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Inbox: They are who they were supposed to be…and more

The Rodgers-Brady matchup is the birthday present you never expected

Linebackers Preston Smith, Za'Darius Smith
Linebackers Preston Smith, Za'Darius Smith

Robin from Ashburn, VA

Really interested in the matchup between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Any thoughts on the potential match?

It has the potential to be one of the most historically significant games I've covered and I cannot wait for it. I left Gillette Stadium almost two years ago thinking that might be the last time I see those two square off, so this matchup is getting a birthday present you never expected. Good morning!

Matt from Fort Worth, TX

After a stellar first year as Packers, what can the Smiths improve on and what is the expectation for them this year?

Stay ahead of the curve. Because those two aren't catching anyone off-guard anymore. Every OC in the league is going to be scheming to contain the Smiths and every offensive lineman is going to be giving them his best game. The Smiths have to find new ways to dominate and I have faith they will. At the end of the day, they are who they were supposed to be…and more.

Aaron from Monroe, MI

UFC was the first live sport to return to TV. The experience was different. You can hear the athletes breathing and the trainers' conversations. If football is without fans in the seats, the experience would be difficult to get used to. Big-play TDs and no roar of the crowd, all quiet would take some of the electricity away. Would the players still do celebrations? What about Lambeau Leaps? Players want fans pumped up for home games! Cardboard cutouts of fans in seats!

Fans are a huge part of the NFL. They are the soundtrack that make it such a special communal experience. We'll cross that bridge with fans when we come to it but I have zero doubts about how networks, organizations and players would keep things entertaining if games begin without a crowd. Just imagine what the Smiths and the defense might come up with. I hope the league would embrace it.

Guilherme from Lins, Brazil

Were Wes's article and the Rock Report video about Vernon Scott planned to be posted on the same day? I am excited about his versatility and what he can bring to special teams. About his role on defense, do you think the Packers see him in the slot corner race or is he set to play more as a safety and/or a hybrid linebacker?

That wasn't planned at all. In fact, the story got pushed up at the last minute from Friday to Wednesday because of another piece of content falling through. Scott finished his career at TCU as a strong safety but he's played everywhere. At 6-2, 205, he's also big enough to play in the box against the run. First and foremost, however, Scott needs to earn a spot on special teams before any of the defensive chatter is relevant, and he knows that.

Mark from Monrovia, CA

Good morning, Wes. Another great piece on Vernon Scott. I was thinking if he did have his pro day at TCU he probably wouldn't have been there at 236. Man, what a diamond in the rough. He sounds like a good kid and good fit on special teams. Thanks again for all your hard work. It's nice to get to know these young men since the offseason workouts aren't going on.

The Packers had the right approach with those two seventh-round picks. They drafted a 20-year-old pass rusher in Jonathan Garvin, whose best football is still ahead of him, and a senior safety in Scott, who only started one season at TCU and didn't get a pro day. There's a lot of upside there and that's what you're looking for in those late rounds.

Mike from Ames, IA

The No. 91 discussion (I miss Brian Noble, too) got me wondering – what Packer jersey number, aside from retired/soon-to-be-retired ones, has had the most combined success in the history of the franchise? Recently No. 52 and No. 80 come to mind for me. Also No. 75 has a strong Bulaga/Grady Jackson/Ken Ruettgers lineage that I really like.

I consider No. 36 sacred. It might not have the most combined success but LeRoy Butler, Nick Collins and Mike Michalske represent three of the most important eras in franchise history.

Daniel from Potosi, WI

It sounds like Jamaal Williams' time in Green Bay might be coming to an end. I hope not. Would it be better to have Jamaal Williams or Dexter Williams to go along with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon?

In February, Matt LaFleur made it clear he wants a third established back in the offense and he gets a good one in Dillon. Three months later, all the questions are about if this means the end of Aaron Jones and/or Jamaal Williams. How about we get the guys back to Green Bay and see how this backfield performs in its current form?

Paul from Colorado Springs, CO

Many-time questioner, perhaps first-time answered. Besides the first-round pick (no problem with Jordan Love, just think better players were available), I loved this draft class. Our three offensive linemen Jon Runyan, Jake Hanson, and Simon Stepaniak all have the ability to make impacts in the NFL and for the Packers. Do you think they were drafted to protect Rodgers into his twilight years, replace veterans on the O-line, or build a nucleus for the near future (a.k.a. Dallas)?

We gotta keep it all in perspective. We're talking about three sixth-round picks, not a bevy of first-rounders like the Cowboys once had. Realistically, the Packers drafted three guys with the hope one, maybe two, become contributors. That's all you can hope for on Day 3. What I do like about the O-line room, though, is the depth behind the starting five. Lane Taylor has been an established player in this league for a long time, Lucas Patrick is getting there, and you have Alex Light and Yosh Nijman coming back, as well.

Laura from Arlington, VA

What can teams do during these unprecedented times to prepare players, especially rookies, for the potential upcoming season?

I can't speak for the rest of the NFL but the Packers are doing everything they can.

William from Palmdale, CA

Wes: "NFL owners/coaches gave the officials an avenue last year to right a few wrongs, NY wanted no part of it." INTRIGUING! NY meaning the NFL replay official that decides, right?! Point: so, presumably that person doesn't want the officials second-guessed?! Who hasn't thought of what TV execs are hoping for other than increased audiences/more revenue; who has more to gain or lose? And what of can't we just get this right for the sake of the game and its integrity?

I don't know what the reasoning was for New York refusing to overturn PI after the first month of the season. Frankly, I've moved past it at this point.

Mike from Los Angeles, CA

I know the Packers always try to take high-character players in the draft, but do you feel an extra metric has to apply whether they can thrive in a cold-weather/small-town environment, too? If so, do you feel at times this can put us at a disadvantage when assembling our board? Or does it become more of a "Player X will be a superstar in a big market, but he's not a good fit for us" mentality?

I don't think either is that big of a deal anymore. Eddie Lacy grew up in Louisiana, played at Alabama and proved to be an ideal cold-weather back. Today, I think the small-market thing has become an actual advantage for Green Bay. The cost of living is cheap, the tax rate isn't bad, it's easy to get around town and it's only two hours from Milwaukee and 3½ hours from Chicago. More than anything, notoriety will eventually find you if your team is winning – and the Packers have won a lot over the last three decades.

Justin from Wausau, WI

I am not a minority, but if I were, I can only imagine how unsettling it would be to think that the interview I might get for a HC/GM job would be offered to me only to satisfy some arbitrary quota, rather than based on my qualifications. The way I see it, the net effect is the opposite of the intention of the rule. All teams want to hire the best people, and you have to believe they will, regardless of ethnic background. Unless you really believe systemic racism exists in the NFL.

Agreed, but we need to make sure we're giving the best people the biggest platforms available to showcase their talent. I believe this measure is a massive step in the right direction. It not only could help open doors for minority head coaches but also will allow position coaches more upward mobility to the coordinator ranks. I think what had happened previously is the same coordinators kept getting recycled because teams would block their assistants from interviewing elsewhere. It still isn't perfect but we're making progress as a league.

Bob from Riverside, CA

That was a fun slice this morning. The "latest" podcasts took a time machine back to May 2018. Fun to hear Mike announcing you were coming from the Packers studio.

I miss that studio.

John from Sioux Falls, SD

Insiders, I must respectfully disagree with Spoff on the role of Don Majkowski in the resurgence of the Packers. That '89 season was amazing and brought hope back to a fan base that had seen their team become a punch line. Majik took a terrible beating in carrying those Packer teams and it shortened and limited his career, but he will always hold a place of high honor in my book. He gave us back our pride.

Majkowski gave fans hope with that 1989 season but I side with Spoff on this one. The real resurgence began the day the Packers hired Ron Wolf.

Cory from Bozeman, MT

I find the handling of longer travel for certain away games really fascinating. Even though most stats say the team that's traveling multiple time zones, especially the away team traveling a long distance on Thursday night games, has a poor W-L record, teams don't seem to change anything about how they deal with these trips. Could you see a team traveling to a city early on in the week and preparing the team away from home to alleviate some of this in the future?

You must weigh the costs and the benefits, right? It's costly to send a team one day earlier, let alone several. We'll see what the Packers choose to do in 2020. They have a lot to consider, with COVID-19 looming over all of us and also how the team performed last year on the West Coast.

Joshua from Houston, TX

I did see the replay of the Hail Mary to Randall Cobb and it looked like he and the defensive back pushed off each other at the same time, which is all the more reason to not make the pass interference call.

That's the rub of the green on Hail Marys. Cobb was in the right place at the right time and made the play that was there to be made. Also, can anyone name the last time an OPI or DPI was called on a Hail Mary? I was trying to think of one and came up empty.

Jodi from Grand Rapids, WI

Would team owners (not the Packers) ever use playing during the pandemic to exert leverage (or even attempt to break) player unions? There is a lot of owners (again, not the Packers) I wouldn't trust to hold my beer while I tied my shoe.

I don't think so. If the NFL really wanted to be that devious, it could have walked away from the negotiating table at the start of the pandemic. Instead, the league and the NFLPA got a new CBA done, providing stability and vision over the next decade for players and owners alike.

Dan from Morehead City, NC

I've wondered for a long time what constitutes a missed tackle or a dropped pass. Is it like baseball that if you don't touch the ball there is no error? So if the tackler gets his feet caught in his jock strap and totally whiffs, is it a missed tackle? If the receiver gets alligator arms and the ball sails just past his fingertips, is it a drop?

Alligator arms look bad but I don't think you can label it as a drop. On defense, however, I would credit a player with a missed tackle if he failed to break down properly and whiffs on the tackle. Admittedly, it's all highly subjective.

Mike from New Orleans, LA

You mentioned James Jones as having great hands after the poor 2010 season, and it took me aback. Was it really only one season with the drops? I remember a number of them vividly and my brain thinks it was a constant throughout his career, apart from his final hoodie season. Is this just a case of false memory?

Pro Football Focus had Jones for 10 drops in 2009 and another eight in '10. After that, he never had more than six in a season, and only 16 total during his final four years combined. He's a great example for any young receiver.

Peter from Livonia, MI

This upcoming season will include a lot of uniform updates around the league, which got me thinking about our throwback alternates. Personally, I've never been a fan of the look. I'd love to see us roll out a Lombardi-era throwback alternate uniform set. Obviously there wouldn't be a major change from the current main uniforms, but I think they would look awesome on the field. What are your thoughts on the new looks in the league, and our current throwbacks?

It's getting to be too much. I understand why teams do it – to keep up with trends, to fresh-up culture, and obviously the motivating power of the almighty dollar. That being said, some organizations are switching things up every few years. Find your identity – don't keep refurbishing it.

Iker from Ameca, Mexico

When basketball comes up on II everyone talks about the Bucks and how this was their year. Being a Packers fan, the Bucks have a place in my heart, but let's be honest, nobody is beating the Lakers in seven games.

Fortunately, the Bucks only need six.

Dan from Allen, TX

So, after seeing Mike's description of what it takes to be a successful receiver in the league, I think I can handle all those elements. I'm a little worried that my age (58) and unofficial 40 time of 5.4 might hold me back. Thoughts?

You may not be threatening anyone's roster spot, but you are doing something right if you're really running a 5.4 40 at 58 years young.

Ben from Milton, WI

I was wondering what the process is like of creating this great column. As the article is published around 8:30 a.m. each day, when do you all typically write it and when do you cut off questions? I'm guessing you don't write from the hours of 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. to answer the most current and pressing questions. Thanks for the work you do!

I couldn't write the column from 5-8 a.m. three days a week. This is Wisconsin but I still think it's frowned upon to drink that early. I kid, I kid. Have a great Thursday, everyone.