Inbox: The reward is in the journey

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Ryan from Sun Prairie, WI

What is the weather like today in Green Bay?

Freakin’ cold. Thankfully, there’s only like 41 more days until spring according to the interns in the brand and marketing department. Good morning!

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

I'm looking for a definitive definition of edge rusher. We hear/read it daily. Is he an OLB? DE? Both? If a 4-3 base team wants an edge rusher are they focused on a DE? If they're a 3-4 or nickel base are they looking for a three-down OLB with pass-rush skills? The Packers should be strong at DL, if they're healthy and everyone's back. Will their focus be on OLBs when looking for an “edge rusher”? Thanks.

I consider anyone who lines up on the outside shoulder of offensive tackles an edge rusher. This has become a topic because of how the lines have been blurred between 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends. At the end of the day, pass rushing is pass rushing. I think Julius Peppers proved that during his time in Green Bay.

Sean from Glen Ellyn, IL

On one of the recent “Packers Unscripted” episodes, you guys mentioned the large number of injuries the defense had to endure this year. I don't remember if it was mentioned but I want to acknowledge Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, and Montravius Adams and the excellent job they did. For a position group that lost its top three starters, it was a surprising bright spot!

It’s impressive the Packers’ defensive line managed to stay afloat playing most of the year without its marquee offseason addition in Mo Wilkerson. Then, you lose both Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark late in the year. There’s no question Lowry took a big step forward in Year 3, but Lancaster’s play really stood out to me. The Packers didn’t really have a true backup to Clark at nose tackle. For an undrafted rookie who started the year on the practice squad, Lancaster handled that job without issue.

James from Durango, CO

I can’t speak for other fans, but I lived in Wisconsin for 25 years. Originally, I’m from Chicago, but it was not hard to be impressed by the team that won XXXI. Every year we always had a shot with Favre and now Rodgers. The Bears on the other hand were only good when they played keep away with the ground game and the defense had to score. The Vikings talked smack all season and then they were not surprised to lose the game that mattered. The Lions were meh without Barry.

Everyone is chasing Super Bowls, but the reward is in the journey. The Packers have been in the hunt for the better part of three decades and that’s what makes those championship runs special. Just think about all the games, big plays and moments that led to Super Bowl XLV.

Joe from Champaign, IL

Somebody recently asked you to explain why there are so many Packers fans from different states. Here’s my story: Lived in Illinois my whole life surrounded by Bears fans. The first football game I ever watched was Packers over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. I was 6 years old and fell in love ever since. I thrive off of being happy when 99 percent of the people around me are Bears fans and typically unhappy!

Ha. I’m sure there’s a segment of older Packers fans who are going to love “the first football game I ever watched” was Super Bowl XXXI.

Jonnie from Garden City, MI

Speaking of fans far from Green Bay, I was born and raised a Packers fan in Wisconsin. Now living near Detroit, I have had the privilege of helping a good friend join me in Packers fandom. He grew up a Red Wings fan, but never really latched on to the Lions. No matter how the team does, the more Packers fans there are, the better. Keep being winsome, my II friends!

One thing I’ve learned from this upcoming profile on Matt LaFleur is how many Michiganders are Packers fans. I always knew that about the U.P., but the Lower Peninsula has its share of Green Bay fans, as well.

Ross from Hudson, WI

At what point this offseason is the playbook created? Do LaFleur and Co. have a general outline already? Are wrinkles and player-specific focus plays added ad hoc as time goes on?

Mike Pettine is ahead of the game right now after having a season under his belt in Green Bay, but there are bound to be some changes and adjustments. I’m sure LaFleur has preliminary plans in place about his vision for the offense, but those will all be finalized once his staff is set.

Casey from Butler, MO

I did some research. Since 1990, 27 of 28 Super Bowls have featured a top 10 defense in points per game and 23 of 28 winners have had a top 10 D. The only QBs to win without a top 10 D were Eli Manning (twice), Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Joe Flacco. People only remember the offense but defense continues to win championships.

And all five of those non-top 10 defenses were opportunistic on teams that got hot at the end of the year.  

Tom from Fairfield, CT

So does LaFleur directly report to Gutey or Mark Murphy?

Murphy.

Jim from Stevens Point, WI

With the new coaches the talk is about how much more emphasis there will be on the running game. Do you have a sense of how often a run might have been called in the past but Aaron changed it to a pass since he was allowed that option? I got the feeling that Mike wanted to run more but the option was often was changed to a pass.

No idea, but I don’t think it was a one-way street. There were times Rodgers would check to a run, as well, depending on what the defense was showing. I like what LaFleur is selling about the value of using the run to set up the pass. That formula worked to perfection for the Packers in 2014. While Aaron Jones is a different back than Eddie Lacy, I believe he has the skill set to have a similar impact on the offense.

Brian from Chiba, Japan

What is the consequence for a team not getting under the cap? I imagine it never happens, but what would be the punishment if it did?

Penalties for violating cap rules range from monetary fines, loss of draft picks and cancellation of contracts.

Per from Odense, Denmark

Wes is fancying the idea of not having to answer any more Antonio Brown questions. I'm with Wes on this and I think a lot of others are, too. Besides the fact that the Packers have young, talented receivers already and seemingly have other needs at the moment, can we all please agree to put any Brown speculation to rest by this fact: LaFleur clearly stated he wanted high-character players and Brown’s behavior and attitude right now do not fulfill that requirement.

Let’s make a deal. By some remote chance the Packers acquire Brown this offseason, I’ll write an Inbox entirely comprised of questions about Brown once the transaction is announced. Until then, I ain’t touching any more Antonio Brown questions.

Brett from Oshkosh, WI

I can’t remember who posted it, but one of you did post in an Inbox a few days ago that teams have until March 13, 4 p.m. to get their top 51 contracts under the cap. I thought it was weird that it was only the top 51 contracts. Could that have been a typo?

It’s not a typo. I asked around and nobody could give me a definitive answer on why it’s 51 and not 53, but the ‘Rule of 51’ is intended give teams enough breathing room to sign veterans while building their 90-man roster and give those players a chance to compete for a job in the summer.

Paul from Phoenix, AZ

The onside kick has added excitement to close games, but with the new rule where players have to be lined up within one yard of where the ball is kicked, successful onside kicks have fallen off almost completely. Do you think the league could adjust the new rule allowing for players to line up five yards back if team declares they are kicking onside, much like a lineman declaring eligibility as a receiver? Surprise would be gone, but certainly would give teams more of a chance in close games.

I agree the air was kind of taken out of the balloon on onside kicks this year. I’m all for the idea you’re suggesting. If you want to try a surprise onside kick, go for it. But if the kicking team declares an onside kick with the officials, the play alters to the previous rules. Unless I’m mistaken, I’ve never heard an argument about player safety on onside kicks.

Brad from London, Ontario

Gentlemen, a special teams question for you. Is there anything in the rulebook about the kicker maintaining momentum forward before making contact with the ball? Could the kicker fake the kick like he was going to drill it, and then stutter-step and drop an onside kick? It could make the receiving team freeze or flinch, just enough to get an extra step towards recovering the onside kick if the kicking team's players don't move before contact is made with the ball. Am I correct? Thanks!

That’s perfectly fine as long as everyone on the kicking team remains onside until the ball is kicked.

Steve from Middletown, KY

Looking at Geronimo Allison and couldn't help but notice his hands looked big and his fingers long. I know this helps receivers, but do coaches/scouts measure hands and take that into count when making decisions on potential draftees?

You bet. I mean they measure the hands of kickers at the NFL Scouting Combine. Kickers.

Ryan from Oshkosh, WI

What position should be the biggest player pickup this offseason either through the draft or free agency?

Independent of the current roster, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Packers add another outside linebacker to the rotation this offseason. The Packers have only drafted three edge rushers inside the first three rounds over the past 10 years – Clay Matthews (2009), Nick Perry (2012) and Kyler Fackrell (2016) and all three have now had a 10-sack season.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, your thoughts on Kyler Murray? A supremely talented athlete, I think he's better suited for baseball, but I think he'll choose the NFL. Would you spend a first-round pick on him?

I like it from the standpoint I think it’s easier for a young quarterback to take a shot at the NFL first before trying his hand at baseball. If football doesn’t work out, that money is always going to be there for him in MLB. Heck, Tim Tebow is in the minors for crying out loud. While rookie contracts aren’t what they were before the 2011 CBA, it’s hard to argue with Murray’s logic. I can’t put a projected round on Murray at this point, but I wonder if Russell Wilson’s success as a smaller QB might make a team take a chance on Murray early.

Josh from Milwaukee, WI

Patrick Mahomes is the most exciting young quarterback I've seen since Aaron Rodgers. What does he have to do to stay on top of the QB world long-term? Obviously winning an MVP, dethroning Brady and possibly winning a Super Bowl would be a strong start, but what obstacles are there in staying on top other than health?

Adapt…because the entire NFL is chasing you now. That’s the difference between making an early impact and leaving a legacy. The greatest who have ever played – Manning, Brady, Rodgers, etc. – had to evolve their game. That’ll be the next challenge for Mahomes in 2019 and beyond.

Subhadeep from Rocky Hill, CT

With all the comments on youngest (Mahomes-Goff) and oldest (Brady-Brees), I am thinking it will come down to one old and one young QB so either Brady-Goff or Brees-Mahomes. So it will be just an AVERAGE SB.

While I understand your tongue-in-cheek math, a Brees-Mahomes Super Bowl would be anything but average. That might be the most interested I’ve ever been in a non-Packers Super Bowl. Think about it – the league’s oldest gunslinger vs. the youngest on the grandest stage of ’em all.

Gary from Berwick, PA

Concerning your answer to Sturgeon Bay’s Kyle hoping for a Patriots defeat on Sunday, if you remember the 49ers during the Montana/Young dynasty constantly fattened up on the weak sisters in the NFC West. It seems that part of the schedule was good for six or eight wins each year. That would generally help secure home field, in my sometimes mistaken opinion.

It doesn’t hurt.

Charlie from Cameron, NC

The beat writer for my favorite baseball team answers fan questions about once a month. He does a nice job, but the questions are bold with his answers in plain text. It’s just weird that way. I know, I know...If Wes has said it once, he’s said it a thousand times: “content not format.” Regardless, thanks for getting it right!

I’m…so…proud of you. It’s like watching your child crush a line drive after spending years teaching him or her proper technique and fundamentals. I’m not saying Inbox is the only correct way to do a Q&A column, but it’s how we run our system. Players, not plays. Content, not format.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, in your last II, you wrote, "I believe most Hodkiewiczs in North America are either a descendant of my great-great grandfather or his brother (before he moved to Cleveland).” What happened after the brother moved to Cleveland?

The Cavaliers drafted LeBron.

Todd from Winona, MN

Betsy R. from Philadelphia, PA asking a question about stitching the field? As in Betsy Ross...Ha.

An instant classic. Have a good weekend, folks.

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