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Inbox: This franchise is always in the conversation

The kickoff is no longer the long-drive competition it had become

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

CJ from Cedar Rapids, IA

What I'm most excited about this year is the new defensive coordinator. Why? Because they say he is more aggressive. I think football players are more naturally aggressive, especially on the defensive side of the ball. So, in the natural order of things, it should play well. What are you most excited about?

For me, it's seeing how the basic tenets of Jeff Hafley's defense, including the 4-3 base front, complement the talent the Packers have on that side of the ball. I also think Hafley's addition is a needed reset for that unit, especially with so many new coaches on staff. Hopefully, that brings some fresh ideas and leads to the defense taking a major step forward in 2024.

David from Hilliard, OH

Wes, do you see Josh Jacobs hitting his average of 300 touches this season in the Packers' offense?

That may be difficult given how the Packers operate on offense. In fact, the last time a Green Bay running back topped 300 touches was Eddie Lacy's rookie season in 2013. Jacobs could still have an All-Pro season even if he's around the 257 touches Jones averaged from 2019-22.

Chris from Kennesaw, GA

We only know what we read and see on tape. Every year is a new one. I don't wanna say giddy, but my expectations and level of excitement for this season are very high. Then, I step back and think we are celebrating way too soon. Lots of stuff can happen. Then I remember we have five pics in the top 91. It's a roller coaster and I'm getting dizzy. Hafley, Xavier McKinney, Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes. Talk me down.

I'm just glad we're talking about high expectations again. Like you said, anything can happen during a six-month season, but I've also seen what it looks like when franchises are clinging to any semblance of hope this time of year. The Packers have rarely been in that position over the past 30 years. This franchise is always in the conversation.

Dave from Kaukauna, WI

On Monday, Brian Gutekunst said, "I feel really good about our roster right now, our numbers are higher than they've been usually going into this time." That statement jumped out as the one we should be talking about. Is that hype, or is Gutekunst right? C'mon man, that should've been in "5 things learned Monday." Talk about missing the forest for the trees! On top of those high numbers, we have a lot of picks, with extra early picks, and the youngest team in the league. What do you say?

Hey, we still have stories to write from this trip. What Gutekunst is talking about is the number of veterans the Packers have on their offseason roster – a product of several productive draft classes and a few other unique finds. People love to talk about "championship windows." Much like its rapid turnaround in 2019, Green Bay is right there once again.

Bob from Emmaus, PA

Brett Favre was a great quarterback but tended to try throws into coverage and holds the interception record. Aaron Rodgers was very cerebral and avoided interceptions, with a bit of a rebellious nature in his offseason and personal life. What will be Jordan Love's legacy?

That's too early to say. Favre and Rodgers started a combined 31 seasons in Green Bay. That's a massive sample size to draw from when discussing a star's legacy. But what I liked about Love's first season as a starter was that he took calculated risks while also protecting the football better I expected in Year 1. It's almost like Love plucked the best traits of his predecessors.

Bruce from Jackson, WI

Actually, we don't need to wait to see the kickoff on the field as there is plenty of film from the XFL. As I see it, the only change will be possibly slowing down the speed of the KO team's coverage during the tackle. Run Keisean, Run!

The only wrench in this wheel is the fact return teams must have two kickoff returners in the landing zone. So, I'm curious how many opponents will try to kick the ball away from Nixon, assuming that's even possible.

Al from Green Bay, WI

The signing of Greg Joseph makes it three kickers going into camp. Three's a crowd, as they say. Do you think Joseph comes in as the frontrunner, or do you think it's simply an open competition?

It's going to be a competition. The question is whether it has two or three participants. During my time on the beat, I can think of only one time when the Packers had three kickers on the roster at any single time. That came in 2013 when Zach Ramirez was signed at the end of training camp…and then Giorgio Tavecchio was cut the following day.

Ray from Phoenix, AZ

As for the new kickoff rule, as Judge Juliest T. Randell said, "I think we've covered that Lieutenant…" So, moving on, if Brian Gutekunst likes FA with their better years ahead, why Joseph rather than a younger kicker to compete with Anders Carlson. Are kickers the exception?

Joseph is only 29, so the hope is he still has his best years ahead of him. It's not like the Packers signed a 46-year-old Adam Vinatieri.

Darrell from Bishop, CA

Independence Day didn't happen? What the Hod are we celebrating every Fourth of July? Also, have we re-signed our punter yet?

Daniel Whelan and Emanuel Wilson will be back. Don't lose any sleep over that. The Packers have high hopes for their two remaining exclusive-rights free agents.

Arnie from Kirkwood, MO

I'm still trying to grasp all of the nuances of the new kickoff rule. How does the rule affect a kicker that does not have a big leg, but accuracy is the strength? Like a Mason Crosby…

I look at it this way – the kickoff is no longer the long-drive competition it had become…but you still gotta make your field goals.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Will the new hybrid kickoff be introduced in the preseason games? Mark Murphy referred to the unintended consequences that come with the new kickoff. What would some of those unintended consequences be?

The measure starts right away. I'm neither a kickoff expert nor a soothsayer, so I couldn't tell you today what all the unintended consequences will be. But I think of it like introducing an invasive species into a habitat. You hope it works out for the best, but nothing is ever certain.

Dan from Cross Plains, WI

I'm very curious to see how the new kickoff rule effects end-of-game strategy. Particularly late in the year when the weather turns. Let's say a team kicks a late FG to go up by two. There's now immense pressure on the kicker to ensure he lands the ball in the landing zone to avoid further losses in field position. If he doesn't, or kicks it out of bounds, that leaves the other team at 40 and practically two first downs away from a field-goal attempt. Maybe teams just boot it into the end zone for a spot at the 30?

These are the things special team coordinators and kickers now must think about. At the same time, I think most kickers can control the distance of their kickoffs better than that. I'm sure there will be some flubs over the course of a season that make ESPN's "Not Top 10."

Bob from Rome, NY

Wes: Regarding the new kickoff rule, I saw something mentioned that onside kicks were only allowed in the fourth quarter. Did that pass the final implementation of the rule? Just wondering because if a team is down by three scores with a few seconds left in the third quarter they may have wanted to attempt one sooner. Thank you.

Then, they're gonna have to wait until the beginning of the fourth quarter to do it. Teams must declare the onside kick, too. It's also my understanding they can only attempt two onside kicks during those final 15 minutes.

Rick from Rhinelander, WI

Is Stokes' hamstring issue going to be an ongoing issue for the 2024 season?

It sounds like the Packers got some answers on both Stokes and Christian Watson after their visit at Badger Athletic Performance this offseason. The hope is those scans will help prevent recurring flareups like the ones that sidelined Stokes and Watson for most of last season.

Jordi from Aalsmeer, Netherlands

Can you help me understand why the Giants did not extend Xavier McKinney's contract? I really wonder how a highly drafted and talented player that has shown he belongs and yet has to enter his prime is let go into FA. I have not read anywhere about the why he became available.

I don't think New York had the cap room. According to OverTheCap, the Giants have approximately $1.5 million in effective cap space, which is the room leftover after a team signs at least 51 players and its projected rookie class.

Robert from Saginaw, MI

Wes, your thoughts on the league having two Christmas games this year. Would the league really put the Packers on Christmas three years out of four?

I may opt for early retirement if that were to happen. What's more, it would be the fourth consecutive year Green Bay would play on Christmas Eve/Day. Mercy.

Alessandro from Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Wes, are you ready to feel a whole lot worldy? The Eagles are gonna host a game at São Paulo this upcoming season and unofficial reports from the owner's meeting say they are expected to play either the Browns or the Packers. Any expectations about coming so South America?

Brazilian Packers fans have been blowing up my mentions since Philadelphia was announced as one of the participants two months ago. I would love to go to Brazil, but travel could be a major issue. As Murphy cautioned in Orlando, Austin-Straubel Airport may not be large enough for the size of the plane required for the 12-hour flight. Ultimately, this is an NFL decision, though. We'll see what the league decides.

Kyle from Jenison, MI

Much is said here about the Packers' mystique. The page-a-day calendar for March 27 noted a record of at least .500 at home for the 15th straight year, through the 2021 season. ATMR (Which Is Not Wrong In This Case) that carried through the past two seasons, as well. It's another part of the mystique of the team and their beloved home field. Agreed?

I would say so. Lambeau Field is a special place, particularly after a hard-fought win.

Mike from The Woodlands, TX

Wes, with so much talk about running back duos being "thunder and lightning," I appreciated you changing things up with a peanut butter and jelly metaphor in response to Jeff from Ripon. You truly are the lamb to Spoff's tuna fish. Maybe you prefer spaghetti and meatball?

I'm good with the lamb analogy.

Mike from Algoma, WI

After thinking about your response to Mark from IA, I have to ask: Do you consider pro wrestlers athletes or actors?


Dan from Green Bay, WI

Hey Wes, the II has given me multiple great reading suggestions, so I must ask; have you read "The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey?" It changed my opinion of your favorite president. Maybe in all your spare time?

I've read it. I think I've even discussed it in the column before. Candice Millard is one of my favorite writers. She has the innate ability to write non-fiction in a brilliantly compelling way.

Steffan from Skiatook, OK

Wes, the professor. I like it! You noted that Teddy Roosevelt was third on your all-time list of U.S. Presidents, as well as your favorite. Having worked in both the U.S. National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he also holds a special place in my view as well. I am curious though, who are your top two ranked U.S. Presidents? Thanks for all you guys do!

Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. The United States doesn't make it without either of them.

Ed from Windsor, CO

It appears to me as a daily II reader that this year's offseason submissions are a lot more about Packer football and less about lasers and darkness retreats. What are your observations, and does it mean readers are thinking seriously about the Lombardi at Lambeau?

You could feel the excitement in Orlando. As much as I enjoyed watching the Packers grow last season, football is at its best when greatness is the goal. It sure feels like we're back on that platform. Catch y'all tomorrow.

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