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Inbox: There’s a lot of unknown, but a lot of anticipation

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Randy from Benton City, WA

Mike, I’m guessing that fielding questions on quidditch never crossed your mind when you were in journalism school. I think the second part of that is, enjoy the journey because we never know where it is going to go.

I learned that a long time ago, and I try to remember it as often as I can.

Jay from Brookfield, CT

With the expected increased reliance of the run game this year do you see using a fullback more than in recent years? As a number of Insiders have stated I too am concerned about how Aaron Jones will hold up throughout an entire season. A fullback might help but it also seems to be a lost position in today's NFL.

I expect the offense to have fullback functions, but whether those will be carried out by a true fullback or a hybrid-type tight end, I can’t say. Danny Vitale is an interesting prospect at fullback because of all his receiving stats in college at Northwestern. Will he fit what LaFleur wants to do on offense? We’ll find out.

Eric from Sauk City, WI

A few days ago, the II was talking about rivalries and other divisions similar to the NFC North. This got me thinking, who is (or are) the New England Patriots’ true rivals? Years ago, I would have guessed the Jets because of Rex Ryan, but now-a-days, is it safe to say all teams in the AFC are their rival? Or even saying every other NFL team is their rival? Who do you think Tom Brady would consider his rival(s)?

I think annually it’s still the Jets, but for a long time the Patriots’ and Brady’s biggest rival was Peyton Manning, whether QB for the Colts or Broncos. Nothing has really come along to replace that.

Rob from Brookfield, WI

Spoff, you strike me as a baseball purist, so I wonder your thoughts on the new pace of play and other rules MLB is proposing.

I have no problem with a pitch clock when the bases are empty. That seems harmless and positive. I think the limit on mound visits can be reduced, too, since the ones that result in a pitching change don’t count. I’m not crazy about a minimum-batters rule for relief pitchers, though. I think that messes with strategy too much.

Kyle from Osceola, WI

Good answer regarding "Slap Shot" and "Miracle." They're 1A and 1AA in my book. The coincidence of you answering my question on “Miracle On Ice” day (the 39th anniversary) didn't escape me either. Well played, sir.

I took a few minutes to watch the highlights again yesterday. As great as Al Michaels’ final call is, I still love his line in the intro: “I’m sure there are a lot of people in this building who do not know the difference between a blue line and a clothesline. It’s irrelevant. It doesn’t matter.” It’s mind-boggling to think the game broadcast of something so monumental was actually tape-delayed.

John from Toledo, OH

Will DeShone Kizer get more reps this upcoming season?

I hope not, unless they’re in the fourth quarter with the Packers leading big.

Brandon from Cavalier, ND

In my opinion yards per carry is the most overused stat in NFL coverage. There are so many variables that go into it and typically one or two long runs can drastically change a player’s YPC, yet I rarely see anyone using the stat acknowledge this. Do you agree? Or do you think that YPC is a good indicator of player talent comparison?

Explosive plays matter, but for some players YPC isn’t useful. Barry Sanders used to get tackled behind the line of scrimmage a lot, but he’d also break a ton of 40- and 50-yard runs. YPC for a player like that is meaningless. But for a back who’s more of a grinder and less of a game-breaker, like Jerome Bettis for example, it can say a lot.

Scott from Las Vegas, NV

My friend from Wisconsin thinks the Packers aren’t far off from a Super Bowl-caliber team. Get free agents Earl Thomas and Anthony Barr, re-sign Mo Wilkerson, pick up an edge, tight end, and some help on the O-line in the draft and we have a solid lineup. Do you think it’s that simple?

No, because even if you can acquire multiple proven players in free agency, no one’s really going to know until October how much the draft class can help right away. It’s the nature of throwing young players into the fire.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

Rodgers has known the offense inside out for some time now. It was almost like he was the epicenter of knowledge, and the other skill players were some degree less as they learned the ins and outs. It will be interesting to see how the offense works when everyone is learning at the same time.

Couldn’t agree more. This transition is the kind of thing that can foster team chemistry quickly.

Jeff from Kaukauna, WI

Am I way off from thinking that the TE position for GB is just fine the way it is? As in, we don't need an elite guy. Isn't GB better off with a couple solid blocking TEs for the extra protection that can chip and roll out on some plays, and occasionally split off for a slant or drag route? Statistically speaking, AR12 doesn't like TEs anyway. Especially if we can spend the money on different positions. I get confused when people write in or comment about a "need" that isn't truly a need.

I don’t know where you get the idea Rodgers doesn’t like tight ends. The rules have made the middle of the field the safest place for pass catchers, and the best way to get a mismatch in the middle of the field is for a tight end to have the speed advantage on a linebacker or size advantage on a safety. I’m sure Rodgers is looking forward to a second year with Graham, and aside from that, the Packers must address the future at the position.

Patrick from Burlington, IL

Do you ever get questions that you don't need to edit? Have you ever rejected a question because it required too much editing?

Yes, plenty, on both counts.

Todd from Omaha, NE

Not a question, but I read an article that said Green Bay is one of five teams employing three special teams coaches. With how bad our special teams have been, this is refreshing to see more of a commitment to improving that facet of the team.

I charted all the special-teams penalties from 2018 in preparation for the story I wrote earlier in the week on Shawn Mennenga, and it was startling how quickly things went sour. The Packers had just two penalties accepted against them in the kicking game through the first four weeks, and they had blocked a punt for a touchdown against the Vikings. Then came Detroit in Week 5 – five accepted penalties, five missed kicks, the questionable muffed punt leading to a TD. From there, it was as though the units never recovered. Nine of the last 12 games included multiple accepted penalties, with only one penalty-free game. But even that was at Los Angeles – with a fake punt allowed, two punts downed inside the GB 5-yard line, and the late Montgomery fumble. It’s been said plenty already. The Packers gave themselves way too much to overcome in that phase.

Team photographer Evan Siegle shares some of his favorite images of the 2018 season.

James from Asheville, NC

Watching game highlights from the past 20 years (basically Brett Favre onward) I remember the glory special-teams days of Craig Hentrich and Chris Jacke. Have the Packers ever had a better punter/place kicker duo?

Bidwell-Longwell was also a strong duo. It’s a shame Crosby and Ryan were together only one year.

Donny from Green Bay, WI

I saw a report that said no 2018 free agents made the Pro Bowl (as starters) this past season. After a quick perusal of a top 100 free agents listing, I was blown away by how many "top guys" underperformed or were overpaid. Reminds me of going back and looking at a first-round draft board five years later. My conclusion comes back to the theory of draft good players, take as many swings at the plate as you can, use free agency to fill in gaps and hope the ball bounces your way.

Free agency is expensive, even when you get it right. When you get it wrong, it’s even more costly.

Jim from Dunlap, IL

When a team plays in London, etc., how does the local community get compensated for revenue lost because of losing a home game? Not the team, but the community.

It doesn’t, which is why Mark Murphy has stated repeatedly the Packers won’t give up a home game to play an international game. Home games are the economic lifeblood here more so than in any other NFL market.

Matthew from Madison, WI

Before the baloney stops in fall, do you have a favorite baloney of the offseason? Or is all baloney the same?

I always love how on the first night of the draft every team claims it got its guy. Cracks me up.

Sandy from Green Bay, WI

Do you feel last year's new receivers are poised for a significant growth spurt in the upcoming season?

I don’t think they’re going to get any taller. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Yes, their opportunity to grow will be significant. Going through an NFL offseason program for the first time will help them physically and mentally. How they adjust to the new offense will also factor in. There’s a lot of unknown, but a lot of anticipation with those guys.

Brian from Schertz, TX

Insiders, there are many articles floating around on sites like Bleacher Report regarding PFF grades. I have read about the system, which seems somewhat subjective by the evaluator. However, I wonder if this system is mainly for fans or do you know if GMs and coaching staffs use these analytics?

Teams use them, but as a piece of the evaluation pie, not the whole enchilada. I’m not aware of any teams that use PFF as a sole resource.

Tom from Eau Claire, WI

I keep hearing comments about the Packers “planning to run the ball more” this next season. Haven’t we been trying to do that for years? You can plan all you want but you have to make it happen. We need to see if this new staff can put the pieces in place and put a plan into action to make it happen. Then AR has to stick with it.

Absolutely.

Sean from Boonsboro, MD

Insiders, am I the only one out there who believes that it is crucial that the Packers re-sign Bashaud Breeland before free agency starts? During the games he played this past year, he was a clear difference-maker and provided a strong veteran presence for guys like Jaire Alexander, who came out and said that he NEEDED Breeland back. Considering they can probably sign him to a team-friendly deal, and given Kevin King’s inability to stay healthy, what is Gute waiting for?

Both Wes and I have made our feelings on Breeland clear, but what makes you assume the Packers can get him with a “team-friendly deal”? I suspect it’s Breeland waiting to see what might be available to him, and I don’t blame him.

See photos of the 2019 Green Bay Packers coaching staff

Lori from Heredia, Costa Rica

Hey Mike, no compensatory picks for the Packers in this year's draft. When is the last time that happened?

2009.

Tim from Trempeleau, WI

What is the complete list of Green Bay Packers draft choices this year?

Steve from Barnhart, MO

What do you believe is the greatest trait Matt LaFleur brings to the Packers?

Way too early to tell, but I can’t wait to find out.

Tony from Kansas City, MO

Division games are important because winning the division guarantees you a spot in the playoffs. A 10-6 record does not.

True enough.

Dick from Pound, WI

Question on Lombardi years: 1963 when Paul Hornung was serving his suspension, the Packers were 11-2-1. Beaten by the Bears twice. Given that, if Hornung had played that season, would we be talking six championships? I was 13 then and I feel it would have been a different season. I know, what if.

The Bears finished 11-1-2, so yeah, if Green Bay had just split with them, it would have been Packers-Giants for the NFL title for the third year in a row.

Scott from Fredonia, WI

Mike, when referring to the franchise tag, does Wes pronounce it "tag" or "taeg"?

I’m sure he’d love to answer that question himself next week when he’s back. Have a great weekend, everybody.

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