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Inbox: They make each other better

The safety competition is as wide open as any on the roster

WR Christian Watson, WR Romeo Doubs
WR Christian Watson, WR Romeo Doubs

Bruce from Jackson, WI

Mike/Wes and II, every day the picture becomes a little clearer about the 2023 Packers squad and I'm liking what I see. The team is playing with an energy and excitement we haven't seen the past few years. The coaches are going to have some tough decisions come the cutdown date as the quality of the backups and bench has improved greatly. Anyone dismissing the Packers this year because there is a new QB under center is in for a big surprise!

The Packers are talent rich at several key spots. Just when you think one position is settling down, there's a new first- or second-year player who steps up. It's what you want to see in August.

Dustin from Kansas City, MO

I was on vacation all last week and completely checked out from the real world, so I'm just now catching up on the preseason opener highlights. I can't get enough of Malik Heath pulling a Michael Oher and taking that Bengals corner to the bus. I mean seriously, how awesome was that to see? I know it's anyone's guess at this point, but do you think he is the frontrunner for that sixth wide receiver spot? Assuming they keep that many.

Receiver is one of those positions I was referring to. I think Heath, Samori Toure, Dontayvion Wicks and Bo Melton have all done good things. Grant DuBose has had a couple nice grabs, too, since returning from his back injury. The competition rolls on, but certainly the coaches have noticed Heath's blocking ability.

Jason from Austin, TX

Y'all were probably asked this after Lazard's departure, but I could use a refresher now that the season is about to start. Who do you think is the best run-blocking WR in the group? I understand there are a lot of youngsters in there, but I think I remember Watson holding his own as a rookie last season. How are the other guys?

I'm neither a coach nor a scout, but I felt like Watson was pretty darn good as a blocker last year. It's not entirely surprising. Watson did plenty of it at North Dakota State. However, he's also the Packers' top receiver and a dangerous deep threat. Having a young receiver who can fill that "goon" role would be welcome in this offense.

Jim from Eau Claire, WI

I know it's a preseason game, but it just feels better when we win and the team plays well.

I mean, 36 points is 36 points…and finding the end zone with reserves isn't always the easiest accomplishment in the preseason. Green Bay scored 37 points during an entire preseason (four games) in 2013.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Preseason performance is obviously critical for those trying to land a roster spot, and several young guys showed up against Cincinnati. Do you believe each of the three preseason games is equal in importance, or is the final game more important based on recency bias?

I feel like the finale is always the most important because established starters rarely play. It's up to the young guys to shine and a fair number of jobs have been won and lost in that game. James Crawford, Chris Banjo and Micah Abernathy all secured spots on the 53 based on their final performance. On the other end, the Packers completely overhauled their QB room after Vince Young and B.J. Coleman struggled at Kansas City in 2013. Several rookies are off to sensational starts but you have to stick the landing.

Mark from De Pere, WI

Good morning! There has been a lot of talk recently that Romeo Doubs is WR1 and not Christian Watson . But after seeing some practices and the preseason game, Watson demands so much attention on the field that I feel it would hurt this team more to lose him to an injury (heaven forbid) than Doubs. Your thoughts.

It would hurt to lose either. As many of you know, I couldn't care less about labeling receivers WR1, WR2, WR31, etc. Watson and Doubs each have their own strengths and win routes differently. They make each other better at the end of the day, which is the hallmark of any great receiving tandem.

Vinny from Arlington, VA

Will the fact that GB will have two scrimmages against the Patriots this week impact whether to play veterans and starters in the preseason game? Also, surprised they didn't opt for two scrimmages with Cincinnati as they did with the Patriots to maximize the amount of time practicing against an opponent and aid in preparation.

Well, the Patriots game is one day later than the Bengals. That's not nothing when Green Bay was coming off a late practice on Family Night, a Saturday. I don't have a clue how the Packers will attack this preseason game. Maybe Jordan Love gets enough work in the two joint practices that the coaches deem it unnecessary for the starters to play Saturday…or perhaps not? I don't know. We'll have to see how it goes.

Joe from Wausau, WI

Matt LaFleur talked about this team having more of an attacking attitude than maybe we've seen in the past. Is this something the coaches had stressed? Or is it more organic, caused by new players coming in, and new players moving into leadership roles with the departure of some veterans?

It's been a point of emphasis since the spring that the Packers want to attack more and put the opposition on its heels. Twelve passes defensed and two interceptions in Cincinnati is a good start for the defense and completing 27-of-36 passes also is a positive sign for the offense.

Dave from Gwinn, MI

Can consistency be taught or coached? Is it something most rookies don't have but players gain with time? Or is it something you either have or don't, and if you don't, it leads to a rather short NFL career?

That's hard to say because some rookies (e.g. David Bakhtiari, Romeo Doubs, and now Carrington Valentine) come in and perform at a high level from the jump. Their consistency almost surprises you. In other cases, it may take time for everything to come into alignment, but it eventually does (e.g. Kenny Clark, Jordy Nelson and Rashan Gary). The key is having enough guys who know their assignment and perform to the standard on a daily basis. That's how you succeed in any walk of life.

Mark from Westminster, CO

Decisive and unflappable. That's how I would describe Sean Clifford's play Friday night. It's only one preseason game, but his DNA has NFL QB potential written all over it. What a pleasant surprise.

Like Spoff said, there is a tendency for rookie quarterbacks to play tentative in their first preseason. Sean Clifford was anything but. LaFleur called him a "gamer" last week. It's the perfect descriptor.

Randy from Billings, MT

Only one game and I am not trying to anoint Sean Clifford yet but have to admit that his performance was reminiscent of Favre. How he came out full go after the pick-six and the following interception was entertaining and showed an aggressive, don't-look-back attitude. He was knocked for lack of arm strength by lots of "draft-know-it-alls." Does it seem like he has adequate arm strength?

I've seen no issues with Clifford's arm strength over the past four months and he hasn't been shy about airing it out, either. You can see why James Franklin and the Penn State coaches fell in love with the kid. Clifford wears his love for this sport on his sleeve. Again, I've been watching NFL preseason football with a critical eye for more than a decade now. Rarely have I seen a rookie, drafted in any round, come out and play the way Clifford did on Friday. Just look at how his numbers compare to his fellow rookie QBs. But now he must build on that.

Cindy from Mesa, AZ

Good morning! Did the first preseason game give any clarity to the competition at safety?

Owens is the leading candidate. He's been holding that spot down for more than a week now, but Tarvarius Moore and Anthony Johnson Jr. also are getting looks. That competition is as wide open as any on the roster.

Steve from Ankeny, IA

Don't forget the safety that never gets mentioned, Anthony Johnson. He led the team in tackles against the Bengals. He's the sleeper I am pulling for.

Johnson is climbing. The next two weeks are going to be huge for the former Iowa State DB in his march for a roster spot and possibly more.

Jeff from Indian Lake, NY

Was that Coach LaFleur showing off that cannon for an arm behind you during “Three Things?!" Can a head coach be an emergency backup QB? I hear he was a pretty decent field general back at Saginaw Valley State.

That it was. I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the profile I wrote on LaFleur after he was named Packers head coach in 2019. It came courtesy of former Saginaw Valley State coach Randy Awrey: "I'm telling you if he was bigger, he'd be playing in the NFL." Matt's too humble to say it, but he was a hell of a QB and still can sling it.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Thank you for the article, "Cincinnati trip worth more than on-field work to Packers." Who knew cornhole was so important for bonding? Please consider making a rookie tutorial video for those new to this game.

I wasn't able to get into it during the story, but Jon Runyan told me LaFleur is quite the cornhole player, too. I guess the team had a doubles tournament two years ago and LaFleur's team beat Runyan and running back Patrick Taylor in a best-of-three championship series.

Gina from Waukesha, WI

I think it was great that Kenneth Odumegwu got a chance to play in the first preseason game. And to hear that he received a game ball was cool. With Odumegwu's special circumstances, is it a given that he will make the practice squad?

It's up to the club's discretion if it wants to retain a player from the International Pathway Program after training camp, but the Packers will receive a practice-squad exemption for Odumegwu if they choose to keep him. Based on LaFleur's high praise this week, I have no reason to think Green Bay wouldn't. Ken is a great dude who's hungry to learn.

Jeff from Montclair, VA

ML mentioned in his postgame presser that he liked the energy on the sideline. I said the same thing when I saw "33" run from the sidelines into the end zone to congratulate Tyler Goodson on his TD run. Have you seen this throughout camp? I'm hyped if they can keep it up.

For sure, and it's on both sides of the ball. If someone scores, the offense is running to celebrate with him. If someone grabs a takeaway like Carrington Valentine did Monday, the defense is sprinting down in excitement. There is youthful energy in this locker room.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

There appears to be a great deal of depth at CB (once Eric Stokes returns) as both Carrington Valentine and Shemar Jean-Charles flashed a few times against the Bengals. I realize that Rudy Ford, Jonathan Owens and Tarvarius Moore all have experience at safety, but is there any chance we might see a dime defense with four CBs on the field at the same time?

When it comes to the slot position in dime, it's all hands on deck. Just look at the depth chart: 1. Keisean Nixon (a cornerback). 2. Innis Gaines (a safety). 3 Jean-Charles (a cornerback). So yeah, it's entirely possible the Packers will use a dime package with four corners this year.

Matthew from Sheboygan, WI

While watching our first preseason game, I found it more difficult to evaluate what I was seeing. With the baseline of our team having been reset in so many areas, comparisons to last year – or to the last 15 years for that matter – are less applicable or helpful. As analysts, have you also experienced a reset in how you are processing what you're seeing? If so, has this been intellectually challenging, intriguing, stimulating, or all of the above?

Not for that reason. Regardless of how the team is built, the hardest is juggling watching live action, taking notes, and still doing our other website duties. For Spoff, that's handling the live blog. For me, it's the quarter-by-quarter updates. The best advice I ever received is to concentrate on certain positions or areas of the field. If you try to watch everything, you see nothing.

Harold from Husby-Rekarnez, Sweden

Maybe this is true, but it seems like a lot of hidden talent is revealed in the CB position every year around the NFL. There seem to be a lot of Sam Shields types out there waiting to be discovered. Valentine might be another one. If true, why does that position seem to reveal valuable players who were either undrafted or late draft picks?

Cornerback and receiver are very similar. There's no prerequisite on what it takes to "win" your matchup. It doesn't matter how tall you are or what your 40 time is. It's how you compete against the man in front of you. Look no further than what Heath has done as a UDFA.

Will from Oakland, CA

Hi Insiders, I've noticed my interest in watching the N.Y. Jets in 2023 is WAY higher with the AR12 trade than it was in 2008 (Brett Favre trade). Do you sense that being a trend in general and, if so, might this mean the drama this time around is part of that interest (and, thus, even greater)?

The Jets are a much better football team right now than they were in 2008. It felt like a Hail Mary when New York traded for Favre, a last-ditch effort. This feels more like Tampa Bay signing Tom Brady to put a talented football team over the hump.

TK from Grafton, WI

As a public service, repeat after me:

"I, (state your name), promise not to overreact in either direction based on preseason game action."

You're welcome! Ha!

And we're officially on to New England. Have a great day.

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