usage. Would you say that the team can be described by the word gestalt? Thanks for your Insider insight.

I like to think of the Inbox as a massive school of fish. We are the sum of our parts, even the broken ones. Together, we are a community. Have a great Thursday, everyone.