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Inbox: When is more important than how many

Teams don’t know who they really are yet

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Jim from Houston, TX

Are they ready?

For some football? I know I am. They? They have no choice.

Matt from Clarkston, MI

Bruce from Bloomington should have quoted WORP, "Shall we play a game?", for the kickoff question.

And changed his handle to Joshua from NORAD. That would have made my day.

George from North Mankato, MN

Just curious if you can tell us what a catch is? The Julio Jones call makes it clear as mud.

You expected clarity in Week 1?

Jim from Des Peres, MO

As I watch TNF it is clear: teams might want to play their starters in preseason so that there is at least a semblance of organization on offense. Yikes! Hope the Pack looks better Sunday.

It's a long season and the injury risk in preseason will never go away. For all the sloppiness, the game still came down to a dramatic conclusion, and the same one between the same two teams in the same place back in January. That's the NFL.

Jeff from Cedarburg, WI

How far ahead of the game is the 46-man roster locked? In other words, if Oakland had been a regular-season game, would the Packers have been playing with 45 due to Burks' injury or would the window still be open to add someone to the 46?

The 46-man roster must be set 90 minutes before kickoff, so if an injury happens in warmups, like the one to Burks, you're playing a man short.

Scott from Martinez, GA

You called it Spoff. Two new additions to the 53 that weren't on the roster at the time you fielded the question. Thatta boy!

You've just ruined any chance of my next prediction coming true. Thanks.

Paul from Vernon, TX

On Thursday, Wes wrote that it is time to shuffle and deal. In a Sheepshead world, the deck is always stacked in favor of the Packers since Aaron Rodgers is worth at least two black queens. What card is Mack? Can you tell us any more about what cards have been dealt this year to the Packers and Bears?

Mack is the jack of diamonds. Potential high-impact as a partner hand, but only if there are other power cards to go with him.

Clint from Port Washington, WI

As good as Mack is, I'm glad the Packers didn't sell the farm for him. I'd like to think that you could use the two first-rounders, the third-rounder, and the sixth to find the "next" Khalil Mack that you don't have to pay $24 million each year. With the talented crop of rushers in next year's draft, the Packers might just find him.

I anticipate they're going to have to, but there'll be plenty of time to discuss that five months from now.

Bill from Sheboygan, WI

More of a comment. On a reply about IR you said about expanding it to allow more people to come off at shorter time. This is how it used to be and it was abused to help keep players that weren't truly hurt. That was why they changed it.

I'm aware of that, but I think with the right limitations and parameters, the league could make it work better.

Tony from Cary, NC

I was thinking about the signings of Rodgers, Mack, and Donald with huge signing bonuses. I'm guessing the teams need to pony up all of the money up front? Are there some teams that could have a difficult time financially giving out such large signing bonuses?

Indubitably, but there's always a way if a team really wants to get it done.

Ekaan from Oshkosh, WI

Since his signing, people keep referring to Lance Kendricks as an "H-back." How is an "H-back" different from a normal tight end?

Only in where he lines up, which can be off the line of scrimmage by a yard or two, or even further into the backfield, almost like a fullback.

Alain from Fairfax, VA

It's 1985. How many rings did the Shuffle leave on the table? Which defense today has the potential to carry an average to above-average offense deep into January? Also, are you a brain, athlete, basket-case, princess, or criminal? Thanks for all the great work fellas, I appreciate the ruckus!

That Bears team should have won one more title. They lost McMahon in '86 thanks to Charles Martin but were awfully good again in '87 and had the punky QB back for the playoffs, to no avail. Their '84 and '88 teams that went to the NFC title games were both overmatched by the 49ers. To your second question, maybe Jacksonville again. To your third, you see me as you want to see me, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.

Carroll from Madison, WI

Coaches and players alike frequently refer to "the game slowing down." Enlighten us as to what that involves and why it's so important to player development.

The game is simply faster in the NFL in so many ways – faster athletes, quicker decisions, higher-velocity throws, etc. It takes a while for the brain to adjust to the faster speed, especially when that brain is processing so many more mental aspects that go into pro football – alignments, assignments, audibles – that aren't as complex at lower levels. Once all the physical and mental adjustments are made, the game looks normal speed again to the players. It "slows down."

Brian from Maple Grove, MN

Other than Aaron Rodgers, who are the two players (one offense, one defense) the Packers cannot afford to lose to injury for major time this season? I'm picking Adams on offense and Kenny Clark on defense.

Bakhtiari and Martinez.

Jake from Athens, GA

Guys, if you hadn't heard, the Bears traded for Khalil Mack, but they've had a strong front seven for a while. It didn't slow Rodgers down much. Is there anything new going on in their secondary that might affect the matchup? Do they have any safeties/cover linebackers you think might be able to contain Graham?

I don't see the Bears having a player to match up with Graham, which could mean the safety help will have to stay in the middle of the field. I expect the Packers to get their one-on-ones outside against Fuller, Amukamara and Callahan, and they have to win them.

Russell from Shelbyville, KY

Nice "Flight of the Conchords" lyric drop! I know Reggie Gilbert is new and all, but do you see him making a statement by year's end and perhaps overtaking one of the starting pass rushers?

I hope Gilbert makes a huge statement by year's end but doesn't overtake one of the starting pass rushers.

The Packers practiced at Clarke Hinkle Field on Thursday to prepare for the season opener against the Bears on Sunday night.

Bill from Menominee, MI

Do you believe the other NFL owners are applauding the Steelers organization for holding strong on the Bell contract demands? With Conner proving he's a capable back, it's hurting Bell's case that he's bigger than the franchise tag contract at his respective position. It can stir the pot on several player contract conversations on what is the justified cost versus reward between good, great and elite.

I don't think anything the Steelers do here will set a precedent that will help or hurt another situation an owner might find himself in. Teams all work through these situations in their own ways, case by case. The Rams eventually ponied up for Donald, the Raiders traded Mack. The most unusual thing about the Bell matter is the reports at midweek of his offensive linemen turning on him a bit, because it was their expectation he would show up Week 1, and that hasn't happened. Teammates usually stay out of others' contract business, but the tension here continues to rise.

Gene from Midland, GA

Spoff, if the Inbox still employs the use of banning, can Tyler from MN be added?

That would have been up to Wes. His day, his call to make. I think we've both decided it's more worthwhile to expose certain readers than ban them.

Connor from Taylorsville, UT

Hey guys, one thing I have noticed is that usually, in division play, there is familiarity, and constants year to year. This year GB is implementing a new defense that no one has film on since Pettine has been out of the league. Brand new defense in Detroit, new offense in Minnesota, and new offense in Chicago. I haven't seen this much NEW in the division in so long. When was the last time there was a coach/coordinator turnover like this year? And who won that year?

The changes in 2006 were the most extensive I've seen. The Packers (McCarthy), Lions (Marinelli) and Vikings (Childress) all hired new head coaches and, somewhat predictably, the most stable team at the time in the Bears ran away with the division title at 13-3, five games ahead of everyone else, and reached the Super Bowl. This time around, no one has been immune to change. The way it all went down, I don't think the Packers could have asked for a better situation than to start at home the first two weeks against Chicago and Minnesota. Now they have to take advantage of it.

Josh from Pomona, CA

Do you think the Packers will use the no-huddle to keep Mack off the field? Or perhaps to keep him on to exploit the fact he has yet to learn the defense?

I've seen this question a lot, and I think the no-huddle perhaps would play to Mack's advantage if he's in the game, because there's less variety to the defensive calls and adjustments when the offense is hurrying up. His conditioning might be a factor, we'll see. The Packers could run the no-huddle to keep him off, but if the Bears are only planning to use him in limited packages, it wouldn't change much. It's hard to know the effects without knowing the Bears' intentions.

Henrik from Lund, Sweden

Hello Insiders, with Richard Rodgers gone who is the Packers' emergency long snapper?

Good question. There's no one listed on the depth chart, and I can't recall anyone long snapping in camp except Bradley and Triner. Maybe Lucas Patrick? Wes and I will have to watch during warmups Sunday night.

Chris from Las Vegas, NV

Really enjoy the Inbox. In regards to the new helmet rule, can I ask if these calls will AT LEAST be challenge-able? If not, I think that's the perfect place to start honing these calls. Otherwise, I think at least one team is gonna lose a game as an obvious result of a late, bad call. (Everyone knock on wood please.) Also, did I hear right that Korey Toomer is a Vegas resident?

Yes on Toomer, and no, the calls currently are not reviewable except in the case of deciding whether to eject a player. I think eventually that's going to have to change, possibly when an outcome is greatly influenced by one of these calls, as you noted.

Scott from Little Rock, AR

Watching the Thursday night game. Grady Jarrett's tackle on Nick Foles looked textbook to me and he was penalized for the body weight rule. He didn't pick him up and slam his body on top of his. Sometimes you are on top of the ball carrier when you tackle him. This rule is ridiculous. Please let us know your thoughts.

See above.

Ryan from Menomonie, WI

The yellow line was sufficient. The green box is just annoying.

No doubt.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

In Thursday's game, it was mentioned that the free play from drawing the defense offside is going away. They even mentioned AR12 by name and how it would affect him. Has AR12 addressed this in the media? Was this a nod to balance the scales given the rule advantages trending toward favoring the offense?

That's not it, and no, Rodgers hasn't addressed this. I think the league is focusing on blowing those offside plays dead if the offense also jumps, which is the rule and something I've pointed out many times in this column. The Packers have gotten away with some free plays in the past they shouldn't have because someone on offense also moved before the snap. "Unabated to the QB" is supposed to draw a whistle, but if they start blowing plays dead when the defense jumps and the offense doesn't move, then we have something new. I don't think that's the intent, though, and Al and Cris didn't really clarify that. On last night's play, the offense also jumped.

Paul from St. Paul, MN

An interesting analysis that I found the other day. The average rank for an NFL defense with a top-five pass-rushing defensive tackle is 9.4. The average rank for an NFL defense with a top-five edge rusher is 17.8. Maybe the Bears should be more afraid of Wilkerson, Clark and Daniels, than the Packers of Mack?

Further evidence supporting why Pettine built this defense the way he did, I guess. But it still comes down to making big plays at big times. When a defense gets its sacks and turnovers has become more important than how many it gets because so many games come down to the fourth quarter.

Joan from Portland, OR

Now that you both are engaging in more video, do you sit in a chair to have people do your hair and makeup?

Ha, good one. The powers that be have decided we're obviously beyond such repair.

Jacob from Port Huron, MI

What are you looking forward to most Week 1?

The drop in Oscar Mayer's stock price.

Alan from Mount Auburn, IL

Since Week 1 is when all teams are the most healthy, shouldn't we expect the best football this weekend and be able to assess their overall strength?

Not at all. Not when around 30 percent of the looks in the first month of the season are unscouted and teams are finding out which stuff on paper from the offseason successfully translates to the field in-season. September football is just different. Teams don't know who they really are yet.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Oh Mike, I have no idea what's coming this season. The preseason showed me more nothing than usual concerning our starters. Here are some key areas I'm concerned with: 1) Can we run the ball effectively? 2) Can we generate consistent QB pressure? 3) Is our secondary able to play with smaller cushions? 4) Will our defense have less confused moments? Can you make me feel better about any of them for the coming season?

Not today. If I actually professed to know how any of those items will play out before the first real game, I'd be lying to you, and I don't do that.

Keating from John's Island, SC

It's over. All the scheming, plotting, drama, showbiz of the offseason is over. Now just 17 weeks (22 if we crush it!) of pure agonizing, stressful, smack-talking, "I close my eyes every time Rodgers gets hit!" moments that just drain all the energy we built up during said offseason. God, I love football! Do you think the players are more relaxed than the fans?

Clearly. Happy Friday, everyone. We're almost there.

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