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Inbox: Versatility provides options

LB Rashan Gary
LB Rashan Gary

Jason from San Diego, CA

Wes you better not be leaving us...

No, no. He’s just fully absorbed in some special project work at the moment, so I’m going to handle the column for a few days in a row this week and let him focus on that work.

Dan from Rothschild, WI

Mike, you're just getting your grill out now? I never put mine away. Grilling in a snowstorm? Ain't nothing like it.

Oh, I’ve grilled in some unusual conditions, but the frequency increases exponentially this time of year so I know I have to be properly stocked.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

I'm not sure this angle has been mentioned, or it might not actually be a thing. During OTAs when the ones on both sides line up, does it actually help Martinez to be the head of communication in a defense against Rodgers? We know it's a good thing for our CBs against receivers with 12 slinging the ball.

No question. I’m sure it helps Pettine, too. If they’re trying to disguise something and there’s a tell, Rodgers will find it.

Collin from Kirkwood, MO

To my untrained eye it has always looked as though Aaron Jones’ vision and instincts are off the charts. Could that be on display even more in the new offense? What are your thoughts on how his skill set projects in the new zone scheme?

I think he fits it very, very well, which is why I’ve been projecting him all offseason as the No. 1 back in this offense. This is his kind of running game. What I’ll be watching more closely, though, is how he improves in the passing game. He’s not deficient, but becoming more polished as a pass blocker and pass catcher out of the backfield will take his entire game to another level.

Ken from Long Beach, CA

In tribute to Bart Starr and the Ice Bowl a gold star with the No. 15 inscribed should be painted on the goal-line spot where the famous quarterback sneak and touchdown occurred. The star should be painted for the season opener and maintained through the playoffs.

I like this idea. Subtle yet historically representative.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Just saw Jimmy Graham's cornhole event. Have either of you started playing as something other than a picnic activity? Recently I started playing in ACL (American Cornhole League) events. It's amazing how good most of these people are.

I know what you mean, and I don’t play outside of tailgate parties, but I can’t imagine ever being that good.

Steven from Rockford, IL

Do you think that with the added pressure we should be able to put on opposing QBs this year from our new and improved D-line it will make our young guns in the secondary look like ball-hawking Pro Bowlers all for a fraction of the cost that Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit pay for the CB spot? Wishful thinking or propaganda? Hope it comes true.

Turnovers will start with pressure up front. I absolutely believe that. As for the price tags, the Packers are in great position to take advantage of low-cost talent at a premium position for a couple more years. It’s how it should be when you invest high picks at one spot. Now it’s up to the players to come through.

Craig from Milwaukee, WI

Is the vibe better now around the Packers, or a different feel, more excitement than previous years?

There’s always a different atmosphere and energy when change occurs. It’s been a long couple of years, missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since the middle of last decade. It’s not a feeling anyone wants to get accustomed to.

Bernie from Jersey City, NJ

What should our expectations be for this year?

Contention.

Brian from Schertz, TX

Do kids let you guys ride their bikes to practice? If so, please, please post a picture!

I’d fully expect any kids having to settle for me riding their bike to practice instead of a player to be sorely disappointed, and I wouldn’t blame them.

Tim from Richmond, VT

Hi guys, enjoy your columns very much...longtime reader, first time posting a question. Reading that only 45 players (seems very low) from our 90-man roster participated in the charity softball game got me thinking about the participation level for the voluntary OTAs. I understand they are voluntary but curious minds would like to know if there are players not in camp. Is there any player (other than Josh Jones) who has not reported for any of them? Thanks for the insight.

At last week’s open practice, Jones was the only player unaccounted for.

Bryce from Houston, TX

It's been a little while since JJ requested a trade, and still nothing. I'm sure Gute is trying to shop him around the market but I don't see much value in him (from another team’s perspective). I'd like a player for player trade rather than a back-round pick, if we're talking trading him. Personally though, I'd like him to stay and play as a box safety. You think there's a chance they keep him? Or do you think the fact he showed interest in leaving would make it hard to bring him back?

That’s what Gutekunst might ultimately have to weigh. As mentioned before, I see a role for Jones in this defense as a hybrid linebacker/safety, and I believe the Packers’ preference is for him to take on that role and make the most of it.

Dylan from Raleigh, NC

No one seems to be really keying in on special teams changes relative to everything else happening in Green Bay this offseason. Given that ST was the worst (by far) of the three phases last year, that lack of chatter has surprised me. Which area of ST, kicking, coverage, returning, would you like to see improve the most from last year to this year?

If you’re not hearing special teams chatter, you either don’t read the column every day or I’ve gotten tired of talking about it. Immediate improvement can occur on special teams simply by reducing penalties. Get that cleaned up, and the rest can follow.

Caroline from Olympia, WA

How many tight ends are we really going to maintain on our active roster?

I expect the Packers to keep a minimum of three, but any beyond that will come down to several factors – abilities on special teams, numbers at other positions, likelihood of a waiver claim (therefore losing the practice-squad option), etc. Right now, my guess would be they keep four, but that’s a very preliminary thought.

Rick from Pacifica, CA

Howdy II. I've read significant angst about the Packers not re-signing Bashaud Breeland. He played well and on a discount due to injury and seems to be playing at a discount again this year. I read a while back, and can't find the article, that it wasn't that the Packers didn't want to re-sign him but that with the young talent at the position he wanted to go where he could start. He's playing for a new and large contract; can't do that as the third or fourth corner.

I’d call that a very fair read on the situation. As always with contracts and free agents, it takes two to tango.

Allen from Birmingham, AL

For throwback day, since you wimped out on manual typewriters, at least use an app that makes a "clack" sound when you type the laptop keystrokes...

I’d be on board with that.

Eric from Reedsburg, WI

Have any of the Packer players commented on the proposed rule changes to team drills?

If you’re referring to the banned drills, the Packers never did them under McCarthy and I can’t recall the last time they ever used them.

Brian from Fanwood, NJ

As far as the captain patches go, the Packers only had patched captains during the playoffs under McCarthy. I believe the stars and "C" denoted consecutive years elected, with a gold "C" in Year 5. Whatever route LaFleur goes with captains (season, weekly, or for the playoffs), would players like Rodgers go back to one star since we missed the playoffs and no patch was given? Also, would it be his, Gutenkunst's, or Murphy's decision to have patches at all, like the Steelers who don't wear any?

To clarify, the stars on the previous patches for playoff captains weren’t for consecutive years, just total years chosen. In 2016, Crosby’s patch was gold for five years, but he wasn’t a captain in ’12 or ’14. He was in ’10, ’11, ’13, ’15 and ’16. Decisions in these matters generally fall to the head coach, perhaps in consultation with the players.

David from De Pere, WI

I hope that whatever the Packers’ decision is on team captains, it’s not Aaron Rodgers. I don’t want to give up the photo bombs.

Well, if they decide to go with full-season captains, there won’t be a need for a captains’ photo every game, so then he’d have to find other photos to bomb. Expand his repertoire.

David from Appleton, WI

I have listened to the conference call with Dexter Williams several times, being intrigued with his answers to the Notre Dame suspension questions. In earlier “Packers Unscripted” podcasts, Insiders thought the most intriguing draft picks were Kingsley Keke and Jace Sternberger, also noting the best story was from Ka'Dar Hollman. Dexter Williams will give all three a "run for their money" (pun noted) on intrigue. He mentioned growing as a man is important to him. He's on my watch list.

Williams might have a better chance to make an impact as a rookie than any of the others you mentioned, no slight to them, but just based on the depth chart at their positions. We’ll see.

Jason from Des Plaines, IL

Our newest additions on the outside of the defensive line are far from being just pass rushers. Both of the Smiths have been utilized in run-stuffing situations, dropping back and of course, disrupting the quarterback. It’s obvious that when we drafted Rashan Gary our GM had seen the same ability within him. Is it safe to say that having somebody who can only make a difference by sacking the QB is no longer part of the game plan? Is versatility the biggest attribute a defensive end can have?

I wouldn’t put it that way. Versatility provides the coaching staff options for packages and matchups. It creates opportunities, but then the players have to cash in on them and make plays. The biggest attribute any defender can have is to make high-impact plays.

Kolby from Oak Hills

We spent lots of resources, pouring into the offensive line, and because of that it must be the deepest it has ever been during Rodgers’ tenure. How do you see the offensive line improving the offense rather than investing heavy money/draft capital on maybe the wide receiver position instead?

A better measure of offensive balance and a reduction in negative plays will help this offense considerably. Big plays are meaningful factors, too, but Rodgers was tied for the league lead with 16 pass plays of 40-plus yards last season. It wasn’t enough. The first two things I mentioned start up front.

Benny from Aurora, CO

Insiders, the wait is the hardest part. I wish the beginning of preseason was here already.

Tom Petty and the subjunctive mood would be equally disappointed. Happy Tuesday.

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