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Inbox: Tucker Kraft only knows one gear and it's full speed ahead

The Packers must be on high alert this Sunday in Carolina

TE Tucker Kraft
TE Tucker Kraft

Trish from Columbus, OH

Please tell Mike I appreciated his soliloquy – it shone a light in a dark corner.

We don't call him "Spofflight" for nothing.

TK from Grafton, WI

Mike's "soliloquy" reply regarding the complexity of the breakdown situation was first rate. Well done! In these days of limited characters, hot takes, soundbites, and immediate gratification, the reality is often more complicated than we want.

Spoff raised some excellent points. All I'll add is we don't man this Inbox ship to forecast what the voyage will be like. We're here to talk through the journey as it happens. When news breaks, we happily discuss it with you. When decisions are made, we're there at 8:30 a.m. the following day to flesh it out. Personally, I will always take explanation over overreaction any day of the week. One informs, the other incenses for cheap entertainment and clicks.

Jeff from Indian Lake, NY

My grandmother used to let my sister and I open one present on Christmas Eve. If the Packers could open one "present" this Sunday, what do you think it would be?

Full consistency.

CJ from Marshfield, WI

Greetings Wes, True or False: 1) "85: will never ever, never, never, never ever hurdle a defender again. 2) "85" has joined the Charlie Brown Christmas choir.

The exact opposite, actually. Tucker Kraft only knows one gear and it's full speed ahead. If that means hurdling a defender to pick up an extra yard, the rookie tight end is going for it. Kraft said after the game that's how he's always played. He isn't going to let a little incident like Sunday stop him from playing his brand of football.

Brian from Twain Harte, CA

I think Larry McCarren might have inadvertently come up with a nickname for our rookie tight end: Tucker "Airborne" Kraft. Seems like a good fit to me.

I still prefer "Hover."

George from North Mankato, MN

What weapons do the Carolina Panthers possess and how do you think they are going to attack the defense? Is it one if by land and two if by air?

Spoff was right about Bryce Young, Chuba Hubbard and Adam Thielen…but an extra word of caution on Young: Yes, he's struggled mightily this year and hasn't thrown a touchdown in more than a month. But that Tommy DeVito game is on tape now. The Panthers are scheming off that film and could try to replicate some of DeVito's success on the ground. The Packers must be on high alert this Sunday in Carolina.

Tom from Woodbury, MN

Carolina has allowed the third fewest total yards in the league this season. However, the Panthers rank 29th in points allowed. Their offense is 32nd in total yards and they have allowed 54 sacks. Do they have a veteran defense?

The Panthers have me perplexed. They're almost like the inverse of Tampa, which has bled yards but still boasts a top-five red-zone defense. Ejiro Evero's defense has indeed allowed both the third fewest total yards (291.6 yards per game) and passing yards (173.7 ypg) in the NFL but is 29th in scoring defense, next to last in red-zone defense (71.1%) and last in sacks. I suppose a minus-6 turnover differential doesn't help matters. But the Panthers have a veteran defense with one of the game's best pass rushers (Brian Burns) and several unrestricted free agents, including Deion Jones, Troy Hill, Vonn Bell, and Xavier Woods.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Wes, I confess. I haven't seen a single play of a Carolina game this year. I'm curious do you (and/or Spoff) have time in your hectic schedules to watch game film of upcoming opponents? If so, what are you seeing from the Panthers?

I paid attention to Carolina a little earlier this season because James Campen and Justin McCray are both there, but I'd be lying if I said I've watched more than a quarter or two of the Panthers since the Packers' bye week. FOX also hasn't broadcast Carolina much in our area of the country.

Ray from Phoenix, AZ

I know you guys will not point fingers, so I won't name names. Having said that, I see more opportunities for Lukas Van Ness. That excites me because I loved the pick and recently, every time he is in there, he makes plays. Does that excite you?

I really think Van Ness is coming on. He's a heatseeking rusher whose acceleration really shows up when closing in on the quarterback. Expectations will always be sky high for a rookie first-round pick, but it's important to remember Van Ness is only 22. As a buddy of mine (mostly) in New York likes to say, "Lotta ballgame left."

Dominic from Chesapeake, VA

Hey Wes! First of all, I want to wish you and Mike a very Merry Christmas! Your work is very appreciated. With respect to our "head-scratching" defense, what do you think is the biggest position need? I say it's at safety. With Adrian Amos's departure this year, we haven't had an above average safety since Morgan Burnett and a game changer since Charles Woodson and Nick Collins. Can you see Brian Gutekunst getting aggressive in free agency to go after a top safety (e.g. Antoine Winfield, Kyle Dugger or Jeremy Chinn, if available)?

There will be time to dive into all that once the season is over, but the Packers have decisions to make in the secondary. Darnell Savage, Keisean Nixon, Rudy Ford, and Jonathan Owens will all be free agents. Green Bay has somewhat dug itself out of the salary cap snow and could be more active in unrestricted free agency this March. Where they use those assets is anyone's guess.

Dan from Kenosha, WI

Insiders, on a positive note, are we witnessing the beginnings of one of the greatest sets of offensive weaponry the Pack has had in some time? Three rookie TEs have caught a TD (NFL first), Jordan Love on pace for 4,000 yards without a 1,000-yard receiver because he's throwing to Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks, Malik Heath, Kraft, and Luke Musgrave. Oh yeah, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, too. Personally, I would take those first seven any day of the week. Watching them grow will be fun.

You never know how an NFL season will unfold, but it sure looks like Gutekunst stepped to the plate and hit for the cycle with Reed, Wicks, Musgrave, and Kraft. Then, you have Heath as an undrafted free agent who also looks like a keeper. Collectively, those five have combined for 146 catches, 1,743 yards and 11 TDs. I can't wait to watch that group grow with Love, Watson, Doubs and the RBs.

Ron from Mitchell, SD

Such a young and talented receiver room with lots of upside! Not a first-round pick among them. Maybe this will quell the clamor to draft a first-round receiver? Oh, and if you get a chance, be sure to watch the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the FCS Championship game on Jan. 7. The Jacks have another big YAC tight end to keep an eye on! Now, beat Carolina! GPG!

It probably won't change anything, but to be fair, that's more of a national narrative. The diehards know what's up after watching Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, and Davante Adams.

Paul from Northglenn, CO

I watched “The Rock Report” centering on execution for Jones' first carry. My first thought was inspiration at its finest. Second was the players know his importance. Could there not have been a better tribute to Jones in what is most likely his most exasperating season? This is what makes football so much more than just a game agree?

"Instead of a pulling guard, the Packers have a pulling center in Josh Myers…and Josh is probably bigger than Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston combined" got a chuckle out of me. The offensive line blocked that play up well, but Kraft and Josiah Deguara also did the dirty work to open up the second level to Jones. It's unfortunate Green Bay was unable to get the run going against Tampa Bay but that play showed there's plenty of gas in the run game's engine.

Paul from Ledgeview, WI

Wes how many head coaches are completely removed from directing any phase of the game? Could most head coaches in the league capably coach all three phases, and therefore have the capability to insert themselves where they might be needed?

That's a good question on how many coaches "call" the offense and/or defense. My best guess would be 75-80%. On the same token, I think it's too difficult for a head coach to coach all three phases in today's NFL. They can pipe in, but there are so many players, coaches and moving parts to keep up with. It's like the old saying about watching football. If you try to watch everything, you'll see nothing. That's why a head coach sets the vision and makes the hires.

Alex from Lucketts, VA

Thank you to the media team for putting out the "How to watch, stream and listen" each week. As an out-of-stater, it's very important and helpful. But I was sad to see Detroit vs. Minnesota as the nationwide game. Do you think it's a testament to how bad the Panthers are, or the Packers' last two losses? I feel like for the last 20 years that would've been the Packers on TV, no matter Carolina's record.

Perhaps but the Vikings are still within reach of the NFC North division title. So, I don't blame FOX for wanting to put the spotlight on that matchup with Detroit. Since the Lions routed the listless Broncos last week, the Packers gotta cheer for Detroit to run away with this thing. This also leads me to one final point – the NFL needs to get a grip on division matchups. Enough of teams playing both division games within three weeks of each other.

Joe from Pittsburgh, PA

I can never remember a season when backup quarterbacks have played such a vital role in their team's success. Joe Flacco in Cleveland is a feel-good story, coming off his living room couch retired to keeping the Browns in the hunt. Does his situation qualify him to be a comeback player of the year candidate if his success continues into the playoffs?

I mean, there are several deserving candidates who were on their respective teams all season, including Matthew Stafford. Count me among those impressed with what Flacco is doing, though.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Hi Wes, did you see De'Vondre Campbells Twitter/X statement? What were your thoughts?

My thoughts are LaFleur and Campbell go way back. There's a great deal of respect there, dating to their time together in Atlanta. LaFleur didn't go into specifics but said on Wednesday that he had a great conversation with Campbell. He lauded the All-Pro linebacker for his toughness and professionalism. Campbell was held out of practice due to the neck issue but spoke near the end of locker-room availability. He mentioned his appreciation for Matt and added, "We're trying to win out. That's the only thing on our mind right now." Campbell also said, "We like the game plan, so we'll see where we go from here."

Matt from Fitchburg, WI

Too bad for Tony Romo that Dez Bryant didn't catch it, and anyone who says otherwise is a darn liar.

One word 'til the end of time: Scoreboard.

Darren from Wakefield, MI

As for Wes making it in time to see his son on his birthday, a very smart man we know said, "God, family, then football." The right decision was definitely made. Happy for him.

I try to be calculated about pulling the family card but sometimes it is necessary. I've missed just one game during my time at the Green Bay Packers and it came when my son was born in 2017. He was due on Christmas Eve, and I originally was gonna press my luck and travel to Carolina for the game since it was Aaron Rodgers' return from the collarbone injury. Aaron Rodgers threw three picks and the Packers lost 31-24. Needless to say, I made the right call.

Dustin from Kansas City, MO

Wes, as a guy who accidentally got married to a job once and missed a lot more than I care to admit, I just wanted to say good on you for getting home to the kid on his birthday. One of the many reasons I enjoy reading the Inbox is because it seems as though you and Spoff are two genuinely decent people. Anyway, sorry, not really a question. Just thought that was cool of you and wanted to give you an atta boy for it. Have a great Christmas!

Appreciate you, Dustin, and everyone who passed along kind words. Looking forward to banging out two stories for you Sunday.

Mike from McFarland, WI

I'm tired of II submissions that start with "I know you can't tell the truth because the Packers pay you..." just because they ask you for your professional opinion and your answer isn't "fire all the coaches and cut all the players." Reminds me of when my kids ask for candy, I say no, so they keep asking hoping to get another answer.

I will never speak for Spoff, but my take has been and will always be that I'm not here to articulate your rage. I aim to explain why things are happening, not what should happen. That's vanity.

Joel from Paris, KY

I am not advocating for losing the last three games, but five picks earlier in the draft means five picks earlier every round. Just saying.

The Packers still have everything to play for, Joel. As a wise man once said, "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." Anyone who's ever stepped foot in a locker room knows how much wins matters to those players, coaches, and everyone in football. This is a prideful bunch.

Joe from Hampshire, IL

Kassidy Hill has a fun name column for Panthers called "Know Your Foe." Then I noticed their version of II is called "Ask The Old Guy," also fun and evoked memories of Vic. Any printable fun Kassidy stories to share?

Yeah, that "Old Guy" is Darin Gantt, who's like an older brother to me. He and Kassidy are gonna make a great team. I love Kassidy and am going to miss her up in these parts, but I'm happy for her opportunity on both a professional and personal level. She's a wonderful person with a huge heart. I can't wait to see her Sunday.

Michael from Baraboo, WI

What are the chances the Packers can win out and sneak their way into the playoffs?

The only way to find out is to win on Sunday. In the meantime, enjoy your Thursday.

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