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Inbox: The Packers' defense met the challenge this week

The regular season is in sight but there’s still plenty of work to be done

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DBs Rasul Douglas, Jaire Alexander, Adrian Amos & Eric Stokes.

Emily from Menasha, WI

Do you know who is singing the National Anthem at the game tonight?

Brian from Charlottesville, VA

I would've guessed it could be demoralizing to hear the MVP QB say he doesn't trust you as his receiver. I was happy to read that Aaron Rodgers followed up by being in the meeting with WRs, QBs, and coaches mentoring about his expectations. That's a leader. What other examples have you seen in camp of Rodgers taking a positive approach as mentor rather than only pointing out the negatives or deficiencies?

He critiques because he cares. As Rodgers said recently, it is a good thing if he's talking to you. Because that means he sees the potential and wants to get the most out of you as a skill-position player. While Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins are the top three right now, it's a long season and the rookies may need to play big snaps at some point. Rodgers knows this. Those wideouts need to be ready.

Craig from Appleton, WI

During a week like this, do the coaches learn more from the scripted practices with the starters or from the preseason game that is unpredictable with the twos and threes?

I think the practices with starters are a bit more enlightening because A) most likely they will sit tonight and B) it's a chance for the starting offense and defense to test itself against a new adversary. The offense had some big moments against the Saints, while the defense was dominant on both days. The Packers' defense met the challenge this week and played as advertised. That was good to see. Second- and third-team players will be playing their heart out tonight. But ultimately, it's about who's on the field in Week 1.

George from Olympia, WA

Are we looking at any other WRs?

George, you and Caroline have asked this question for the past four months. I'm pleased to report the Packers claimed Travis Fulgham off waivers. Congratulations.

Hannes from Glendale, WI

Having Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon on the field together seems to be the best way to get the offense going if the receiving corps needs some time to adjust early on. However, the coaches will also want to keep them fresh for 17 games or more. Does that create opportunity for a third, maybe fourth back on the roster?

Yes, but this also applies to the receiving corps, too. The more playmakers on the perimeter, the more selective/creative the Packers can get with Dillon and Jones. Because, to your point, Green Bay needs to keep its backfield healthy and fresh for a long season.

Paul from Hoyleton, IL

My interest in the Packers began with the drafting of our hometown guy, Royce Newman. Since then, I've sold out on rooting for the Packers. What concerns me about camp this year is I'm not hearing anything good or bad about Newman. On some teams, being just middle of the road may be good enough. But it seems like with the Packers, you have to be next level or you're a backup or worse. My question is what is your take on Newman's progression to Year 2?

Newman has been fine. He's played a lot at right tackle, even though it's more likely he bumps inside to guard after Elgton Jenkins returns. If all things are equal and everyone is healthy, David Bakhtiari, Jenkins and Josh Myers are the constants on the offensive line. The rest are working to prove they're in that "top five," wherever that may be.

Joe from Swansea, IL

Hey, II: It's getting to the time of year when I don't envy the jobs that Gutey and ML are facing. With only your insight to inform us, the position battles appear closer – and difficult – than ever to decide. Between the WR and OL rooms, and the second tier of the defense, there seem to be countless decisions to be made. How much clarity will emerge in the next 10 days or so? How many sleepless nights for the decision makers?

Clarity may be difficult to come by, but the Packers will learn quite a bit about their rookies and these hopefuls on the roster bubble. Like most years, I expect a few decisions to get sorted out during that preseason finale in Kansas City. The regular season is in sight but there's still plenty of work to be done.

Bob from Green Bay, WI

I have heard a lot of talk about all the guys on defense who can rush the passer. Do they have anyone who can stop the run? Especially on the edge?

Preston Smith and Rashan Gary are both great at setting edges. They're up there with Erik Walden as far as the best run-defending outside linebackers during my time covering the team. Jarran Reed has been a great addition against the run, too. The great thing about Reed is he's so versatile that the Packers can use him in practically any D-line spot they need.

Steve from Middletown, KY

Good morning. Will Friday night give us a few looks of what can happen in the season? It sounded like the playbook opened up a lot this week to get solid work in. I mean, after joint practices with NO, I can't imagine either team will be completely vanilla, right? What do you expect to see in the game?

You might be surprised. I think this game could be the opposite of what we saw at Nitschke Field this week. Speaking strictly from a Packers' perspective, we saw a few looks in those practices against New Orleans that I've yet to see in the exhibition season. I doubt they want that on film for the rest of the NFL to see.

Jerome from Midland, MI

Leading up to finalizing the roster, have the rules for the practice squad changed from last year along with the injured-reserve designations? Do you think the size of the practice squad will go back to the pre-Covid rules?

Sixteen-player practice squads are here to stay. That was the plan all along. The expansion process just got expedited with Covid. Each player is allowed to be elevated to the active roster up to three times with his current team, as well.

Tim from Superior, WI

Do you envision the Packers brain trusts using Christian Watson in a role similar to Deebo Samuel as a "wide back?" It would certainly seem an easier path to involve him in the offense at an earlier stage than just a wideout with all the intricacies of the position and no experience working with Aaron Rodgers.

They're two different receivers with different body types and strengths. Watson will do whatever it takes, though. I remember his receivers coach, Noah Pauley, who mentioned Watson's dedication to aiding North Dakota State's run game in any way possible. In some ways, he reminds me more of Allen Lazard.

Jimmy from Rockford, IL

Wes, dug the John C. Riley reference, although his best for me was, Officer Jim Kurring. Do you think, in the end, it will help, or hurt, 12 that 17 is no longer here?

Well, I preferred Happy Jack to Officer Jim Kurring so we're even. To your question, why does it have to be either? Rodgers won two MVP awards after Jordy's departure. If Rodgers could adapt to losing No. 87, I feel like he can adapt to "17" no longer being here. Don't get me wrong. The Packers didn't get better without Adams, but Rodgers is a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback. He'll manage.

Stephen from Fort Atkinson, WI

In "Unscripted," you foresaw that we would mainly see the twos and threes for the preseason game. Does that include the offensive line? Will we not see any of the potential starters?

I think you'll see all the active offensive linemen again other than Jenkins. All the young guys could use the work and I'm sure the Packers want Love to play behind the current starting five.

Ryan from Baldwin, WI

Hi Mike/Wes, since the ML era, the Packers have brought teams in to practice against before their preseason game. Do you ever see it where the Packers travel to another team to practice? To me, it seems inconvenient for the road team to be away from the facility.

It'll never happen. The Packers won't take training camp out of Green Bay. With so many NFL teams training in the blistering-hot south, Green Bay shouldn't have any problem finding dance partners in years to come.

Benjamin from Burlington, VT

I find it interesting that with the offensive ups and downs, the red zone seems to be the most consistent area during the joint practices. Usually, it's harder to make plays down there due to the defense being in a more compressed space. Any thoughts as to the reason? Also, are we still calling it "the gold zone" with Nathaniel Hackett gone?

There is less room to operate but it's also an opportunity for Rodgers and Matt LaFleur to use their creativity. The Packers have several playmakers, including Aaron Jones, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Robert Tonyan (once he's cleared for team periods), who have been historically productive inside the 20, too. And yes, it's still called "the gold zone."

Jay from Altoona, WI

Packer fans seemingly are full of angst about roster cuts. There especially seems to be a fear that a rival will pick up a player released by the Packers, and said player torments the Packers for the next decade. Perhaps my memory is fuzzy, but the only two players I can think of that found success elsewhere for any length of time are Lawrence Guy and Taysom Hill. Am I missing anyone else?

With all due respect to Guy and everything he's done in this league, it took him a good four years to become a full-fledged starter. Fans, and even us in the media, tend to fall in love with certain players during camp but there are 25 longshots who don't pan out for every Taysom Hill out there.

Vince from Green Bay, WI

"It's easier for an entire organization to be patient when the team has been winning and key leadership jobs aren't imminently on the line." Exhibit A: Detroit Lions. Ms. Clay give GM and HC ultimatum to make playoffs. GM drafts for short term/job security and picks Jeff Okudah and overlooks Justin Herbert as Stafford was still playing in the Motor City. Thank you, Ms. Clay, for making that ultimatum and keeping Herbert out of the NFC North!

There's no question the Packers have dodged some elite QB bullets over the past five years, but that's the business of scouting. Sure, Patrick Mahomes and Herbert could've ended up in the NFC North just as easily as they did the AFC West – but they didn't.

Raymond from Sturgeon Bay, WI

With all the past great receivers the Pack has had, how come Billy Howton's name never comes up?

The same reason the names of Tobin Rote and Bobby Dillon rarely come up in discourse among casual Packers fans. The 1950s were not a highwater mark in team history. Unfortunately, the greats from that era probably don't get the credit they deserve – even from this fanbase.

Richard from Menasha, WI

Is there still a shot for Sterling Sharpe to make the HOF or was this his last opportunity?

The window is still very much open for Sharpe and Cecil Isbell. The Pro Football Hall of Fame will have three senior finalists up for enshrinement in each of the next two classes, as well.

Tony from Davenport, IA

Good morning, I read the II every day. I noticed that the both of you have nothing but good things to say about your intern, Jen. I was wondering if you could give some more info about her. Where did she go to school, what is she majoring in and what her career goals are? I would imagine having been an intern on II would look pretty good on her CV.

I love you, Madeline. I love you, Ana. I love you, Kim. I love you, Zephyr. I like you, Justin. But Jennifer is the best digital intern we've had during my time with the Packers. I will never stop banging the drum for her. She makes all our jobs (and more importantly, our lives) much easier. But no, she won't be writing Inbox. She has a pure heart. I don't want to subject her to that.

Sam from Janesville, WI

Wait, we're the Insiders? That just shattered my entire universe! Mike, were you aware of this? I figured I was sending questions to the Inbox belonging to the Insiders. Anyway, what's your guess for first offensive play from scrimmage tonight?

I came from the Green Bay Press-Gazette, where we did a daily practice report called, "The Insider." It wasn't used in a braggadocious manner. It was referring to the "inside scoop." That's what was in the back of my mind at the time.

Greg from Perkasie, PA

Gotta admit, always thought you two were the "Insiders" providing us fans with an insider prospective on the team.

I stepped in it today, didn't I? I should have just dropped a "You're so vain that you probably think this Inbox is about you" and moved on with my life. Oh well.

Fisher from Ray Nitschke Field, WI

I wanted to thank you all for putting my picture up on today's Inbox. It's nice to see those of us like my old pal Jugs and my new pal Seeker (or "Seek" as we call him) getting the attention we deserve. It's not easy but we are out here trying to do our 1/11th like everyone else to help the Packers win No. 14! By the way, Rashan Gary is way stronger than he looks. I would know!

Thanks to you I wasn't asked to help with the drill.

Van from Mississauga, Canada

No question from me – just wanted to shout out Wes's excellent reference from "The Newsroom" in his response to Margeaux from Tallahassee.

You were the only one who caught it. I appreciate you.

Ron from Bellaire, MI

Mike, this is a great thought-provoking statement, "Some people prefer to hate what they don't like more than love what they do." I am 81 and have noticed, to some degree, this type of attitude through the years, but it is far more noticeably prevalent today. I enjoy your work as it is informative and entertaining. Thank you.

God bless you, Ron. Your message reminded me of John from Santa Maria, 93 years young who sent the most touching letter earlier this spring. These submissions bring the biggest smile to my face. That's the real answer to Margeaux's question from Thursday. I hope you all enjoy the game tonight, especially those who will be in attendance.

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