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Inbox: The overlooked guys are the most reliable

The results are on everybody

S Adrian Amos
S Adrian Amos

Mike from Niles, IL

Mr. Irrelevant. I think your likely picks for the Super Bowl are solid. Won't that be some story if Mr. Irrelevant leads (at least partially) his team to the NFL title, as a rookie? That may necessitate a name change for the last rookie drafted.

I vote for Mr. Indubitably.

Robin from Ideal Township, MN

I'd like to add to Wes's response to Matt from Waterloo's query about whom to root for based on teams "most like the Packers." In addition to small market/rabid fan base, I respect the Bills for playing outdoors (the way God intended) in a town with more snow than GB. Now they just need to put in real grass.

I heard they are in the new stadium they're building. Very cool.

Paula from Apple Valley, MN

Congrats to Erin Roberge for becoming the first full-time female assistant athletic trainer for the Packers organization! Having been the "first female" a few times over my 36-year career, I have a sense of what that means. Best of luck to her and those that will eventually follow.

Sounds like congrats are in order for you as well as Erin. Appreciate your note.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

Kenny Clark wants to be more consistent and that of course starts with Kenny Clark. However, do you think more seasoned impacts of Slaton and Wyatt could help with that?

Sure, but Clark also knows he's going to draw a double-team more often than his linemates, and he expects high-level impact out of his play on just about any snap he's not getting double-teamed. That's mainly what he was referring to, I believe.

Anna from Buffalo, NY

Aside from the criticism of the referees/officials and bad calls, I did enjoy when they automatically corrected the call in NY. Did this work well because there were less games being played, so more eyes on each game? Maybe they need to hire more people in that position. I'd put my resume in.

Maybe I will too when I retire. I mentioned earlier this season how "replay assist" was more prevalent in primetime games, because that stadium's replay booth was the only one in contact with New York. Same goes for the playoffs. It has worked well and now that more of the mechanics have been smoothed out, maybe the league will expand the workings of the stadium replay booths and central command center to provide more oversight on Sunday afternoons. I believe the commitment would be worthwhile.

Kyle from Waunakee, WI

It looked soft but I thought the RTP on Cousins was for the defender's hand hitting Cousins' head, which is the rule isn't it?

It is, but the rule explicitly states "forcible contact," so something incidental should be let go. They adjusted that a few years ago so that all contact to a QB's head wouldn't be flagged, but many officials on the field have gone back to the old way/rule.

Mike from Coppell, TX

"For his career, Howard averaged 22.2 yards on 359 kickoff returns and didn't have a single TD." Wes, you're forgetting the kick return TD that helped him win the SB MVP and more importantly brought the Lombardi back home. It may be postseason, but it is still part of his career.

I'm going to give Wes the benefit of the doubt and say he pointed out those regular-season numbers in an effort to emphasize how impressive that TD return was in the Super Bowl. That, or his editor should have at least questioned him and asked if he wanted to rephrase.

Jeff from Puyallup, WA

Insiders, if you were Gutey who would be your priority No. 1 offseason contract signing/extension?

Keisean Nixon.

Jacob from West Allis, WI

Keisean Nixon made a comment about wanting to get some work in as a slot receiver a few weeks ago. Joking or not, it got me thinking. Assuming Nixon returns next year, would it be possible to use him as a jet-motion guy on offense from time to time? He would certainly garner a lot of attention from opposing defenses.

It's an intriguing thought, but if Nixon is going to have a regular nickel or dime role in the secondary, I don't know how the coaches could manage his practice reps to prepare adequately in all three phases without physically wearing him out every week.

Matt from Burlington, WI

II, it's really easy to overlook a few players' impact in-season. What candidates do you have on your notes that the average fan has overlooked?

As a follow-up to the answer Monday about players trying to do too much, I think the overlooked guys are the most reliable, if unspectacular, in doing what their teammates count on them to do. In my eyes in 2022, that included Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, Jon Runyan, Josiah Deguara, Pat O'Donnell, and maybe a couple others.

Ron from Navarre, FL

Hi Mike. First-time question. Lifelong Packer fan. This is in response to James from Surprise, AZ. Do you think the reason players on the defensive side of the ball tried to do too much and not their 1/11th was because they do not believe or trust in Joe Barry's defensive scheme? I only bring this up because I remember reading an article (I don't remember the article or who wrote it, might have been a clickbait article) the defensive players were not happy with his scheme.

That's a valid question and a possible impetus for players to focus on more than just their specific responsibilities. But another is the desire for stats that produce more dollars on their next contract. Which is it? I don't know. Some of both? Probably, but the proportions are impossible to determine.

Steve from Wabasha, MN

I realize as a team you want to do your 1/11, but Rasul Douglas is a gambler and sometimes those gambles pay off and sometimes they don't.

But there's a difference between taking a chance that puts an individual in a risky position and one that compromises the entire defense. Scheme-wise, veteran players know which is which, or at least they should.

Richard from Farmington Hills, MI

From Monday's Inbox: "...defenders not getting to their pre-snap positions quickly and earnestly..." I understand you are loathe to criticize the coaches, but isn't this a problem that should have been addressed and corrected long before the last game?

Also a valid question, and I have no knowledge to what extent it was addressed. LaFleur brought it to the forefront in the media after London, but reporters don't get to watch regular-season practices (nor sit in on meetings). So I'd be guessing whether the coaches didn't stress it enough, or if they were harping on it and being ignored. Either way, the results are on everybody.

John from East Setauket, NY

As you know, Aaron Rodgers statistically had the worst year in his career. Having watched every game it seemed to me that he doesn't see or read the field as well as he once did, is slightly slower to react when he does, and is not as accurate as he has been. Do you think that partially explains his drop-off or did the injuries he suffered and the developing chemistry with receivers play a larger role?

That's a lot to unpack. I've written several times how I believe the broken thumb, while it didn't affect every throw, impacted the consistency of his accuracy. I also explained in this space about route progressions and how saying "he missed that open guy" is an inaccurate oversimplification of QB critique, so I'm not about to declare Rodgers sees or reads the field any differently than he always has. I do think he is slower to get away from pressure, naturally due to age, and when he does get outside the pocket potential running lanes close more quickly than they used to. But in the end, for me it still mostly comes back to the whole post-Adams transition at receiver, all the injuries up front the first half of the season, and the combination of scheme and execution problems in the red zone LaFleur lamented last week.

Steve from Stillman Valley, IL

It seems like everybody's giving Rodgers a pass on the last interception because of a full-blown rush by the defense. I wonder why because I always thought an MVP quarterback could figure out what the defense is going to do and change the play?

He hasn't been given a pass on the performance as a whole, but on the last play, it was a seven-man pressure, and the Packers were in a seven-man protection. The blockers botched the protection and left a free runner coming right in Rodgers' face, so he let it fly instead of taking the sack. The protection call for the blitz was the right one but wasn't executed properly.

Jeff from Mequon, WI

Hi Mike, I appreciate Wes's comments about the usage of TEs in the Rodgers era, however I disagree. When equipped with a solid pass-catching TE, Rodgers has been at his best. Jermichael Finley, Jared Cook, and a good year from Quarless and Tonyan. That's about it. Hindsight being 20/20, do you think the failure to stabilize the position with a legitimate pass catcher has been a bigger issue than has been discussed?

I'd want to see Robert Tonyan another year removed from his knee injury before declaring that, and the Packers obviously have a decision to make there. More was counted on from Tyler Davis in 2022 that didn't materialize. The offense as a whole struggling in the red zone also factors into the perception. When Tonyan had 11 TDs in 2020, he had 52 catches. He had 53 this year, but only two TDs. Yes, the average per catch was down significantly (11.3 to 8.9) but he wasn't being fed the ball any less.

Jim from Maple Grove, MN

I remember Vic, at least once, expressing a pretty low opinion of Doug Pederson's ability to coach back in his days with the Eagles. I took a position of respectful dissent, but figured my green and gold glasses could be fogging my objectivity. I think Wes said it best yesterday, and I feel more than a little vindicated in my tacit support of Coach Pederson. Spoff, what are your thoughts about what he has brought to the Jaguars this season?

Stability and credibility, along with QB development, all crucial for the franchise after the Urban Meyer fiasco. But wait, you didn't feel vindicated when Pederson won a Super Bowl with a backup QB?

Jim from Tempe, AZ

While we all try to find solace after an agonizing season, I find it hard to not feel this was self-inflicted. I do agree the team never quit on the field but my overriding reason for the downfall is poor decision-making from top to bottom. Thinking three rookie WR was sufficient. Playing a clearly poor returner far too long before making a change. Playing a QB with a broken thumb. Unsportsmanlike penalties in absurdly dumb ways. Making a few different decisions a few more games could have been won.

I agree with most of that, but I take exception to the receiver comment. The three rookie receivers were never intended to be sufficient. I believe the expectation was for Christian Watson to emerge as a major playmaker, only much sooner, but injuries prevented that. Veterans Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb were still here and Watkins was brought in, yet each dealt with injuries, as did Romeo Doubs, that affected continuity on the field. But yeah, the rest was rather self-inflicted.

Bruce from Jackson, WI

You both have made your position clear on AR and OTAs yet it's obvious that isn't a unanimous consensus in the II or the sports world. Yes, it's voluntary but with a salary of $50 million a year is it unreasonable to expect it? Many other QBs attend them or hold their own private camps. What is the negative to asking AR to show up? If AR and his rookie WRs would have jelled two or three weeks earlier this season could have been different. Convince us rather than silencing us. Respectfully. GPG!

My opinion on Rodgers and OTAs last year was due to the rookie receivers learning the offense literally from scratch. They knew nothing and had to get the basics down before any work with Rodgers, and the nuances with the way he sees/plays the game, would have real benefits. Now that they've all been in the system for a year but still have so much growth in front of them, I think it's a different conversation if Rodgers comes back. Color me curious.

Shawn from Kissimmee, FL

You could be one-and-done and completely outplayed by a juggernaut in the 49ers, or 13 wins and still one-and-done, or inches from scoring the go-ahead TD to fumble return the other way for a game-sealing TD, or up by 27 points and end up losing… I don't know which one I'd rather not be!

Or you could be still alive and have absolutely zero faith if your season comes down to a field goal or extra point that your kicker can deliver.

Jeff from Littlefork, MN

Is the coach who stood by Mason Crosby in 2018 after that Detroit game the perfect coach to be in Dallas right now?

We shall see. Week 5 of the regular season is a little different from the playoffs.

Jesus from El Paso, TX

Will LaFleur take a page from McCarthy's book and take a friendly shot at the Vikings when they hang their division banner?

I think you need to hang your own championship banner first and earn the right to make a crack like that.

Jason from Austin, TX

Insiders, every season is wildly different regarding the bona fide teams, and I expect 2023 to be no different. That being said, if you were to make far too early circles in next season's schedule, which games would you circle as "must-see TV" games for the Packers (not including the division)? I'd guess the KC and the Chargers games will be the most fun, the Steelers game will likely be prime time solely based on the two huge fan bases, and the Adams vs. Alexander matchup will be must-see TV.

You've pretty much covered it. Barring injury, the debuts of Mahomes and Herbert at Lambeau should be great for the home fans to see, and Ja vs. Tae ought to be a lot of fun.

Dylan from Quad Cities, WI

Year 2 for some emerging rookies, plethora of draft picks, unknown QB situation, revived rivalries, etc. … Already excited for what next season will bring.

Can I take some time off first? Happy Wednesday.

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