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Inbox: You could feel the energy in the room

The style of defense you play is what matters most, not just the scheme

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley

Roger from Milford, IL

After watching the Jeff Hafley's press conference, I came to the conclusion we have a keeper. His response to questions gave me confidence that he will not only be a great defensive coordinator but also a great teacher. I believe the current players are going to love playing for him. I love his enthusiasm and his passion for the game. Great hire, Matt LaFleur. GPG

I loved all 28 minutes, 27 seconds of Hafley's presser. I liked the passion. I liked the vigor. I mean, you could feel the energy in the room. I thought Hafley did a good job of laying out his defensive philosophy and what he wants to achieve with players (e.g. "two or three guys going 100 miles an hour to the ball.") As someone born and raised here, I personally enjoyed Hafley speaking on how Green Bay being "the mecca of the football" helped draw him here. After his time at Boston College, Hafley has worn every hat there is to wear as a coach and is more than ready for this opportunity. I'm excited to see what he does.

Jim from Baileys Harbor, WI

"Nickel is the new base" seems to be the new mantra around here. Can you explain in more detail why the Packers are switching to 4-3? Must be something important in changing such a relatively minor part of game plans.

I asked Matt LaFleur whether the 4-3 was an adjustment he was looking to make during his search for a new defensive coordinator and LaFleur said it had more to do with Hafley's philosophy. As I alluded to earlier this week, Green Bay is in a good spot with its personnel to make a switch. But at the end of the day, the style of defense you play is what matters most, not just the scheme. It's how your team plays every time they touch the field. If the players believe, the production will come.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Wes, you were gracious and humble as you relinquished your role as hypothetical GM of the Bears. As we've all seen, Gutey has quickly built a solid reputation as an effective GM. Certainly talent evaluation is key to that role, but I'm sure there is more. What are the other traits that contribute to his success?

In my opinion, having the courage of your convictions is critical…and that applies to every walk of life. Sitting at the head of the table is no easy responsibility. The buck stops with you. Brian Gutekunst has had a deluge of major decisions to make during his six years as GM. He believed strongly enough in his talent evaluation of Jordan Love to trade up to draft him in 2020 and then stood by him three years later. Gutsy moves like that separate good from great.

Dave from Indianapolis, IN

Hod, I read II every day and love the work you do. There were a lot of comparisons between Jordan Love's stats and Aaron Rodgers' stats during broadcasts. One thing that I was curious about was the number of sacks taken by Love. It didn't seem to be nearly as many as Rodgers took. What do the stats show, and do you have an explanation as to why Love took fewer, if indeed that was the case?

It's comparable, though Love played one more regular-season game during his first year as a starting QB. Love was sacked 30 times (1.8 sacks per game) this past season while Rodgers had 34 (2.1) in 2008. Love has good mobility and a firm grasp on his exit angles from the pocket when pressure is coming. The offensive line also only got better as the season progressed.

Bruce from Jackson, WI

Wes, I'm hoping to get your opinion on our RB usage. I think we saw at the end of this last season Aaron Jones' potential when he has more carries in a game. With the exception of injury to one or the other, we have seemed to split the carries roughly 50/50 with Jones and AJ Dillon the last three seasons. My question is why? Jones averages a yard more per carry during that period. Wouldn't a split of 75/25 or even 80/20 be more productive? Many backs on other teams handle a larger workload.

True, but Jones also sprained his knee and suffered a series of hamstring injuries en route to his 172 regular-season touches. In my opinion, a 17-game schedule requires multiple running backs shouldering the load. Jones fortunately got healthy in time to be Green Bay's bell-cow during the playoff chase, but you can't expect to put 80% of the workload on one back for four months.

Jerome from Monticello, MN

Wes, do you think Christian Watson will be able to solve his hamstring injury for good or will it still be a potential problem every year? Thanks for all your articles and the "Packers Unscripted" broadcasts.

I do. Watson takes great care of his body. He's just had some bad luck but thankfully none of these hamstring pulls have been a full tear like what Desmond Bishop experienced. That can be career-altering. Hopefully, Watson and the Packers get to the root cause this offseason. A healthy Watson can a special player in this league.

Bob from Rome, NY

Wes: "The teacher can't start the project unless the materials are in the drawer." Let's add "and the cell phones are put away." OK, now my question. What are your thoughts on moving Eric Stokes to safety? Seems to be a need at that position and I don't want to see the organization give up on such a great talent. I await your expert response! Thank you.

I wouldn't be in favor of it. First, Stokes has the speed and size to succeed as an outside cornerback if – like Watson – he can put the hamstring injuries behind him. Even if there was credence in Stokes shifting to safety, I think his focus should be on just getting back on the field without the distraction of learning a new position.

Jerome from Midland, MI

With Corey Ballentine and Carrington Valentine, there was lots of tape to learn from and good reps. Ballentine, I see as the nickel CB, and competition in CB room should bring out the best of the players that are most committed.

I can't say enough about the job Ballentine did this season. Cornerback was expected to be one of Green Bay's deepest spots in 2023, but injuries and the Rasul Douglas trade chipped away at the position. That opened the door for Ballentine to see the most defensive playing time of his career. He never backed down regardless of whether Ballentine was lined up against an undrafted rookie or Justin Jefferson. Looking back now, it's funny how a fifth-year veteran like Ballentine and a rookie seventh-rounder like Valentine came together to fortify the secondary.

Etienne from St. Joachim de Tourelle, Canada

Good morning II. How will or would a base 4-3 affect Kenny Clark's play? Will he face fewer double team? Could the interior of our defensive line of him and Devonte Wyatt become the defense's strength?

I don't think much will change for Clark other than bringing him closer to the ball on first downs. In nickel and dime, he'll still likely be a three-technique defensive tackle. Whatever Hafley does, I think the defensive line can be a pillar for the defense. Clark is now a three-time Pro Bowler and still only 28, while Wyatt, T.J. Slaton, Karl Brooks and Colby Wooden are all expected to take another step in 2024.

Keith from Dodgeville, WI

Wes, if Da Bears don't draft Marvin Harrison Jr. with the first pick, the front office is dumber than everyone thinks. Then, Chicago should draft a QB or keep Justin Fields and build around him. But I don't want to see Harrison two times a season, so I hope he goes to some team out of the division.

The most probable outcome is Harrison going No. 4 to Arizona, though I feel Harrison and D.J. Moore could be a formidable pairing. If you're the Bears, you might not even have to draft him No. 1 depending on whether Washington or New England wants to ensure they get its QB.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

I think the biggest reason we don't see teams going for two each time is you have a 45% chance of not getting it, meaning only six points. Whether you score to take the lead or score to tie it up, that one point is far safer and usually what you need to "hold serve." Not getting it can be disastrous, especially because there is no guarantee you score again. That being said, getting it could really put a hair in the other team's hotdish, so what do I know?

We saw how valuable one point can be during the Super Bowl when Jake Moody had his extra point blocked in the fourth quarter, allowing Kansas City to kick the field goal to tie the game with 5 minutes, 46 seconds remaining. It changed the entire arithmetic of the game. It's trickier to make that 33-yard kick than it was from 20 but still worth taking the point in my mind.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

It's fascinating to me that a seventh-round draft pick like Brock Purdy can become a very good NFL QB and many high draft picks fail. Of course, many high QB draft picks start on teams with very little talent, which will continue to lose without the talent around the QB. Then, team owners and fans still blame the QB, and he is so often considered a bust or at least not given enough time to develop. We'll never know, but would Brock have been successful with, say, the Carolina Panthers?

Cinderella stories like Purdy are why I love this game. Perhaps Purdy wouldn't have been an MVP contender in Carolina, but I still think he'd do well there. While Purdy undoubtedly benefits from San Francisco's embarrassment of offensive riches, he plays the game fearlessly and puts guys in positions to make plays. That's what you want from your franchise QB.

Thomas from Oviedo, FL

Good morning. I agree with Wes that we will never again see a player receiving ownership stake in their team mainly because it's prohibited by the collective bargaining agreement. A team can't circumvent the salary cap or wage scale with side deals. There was a rumor that Caleb Williams wanted ownership stake. It was false just like the rumor that he is refusing to play for the Bears.

There's a difference between player and coach, though. Either way, welcome to subterfuge season.

David from Goldsboro, NC

Jeff from Indian Lake's question got me wondering about NIL money college players are making. Could you see this becoming an issue for the NFL down the line? What if multiple players decide they're not playing for the teams that drafted them? John Elway had baseball to fall back on. These guys have more money than most of us make in 10 years.

Unless a prospect has the option to play a different sport professionally (e.g. Kyler Murray), I doubt what you're asking ever becomes a real issue. The money – via player contract and sponsors – is an astronomically higher in the NFL than an NIL deal. Even if it wasn't, most college players want to start the clock on those rookie contracts in hope of securing a life-changing deal in four or five years.

Tom from Walworth, WI

What is the highest draft position that the Packers have drafted a running back and do you envision anyone that the Pack would take earlier than the fifth round, if available to them, in the next draft?

The Packers drafted Paul Hornung No. 1 overall in 1957, but Brent Fullwood (fourth in 1987) would be the highest Green Bay has selected a RB in the Super Bowl era. With five picks in the top 100, I could see Green Bay drafting a running back if there was one Gutekunst desires. I'd still lean towards Day 3, though. Historically, that's where the Packers have gotten the most bang for their buck.

Mark from Omro, WI

Could you please explain the post-June 1 benefits for a team? Was this intended to help veterans, or help the team?

A little of both. By allowing a team to use the designation, released veterans are free to find a new team immediately rather than trying to catch on at the end of the offseason program when most teams have spent their money.

Mark from Knowlton, WI

My father and grandfather both worked for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Of course, I know you did, as well. With so many newspapers stopping the presses or about to, what do you think could or should be done to save this time-honored profession and business and jobs?

I wish I had that answer because the newspaper industry means a great deal to me. I also wish young journalists could experience what it felt like to be part of a bustling newsroom. There was nothing like it. I'll never forget when the Press-Gazette made Scott Venci and me switch desks because every computer was taken, and they needed my space – as a part-time employee at the time – for a paginating position in the evenings. When I left in 2016, the newsroom was gutted, and writers could sit in any desk they wanted. I will never stop rooting for newspaper employees. I tip my cap to people like Tom Silverstein from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel who continue to fight the good fight.

Zak from Huntington Beach, CA

If ChatGBP (well-played, btw) is unavailable, I would be happy to answer Inbox questions on Saturdays, although I don't think I have the willpower to stop myself from dunking anyone who submits stupid questions or rage letters. As such, it would likely require a content warning and an "MA" rating. I'm just Spoff-balling here, but perhaps we could publish it at night and call it "Outsiders: After Dark?"

Hence why Spoff and I are the only ones with the keys to the column.

Dan from Waupun, WI

Hello Mr. II writer. Is the Packers organization nice enough to let you arrive on Central Time and leave on Lombardi Time? This would be a nice gesture for Murph.

I ain't getting in no (darn) time machine, Dan.

Brad from Denver, CO

Come on now, Wes. Those of us who have been around since the early Vic days are shaking our collective heads. It's not "full consistency," it's "FULL CONSISTENCY." I think not having to worry about your lunch this week has softened you up a little. All joking aside, thank you both for what you do!!

I've become fat and happy while Spoff has been away. Have a great weekend, everybody.

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