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Inbox: This is the season of growth and development

There can be no letup in this sport

DL Devonte Wyatt

Eric from Springfield, VA

I've never liked the argument college players play harder because they want it more and are fighting to get drafted. I'm sure lots of college players dream of the NFL but know if they have a realistic shot based on size and skill level. Some could be playing for free school. After seeing a list of players from the USFL who were picked up by the NFL, I think NFL players play just as hard. Undrafted to multiple teams to cut to USFL to NFL. Some play to feed their kids.

I've never covered college football, so I don't presume to know the motivations of those athletes. But I can tell you players won't last long in the NFL if they're not fully dedicated to their team. Effort is not optional. Superstar or undrafted free agent, there's always another hungry athlete on your heels. There can be no letup in this sport.

Robert from Anchorage, AK

Any relatively recent updates on Rashan Gary and Eric Stokes? Might they be ready by September?

Speaking of effort, it sounds like Gary really hit his rehab hard this offseason. Both he and Stokes are making progress, but no timelines yet. They've both been in the building and working in the weight room.

John from Stevens Point, WI

Which recently drafted rookies will see the field regularly in 2023? Which second-year guys do you expect to make a jump this year?

Building off Spoff's Inbox photo Wednesday, Zach Tom probably fits well into both categories. The fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest was exceptional last year, including his last-minute start at left tackle in Washington. Tom has now had a full offseason to further develop his body and I expect he'll compete for a starting role somewhere on the O-line this summer. Beyond the players you'd expect to make a Year 2 jump (e.g. Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs), I'm looking forward to seeing Tariq Carpenter. He has a great frame for both special teams and defense. Carpenter is a safety in a linebacker's body and the Packers plan to maximize that versatility this summer. I know we're starting to talk about "dead zones" again, but so much happens behind the scenes with young players in spring and summer. Really, it's the season of growth and development.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

Some of the ways some of these questions are asked to the coaches...really, bro? That being said, Rich's answer to the question of "Have you found your spot if it's not a HC job somewhere?" was another demonstration of why we think Rich is so deserving of a HC job elsewhere.

He's a pro's pro and a coach's coach. Bisaccia does what's asked of him in a respectful and courteous manner but also has no problem stepping in front of a room and providing direction. As I've said before, I still don't know how Las Vegas let him out of the building after the job he did with the Raiders in 2021. But that was then, and this is now. If Bisaccia keeps the arrow pointing up on the Packers' special teams, I'm sure his phone will ring again next offseason.

John from Jupiter, FL

Morning Wes. Which would be more of a surprise to you at the quarter pole this season, Jordan Love in the top 10 or the defense in the bottom third? Thanks.

The defense ranking that low would surprise me more. I think the first half of the 2022 season was a wake-up call for everyone. Not only did the defense play better in December but I also felt guys were at their best positions – Jaire Alexander following star receivers, Rasul Douglas lining up outside, Darnell Savage playing closer to the line of scrimmage, etc. The young defensive front must stop the run. If it does, this defense should be a fun one to watch because I think there's a clear vision in place for how Alexander needs to be utilized.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

I agree with Mike's reply to Mark from Carlsville that the Packers are using this year to help get their cap in order. They also unintentionally did that last year when Davante Adams demanded a trade. I think they'll need another frugal year in '24 to continue to get that cap right. My question is, if they do that again in '24 will the cap be healthy and free of an excessive dead money hit in 2025?

It's a prudent strategy – not only to clean up the books after splurging the past few years in pursuit of a title but also to reset as this new broadcast revenue comes in, which should drive up the salary cap over the next few years. The Packers will learn a lot about themselves this year. If things go well, Green Bay will be in good economic place to set the foundation of the franchise for the next 3-5 years.

Linwood from Travelers Rest, SC

Hi Wes, I confirmed our flight, lodging and car rental for the home opener against New Orleans this morning. A friend and colleague going with me (a Saints fan first, Packers second) and I have been waiting for years for this game and conditions to align. Needless to say, we're excited to witness the Jordan Love era begin at Lambeau. What do you see as the differences between the two "new" QBs for the Packers and Saints? Let's Go Pack!

New Orleans has taken a unique route to replacing Drew Brees. While most teams take a swing at a first-round pick, the Saints have been adamant about pressing forward with a veteran (Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton and now Derek Carr). We'll see if Carr fares any better in New Orleans than the other two, but I like the approach the Packers took in drafting a young QB and seeing if he can be "the man." Brees is one of the best unrestricted free-agent signings ever, but it's not easy to find a franchise QB on the open market. Personally, I'd rather dig my own well. There are more unknowns with Love than Carr, but that's also part of the excitement.

James from Appleton, WI

God bless Ed West and Richard Rodgers for the notable catches they made, but I am looking forward to see our newly drafted tight ends get the ball and shift out of second gear. Who was the fastest TE the Packers have had? Jermichael Finley? Paul Coffman?

It depends on how you measure speed. If we're talking strictly 40 times, Robert Tonyan ran a 4.58 in the 40 at his Indiana State pro day. Comparatively, Luke Musgrave ran a 4.61 time in the 40 with a 1.54 10-yard split at the NFL Scouting Combine. I don't think Finley (4.82 at 2009 combine) or Coffman would be labeled the fastest, though. They were productive NFL tight ends but not track stars.

Rich from Structure, TX

Wes, you responded to Jim from Mounds View, MN, that you would always choose to defer. Maybe this will change your mind. Teams receiving the football at the start of the game go on to win 52% of the time. It's a slight edge, but it's an edge. Moreover, of the teams who manage to score on that first drive, TD or FG, the odds of winning the game increase to 66%.

That's very interesting…Defer.

Mark from Westminster, CO

I'm looking forward to the Pittsburgh Steelers game in order to compare our TE draft picks with Darnell Washington, the TE I believe should have been picked by Gute.

You all know how I felt about Washington, but there were some medicals involved with his plummet into the bottom of the third round. I wish the young man well in Pittsburgh, but don't go overboard in comparing Washington and the two tight ends Green Bay drafted – today, tomorrow, or next season.

Ed from Greensboro, NC

What are the chances the Packers sign a veteran QB and who do you think that might be?

My quarterbacks are on the court – I mean, field.

Hap from Graham, WA

Gents: While listening to the posted “Packers Unscripted” discussion about byes/scheduling in Wed II, this thought jumped into my mind: What if the NFL adopted a league-wide two-byes approach (Weeks 6/12) during the year? This would solve a lot of problems and be fair for all concerned. I realize this approach would interrupt the NFL's revenue-stream momentum, but hey, I tend to be an idealist! Thoughts? GPG

We get this question every year and I wish I had a better answer for you. I don't know the rationale behind how the NFL spaces out byes the way it does. This year's balance is pretty good (four weeks where four teams are on bye), but it's strange to me how it changes every year. Last year, there were no Week 5 byes and now there are four. This year, there are no byes in Week 8 after there were two in 2022. It seems like it would be a no-brainer to load up that week.

Derek from Sheboygan, WI

How about bring Mason Crosby back and kick-by-committee this season.

I love Mason. I loved covering Mason. But the Packers planted a new kicking seed when they drafted Anders Carlson in the sixth round. You have to allow the rookie room to grow. Plus, I think it would be disingenuous to Crosby's legacy to bring him back and ask him to share the role.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

Hey Wes, Mike told us for the season he was looking forward to going to Vegas and having the Chiefs in Lambeau. Any game(s) you have highlighted?

Vegas is a big one for me because it's the Packers' first appearance at Allegiant and the obvious history with Davante Adams. It'll also be fun welcoming Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers to Lambeau Field for the first time in November. I'll also get to see Chargers reporters Hayley Elwood and Eric Smith, which is a plus.

Doug from Parker, CO

People that don't want us to bring up the '70s and '80s didn't live through it. If you don't learn from history, you are condemned to repeat it. Look no further than the other teams in our division to see how easily futility can creep in. We have been told for quite a while that we had the salary cap under control and now, we are up against it. One bad break, bad decision, bad luck streak can decimate a franchise for years. Once you lived through it, you don't forget it. Nothing is certain.

Unless we're learning about the introduction of the NFL salary cap in 1994, right? I don't mean to be glib, but the naysayers always forget that talking point and the impact it's had on competitive balance. NFL teams rise and fall every year. I'm not arguing against that but comparing the modern NFL to the '70s and '80s is shortsighted. As Eric said, times have changed. Structurally, it's a different league.

Chris from Milwaukee, WI

"...nobody has an infallible crystal ball." Agreed, but so often pundits are badly wrong, as in the case of Brian Brohm, and yet those pundits remain employed. I wouldn't buy a stock endorsed by an analyst with as bad a record, and I try not to pay attention to the pundits in the NFL whose records for predicting outcomes of games and seasons are similarly bad. At some point, I'd guess management would have to decide whether or not to "move on" from bad prognosticators, but it doesn't seem so.

There's one fatal flaw in your argument, Chris. The opinions don't matter. As Howard Beale once said, "Television isn't the truth. It's an amusement park." It's all entertainment and sometimes an analyst being completely wrong creates a better talking point for networks. The house always wins, my friend.

Jonathan from St Joseph, MO

Mike, regarding streaming services what will the league's contingency be for those betting on games? The streaming action is at least 30 seconds behind live action and Sunday Ticket will likely be even further behind on YouTube TV. How can the NFL satisfy the gambling industry, streaming services and most importantly, the fans? Something has got to give.

Buying a fast pass has a funny way of working you to the front of the line, doesn't it? Listen, media contracts and streaming help pay my salary, but we must not forget about the fan. This game belongs to them. It always has.

Jim from Mounds View, MN

Yesterday, Mike answered a question regarding where Matt LaFleur ranked as far as win totals after first four years as a head coach, and Mike proceeded to list said win totals for no less than nine coaches. It made me wonder; just how many staffers do you guys have working in your research department for digging up data?

You're looking at 'em.

Jeff from Montclair, VA

I lucked out on the family season ticket game draw and got the Bears TBD game. What are the criteria that goes into flexing a game, and is this the first time a TBD has been on the schedule? Trying to map out the possibilities for getting back to the motherland on short notice. Thanks!

Last year, we found out a week ahead of time that the regular-season finale between Green Bay and Detroit was being flexed to Sunday Night Football.

Mitchell from Edmond, OK

I feel like there's a T-shirt idea in the making from the end of yesterday's Inbox. "The Deadzone: fans leaving no stone unturned while risking Mike's and Wes's sanity."

T-shirt? That might be worth a tattoo.

Greg from Westerville, OH

Wes/Spoff, the latest 2023-2024 U.S. News & World Report magazine just issued its latest annual list of the "Best Places to Live in the U.S.", and Green Bay came in No. 1! Not only do you two lucky guys get paid for writing for the Green Bay Packers, but you also get to live in the best city in the entire country. By the way, I'll ask you how you feel about this again in January when it's 10 degrees below zero...

I didn't think too much about the report until I saw my former boss, Mike Vandermause, be interviewed on the local CBS affiliate Tuesday night. The ol' Press-Gazette sports editor still has his fastball.

Dan from Rothschild, WI

I know I say this every year, but people need to appreciate summer. Rest up for Packer season. It comes and goes fast. If you can't find something to fill your time in Wisconsin in the summer, you're not looking very hard.

I'm just happy the snow is over (I think?). Have a great Thursday.

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