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Inbox: They're the glue binding the book together

Eric Stokes has one of the best young corners to learn from in Jaire Alexander

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Defensive backs/passing game coordinator Jerry Gray

Brett from Green Bay, WI

You guys brought up on "Packers Unscripted" a few weeks ago that aside from the coordinator, the entire defensive staff is returning from 2020. Obviously, that's not something that happens often in the NFL. Because of this, do you think it will take less time from the players to "play faster" in the new scheme than it normally would?

Wow. Not only does the regional-famous Brett from Green Bay make a rare appearance in the Inbox submissions, but he also brought his fastball with him. You hit the nail on the clavicle, Brett. I think Matt LaFleur saw how well this group of position coaches handled their players he wanted to keep as much of the band together as possible. Furthermore, the returning assistants had two full months to work with Joe Barry before the team welcomed players back into the building. The importance of those coaches cannot be overstated. They're the glue binding the book together.

Eric from Kenosha, WI

Good morning and thanks for entertaining all our nonsense during the void. Speaking of, isn't it obvious how Jaire Alexander will play faster this season? He will wear a jetpack. The Inbox community has already added lasers to pro football, so jetpacks are the next logical step.

I created this monster. I can't get mad for it turning against me.

Curt from Algonquin, IL

Our three top draft picks not only come into a winning organization, but each can learn directly from among the very best players in the league at their position. Who do you think will enjoy the most benefit from that: Eric Stokes from Alexander, Josh Myers from David Bakhtiari, or Amari Rodgers from Davante Adams?

All three rookies have great mentors to learn from, but Stokes especially is going to benefit from working with Alexander. They play cornerback differently but there still are so many parallels between them. They're only a few years apart in terms of age and Alexander knows exactly what Stokes is going through as a rookie first-round pick. Alexander is rapidly ascending and there's no rule saying he can't take these young guys with him.

Joe from Des Moines, IA

Knowing how important Adam Stenavich is to this offense has me wondering how succession plans in coaching are handled. When a team has a certain position coach who is well-regarded and could be looking at a coordinator position elsewhere in the near future, do they ever assign a young assistant or quality control coach to shadow them and focus on the finer details of the job?

Absolutely, and it's a must on the offensive line. Luke Butkus has served as Stenavich's assistant the past two years, just as Jeff Blasko assisted James Campen and Campen once aided Joe Philbin before that. If a position doesn't have a full-time assistant, the Packers usually have a coaching administrator or quality control coach in the room. Kevin Koger, for example, assisted Justin Outten last year with the tight ends. So, yeah, NFL teams are also keeping young coaches in the queue, so to speak.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

Vic used to say that at inside linebacker it's ideal to have both a thumper and a chaser; one guy who can hit and the other with the speed to go sideline to sideline or cover elite tight ends. With De'Vondre Campbell aboard, it seems the Pack finally has both a guy who can really run paired with others (Kamal Martin, Krys Barnes) who are smart and can hit. Maybe they're not yet the Buccaneers' tandem of Devin White and Lavonte David, but I'll take it. When was the last time the Pack had a legit incarnation of both?

A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop are probably the best 1-2 the Packers have had inside since the switch back to a 3-4 in 2009 – and unfortunately that partnership ended prematurely due to that torn hamstring that pretty much ended Bishop's career. Time will tell how Campbell fits into Joe Barry's defense but he fills a big need for this defense on paper.

Nick from Prescott, WI

Hey guys, quick question. I heard some rumblings about WR Juwann Winfree looking really good during camp. What was your take and what do you know about him?

Winfree had a nice spring, taking full advantage of the extra snaps afforded to him. I gotta couch everything by mentioning the pads weren't on and there was no live tackling, but Winfree looked crisp in his route-running and made a few nice catches during practices open to the media. While Winfree isn't a household name to Packers fans, he has some credentials as a former sixth-round pick in 2019. The competition is going to be stiff at receiver this summer but Winfree helped his cause the past two months.

Rudy from Cedarburg, WI

If tight ends are so important in ML's offense, why don't we hear/see more information?

Spoff and I have written quite a bit about pretty much every player on the roster with a "TE" before his name. What else are you looking for? Social security numbers?

Steve from Wichita, KS

Refresh my memory please. With the extra game added are the roster and practice squad expanded? Also, are the teams able to "lock" certain players on the practice squad to keep other teams from signing them?

The active roster limit is still 53 but the expanded practice-squad rules seem to be here to stay, which is a great thing for the NFL and its players. I've said for years the NFL needed to relax its practice-squad rules and I love the direction the league went last year. Also, teams were able to protect four practice-squad players each week. The Packers rarely did it, but that avenue was open to them.

Marin from West Lawn, PA

When the NFL prepares its preseason schedule each year, can teams make requests to play certain opponents?

Yep. The preseason is mostly choose-your-own adventure.

David from Janesville, WI

Insiders – I know some consider wide receivers "a dime a dozen" and I agree that they may get too much hype at times. However, I recall one of the collarbone years where Jordy Nelson started the season on a tear and his production fell off dramatically when Aaron Rodgers got hurt. Adams however continued to produce with Hundley at quarterback. If a young quarterback has to come in for an established starter, what receiver traits will make the QB more successful? Experience? Flat-out talent? Good fortune?

It's a great question. I'd say possession and slot receivers tend to thrive more when a backup QB is involved because offensive coordinators typically call for more short and intermediate throws. The other key is separation. If a receiver can gain separation, it gives the quarterback more margin for error. In 2017, Adams was a budding superstar entering his prime. He was the perfect go-to for Hundley. Jarrett Boykin was sort of that guy for Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn during collarbone-gate back in 2013, but those early successes didn't carry over.

Eric from Mequon, WI

I have read, and want your take on, our offense being considered very "QB friendly." I read that we had the most plays in 2020 where the WR was considered "open" (no defensive player within 2 yards) and "wide open" (no defensive player within 3 yards). Do your stats confirm this, and if this is true should we feel more comfortable with Jordan Love at QB if he can throw to WRs with defenders 2-3 yards away?

I don't keep those type of stats but it goes with what I saw with my four eyes last year. The Packers had a good balance of scheming skill-position players open and guys just winning their one-on-one matchups. Like I said before, I think this would be a friendly offense for Love to develop in, if it ultimately comes to that.

Doug from Neenah, WI

No Lionel Aldridge mention for Packers No. 82? Shame on you young guys.

OK, I'm nipping this in the keester because we're getting these submissions every day. We don't have photos of everyone, folks. I'm sorry. If a player isn't included, it wasn't for lack of trying.

Jeff from Ely, MN

I'm enjoying the season countdown by jersey number and am surprised by how many names I had forgotten. Clearly, the Packers have one of the richest, if not the richest histories in the NFL. Do new players attend orientation where they learn about the history of the franchise? Thanks!

I assume they still do. I know McCarthy used to have a presentation about the franchise's rich history he showed to the incoming rookies every year. The Packers' player liaisons also give informal tours of the stadium and facilities.

Steven from Wilmington, NC

What is one thing that surprised you about working for an NFL team when you first got hired by the Packers?

The fan Q&A is six days a week, not once.

Thorstein from Cato, WI

So, Weston...When you're looking up the more obscure places, do you ever check on the more obscure names? P.S. I've got a 1-year-old grandson named Easton.

I do check the names and Thorstein is up there among the most unique. I joked with my wife about naming our son Easton but she wasn't having it.

Anthony from Madison, WI

Just a comment, regarding Kiewicz, NV. I can't understand why anybody would want to hide where they are from. I am proud that I root for the greatest sports team in history, and that you guys offer this column. I know our fan base is wide-reaching, but I am amazed and proud that the submissions to the II are so far reaching and diverse. I cannot understand why anybody would want to keep their location a secret.

Me neither, but if you absolutely must, let's keep it professional and say, "Ultimate Warrior from Parts Unknown."

Adam from Madison, WI

While I agree whoever recorded that conversation with the UW basketball team was unethical, it also drives home the point of the story. That there is a one-way relationship on the team. A team that has mutual loyalty and respect doesn't have leaks.

I wholeheartedly agree with what Spoff wrote Wednesday. I'll just add this – if your coach has the decency to sit down and hear you out, then the rest of the room should have enough integrity to keep it in-house (barring something illegal or unsavory, of course). After reading Jim Polzin's report, I came away thinking the article is more of an indictment on the character of the person pressing record than the individual it was trying to besmirch. It was good journalism, but disappointing to read, nonetheless.

Michael from Pound, WI

Hello gents, my wife and daughter just got back from visiting some relatives in the southeast. On the return trip they fueled up in the Kentucky-Tennessee area. A man at the gas pump said, "I see by your plates you're from Wisconsin." The wife replied she was, he then said, "How about that Rodgers thing?" I guess everybody wants to know.

I guess so.

Paul from Ellensburg, WA

Hey fellas, how did Mike totally miss a golden opportunity Wednesday opening the Inbox with Jake from East Lansing's question? One-on-one Davante vs Jaire? "Depends on who's throwing the ball…"

I got a kick out of his reply, but this would've been a Hall of Fame-caliber response, too.

Lori from Heredia, Costa Rica

Wes, inquiring minds want to know. Was Joan the cat a participant in Taco Tuesday, or just an observer?

No. She was happy with her can of turkey and giblets pate.

JD from Madison, WI

Could the Outsider Inbox include questions of other Outsiders? For example, Lori, have you ever had your lunch stolen from your workplace kitchen? Or Dean, have you had any other poetry published? And finally, who does live the farthest from the Inbox?

We don't have enough column inches (or energy) to ask questions to specific readers, but that last question of yours has a chance to make it into the top 12. You got a bag on the cornhole board. We'll see if anyone knocks it off.

Scott from Grovetown, GA

Greetings. I think you and I have established a relationship and look forward to meeting you in-person. Had a chance last year with tickets to three away games and hoped for a Packers Everywhere rally. But, pandemic. No games this year so the wait goes on. I'd invite you here, but all we have is the Masters. Golf. Yeah…We have spring break that week so I tend to escape. Lastly, your last words were enough to give a name. I also counted, you still had 12 more words left. I'm good like that.

I'm sorry? What'd you say, Scott? You're breaking up. I can't…

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