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Inbox: The Packers need the entire group to come up big

The offense is different when Robert Tonyan is on the field

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RB Jamaal Williams

Israel from West Allis, WI

So, the Texans' defense ranks very low. Is this more reflective of their defense, or their opponents' offenses? Also, as great as it will be to get Jonesy going, if Houston is vulnerable to the run, would this also be a good opportunity to get AJ Dillon rolling up the middle? Both to save Aaron Jones some snaps and to establish more smash-mouth football for upcoming cold-weather games?

Twenty four hours ago, I would've said Aaron Jones has a huge part to play in this game. Not only because the Texans are allowing a league-worst 177.5 rushing yards per game but also due to his ability to handle pre-snap motions with Tyler Ervin still on the mend. However, Jones' calf flare-up complicates matters. Whoever suits up Sunday, the Packers need that entire group to come up big. Jamaal Williams is as steady as running backs go and AJ Dillon has tremendous upside. Both will be ready for whatever role awaits them.

Michael from Winchester, VA

Of the three listed as doubtful on Friday (David Bakhtiari, Darnell Savage, and Kevin King), who would the Packers miss most against Houston this week? And which of the five listed as questionable (Aaron Jones, Corey Linsley, Robert Tonyan, Montravius Adams, and Preston Smith)? I know Aaron Jones is a tempting choice, but with Williams and Dillon ready to step up, maybe he's not a slam-dunk pick. Who would you most like to see on the field for this particular matchup if you could have just one from each group?

The first answer has to be Bakhtiari. He's the best left tackle in the NFL and has only missed six games in seven-plus NFL seasons. If Bakhtiari can't go, a four-time All-Pro is not easily replaced. Linsley was a full participant Friday, so I think he should be OK assuming there are no setbacks with his back and I feel likewise about Preston's outlook. That's why the questionable player I have my eye on the most is Robert Tonyan, who returned to practice Friday. He's stepped up as the team's primary receiving tight end. Through five games, I can confidently say the offense is different when he's on the field. The Packers need him.

Chuck from Gold Canyon, AZ

When the schedule came, many looked at the gauntlet of HOF QBs, or ones that potentially will become, we face this season, especially on the road. We just lost to a team led by arguably the GOAT and now click-baiters are questioning this team. We appreciate the level-headedness you and Spoff give us fans. There will be bumps down the road but barring long-term injuries to key players, don't you like where we stand after five games? Most would have loved to be 4-1 with who we faced.

The Packers are in a good spot, especially with how many one- and two-win teams there are in the NFL right now. Green Bay is 2-1 on the road this season with a chance to make it 3-1 this Sunday. That's right where you wanna be.

Al from Green Bay, WI

We've been waiting for big games from Marquez Valdes-Scantling on offense and Preston Smith on defense. Which of these do you believe to be poised for a big game in Houston?

I see no reason both couldn't have a big day against the Texans, but Preston Smith seems due for one of those "sacks-come-in-bunches" performances.

Agr from Shakopee, MN

Just reread Wes's piece about Kenny Clark's upbringing and life, and am once again blown away by how impactful his story is. How did his story shape his NFL career up to this point?

It made Clark the man he is today. I mean, you won't find a reporter on the beat with a bad thing to say about Kenny Clark. Frankly, the story I wrote last year on Kenny and his mom, Nicole, changed my outlook on life. Kenny was 9 years old when his father went to prison. Suddenly, Kenny was the man of the house while growing up in a rough community. Nicole, to her credit, pulled double-shifts to keep a roof over her kids' heads and did everything in her power to make sure Kenny stayed on the right track. That lady is a saint.

Michelle from Ringgold, GA

Who do you think will have the better game on Sunday, Aaron Rodgers or Watson? Also, who will throw for the most yards and touchdowns?

I think Rodgers has a big day.

Gretchen from Dousman, WI

I enjoyed the photos of Thursday's practice in the Hutson Center. The black-and-white portraits are awe-inspiring. I loved the shot of Tim Boyle celebrating something awesome. We see so little of him it's nice to get a glimpse at the real guy. I was also blown away by the comparison of Davante Adams and Marcedes Lewis in one photo. Gotta love the Big Dog!

In nine seasons covering the Packers, only two guys have made me say "Whoa" the first time I saw them in-person: Julius Peppers and Marcedes Lewis.

Sandy from Green Bay, WI

After last week's loss to Tampa Bay, there are high expectations that the Packers have a huge bounce-back victory. Who do you think feels this pressure the most on the team?

The fans?

Mike from Allen, TX

Gentlemen, I don't care what Houston's record is. They have talented players on both sides of the ball, guys who can make big plays. I don't expect an "easy" game, but I'm looking forward to the next chapter in the season.

I've kept saying all week how formidable the Texans are. You can't take this team lightly. At the same time, like what Spoff wrote, this is a gut-check moment for Houston, too, coming off a disappointing last-second loss to Tennessee. The Packers don't need to go outside of themselves to win this game. They need only play the brand of football they displayed before the bye – clean, efficient and unpredictable.

Ed from Windsor, CO

It happens in the NFL all the time, Tom from Two Rivers. My H.S. football team was up 14-0 and returned the second-half kickoff for a TD, which was called back due to a penalty. Even though we had more talent we never scored again and lost in OT. Every play matters and any play can turn the tide at every level of football. The team fortitude to swing the pendulum back and focus on the next play separates the men from the boys. In the razor-thin margins of the NFL it is a game of inches.

And in a game of inches, the outcome often comes down to what's between the ears.

Vinny from Arlington, VA

As Mike has mentioned on numerous occasions in II, it is during times of adversity that you find out a lot about a team. Well, here's the first adversity check of this regular season coming off a humbling on-field performance. Mike also pointed out that this second quarter of the season would likely be the toughest of the regular season, which appears dead-on as well.

No doubt. And as I wrote like a week ago, there's adversity and triumph woven into every great season. The Packers encountered some adversity in Tampa. As bitter as that pill was to swallow, Green Bay can really catapult itself into this second quarter of the season with a convincing win Sunday. But it has to start by flipping the script against the Texans.

Derek from Norton, KS

The injury report is continuing to grow. It seems we have been seeing more injuries occur in practice than in previous years. I'm sure the team is aware of this. Do we know if they are taking steps to prevent practice injuries?

Going a little lighter in practice this week and giving players more time to get their bodies back.

Ross from Roswell, GA

Gents, do you feel this defense has improved its team speed over years past?

Yes, but speed isn't the be-all, end-all folks want to make it out to be. There's more to this game than just how quickly a player can get from Point A to Point B.

Cory from Milton, Canada

Hi, what is the status on Christian Kirksey? I know he was placed on IR and could have been with the team for the Texans game if healthy. Have you heard anything about his status?

Nothing new to report on that front other than Kirksey has been present with the rehab group during practice.

Robert from Verona, WI

It was fun watching some former Packers out on the field Thursday night. Fackrell, Martinez and (Richard) Rodgers all seemed to play pretty well, but it always makes me wonder how players feel about money vs. team success. For a guy like Martinez, is a bigger paycheck to play on a bad team worth it? These players put their body on the line, and the average NFL career is pretty short, but it has to be more fun to be part of a winning culture. Does this ever come up when you're interviewing retired players?

Every NFL player wants to win. These guys wouldn't have made it this far without a highly competitive spirit. But players also want to be rewarded for their work, no different than any other line of work. Martinez knew what he was signing up for when he went to New York but the Giants compensated him well and he's a centerpiece of their defense. I haven't talked to Blake since he signed there but I've seen the wonderful photos of his growing family on Instagram. With every snap he takes, Martinez is setting up his daughter for a great life. That's pretty cool. I'm pulling for No. 54 every time I see a Giants game.

David from Appleton, WI

Spoff mentioned having to maintain relationships when covering the locker room. How do you balance keeping good relationships with the players while simultaneously keeping good relationships with your cultivated audience through objective reporting? Seems like a difficult balancing act.

I'm never going to lie to you guys. That's my philosophy in this role. While I'm probably not going to belabor the point if a player isn't playing well, my goal is to maintain balance with how I present information. Win or lose, positive or negative, one game doesn't define a career. There's always another game and another interview. That's how you earn credibility, in my opinion. Personal relationships are helpful when brainstorming ideas for profiles and off-the-field-stories, but that's not a consideration for me when covering the team on the field.

Joe from Wausau, WI

Watching Krys Barnes it seems surprising he wasn't drafted? More surprising to me is that he wasn't even invited to the combine. That likely was a factor in his not getting drafted, especially since his pro day was cancelled by COVID. Who determines which players get invited to the combine?

There's a player selection committee that extends invitations to players but all 32 NFL teams also are encouraged to provide their two cents. I don't know what goes into that process. Krys Barnes met the criteria to be selected, but he wasn't. All I know is the Packers are happy Barnes is in Green Bay regardless of how he got here.

The Green Bay Packers practiced inside the Don Hutson Center on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.

Josh from Houston, TX

Regarding the question from Jim from Fairfax, VA, didn't Rodgers just say that playing against Antoine Winfield Jr. was the first time he played against the son of someone against whom he had previously played (Antoine Winfield Sr.)?

Wait? What? Seriously? I totally missed that.

Andy from Lancaster, PA

Hello II, I'm a little disappointed in your answer to Jim from Fairfax. Our very own Aaron Rodgers just played against Antoine Winfield Jr. after having played against his father earlier in his career.

You're right, Andy. I apologize. It's almost like my response was a commentary on the fact I talked 257 times before the Buccaneers game about how Rodgers believes he's facing a father and son (the Winfields) for the first time in his career and yet I'm still addressing the same question a week later.

Ryan from Colfax, WI

Wes, do you have previous job experience that gave you such a bad taste to claim sales as the least desirable job? Can you expand upon that for the II faithful?

I have friends who worked in sales and have heard the horror stories. I tip my hat to any readers who ply their trade in that field, though. It's just not my cup of tea.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Devastated Beaten and knocked down but never Bowed

Rise up men of the Bay. The time has come

March to a land of a favorite lost son to meet his challenge

Your foe feigns disarray and lays in wait to meet your challenge

Rise to Victory sons of the Bay

Tampa Bay is but a memory now. It's onto Houston and a big stretch of games to follow over the next 12 days.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Everyone has a poem, until you get punched in the mouth. Now it's time to win a gosh darn football game.

Let's play some football. Enjoy the game, folks.

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