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Inbox: The preseason is for everybody

GM Brian Gutekunst
GM Brian Gutekunst

Zack from Christiansburg, VA

So let’s say Kenny Clark plays fullback on the goal line and he scores. Does he have to change his number? Who is wearing No. 88 by the way? Cheers to Insider Suggestion BBuox!

You almost didn’t get a “Good morning!” for this, Zack. Almost. Good morning!

John from Menominee, MI

Not a question just a suggestion, use a train whistle to go around the stadium on third down! Hope you can pass this around to the appropriate person.

That certainly would appeal to fans who have a penchant for the wave. I wish the Packers would’ve solicited ideas during the offseason. We could have had two days of Insider Outbox and an extra edition of Suggestion Box for what to do on third downs.

Matt from Georgetown, TX

What do preseason games offer GMs and coaches that they can't learn from practice sessions? Or, put another way, who is preseason for?

GMs and coaches are sharp enough to know whether a young guy can play based on practice, but the preseason shows how players handle the human element of the game. Can you make the big play when the pressure is on? It’s also a chance for veterans to knock some rust off and young guys to get noticed. To put it another way, the preseason is for everybody.

Blaine from Fennimore, WI

Who is your man to watch Thursday vs the Ravens?

Big Bob Tonyan’s baby boy. Robert Tonyan has had a nice camp and appears to have rounded out the rougher edges of his game. It looks like Tonyan is going to have a part to play in this offense this season based on what we’ve seen in practice. Whether he’s playing with Aaron Rodgers or not, the second-year tight end should have ample opportunity to show how far he’s come in Baltimore.

Cec from Cheyenne, WY

Do you think Jimmy Graham will have the bounce-back season he's predicting in Matt LaFleur's new offense?

We’re not allowed to shoot team periods but I wish I could show you the video of Graham getting behind the Packers’ secondary Tuesday and catching a 32-yard touchdown from Aaron Rodgers. Those two guys are on the same page. They have been for the better part of a year. If Graham is healthy, this scheme should allow him to shine.

Zach from Stevens Point, WI

Is Lamar Jackson expected to start on Thursday? I'll be curious to see how the Packers stack up against Baltimore's new offense predicated on QB runs. We have certainly struggled with running QBs in the past (queue Vick and Kaepernick playoff nightmares).

Jackson might play, but I don’t expect him to run much. He didn’t last week, at least. I see no point in putting your starting quarterback in danger in the preseason, especially with Robert Griffin III injured. The guy the Packers have to be on the lookout for is Trace McSorley. He’ll tuck it and run, too. Fun fact: Jumpin’ Joe Callahan is also on the Ravens.

Nate from Marshfield, WI

I remember a month or so ago a lot of discussion was taking place in the Inbox that the slot receiver position could be an avenue for a player to make the roster. Will you be paying attention to who gets reps there between, oh, Jake Kumerow, Geronimo Allison, and maybe Darrius Shepherd and Allen Lazard? Or now that it's the preseason is the focus more on “let's not worry about who's a good slot receiver, let's just focus on someone who is just a good all-around receiver.”

I still think that slot is Allison’s job to lose at this point, but Shepherd has made a good argument for why smaller, shiftier receivers are still ideal for that spot. I don’t care how tall he is or what his 40 time was – the guy just makes plays. He and Lazard are keeping this competition very interesting.

Kathi from Sun Prairie, WI

Who do you think will have the biggest impact this season with players we obtained in the draft? Offense or defense? Super Bowl bound?

I firmly believe Za’Darius Smith could be a star in this defense. It’s tailored perfectly for a pass rusher with his talent.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, how many turnovers do the Packers need to generate this week in order to have a successful defensive game?

I don’t expect three turnovers in a quarter again, but one or two over the course of 60 minutes from the defense and special teams would be a confidence-booster. Vanilla schemes or not, takeaways are takeaways.

Bruce from Green Bay, WI

Word has it that the starters will play “one or so” quarters. What criteria is used to determine how long the starters play? Is it like X number of plays, time of possession? Do you think the Packers will take a few plays in their playbook with the Ravens to evaluate how they execute and get a little timing down against the Ravens starters?

My gut says it probably means two series apiece for the offense and defense, but a lot will depend on how the first quarter unfolds. NFL playbooks are large, so you can run the offense without giving much away. It just will lack all the formations and motions we’re likely to see in Chicago.

Jeremiah from South Bend, IN

I asked a question a while back about whether or not leadership ebbs and flows over the course of a season. Spoff you responded that it can't; it must remain steady. I'd like to follow up on that subject. Do individuals step up into leadership roles or take different approaches depending on the ever-changing circumstances? Can you think of a reserve player, for example, who was forced into a prominent role, and not only played well but also contributed from a leadership perspective?

Absolutely. Desmond Bishop, Micah Hyde and Lucas Patrick are the first names that come to mind. Hyde and Bishop for how they contributed when injuries hit the defense, and Patrick for the “T.J. Lang” enforcer role he tends to play whenever he’s on the field.

Mike from Holton, MI

Will Ty Summers start for Packers with Oren Burks out?

Curtis Bolton stepped in at inside linebacker alongside Blake Martinez over the past week, but the Packers are going to take a long look at all four of those backups over the next three exhibition games.

Steve from Davenport, IA

Does Allen Lazard have a shot of making this team this year with so many receivers and tight ends?

A year ago, we were all saying the same about Jake Kumerow. Like Kumerow, Lazard wouldn’t be here if he didn’t have a shot. It’s a six-week audition and anything can change in an instant. Just look at how the inside linebacker landscape has changed over the past seven days. You never know what could happen next. Lazard is stating his case.

Julius from Providence, RI

Among the established veteran WRs and the first- and second-year players who are exceeding expectations or have flashed great potential, how many do you think will end up on somebody's post-waiver 53? I put the over/under at 7.5.

Under. Nothing against the Packers’ 90 but every NFL team has tough decisions to make at the end of camp. You have to remember most of the 53 players who make an opening roster have been there since April. Teams tend to stand by those players unless there’s a diamond they have to have.

Paul from Beaver Dam, WI

The questions about does winning preseason games matter reminded me of a point Vic made years back. It’s not about winning but trying to win. I don’t recall which game it was but the Packers were down in the fourth quarter. They scored, converted an onside kick and were able to score again to win the game. Those types of games (preseason or not) can help your team and head coach considerably when the real games come around.

The score doesn’t matter but the situations certainly do this time of year. You can learn a lot about a backup quarterback and the other 21 players on the field based on how they respond in those two-minute settings, especially in a game.

Cliff from Granville Centre, Nova Scotia

I know it’s a tad early, but with Kumerow really showing up in camp with fly-paper fingers, he's likely a lock to make the team, and may serve as the Jordy Nelson (possession receiver) role for the Pack. How does Kumerow’s career performance compare so far when you place it against Nelson's at the same age/years experience?

There are no comparisons for Kumerow, the overnight sensation five years in the making. At 27, he’s actually the oldest receiver in the room at the moment. This is a critical year for him, but he’s off to another good start.

Tom from Douglassville, PA

Who was your biggest surprise from the first preseason game?

I already said Ka’dar Hollman in a previous column, but I want to show Tony Brown some love, too. I didn’t expect much from him after what happened last year in Detroit, but as Spoff wrote recently, he’s rewarded the Packers for their faith. He’s the No. 4 guy right now behind Jaire Alexander, Kevin King and Tramon Williams. By all accounts, he’s going to play some serious snaps in this defense.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

I don't see much mention of Chandon Sullivan but he seems to be a turnover creator every time he is mentioned. Any thoughts?

Another young cornerback who came ready to play this summer. Sullivan is one of those guys who’s always around the football.

Andy from Mesa, AZ

I’m not saying I told you so, but Oren Burks' injury is a reminder of the neglect MLB has received from the front office over the past decade. When I said the Packers were one Blake Martinez injury away from a nightmare scenario, I was called overly dramatic. I just read an article yesterday that used the word "catastrophic" for said scenario. I'm not trying to take credit or hope that plays out, but we should all say a quick prayer that Mr. Martinez stays healthy. Then draft a MLB. Early.

Don’t throw your back out picking up all those bouquets you threw for yourself, Andy. Just kidding…kinda. The Packers drafted an inside linebacker in the third round last year. They had bigger fish to fry elsewhere this offseason. You also have to take into account the depth of the safety position when making this argument in 2019.

Jeff from Kenosha, WI

I'm interested in hearing about the progression of Burks. I know he's injured now but was he showing the second-year jump that coaches look for? I was starting to think he might be a bust.

He’s definitely not a bust. Physically, he belongs. That’s not a question. Mentally, Burks looked a lot more comfortable this offseason than he did as a rookie. He was having a good camp before this recent setback. As I said before, Martinez dealt with his share of adversity his rookie year. Hopefully, we see Burks again sooner rather than later.

Steve from Middletown, KY

Where can we stash Burks without being IR, or does that seem like his eventual designation? Plus, if the two fullbacks aren't ready, it seems likely the trickle down will affect other roster spots. Are they ineligible from possibly going on the PUP?

The only players eligible to be on the physically unable to perform list are those who failed the pre-camp physical and have yet to practice. If you’re injured during training camp, you must remain on the 53-man roster through final cuts before being placed on IR to be eligible to be designated to return later in the season.

Jaime from Chiapas, Mexico

Lonnie Johnson's hit on Jace Sternberger occurred during a practice, but if he (a rookie) had done the same during a preseason game, would the league have fined him the same amount as a veteran would be fined for that same hit during the regular season?

Yes. Fines are collectively bargained at pre-determined rates (that escalate if it’s a repeat offender). If Johnson were fined in a preseason game for that hit on Sternberger, it would come out of his first regular-season game check.

Lee from Brisbane, Australia

If Jayke from London can request games, I would like to put in a bid for the Packers to come down under. The weather is better and beers colder.

Real talk – I want to go to Australia even more than I do London.

Rich from Manitou Springs, CO

I've heard it said the first two games of the regular season are somewhat of an extension of the preseason; being the starters at that point get to play together consistently. Do you think the Packers have an advantage against the Bears and Vikings when it comes to a new offense being installed? Or as they say there is nothing that nobody hasn't seen before.

The Packers’ offense undoubtedly will look different with LaFleur holding the controller, but there also is a full season of tape from his offensive play-calling from Tennessee. Teams win consistently with an effective system – not a surprise.

John from Los Angeles, CA

In broadcasts of football games, is there a reason that the default camera angle is the side view? I'd be interested in seeing a game where the primary camera angle was from behind the offensive line. From a quasi-QB POV, I feel like viewers would be better able to see routes develop, holes open up, etc.

That’s just the way it’s always been done. I could definitely see the day coming, though, when the viewer gets to choose which angle he or she watches from – much like “Madden.”

JR from East Moline, IL

Wes, early draft this year on Friday. No idea where to rank Zeke and Melv Gordon. Do you have any thoughts on this matter? Also, I agree with Mike's preference for authenticity. Questions shouldn't be a does-he-know-the-right-thing-to-say quiz. I've always appreciated Aaron's honesty. I'm sure it'd make life easier for him to "say the right thing" all the time, and he's smart enough to do that, but he chooses to be open and honest. I really don't think it's an ego thing.

Agreed. Make of it whatever you will, but Rodgers is fantastic at articulating what he feels. To the first part of your question, I took Le’Veon Bell off my board last year amidst all the contract chatter. I’m very conservative when drafting players, so I’ll probably pass on Zeke and Gordon, too, in the early rounds.

Mike from Kalamazoo, MI

When Larry holds his fingers up referencing “Three Things,” his pinky makes it look like 2½.

Huh, never noticed.

Amy from Bayport, MN

I have been impressed with the high caliber questions submitted this offseason. Interesting, astute, insightful, clever and funny. Do you think this is because fans with the desire to follow team news in the offseason have gained a higher level of perspective and football IQ? Is it a natural result of the absence of inevitable angst when the games really matter? Or are you and Mike simply separating the wheat from the chaff to shape the tone of Insider Inbox?

Probably all of the above. Generally speaking, it is a very informed fan base. No moss grows in its shade…usually.

Oscar from Cottage Grove, WI

When the Packers go on the road, do they eat as a team and who pays the bill, or are they on their own?

They get a per diem but also have a pre-game meal together hours before the game.

Tim from Green Bay, WI

Better pre-game meal? Jordy's Farm-Fresh Flakes or the Gilbertburger?

I bought a box of Jordy Flakes a few years ago. They were pretty good.

Keith from Dearborn, MI

Much is known about Spoff and his lunch-stealing antics. Has there ever been a decoy placed to deter his criminal behavior? Gotta think a wrapped slice of cheese within a sandwich would make him think twice.

Maybe I’ll “accidentally” drop Ma Hod’s world-famous PB&Js on the floor one of these days.

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