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Inbox: There's nothing more exciting than when a new playmaker emerges

Jerry Gray has a Ph.D. in tapping into a DB’s strengths

RB AJ Dillon
RB AJ Dillon

Dennis from Parrish, FL

The Inbox is being attacked by "Wide receiver fever." and I thought it was only the mock drafts!

And it could be a while before this fever passes. We're still another 28 days from the draft. Maybe Spoff will bring some Tylenol when he gets back from Key West.

Joe from Swansea, IL

Hey, II, based on what you saw last year, can Randall Cobb be an almost-every-down contributor this year, or will he be on a pitch count? What a story that would be, if '18' could be a major help to '12' overcoming the loss of '17.' GPG.

Cobb can handle a heavier workload if that's what his role calls for. He had one of his best seasons playing around 70% of the offensive snaps with Dallas in 2019, catching 55 passes for 828 yards. Cobb is one of the most well-conditioned athletes I've covered. It's more being smart with him over the course of a 17-game season to reduce wear-and-tear than having a set "pitch count" each week.

Robert from Verona, WI

Seeing the success of Rasul Douglas in Green Bay really highlights the importance that coaching and scheme factor into a player's success. What player (or players) do you think have demonstrably benefitted the most from moving to a new team/scheme? Are there any specific players that didn't find success in the NFL that you think may have made it on another team?

Douglas and De'Vondre Campbell are high on the list. Douglas put in the work, but it doesn't hurt to have a cornerback whisperer like Jerry Gray as your coach. He has a Ph.D. in how to tap into a DB's strengths and get the most out of him. He was the perfect teacher for a driven student. One player doesn't fit all in this league. There's nuance involved in player acquisition. John Kuhn, Robert Tonyan and Allen Lazard are a few other players who thrived with their second chance in Green Bay.

Michael from Santa Cruz, CA

What would constitute a Year 2 jump from Eric Stokes? The kid wildly exceeded expectations for his rookie year, even as a No. 1 pick. When Jaire Alexander went down, his "internship phase" immediately ended and he often found himself covering WR1s and WR2s 1-on-1. All he did was compete his tail off week after week while his confidence (and technique) steadily improved. Pro Bowls are in his future IMHO.

The only thing missing from Stokes' rookie resume was interceptions. His speed is impressive, but I was blown away by his coverage ability out of the gates. I can see why Davante Adams talked about Stokes possessing many of the same traits that Jaire Alexander did as a rookie. Like Alexander, Stokes doesn't panic and has a natural feel for a defender. He just needs to turn breakups into takeaways.

Jack from Black Mountain, NC

Robert Tonyan's return seems to be a critical piece to a multifaceted passing game, plus the added benefit of his blocking skills. How has the re-emergence of the tight end game changed the NFL offensive schemes?

You've seen it in Green Bay the past two seasons. This offense was different when Tonyan was healthy and available, especially inside the red/gold zone. This offense needs him. He's like another Lazard. What Tonyan brings isn't replaced by a single skill-position player.

Eric from Mequon, WI

For the NFL world to constantly rip on GB for not having any "quality" WRs outside Davante Adams, the same NFL world was quick to pick up as many GB WRs as they could get their hands on this offseason. Maybe their WR room wasn't so weak after all.

What's annoying to me is the Packers have proven they can cook, but the football world continues to rip on Green Bay for not ordering carryout. When it comes to receivers, the Packers' process clearly works. Pick another hill to faint on.

John from Aesch, BL Switzerland

Hey II, Thanks for all you do to keep us involved this time of year! Extending Corey from Albuquerque's question: in my mind, one of Davante's greatest strengths as a receiver was his ability to create separation right at his get-off from the line. What footwork and moves! How much do you think that ability will influence college and younger receivers to emulate those moves? How many will be able to? Is that something you start to look for when evaluating draft prospects as well?

Over the years, Adams talked about how much film he studied of other NFL receivers and now he's the belle of the ball. I'm sure there are certain things scouts can look for on college tape of prospects to gauge a prospect's foot work, but you don't know until you actually see it. To Adams' credit, he's improved every year since he got into the league. That's how you go from a solid prospect to a perennial Pro Bowler.

CJ from Cedar Rapids, IA

I foresee next season the star of the game in Week 1 to be Aaron Jones, Week 2 to be draft pick WR No. 1, Week 3 will be someone on defense, Week 4 Robert Tonyan, Week 5 AJ Dillon, Week 6 draft pick WR No. 2 and so on. Oh yeah throw in Aaron Rodgers in there someplace.

It might not be that varied but the offense will need to pull together and occasionally lean on new players – and that's what gets Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur out of bed in the morning. It's the thrill of chasing, and developing, the next big thing in your program. There's nothing more exciting than when a new playmaker emerges.

James from Chicago, IL

Losing an All-Pro WR hurts for sure, but you can have a productive offense without an All-Pro Pro Bowl WR. In this day and age, 80 catches, 1,100yds, and 8 TDs is a solid season, but is barely enough for a WR to finish in the top 20 in the league. So, wouldn't it reasonable to believe there are several WR that could bring solid production even if it's not what '17' was bringing to the field?

I'm interested to watch this second wave of free agency play out. From where I sit, Green Bay would be a golden opportunity for any receiver who is looking for a one-year deal to potentially break the bank next offseason. You can do a lot worse than an offense with a back-to-back league MVP that has 1,633 snaps it needs to replace at receiver.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Wes, when do you expect exclusive rights free agents to be signed?

It can take a little while. Last year, Robert Tonyan didn't sign his tender until May 27. Chandon Sullivan was April 23. That's pretty standard.

Zach from Philadelphia, PA

Corey from Albuquerque asked what characteristics the II GMs would look for if you were drafting a wide receiver. Conversely, are there any characteristics you wouldn't ascribe a lot of value to, or that you think are overvalued by others?

I think too much is made about size, both good and bad. Davante Adams is 6-1 and listed at 215. Allen Lazard is 6-5, 227. They don't succeed because of their build. They are successful because of their work ethic and how they use what the good lord gave them to make plays.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

Right now, before any additional adds, who is the third MLB and third edge rusher? Are they on the team?

It would be Ty Summers and Jonathan Garvin, I suppose.

David from Janesville, WI

Wes – a lot of talk about the draft coming to Green Bay but it seems to land elsewhere instead. The team and the city have made some great improvements at and around Lambeau Field, but I've still heard concerns about the city not being ready to host an event like the NFL Draft. Do you agree, and if so, what are the two or three missing pieces to make Green Bay a great host city and what sort of timeline would it take to get there?

It's difficult to say without being in those conversations, but I think Green Bay is close. As someone who was born and raised here, I can tell you firsthand how much better equipped it is to handle an event like the NFL Draft than it was 20 years ago. In the meantime, Discover Green Bay and the Packers will continue working to answer all the lingering questions the league may have.

Jim from Superior, WI

We lost Za'Darius Smith, Billy Turner, MVS, E.Q. St. Brown, Oren Burks, Lucas Patrick and Chandon Sullivan. We gained Keisean Nixon, Jarran Reed and Pat O'Donnell. I saw an article that we would only get a number 5 pick for 2023. It seems we lost more than we are getting.

The Packers won't receive compensation for Za'Darius or Turner because they were released. The compensatory formula is based on net-loss. OverTheCap currently has the Packers getting a fifth-round pick because Marquez Valdes-Scantling's contract with Kansas City is the only "net loss." The contracts for Reed and Patrick are viewed as a wash. The other UFAs' compensation isn't high enough to factor into the equation.

John from Palmdale, CA

Good morning, II. Thanks again for all the info and entertainment. You helped big time getting this old fart through the worst of the Pandemic. What's the story with Kevin King? Are they trying to keep him? I'm drooling at the thought of him, Alexander, Douglas and Stokes all available at once.

King is one of five Packers unrestricted free agents still on the market, along with Corey Bojorquez, Whitney Mercilus, Tyler Lancaster and Dennis Kelly. I haven't read or heard much about what King's next move will be. Joe Barry found a unique role for him in the dime near the end of the season, but certainly the three names you mentioned currently stand high atop the CB depth chart.

Jayson from Fayetteville, NC

How excited are you about the locker room being reopened for reporters this season? I know you've spoken on it a few times, but now it is reality. With that in mind, how do you think most of the players will react? They've had this space to themselves now for two years. The environment might have changed for the players. Additionally, we now have two years' worth of players not used this either because of the COVID, how do you think they'll handle it?

I'm excited for it. I enjoy interacting with players and getting to know their personalities. It'll be good to build working relationships with the incoming rookies. It's hard to believe but I've yet to stand face-to-face with AJ Dillon or Jon Runyan. Selfishly, I did kind of enjoy not having to just stand around the locker room three or four days a week. It'll be somewhat strange the first time I walk back into that locker room after spending two years on Zoom.

Thomas from Cedar Rapids, IA

Do you have any doubts whatsoever that if the Packers make the playoffs this year, they will win the coin toss and score a TD?

It's going to be wild the first time a team wins the overtime coin toss and proclaims, "They can have the ball but we're gonna score."

Chip from Detroit, MI

Not sure why you think second team to score TD in overtime would go for two points more. Are they really going to risk a non-scoring play when a PAT keeps them in the game?

But you're not trying to stay in the game. YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME. HELLO? And it's back to sudden death if both teams score touchdowns and kick extra points. So, I would put my chips on my offense pushing the ball two yards into the end zone than asking my worn-out defense to keep the opposition out of field-goal range.

Travis from Green Bay, WI

Special teams are very much in the spotlight this year. We changed long snapper last year. Is that a position they still feel needs improvement?

Steven Wirtel is under contract for 2022, but it wouldn't surprise me if the Packers bring in competition for him during/after the draft. They carried two long snappers on their offseason roster last year.

Brian from Waukesha, WI

Here's the perfect OT rule: The ball is placed on the 50, dead center of the field. Each team lines up at their respective 45, all eleven players must toe the line to prevent bunching. The whistle blows and the rush to the ball begins. The team that recovers is the game winner. Let's see who wants it more, and all that. The fans would go nuts, and go home knowing the final outcome in mere minutes. What could be fairer than that?

A 3-point competition?

Luc from Mattawa, Ontario, Canada

Wondering if Gordon Batty still worked for the team. I will never forget pumping gas as a teen in my small town late at night when a minivan pulled in with Wisconsin plates. I never talked with customers but felt I had to ask him if he was a Green Bay Packers fan. His eyes light up as we talked football. Before he left, he handed me a Packers hat and put his Super Bowl ring in my hand. I will never forget that feeling and would like to thank him. I'm 44 now and still wear the hat.

Gordon "Red" Batty doesn't just work for the Green Bay Packers – he is the Green Bay Packers. And he's still every bit as fiery today as the day you had the pleasure of meeting him.

Ryan from Bloomer, WI

Hi Wes. I just read that Taysom Hill will move to tight end this year for the Saints. Do you know if No. 88 is available in NOLA...I'll see myself out...

Taysom has been a true enigma in the NFL, but he's also quietly turning 32 this year. I hope the Saints and Hill can figure out a spot that works for him the rest of the way. He's a good dude. I'll always root for that guy's success.

Gary from Cross Plains, WI

Wes, wait. You're broiling your fish? Oh, must be because you're in FL. Because if you were home, it would be a fish boil, wouldn't it?

I know what I said, Gary. If you ain't broilin', I ain't buyin'.

Jeffrey from Eveleth, MN

How about this. For overtime, each team gets one possession. If still tied, we go to an 18-hole playoff on Monday at a local golf course?

That works for me. Well, it is good to be home. You'll have one more Inbox with me before Spoff gets back into the car. Make it a great Thursday.