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Jean Francois provides depth, flexibility on D-line

The opportunity is there for young defenders to make an impact


Mark from Missoula, MT

I don't know anything about our newcomer, Ricky Jean Francois, other than that's a pretty cool name. What does he bring to this team?

He's a grinder who made a name for himself in a 3-4 defense in San Francisco under Vic Fangio that has many parallels to the Packers' system under Dom Capers. Jean Francois' frame (6-3, 313) enables him to play every position on the defensive front, giving the Packers added flexibility. He's regarded as a veteran leader who's willing to do whatever is required. He should provide solid depth at the position and be a good mentor for Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry.

Mike from North Hudson, WI

Some fans are unhappy and think that the Packers have done zip in this year's free agency to date. In fact it's their busiest free agency period since 2006. Do you think that there is something left up Trader Ted's sleeve?

This has been an offseason of action, but keep in mind they took care of their biggest pending free agent in September when they re-signed David Bakhtiari. They also brought back their top defensive free agent, Nick Perry. A few exited during the free-agent process, but Thompson responded by adding four external free agents at perceived positions of need. That includes signing arguably the best tight end on the market in Martellus Bennett.

Dale from Owatonna, MN

Lori from Brookfield had a great question - favorite Aaron Rodgers throw. The 21-yard completion to Greg Jennings for a TD in the Super Bowl. The throw was analyzed on "Sports Science" and showed how incredibly perfect it had to be to avoid being knocked down or having the catch be knocked out of his hands by Troy Polamalu. I loved that throw because when we went up 21-3 I allowed myself to R-E-L-A-X

One interesting thing about the infusion of outside veterans the past two years is hearing Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks talk about how the Rams would put on Rodgers' film to study not only the throws he makes, but also how he controls the line of scrimmage pre-snap. Many of those marquee throws are rooted in dissecting the defense and finding the smallest of holes to create a big play. His ability to pain the sideline is also one the things that make him truly special.

Jeff from Green Bay, WI

Do you get the sense that Thompson's draft priorities are affected by allowing young players like Kyler Fackrell and Jayrone Elliott to shine with an increased amount of snaps this year? Competition is great as long as a position is not crowded out and players can't get enough snaps to make an impact, in my opinion.

I don't know how it affects the Packers' draft priorities, but I'd expect Fackrell and Elliott will get the opportunity to earn larger roles on defense. Fackrell was starting to show his potential around the same time he came down with the hamstring injury. The quad and hand injuries never really allowed Elliott to be much of a factor on defense. As Elliott said earlier this week, the opportunity is there to make an impact. It's up to him, Fackrell and the other young linebackers to take it.

Take a look at Packers DT Ricky Jean Francois before he landed in Green Bay. Photos by AP.

Steve from Green Bay, WI

Given the following three observations: First: The Packers are a draft and develop team. Second: that both Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy are going into their second year, and Third: Thompson was willing to let Lang move on. Why don't we hear much about last year's rookies taking over the right guard position? To me, it seems one of these two will take the roll.

That's what the Packers will have to consider this offseason. During our interview with Mike McCarthy in Indianapolis, he seemed to indicate Spriggs' future is at tackle and sees Kyle Murphy as more of a tweener. My bet is both will get a chance to compete for the job. The Packers like to cross-train their backup linemen at as many positions as possible. It promotes competition and readies the reserves for any possible scenario.

Ron from Rockford, IL

Should we be concerned with these one-year free agent deals? Does the front office really want to go through the Jared Cook scenario again, where they find a player they like but can't re-sign him?

It's typical in today's NFL and not exclusive to just Green Bay. "Prove-it" deals have been all the craze or the past few years with players hoping to parlay a big season into a long-term contract. Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor and Eddie Lacy are just a few players who fell into that one-year category. In some cases like Nick Perry, it works out great for both sides. It's a part of the free-agent process.

Jerry from Lancaster, CA

With the re-signing of Christine Michael, the Packers' running back situation was just upgraded. Now TT can maybe look for a RB in the later rounds to develop.

The flexibility is there because the Packers don't paint themselves into a box. The moves Thompson has made over the past two weeks allow the Packers to keep their options open on draft day. It's similar to what the Packers have done in the past. Even when they had an apparent need like safety in 2014, they shifted Micah Hyde to the back end in addition to drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Perry, House and Michael give Green Bay options for handling pass-rusher, cornerback and running back.

Jake from Loveland, CO

Biff, thanks for your solo work this week! The long snapper question got me thinking...if you only have one long snapper and he gets injured mid-game, do you risk throwing in another snapper or go for two points and fourth down every time? A muffed snap is a game-killer. What about other positions? Perhaps specialists like punters/kickers?

The Packers have a backup prepared in case of emergency with Don Barclay currently filling that role. During the season, he'll usually take a period to snap a little bit. Ryan Taylor and Justin Perillo used to do the same. It would not have been ideal if Brett Goode had to leave the game with his knee injury against Oakland in 2015. While it might have affected their decision-making on a long field-goal attempt, I don't think it would've changed their thought-process with extra points and punting situations.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

"You can never have enough..." got me thinking, has there ever been a situation where the punter and kicker both got injured in the same game leaving another player to take over the kicking duties? Who would assume that role for the Packers?

I'd give Rodgers some serious consideration after watching him punt the ball last year in training camp, but I'm not sure who the "official" emergency option is.

John from Austin, TX

R.I.P Clay Matthews Sr., grandfather of Packers LB Clay, and surely the all-time football family father.

Our thoughts are with Clay Jr. and Clay III during this sad time. I never had a chance to talk to Clay Sr., but I was told he was a true gentlemen from people who either knew him or interviewed him previously. He was the patriarch of one of the first families of football. The Matthews name will live on in NFL lore.

Merle from Kaukauna, WI

I was so happy you responded to my comment about Ron Kramer. I hope your grandfather is still alive so you two can still talk about the Packers. And Henry Jordan was the idol I got to meet, like you and LeBeau. Outside of Fuzzy Thurston, Henry Jordan was the only Packer I ever got to talk to.

My grandfather passed away two years ago this May, but I'm grateful for every day I got to spend with him. I made sure to pick his brain constantly during our time together.

JJ from Cape Coral, FL

Wes, I loved hearing your grandfather say Henry Jordan was the best. My dad felt the same way.

I always found my grandpa's stories fascinating. If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't have known who Jordan was until I was significantly older. My grandfather would tell me all the time how much of a difference-maker he was on the Packers' championship defenses and what a tragedy it was that he died so young. A lot of what I know about the 60s Packers came from my grandfather. The rest mainly came from Cliff.

Jimmy from New Richmond, WI

Hey Wes. Happy Saturday! What are your thoughts on how they are trying to cut down on game length? I'm all for less commercials and more game, but shaving five minutes off a three-hour long game doesn't seem to be the answer to me. Keep up the good work buddy.

I'm in favor of cutting down on game time and appreciate the league's efforts to explore different options. I can't speak for fans, though. I'm not sure how much they care about shortening a game by five or 10 minutes.

Tyler from Louisville, KY

When I played high school football at the end of practice we would often run sprints until one of our O-linemen could catch a punt. Sometimes that meant a lot of sprints. Fielding a punt is very tough.

Punt returners often get overlooked and taken for granted in my book. People just expect players to catch the ball and return it for a touchdown. Yet, it's such a difficult thing to accomplish and one more reason I feel like Devin Hester belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Andrew from Sheboygan, WI

Your answer regarding Johnathan Franklin reminded me of how excited I was to watch him develop until, obviously, the career-ending injury happened. Is he still a member of the Packers staff?

Franklin interned with the Packers for a year and worked at Notre Dame before recently accepting a position in community outreach and external affairs for the Los Angeles Rams. He was raised in the LA area.

Claimed off waivers in August, P Jacob Schum appeared in all 16 games of the 2016 season. He averaged 43.2 yards per punt, with 19 punts being downed inside the 20. Photos by Evan Siegle and Matt Becker,

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, nice job extending plays with your keyboard all over the Packers' website while Mike was on vacation and Vic wrote only the Monday Insider column. Did it help you understand how Aaron Rodgers felt when Starks and Lacy went down and he had to carry a lot more responsibility alone?

It definitely has given me even greater respect for how Vic managed to write this column six times each week. I'm so used to having at least a day to collect all my thoughts.

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

If you get hundreds of questions a day from readers, why do you and Spoff answer a lot of questions from the same people? You answer about 25 questions an article so I think you would be able to find plenty of material other than your regulars. Maybe implement a new rule that you answer a regular's question once a week.

*I'm sorry Ryan. I don't have time to keep a running tally. We try to answer as many good questions as we can.  *

Ryan from Verona, WI

In response to the Madden question, Madden 2017 does have a practice squad, but they still have point related scouting (FIFA scouting is way better!) and that preseason cut down you love. I only wish you could do all the cuts in the last week of preseason like teams do in the NFL. For a question, I love the Pack, but I enjoy playing other teams in the game. Do you have a preference?

I usually played with whichever teams had the lowest rating and a fluid quarterback situation. I love rebuilding.

Brian from Monroe, CT

Wes, it seems you answer far more questions than your counterparts. What does that say about their stamina at advancing ages compared to yours?

I don't have Vic's wisdom or Spoff's intellect, so I try to provide as much knowledge as possible about the team. My Inbox is a reflection of the questions asked. If the questions are good and plenty, I try to answer as many as I can. The longer my columns are, the better the questions were.

Tristan from Durham, NC

Hey Wes, now that you've had a season under your belt as an Insider, what did you learn from your rookie year, and how are you looking to develop for your sophomore season?

I'm going to continue to trust my technique, listen to everything Spoff has to say and be the best staff writer I can be. The first year was a learning experience, but a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to many more. Enjoy Vic on Monday. You have to put up with me for a few more days next week, but then Spoff takes back over. Have a great weekend.

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