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Inbox: There are plenty of breakthrough candidates

Run defense is more than just one player

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CB Josh Jackson

Scott from Grovetown, GA

Social distancing must really be getting to Wes because he again didn't say, "Good morning." I thought it was his day, but after reading the first response I had to double check. Anyway, speaking of social distancing, I made it over a month on one tank of gas when usually one tank lasts a week and a half. So I figure I'm winning social distancing (no disrespect and my sincere condolences to those impacted by COVID-19). My question is simple, three hours to announce a schedule?

It didn't seem right to follow a sad, reflective post with that line, even if it's become my trademark. NFL Network can do whatever it wants but packers.com will be your one-stop shop as it relates to the Packers' schedule. We'll have stories, analysis and a "Three Things" video with Larry. Please join us. Now, let's get on with the show. Good morning!

Robin from Racine, WI

The Packers and their fans are counting on a number of third-year skill players to step up who have yet to demonstrate that they can be NFL starters ( Josh Jackson, Oren Burks, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Robert Tonyan). Donald Driver didn't do much for three years and then broke out, and became the Packers No. 1 WR for years. Can you think of a more recent example of a player that didn't contribute much for a few years before taking off? Thanks!

It happens more often than you think. Jordy Nelson, Desmond Bishop and Kyler Fackrell all made a big leap in Year 3. Since you brought up Burks, I'd used Kevin King as an example of a young player who made strides last year after injuries hampered him his first two seasons. There are plenty of breakthrough candidates and the four you mentioned are right at the top of that list.

Justin from Toronto, SD

Hello Insiders. With the speculation that no one between 30 and 26 was going to draft a QB, and the assumption that the Packers weren't looking to draft a QB in the early rounds, isn't it reasonable to think one or more QB-hungry teams tipped their hand to the Packers by inquiring about a trade up to their position? Regardless, I'm excited to see how the pick turns out.

Again, we're never going to know what the Packers' board looked like after No. 25. It could have been Rodgers 2.0 and Jordan Love was the last one with a first-round grade. You never know. You can only surmise the Packers felt strongly enough about Love's long-term potential to make that leap up four spots.

Joseph from Ellsworth, WI

The scheme employed by the Patriots and Chiefs in the playoffs against the Titans is likely the same scheme the Packers have planned to stop the 49ers' ground game next season. The playoff announcers pointed out that to stop the outside zone, bringing an extra player or two to crash the C-gaps disrupts it. The Patriots contained Derrick Henry on many of his 34 carries and the Chiefs held him in check.

Win the edge. Win the game. Henry is going to get his yards. He's too big and powerful not to. But defenses need to make sure they don't give those types of running backs much after contact, though. That's how Kansas City was able to calm those waters in the divisional round.

Jon from Eden Prairie, MN

One thing that I don't think gets mentioned enough about Kamal Martin is his penchant for creating/capitalizing off of turnovers. The young man really knows how to get the ball out, and he can read the QB to make plays on the ball as well. I think with his plus measurables and underrated ability to play in coverage, in the gaps, or even on the edge, he could end up being a very nice pick in the fifth round.

This was perhaps the most predictable draft choice the Packers made. Early on Day 3 has been that sweet spot for Green Bay addressing inside linebacker. What I like about Martin is he projects as a guy who can play early downs right away and grow into a dime role, if that's where his career takes him. Coverage is a tough task for any ILB but Martin showed a knack for playing zone in the Big Ten. That could be valuable with Blake Martinez (the starter) and Fackrell (the zone-drop LB) both gone.

Matt from Minneapolis, MN

It seems there are parallels between Kingsley Keke and Mike Daniels out of college. Both fell to the middle rounds despite having great quickness and pass-rushing success because they were undersized to play inside at the NFL level. It was said that both needed some time to add some size and strength. Do you think Keke can make a second-year jump similar to Mike's?

I do. I don't know if it'll be a jump to 6½ sacks like Daniels did but Keke should contend for a starting role in Year 2. I liked what I saw from him late last season.

Travis from Bowie, MD

More of a comment then a question. Equanimeous St. Brown, Allen Lazard, Valdes-Scantling and Devin Funchess are 23, 24, 25 and 25 years old. This is the age that a lot of players are primed for a break out year. I trust Gutekunst and like our odds of one of these guys having a monster season.

I said this on "Unscripted" but it bears repeating – the Packers are much higher on their holdings at receiver than the general public. Just for example – when he needed help at cornerback, Gutekunst drafted Jaire Alexander  and Josh Jackson. When the Packers felt the need to overhaul the pass rush and deep secondary immediately, they spent for veterans in free agency. If this is the route they chose to go at receiver, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they know what they're doing.

Beau from Greenwood, IN

For all those fans that have been clamoring for a WR, we just got one. OK, a WR COACH, but we still got one. Best of luck to Ruvell Martin as he comes back to the Pack to coach.

I love everything about the internship and Martin being the first recipient. It not only reunites Matt LaFleur with his former Saginaw Valley State teammate but also Aaron Rodgers  with his former receiver in Green Bay.

Joel from Milwaukee, WI

Wow, I wasn't expecting apologetics from you guys in your answer to a previous question about the Packers' poor run defense against the 49ers. They blew us off the field. With regard to your answer about it being a different 49ers game plan in each game, Coach LeFleur said the Packers knew exactly what the 49ers were going to do and were unable to stop the run. Thus far we spent very little resources to fix the middle of our D. So please, try again – how are we going to fix this?

A lot of submitters, such as yourself, tried to really get cute with this question and it's not that complicated. It comes down to what the scheme is trying to accomplish, player alignment and individual assignments. Are the defensive tackles jet-rushing or are they holding their gaps? What is the edge rusher's primary objective? Where is his outside help? Where can he afford to gamble with containment? If so, who's fitting the gaps at the next level? How is the integrity of the front? Are you going light in the box with a safety or two back? Is another safety dropping into the box with single-high coverage? Any combination of these questions plays into how a team defends the run. That's why run defense is more than just one player. It takes all 11, not just signing a guy whose name you recognized because he had an "84" rating in "Madden" last year. Where did the Packers fall short in San Fran? They didn't get the job done. That's where. And it's spelled "LaFleur."

Steve from Kansas City, MO

Am I the only one that wants a great running game to help out our defense? If the D gets no rest in between series, they will always degrade with fatigue as the game wears on. And add to that really bad-weather games where you have to run because nobody can hold on to a pass. Spending all your draft capital on a pass offense that is clearly adequate makes no sense. Plus, we have running backs coming up on contract time. Rodgers is way smart enough to appreciate this, no?

I believe Mike McCarthy was right when several years ago he placed a heavy emphasis on winning the battle for time of possession. The analytics support that hypothesis. I just don't know if the spread version of the West Coast offense was a great fit to accomplish that goal. What I learned in LaFleur's first year was how important a diverse and multiple ground game is to winning the game over 60 minutes.

Jim from Boynton Beach, FL

Good morning! Bob Costas said recently that the NFL may consider starting in November with the Super Bowl in March. He said the league might have to look into hosting games at a regional domed stadium because of freezing temps in outdoor venues like Chicago and Green Bay. "It's one thing to play playoff games in arctic conditions in Green Bay or Chicago in January," Costas said. "It's another thing to play regular-season games under those conditions." Huh? We play in 100-plus degrees in JAX and MIA.

Yeah, I don't know. Everyone is saying a lot of things right now…because the only thing most of us can do is talk at the moment. I'm not thinking about six months from now. I'm focused on tomorrow. But rest assured, the league is running the gamut with contingency plans.

Doug from Denver, CO

If the NFL plans to play a full season without fans, do you see them pushing for all games to be pay-per-view? I feel the NFL has been trying to move this way for a while.

Ha. One, PPV is a dying industry (See: WWE Network, DAZN). Two, broadcast deals wouldn't allow it. Remember, there are no fall sitcoms or specials being taped right now, either. Networks are in need of live content now more than ever.

Tyler from Calhoun, GA

Hey guys, what is your U/O for primetime games this season?

4.5 and I'd probably take the over. I mean they had five primetime games last year following a 6-9-1 season. The Packers are the Packers.

Russ from Billings, MT

So...why is it that we are subjected to the ungodly number of articles being published regarding the future of Aaron Rodgers?

Because controversy drives more clicks than the cool (stuff) like what Billy Turner is doing to raise money in support of medical professionals battling COVID-19 on the frontline.

The Green Bay Packers team dining staff is continuing to work in support of critical workers and students in need during this difficult time.

Shane from Coralville, IA

Hi II, hope you and your families are well. Outside of the 49ers and Vikings games, which opponent do you believe will be the greatest test next year and why? My knee-jerk pick was the Saints, however my gut is telling me the Titans due to their dedication to the run and play-action on offense and strong defensive front.

As long as the words "at San Francisco" appear on a Packers schedule, that's where my eyes are headed.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

As a former high school baseball player and a big baseball guy, I would love to see just one game played with no fans and no outside noise pumped in. How cool would it be to hear the chatter from the pros?

The networks might have to pipe crowd noise into the broadcasts to cover up some of that chatter.

William from Palmdale, CA

Mike wrote, "All in all, I believe the Packers' structure has served the franchise well in the modern era (cap/free agency) of NFL economics," and later, "What makes the $, ticket sales or TV?" Your factual answer, TV. Given we don't know what this 2020 season will bring in the overall scheme of things, I'd suggest GB is in fine shape given they are America's real team and have such a great worldwide following. Hopefully, they'll get their share of national TV coverage...winners usually do!

If you haven't had a chance to read MT5 from last Saturday yet, I strongly encourage you to do so. Mark Murphy fielded some pressing questions and enlightened us all on the organization's thought process. I certainly learned a thing or two.

Bob from St. Louis, MO

Is there anything to report on the virtual offseason program? What's happening?

All I know is it's indeed happening.

Brian from Columbia, MD

Regarding pay of elevated practice-squad players, collective bargaining agreement specifies "If Practice Squad Player is elevated to Club's Active/Inactive List for any regular season game...weekly compensation specified in...Practice Squad Player Contract will be adjusted for that game to 1/17th of the...minimum salary for Active/Inactive List players (i.e., the 'up' amount) with the same number of credited seasons." Players elevated automatically revert to the practice squad. (Art 33/Sec 5).

That's accurate. For the sake of argument, let's assume it's a rookie who's elevated from the practice squad. The base minimum salary for a rookie is $610,000 in 2020. So that player would make the prorated version of that amount ($35,882.36).

Dave from Comer, GA

With the prospect of playing in empty stadia, I propose the NFL schedule all the games for noon local time Sunday, and just delay the broadcast till that evening or the following night. Even save it till Thursday night. The players and coaches would appreciate the consistent schedule.

I'm sure they would but this is the live TV era.

Robert from Verona, WI

Have either of you ever been able to watch a flyover at Lambeau field from the rooftop deck in the south end zone?

No. The press box is close enough for me. I need to wear these pants the rest of the game.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

I know Insiders is predominantly about football and the Packers, but due to what is going on now, are you accepting quarantine-worthy questions?

Of course. We welcome them.

Levi from St Paul, MN

Thank you for posting my thoughts on the Alex Smith "E:60" story. And yes, you really should watch it. I have been proposing questions for some time now and to see it on II made my day. It started with Vic, and now you two have made it better. Thanks again for giving perspective and something to read. Now let's pray for COVID-19 to slow so we can have football. I have a hard time not hearing Bob Uecker. I don't think I could handle no football.

You know how I know an "E:60" is riveting? My wife, who couldn't care less about sports, stops what she's doing to watch it. It was fantastic.

Thomas from Oviedo, FL

In regards to the question about games being played without fans, if that happens, I think the Packers players need to call the Chargers players to find out how they dealt with that last season. I will see myself out, thanks.

I think the Chargers would've rather played in front of no fans last year instead of what became the equivalent of having to endure 16 road-game atmospheres. I loved that stadium, though.

Sean from Glen Ellyn, IL

Wes, can you ask Mike why it wasn't "Wes and me" not "me and Wes?" Does it matter who goes first? I was always taught to put the other people first in a sentence.

I'm going to stick a pin in this question and allow Spoff to expound on his reply in tomorrow's Inbox. In the business, they refer to this as a tease. Hashtag keep 'em coming back for more.

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