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Inbox: The difference is in the details

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

Matt from East Troy, WI

What is your first thing you do outside when the weather breaks to summer in Green Bay?

Stock up on charcoal.

Ed from Minneapolis, MN

Hey gents, the coaches talked about an “outside zone” with the running game. Could you please give us some insight as to what this means, or what it may look like? As always, thank you.

To oversimplify the difference between a power (or pattern) scheme and a zone scheme – the former looks to create a specific hole for the running back to hit; the latter leaves the choice of the hole up to the back. On a power/pattern play, the linemen fire off the ball, moving forward, to block their assigned defenders, and a guard may pull from one side to the other to lead the back into the hole. In a zone scheme, the entire line at the snap moves in concert in one direction or the other, and the linemen block defenders who attack their specific area. The back flows with the line and chooses which gap or hole to hit, planting his foot and making the cut (hence the phrase “one cut and go”). Depending on the call, the back may be checking the gaps from the outside in, or from the inside out. There are variations to everything, but hope that helps.

Ron from Waukesha, WI

With Matt LaFleur’s emphasis on the running game combined with his strong desire to protect the quarterback, will we ever see an empty-backfield play again?

I’ve seen them in OTAs already. Pretty much every team employs an empty set as at least a change-up.

Luke from Verona, WI

The Vikings recently hired former Hawkeye and Charger Nate Kaeding as a part-time kicking coach. Is this an unusual or desperate move?

Mike Zimmer suggested at the combine back in February he was going to do this. I think a lot of head coaches around the league will be watching to see what happens.

Nick from White Bear Lake, MN

Hi Mike and Wes! Do you think there is any downside to catching the defense off-guard before it gets set? I assume in such a situation, Rodgers has a very quick, predetermined route in mind. But, without the benefit of any pre-snap reads, might it backfire?

Perhaps the greater benefit is with a longer-developing route designed to get someone in space, and if the defense is slow to react initially, the advantage goes to the route runner.

Dave from Tomah, WI

Your comments on the new rush-to-the-line-and-snap-it tempo made me think how awesome that would be when after a few Rodgers does his snap-count trick. It would be the ultimate setup.

I’m sure that’ll be in the arsenal as well.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, I tried to research this question but apparently my Google IQ falls short. Of the teams he played against, was there a team Starr "owned" in a manner similar to how Favre played against the Bears? Passing stats were different then, but there must be a team or two that he dominated.

According to Pro Football Reference, Starr’s best record as a starter against a team he played frequently was 15-9 vs. the Bears. He was also 11-7 vs. the Vikings. Solid but not dominant. Against less frequent foes, including playoff starts, he was 6-1 vs. the Cowboys, 5-0 vs. the Browns, and 5-0 vs. the Falcons.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Hi Mike, give me WYMM from the offseason.

Film of the phone calls, negotiations and contract signatures is off-limits.

Thierry from Hayange, France

Hi guys. It was interesting to discover your game-day routine, fighting the clock to deliver while we fans are just hitting refresh to read your reports. It helps us find some balance and step back from the excitement of the game to reflect upon the wider scenario that has just happened on the field. What kind of games are the most difficult for you to write about? Do you remember a game when you had a hard time finding the right angle to report the action?

The hardest games, frankly, can be the dramatic, down-to-the-wire ones because there’s so much detail to cover, yet you want to write concisely and post it quickly. But again, it’s a challenge to relish – you’re choosing the details you believe matter most and still striving for timeliness.

Sandy from Green Bay, WI

How concerned do you think the Packers are with Mason Crosby considering the rough patch he went through last season?

I don’t think they’re overly concerned with a seasoned pro like Crosby, though to paint the full picture as several readers have done, it was more than just the Detroit game last year. He missed a game-winner vs. Minnesota and a game-tying kick vs. Arizona. Both were long ones (52 and 49, respectively) but they had a significant impact on the season. The closer miss in Seattle was important, too. They’re kicks he knows he has to make.

John from Sheffield, UK

Hi fellas. If you had to pick one, other than the first game vs. the Bears, which Packers game from last season would you choose to watch again? I liked the Rams game even though we didn’t quite get it done at the close, what’s your favorite? (Season opener still seems a long way off…)

In retrospect, all things considered, the Rams game might have been the team’s best overall, four-quarter performance last season, despite a couple of major mistakes. But I’d have no interest in watching it again, not now.

Scott from Charlottesville, VA

As a JMU alumnus and a Packers fan (obviously), I have been ecstatic to see Raven Greene's name come up multiple times in the Inbox. Watching him at JMU, I knew he had it in him to play at the next level. Have you heard anything from the coaching staff about his performance so far in OTAs? Is there anything you can share from his time in Green Bay? Thanks! I'm just so excited to see players I have supported for four years go on to the best team in the NFL.

I’ve heard no specific evaluation of him, but he did everything required this offseason to come back from his injury better than ever physically. Now, opportunity is knocking rather loudly for him.

Nick from Plainwell, MI

Is Tramon our No. 3 CB at this point if King and Alexander are healthy? I wouldn't mind having a proven veteran as a third guy especially with how much nickel and dime packages are played nowadays.

With everyone healthy, I see Williams and Jackson as an interchangeable 3-4 duo at the moment, but let’s see how training camp unfolds.

Jason from Des Plaines, IL

I was listening to Peter Bukowski’s podcast and he mentioned that we are throwing a lot so far in OTAs. Spreading out two tight ends on the left and a bunch formation on the right. Is our new coach doing everything he can to get to know our young receivers? Personally, I think that when you have a bunch of young players with limited film to study on, the best way to get to know who they are and what they bring to the table is to test them early.

Don’t read too much into it. LaFleur said during the open practice on Wednesday they were installing a lot of red zone, and running the ball in the red zone without pads on isn’t very meaningful or productive work. Hence, the emphasis on the pass that day.

John from Fond du Lac, WI

With all the rain we've been having do you think Allen Johnson will make Coach adhere to the cart path and rough only rule?

There’s a comedian in every Inbox.

Jim from Sand Creek, WI

I’m sure I won’t be the only one to notice the irony of a story about cutting out junk food...brought to us by Jack Links beef jerky.

Or two.

Perry from Ishpeming, MI

Do new coaches watch film from the previous coach/season to find plays that worked well on a consistent basis with the current personnel and then implement them into their playbook? Maybe tweak the formation into something they already have in their toolbox and use the plays?

Sure. Every coach does that to some extent. They do it with plays that work against them all the time. Big picture, it’s always been a copycat league. The difference is in the details.

Mark from St. Pete Beach, FL

My dad, who was a highly successful coach, always said that the best coaches adapt their systems to the personnel at hand. Have you seen evidence of that being the case with Coach LaFleur?

I think last season’s Tennessee offense was pretty solid evidence of that. As for Green Bay, we won’t know until the games are for real.

Brian from Sussex, WI

Is there an II stats page showing how many times Mike has used the one-word answer "indubitably"? He seems to like what is otherwise a rarely used word, and when I see it know instantly who is writing the day’s Inbox. If so many people didn't read II at work the readers could turn its use into a drinking game.

For the record, I don’t encourage debauchery.

Todd from Brighton, MI

How did [fill in blank] look in the one practice in shorts? Will he make roster/start/make All-Pro? You have mentioned that some players have jumped out during the first open practices, but it is a marathon, not a sprint. Having read and seen a lot of comments by players over the years, I still think the best advice is “never give them a reason to cut you/show something every day.” While both negative and positive, it makes a lot of sense.

Yes, yes it does.

Darrel from Pueblo, CO

II, when a player receives an injury settlement, I assume that the team no longer thinks they are capable or have acceptable upside. Does that mean that when they sign with another team, that someone thinks they are capable, have upside or at least are better then what is on the current roster?

Your original premise isn’t entirely accurate. Sometimes an injury settlement is reached simply because the roster spot is needed and the player is deemed replaceable. The team might like to keep and develop him, but circumstances force difficult decisions.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Guys, the NFL is going to tell us what a Hail Mary is? Please! Stop the madness!

I don’t think it’ll be that difficult. Famous last words, I know.

Monty from Hazen, ND

Forget the manual typewriters for throwback days, could you please wear fedoras and smoke cigars instead?

I’ll take a pass on the cigar, but my fedora needs to have that little “press” tag sticking out of it.

Andrew from Ettrick, WI

Has LaFleur addressed any game-day captain questions? Will he be like McCarthy and pick different captains for each game or will he designate four captains that will wear the “C” all year?

He hasn’t said.

Damone from San Jose, CA

With all the attention being paid to the new edges and safety, I feel the strength of this defense lies in the defensive line. And I can see them assembling a possibly nasty inside pass rush. With Adams coming on late last year and the addition of Keke this D-line has elite potential. Lancaster, Lowry, Daniels and Clark.

Hopefully the unit got its rash of injuries out of the way in 2018.

Cheryl from Strawberry Point, IA

Mike, my husband and I took our grandson to Green Bay for the weekend. On Friday we spent some time at the Titletown District, dropped about $200 at the Pro Shop, and on Saturday took him to the Junior Power Pack Clinic and then the Green & Gold Charity Softball Game. On the way home we stopped in downtown Platteville to eat at Steve’s Pizza, have you ever been there? Also is Tony Brown always that intense or is it just for softball? Awesome weekend!

Steve’s is an institution in my hometown, though I’m more familiar with the older, scaled-down version that was further down Main Street when I was growing up. Brown has played with an edge since the day he arrived in Green Bay. When properly channeled, it serves him well. We must be getting close to the right time of year to visit Strawberry Point, no?

Steve from Plano, TX

Has anyone ever told you “you have a face for radio”?

Every Monday.

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