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Inbox: You may not always see the subtle changes, but the opponent feels it

The Packers’ eyes are always open in the never-ending search for talent


Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Welcome back, Wes! I hope your pencil is sharp and your keyboard is rested, because it could be a while before they get another breath.

I snapped my index finger in a mouse trap Tuesday, got stung by a mud dauber Wednesday and couldn't move my neck Thursday. Other than that, I'm just peachy.

Ed from Windsor, CO

Welcome back. I always seem to put on a few during a vacation. Did you return a rested, svelte, and tanned columnist, or did you eat too many asparagus brats and get sunburned?

No sunburn but probably too many brats.

Robert from Verona, WI

I've read a number of comments (not in II) about how Jordan Love has earned his opportunity to start by sitting three years behind Rodgers, but I think comments like that miss the mark. Love didn't earn this opportunity by sitting. He's earned the opportunity by focusing on his craft – learning, practicing, and improving to the point that the Packers believe he can be successful. In the NFL, players don't just "get their turn" after sitting on the sideline like it's a youth flag football team.

Spot on. Love didn't sit. He learned. As developmental QBs go, Love was an ideal prospect for the Packers. He improved every year in Green Bay while also earning the respect of everyone in the locker room, including Aaron Rodgers. Love set the table the past three years. Now, it's finally time to eat.

Ross from Hudson, WI

It feels inevitable that Zach Tom becomes a starter. There is just too much there. I don't think it would require an injury for this to happen, either. Do you think odds are best at: center, right guard, or right tackle?

I think Tom's best position is interior offensive line, but the best odds for him to start this year is at right tackle. A lot can change before the start of the regular season and one injury can turn the tide of the whole unit, but Josh Myers and Jon Runyan played more than 1,000 snaps next to one another last season. I think it's going to take a mighty challenge in training camp to upset that apple cart. I am very intrigued to watch the battle at right tackle, though.

Craig from Los Angeles, CA

Good day II. In your opinion, is there a sort of "leeway" for rookie defensive linemen to grow into their bodies and bulk-up as there is for the rookies on the O-line? Seeing as Lukas Van Ness is already a similar height/weight as Rashan Gary, do you expect much bulking?

To an extent. Physical changes are a bit more pronounced with the development of defensive tackles (e.g. Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels), but edge rushers can make significant strides physically after their first NFL season. That's the biggest difference with a prospect like Gary, who entered the league at 6-5, 272. You may not always see the subtle changes, but the opponent feels it. When you have an athlete like Van Ness, you can't help but get excited about how he'll grow into his prodigious frame.

Paul from West Allis, WI

Good morning. If Gary doesn't play any snaps before the regular season, would he be on a snap count? Or just let them know when he couldn't go anymore?

It might not be an exact number but certainly the Packers will be mindful of Gary's workload out of the gate. I wouldn't expect any edge rusher to play 80% of the defensive snaps in his first game back. Plus, Green Bay also has a more complete rotation of edge rushers with Preston Smith in Justin Hollins, Lukas Van Ness and Kingsley Enagbare.

Paul from West Allis, WI

Good morning. If Gary doesn't take snaps before the regular season, would he be on physically unable to perform?

Gary would be eligible for PUP, but the Packers could still keep him on the 53 if they feel he'll be ready earlier than that six-week window. Mason Crosby was on PUP for the entire duration of training camp last year but then activated during the final cut to 53. It just depends on the player and where he is at in his rehab process.

Craig from River Falls, WI

I am looking at a comparison lately of the 2023 Packers to the 1999 St. Louis Rams. Both have a young inexperienced quarterback, a great receiver in the backfield and a group of young, fast receivers. However, the Rams had Mike Martz before defenses could figure him out. Can LaFleur have a "greatest show on turf"-like offense this year?

Again, I think the Packers are going to surprise people this year. If the offense thrives, I hope Matt LaFleur starts to get the credit he's overdue…with interest.

Jon from Forest, VA

Alex McGough gets to do it again in the NFL. I didn't see that coming, but Gutey didn't back us into a corner without a more experienced QB. Looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

As recent history shows, the Packers' eyes are always open in the never-ending search for talent. I am curious to see how reps get divided among four QBs. Barring injury, Love will get virtually all the No. 1 snaps and rightly so. Regardless of whether Love plays during the preseason, that's still a lot of QBs to feed. I give Packers fans credit, though. There were a lot of folks in the Inbox who stumped for McGough after his breakout season in the USFL. He's certainly earned one more look from the big leagues.

Darren from Wakefield, MI

Welcome back Wes! Who says big things only happen when Spoff is gone? You come back and we once again have a league MVP in the QB room. This should be interesting to see how this shakes out. Do the Packers keep two and one on the practice squad?

It's the most likely scenario unless Danny Etling or McGough proves indispensable during training camp, which has happened before with Tim Boyle and Joe Callahan.

Walter from Rome, NY

Good morning, Insiders! All this talk about a vet QB got me thinking: who is available and near the end of their career? Matt Ryan. But, instead of signing him to the active roster, sign him as assistant QBs coach. Just a fun dead zone thought. Love you guys and all the Inboxers!

It's not the worst idea I've seen in this column, but I think Ryan has a more lucrative opportunity with CBS.

Bob from Rome, NY

Fifty years of success with rookie kickers (Chester Marcol, Chris Jacke and Mason Crosby) gives me confidence that the Packers will be fine this year. Your thoughts on keeping a veteran on speed dial in case the first few preseason games do not go well? Thank you.

Like Tim Masthay once told me, there are no playbooks for specialists and a replacement is only a flight away (or maybe two in Green Bay's case). To be certain, the Packers will be patient with Anders Carlson, but teams always keep a rolodex of kickers. That's just the nature of the business.

Michelle from Ringgold, GA

What impact do you think special teams will have this year?

Huge. If Keisean Nixon picks up where he left off last season, the Packers will have their most fearsome and experienced special-teams unit in like 15-20 years. That would be a huge boost for a first-year starting quarterback in terms of starting field position.

Laura from Pittsburgh, PA

What should be the most fun game this year?

I think Thanksgiving in Detroit could be a lot of fun given the Lions' expectations this year but beating the Bears in Chicago in Week 1 would be hard to top.

Shane from Saxon, WI

Good morning. Thank you for the detailed response to my question regarding Crosby. A Packer player listed in your response was William Henderson, one of my favorite Packer players. That man carried a load. I always thought he never received the national recognition he deserved because of Mike Alstott who played more a running back role than fullback.

It's true. Alstott's 12-year run in Tampa mostly ran concurrent with Henderson's 11 seasons in Green Bay. Henderson might not have received a lot of national acclaim – just one All-Pro/Pro Bowl in 2004 – but Packers fans remember how much of a catalyst he was for this offense. Fullback unfortunately has become an endangered position in the NFL, but the Packers had two of the best (for entirely different reasons) in Henderson and John Kuhn.

Tony from Panama City, Panama

Hello, I know people don't like hypotheticals, but at what point next season do the Jets start paying close attention to AR's snap percentage?

If the Jets are paying attention to Rodgers' snaps, then they have way bigger problems than potentially losing a first-round pick.

Monty from Velva, ND

Where would you rank the Ahman Green trade in the history of the Packers? We didn't win a Super Bowl with him, but he is the franchise rushing leader for the low, low price of Fred Vinson. We hear a lot about the bad trades and draft picks. I'm an optimist.

It's Ron Wolf's best trade that didn't involve Brett Favre. In fact, Wolf once told Rob Reischel, "That trade isn't too far off from the Favre one." The Packers didn't win a Super Bowl with Green, but the franchise's all-time leading rusher catapulted the Packers into contention for five years. His 2003 campaign remains one of the single-most impressive seasons in team history.

Jeffrey from Greenwood, MN

Wes/Mike, how have Mark Murphy, Russ Ball, Gutey and Aaron Jones avoided this running back/compensation soap opera? Are they just smarter than everyone else?

First, the Packers value Aaron Jones, as a player and a person. On the field, you don't need to be a scout to appreciate how this offense operates when Jones is healthy and producing. The Packers are simply a better team with No. 33 on the field. He's also a team captain, a two-time Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee and one of the most positive humans I've ever met. Financially, Green Bay hasn't tied a ton of money up in receivers since the Davante Adams trade. That factors into this equation, as well.

Jack from Chicago, IL

We need to clarify a misconception about the running back value debate. Owners are not gaining profit by not paying running backs as mentioned yesterday. There is no incentive at all for teams to depress the value of one position other than roster building strategy. The players make 49% (or whatever it is) of the revenue and teams have to spend it. Thus, any money not paid to running backs is paid to other positions. I'd love to see total RB allocated cap dollars over time if someone is bored.

I don't have the specific numbers but one of the analytic syndicates tweeted on Thursday that running backs have seen the second-lowest growth in terms of contractual dollars over the past 10 years. I believe only punters were worse.

Arthur from Eau Claire, WI

Welcome back Wes. Saquon Barkley wants to sit out a year to prove to the New York Giants his value. To me, he would be taking a huge risk. He would be opening the door to another player that wants an NFL job and wouldn't mind his. To me it would be a lose/lose action for Barkley. Do you see any positive for Barkley if he goes that route? I just see a repeat of Le'Veon Bell from the Steelers.

I understand Barkley's frustration and desire to be paid for his contributions to the Giants, but I also think running backs need to get their money when the money is on the table. The position is too volatile, and the career clock is always ticking. Coincidentally, Bell tweeted this past week how he regrets holding out and leaving Pittsburgh in 2018.

TK from Grafton, WI

If I come to training camp, see you guys, get within earshot, and yell, "Hey! I'm TK from Grafton!", can you say "Hi"? And/or get a credential? Ha!

You have a better shot at getting the former than the latter, though Spofford has more connections than I do.

Tim from Clear Lake, IA

Wes, I hope to see you Saturday morning at the 5K. I'm coming over from Iowa and bringing two brothers.

I'll be there. Wait for me at the finish line.

Dustin from Kansas City, MO

Wes, welcome back! I've been waiting for you to return to tell you this story. While at a summer party, I was making a brat when I happened to notice a tray of asparagus sitting on the table, as well. So, I did what any good II reader would do and threw some on my brat. I think I still prefer mine with just a little BBQ sauce on it, but I do get where you're coming from now. Something about the two flavors does go together quite nicely. So, I'd like to apologize for my initial judgment.

Apology accepted. I enjoyed your wonderful city for three days last week, but you can keep the thunderstorms and tornadic weather. I almost started rounding up two of each animal during our drive into town last Friday.

Troy from Madison, WI

Hello II. You have Mike Spofford as editor and Wes Hodkiewicz as senior writer. With all the money the Packers made last year, it looks like they have room for a "Junior Writer," or maybe an "Assistant Lunch Stealer." I am game for either one! I put my resume and toss my hat in the ring. LOL.

Spoff doesn't need any help stealing my lunch, Troy. Have a great Friday, everyone.

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