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Inbox: The whole building is rooting for him

There never have been more opportunities for diamonds to be revealed

CB Eric Stokes
CB Eric Stokes

Roger from McGrath, AK

If you could pick a player or two coming back to "get the train back on the tracks" post-injury and enter the next offseason healthy, who would it be? Luke Musgrave, Eric Stokes, Kingsley Enagbare, Christian Watson, or even Samori Toure, Luke Tenuta, and Emanuel Wilson and others all fought the good fight. Oh, and for primo fish, Mike wants Lower Yukon King Salmon.

Watson and Musgrave are good picks, but I'm gonna go with Stokes. Stokes really showed signs of promise his rookie year but he's also a good dude and beloved member of the locker room. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone with a negative thing to say about Eric Stokes – and he's kept his positive outlook despite some discouraging injuries. So, it would be great to see Stokes get this thing back on track. I know the whole building is rooting for him.

Russ from Henrico, VA

With the current WR personnel, the offense could easily run two "lines" of receivers with rested legs constantly coming in every few downs. Are there many defensive backfields that could match that, especially late in the game?

There's something to be said for a "Wear 'em down" approach, though I don't think it needs to be as rigid as running hockey lines of wideouts. Having five or six different options is enough of a curveball and can challenge the cardio of a secondary.

Paul from Ledgeview, WI

Do you see four RBs on the 53? Do Emanuel Wilson and MarShawn Lloyd have any special-teams potential?

It's possible, though statistically unlikely. The Packers have had four RBs on their Week 1 roster three times in the past 12 years. Wilson only played two special-teams snaps in seven games last year, so we'll see if he grows in that area this season. Lloyd didn't handle kickoff returns in college, but it sounds like he could get a look there, too.

Keith from Springfield, MO

Would you agree with me that most sports writers have underrated Matt LaFleur as an NFL head coach – given the highest rating I have seen is seventh? I think he deserves to be at least in the top five and perhaps No. 1 given that he started winning big even in his first season. My suspicion is that some writers may have given Aaron Rodgers much of the credit, but could any coach have done better in developing Jordan Love as a starter or AR as MVP twice? Especially Jordan Love in 2023 with the very young WRs?

I've spilled so much ink in this column talking about how underrated LaFleur is as a head coach. The biggest robbery came in 2019, when LaFleur oversaw one of the most impressive one-year turnarounds in league history. The Packers went from 6-9-1 to 13-3, a seven-win improvement. In 2020, Green Bay won 13 games again and was arguably the best team in the NFL. However, AP voters decided to award Kevin Stefanski for bettering the Browns' win total by five (6-10 to 11-5). LaFleur wants a Lombardi Trophy more than anything, but it's OK for the masses to acknowledge the guy does a good job as a head coach, too.

Samuel from Skokie, IL

I was listening to your "Unscripted" sponsor on satellite radio, and they went into depth about different techniques that will be used for kickoffs due to the new rule. It was really interesting to hear the possible kickoff strategies. Two questions: Have you seen the kickers practicing different techniques in OTAs? Do you think kickoff ability could factor in the kicker competition? Also, Wes forgot "A Few Good Men."

Oh, good call. We have yet to see the Packers practice any kickoffs yet, but Greg Joseph was asked by Spoff last week about the upcoming change. A lot of planning is underway, but so much of how this plays out will be determined in reaction to what happens the first month of the season. It could be a big change. It could be marginal. We just have to see. I don't think it'll impact the kicking competition, though.

Tom from West Palm Beach, FL

There have been rumblings in Kansas City that they might have a non-kicker handle kickoffs due to the new rules, with the expectation that the kicker will be required to make more tackles, and thus subjected to more potential injuries. Has anyone on the Packers' coaching staff suggested anything similar? Is there anyone currently on the roster that would fit that role?

Whelan has practiced kickoffs before, but I'd be surprised if a non-kicker handled that role in-season. Accuracy is paramount to avoid conceding any additional yards beyond what the returner gains.

Mike from Hammond, IN

Who do you see winning the kicking competition?

Hopefully the Packers.

Mike from Pewaukee, WI

Sean Clifford was No. 8 last year. Now Josh Jacobs appears to have that number and Sean is No. 6. When you have an established star (like J.J.) joining a team and someone else has his favorite number, how does that get worked out? Is there compensation? Is it up to the two gentlemen to work it out? Is seniority a variable? Could Sean have been forced to give up the number?

It sounds like seniority was part of it, but it wasn't a big deal. Jacobs told Larry McCarren earlier this offseason that "They basically just gave it to me, but I called (Clifford), and I was like, 'Man, I don't want to take your number, so I'm gonna make it worth it for you.' We shook hands and called it a day." No. 8 was also a secondary number for Clifford anyway. He wore Don Hutson's retired No. 14 in high school and at Penn State.

Fredrick from Okatie, SC

I don't understand how the salary works for a player we bring in for a tryout. Let's use the kicker we brought in to compete for a position. Obviously, he knows that he's there to compete and there is no guarantee. How long do we keep a player hanging on with a hope and a prayer? What does it generally cost? Are those costs included in the salary cap or are only the final 53 and practice squad under the cap? I know there're other monies owed to released players that are in the cap.

A stipend is provided to first-year players for the offseason program and training camp. Per the collective bargaining agreement, non-veterans receive $315 per day during the offseason program and $1,850 per week of training camp. It counts towards the salary cap, but it's nominal on a $255.4 million cap. If you find one Bo Melton, Allen Lazard, or Lane Taylor in there, it's more than worth it.

Brian from Sugar Land, TX

One concern expressed regarding the possible 18-game schedule was "as long as the quality of football doesn't diminish." The NFL is the pinnacle of American football, the benchmark of top-quality play and talent. I don't see how the quality could possibly fall below that offered anywhere else. I see the threat as too many "safety" rules making the game a parody, like the so-called Pro Bowl of years past, which has devolved into a "skills competition" and flag football.

When I said that, I was mainly referring to the increased risk of losing a brand-name player to injury during the final stretch of the regular season. From a ratings perspective, I don't think I'm going out on a limb saying the NFL is a bigger draw with Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce on the field than, say, Nick Foles leading Philadelphia to the Super Bowl. Who knows? Maybe this whole thing is too big to fail. I just thought we had it perfect with a 16-game regular season contested among 32 teams in eight divisions. Now we're tinkering with that and that makes me nervous.

Joe from Windermere, FL

Lambeau Field is a very special place. My friends and I go to one away Packers game each year and we're always surprised, even with newer stadiums, how none really compare to Lambeau. Maybe we're biased, but I would put it up against any stadium in all of sports. Which, in your opinion, outside of Lambeau, is currently your favorite stadium in the NFL, and if it differs, all of professional sports?

AT&T Stadium and Lumen Field are my two personal favorites. I hear SoFi is incredible, but I haven't covered a game there. People can hate on the Cowboys and Jerry Jones all they want, but AT&T is everything a modern NFL stadium should be.

Arthur from Eau Claire, WI

Does it seem to you that Jordan Love has improved on his footwork, so that he gets back on his long drop-backs way faster as last year went along? It looked to me as though he was running back and not at all concerned about tripping. At least, that is my considered unprofessional opinion.

Love has come a long way with his footwork over the past 15 months, both going into his first year as a starting QB and throughout the course of last season. Love's deep ball to Bo Melton last week was a sight to see for those in attendance. He put it on a dime for Melton about 50 yards downfield on a post route. Love's always done a great job of keeping his eyes downfield. That was the No. 1 thing I felt great about with him stepping into the QB1 chair last year, but now he's matching his footwork to those longer developing routes.

Dave from Rockford, IL

I also enjoy watching some college football. I get to see plenty of former college quarterbacks in the preseason games. The NFL has approximately 96 quarterbacks (three per team), including the practice squad. Do you believe there is a shortage of talent in that QB area?

I wouldn't categorize it as a shortage. Regardless of whether you're a starter, it's still an elite group of men locking down those 100-or-so jobs. Plus, more QBs are getting opportunities in the spring with the UFL. Between a spring league and increased practice-squad flexibility, there never have been more opportunities for diamonds to be revealed.

James from Appleton, WI

I liked your answer to Jim from Denver. To put it another way, you can easily find 32 quarterbacks to beat the crap out of the general population of 342 million; it's much harder to find QBs who can dominate the couple thousand players who are the very best of the best.

Precisely. The NFL isn't just the cream of the crop. It's the top layer of the cream itself.

Keith from Springfield, MO

Do you think GB will again have the youngest team in the NFL? I think youngest and best of the NFL youth! Go Pack!

That's going to be difficult with how many returning players the Packers have, but they'll likely be among the youngest teams once again since they didn't add many older players. Presently, there is only one (Preston Smith) older than 30.

Bruce from Jackson, WI

Did you see Bleacher Report's re-draft of the 2019 NFL Draft? While the Packers had two first-round picks that year in the draft, the 2024 squad will have four from the hindsight re-draft. Those would be Rashan Gary, Elgton Jenkins, Jacobs and Darnell Savage. The B-R re-draft confirms what we have seen on the field.

The best part of that Bleacher Report re-draft is the Raiders whiffing on Clelin Ferrell – widely panned at the time he was selected at No. 4 – but still hitting on Maxx Crosby in the fifth round. That's the NFL in a nutshell. I took issue with Jacobs going at No. 21 to Seattle, though. I get teams are hesitant to use first-round picks on running backs but let's give Jacobs his due. He's been one of the league's top running backs over the past five years. He should've been 10-15, at least.

George from North Mankato, MN

Here's to hoping that the Big Dog will make it to hunt for a 19th season.

I know, I know. It's the Bears, but I'm still thrilled for Cedes. He's already in a league of his own for NFL seasons for a TE but needs just four more regular-season games to pass Jason Witten (271) for most career games played by a tight end. A full 17-game season would move Lewis to 285 regular-season games, good for 19th all-time and seventh among non-specialists.

Greg from Perkasie, PA

Last season was a lot of fun to watch play out. From the growth of the team through the course of the year, to my own personal gameday experiences and memories, I wouldn't mind reliving that whole season over again. If you could choose one (non-Super Bowl) season to relive again, which would it be and why?

"Run the table" was the most fun I've had on the Packers' beat.

Chas from Modena, WI

Will the Inbox writers be taking time off during the dead zone, and if so, what will you be doing?

I'm going to Vegas in a few weeks to watch Conor McGregor fight. I assume Spoff is fishing for crap at some point or whatever they're called.

Shilo from Wildomar, CA

I was at the theater last week, and I saw "So I Got That Goin' For Me, Which is Nice" written on the popcorn bucket, and I couldn't help but think of II, laugh to myself.

Ha. Well done! Have a great Tuesday.

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