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Packers' youth on defense can make a difference

Plus thoughts on LeRoy Butler's Hall of Fame worthiness


Wes from Fishers, ND

From one Wes to another, I wanted to say welcome. Could you give us details about your background in journalism, specifically covering sports, and how you hope to effectively provide your insight to "Insider Inbox"?

Hey Wes, appreciate the warm welcome. I'm thrilled to be here and work on a canvas Vic created. So where do I begin? I started working at the Green Bay Press-Gazette in September 2006, the same month I started college at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. I spent the next 10 years of my life at the newspaper, covering preps and local sports for the first six years and then transitioning to a full-time Packers beat writer in 2012. I've learned a lot and been fortunate to tell some incredible stories. I love football, though I wasn't nearly talented or tough enough to play it past middle school. Having the chance to document the sport over the past few years has been more than I ever could have dreamed, especially for a kid from Green Bay. Since starting at in April, I'd like to think I've brought a fresh perspective to complement what Vic and Spoff have built. Going forward, I think the three of us have a unique opportunity to give you a well-rounded view of the NFL with our contrasting backgrounds and perspectives. As far as insights, I'm a student of the game. I've learned from some of the best beat writers in the NFL (in my opinion) and hope I can offer a look into everything going on with the Packers. I'll also probably drop a few Game of Thrones references along the way.

Sam from South St Paul, MN

Wes, how do you say your last name?

Well, that depends on who you ask. My dad and I pronounce it differently. I pronounce it phonetically (HOD-Kuh-Wits) whereas he uses the Polish pronunciation (HOD-Kay-Vitch). Neither is wrong, but it makes it fun whenever a telemarketer calls the house.

Danya from Lake Mills, WI

Following Vic's response about post-game interview rooms, what is the Packers' like? I'm assuming there are two. Is there a difference between 'home' and 'away' interview rooms at any stadium you've been to?

Huge difference between home and away. I don't know what the Packers' locker rooms were like prior to the 2003 renovations, but their current arrangements are as good as anywhere in the NFL. As someone who is claustrophobic, there have been a few road locker rooms that tested me the past few years. With the amount of media who travel to cover the Packers, I remember Buffalo in 2014 being especially tricky to navigate. There are some neat ones, too. I think back to Oakland and the O. co Coliseum this past year. The Raiders use the team's weight room as the post-game interview room for visiting coaches. For anyone who has read Michael Lewis' "Moneyball," I made sure to stop in after I finished my story to take it all in like, 'This is where Billy Beane agonizes through all the A's games.' Every place in the NFL is different and unique in its own way. Lambeau Field has a nice setup, though.

Ty Montgomery, the Packers third round selection in the 2015 draft, caught 15 balls for 136 yards and 2 TDs in his rookie season. Photos by Shawn Hubbard, Jim Biever, Matt Becker,

Craig from Brookfield, WI

Ty Montgomery showed flashes of brilliance before his injury. To what degree can he be considered a second-year guy, having not been on the field but being around the organization? Will he be able to regain his speed?

I really like Montgomery. I thought he showed a lot in those first six games before the ankle injury. Only Ty knows how Ty feels, but it sounds like the surgery and his recovery have been all positive. Assuming the ankle heals 100 percent, there's no reason to think he won't be able to get back up to speed quickly. Remember we're talking about the same player who missed most of the offseason last year because of Stanford's quarter system and then looked right at home once he arrived for minicamp. He's an incredibly smart player. I really wanted to see what the offense was capable of with both Cobb and Montgomery on the field last year. Obviously Jordy Nelson's return will be welcome, but the Cobb/Montgomery duo presents so many mismatch possibilities.

Keith from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Vic made his opinion of Toni Boselli's Hall of Fame worthiness clear. As the only other '90s all-decade first-teamer not to be a finalist, what are your thoughts on LeRoy Butler's HOF worthiness?

I can only speak for myself, but I believe LeRoy Butler belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In my opinion, he ranks right up there with the other modern-era safeties who have made the final ballot the past few years. If Butler played another season or two, I don't even think we'd be having this conversation. The Super Bowl XXXI team had more than two Hall of Fame players on it. When you sit back and really examine Fritz Shurmur's defense, Butler was a catalyst in the Packers' dominance. The Packers simply wouldn't have been nearly as dominant as they were without Butler commanding those defenses. He changed the game. It seems like the NFL is giving the safety position more respect in today's game than maybe 10 years ago. We'll see what happens.

Mark from Naperville, IL

Wes, how often do you play Madden?

Not as much as when I was younger. I remain a huge fan of the franchise and love to play in a group setting, but just not enough hours in the day anymore to play solo. I was all about that life from 1999 until 2005. I pushed the limits of the franchise mode. I don't know about any of you other Madden gamers, but my favorite pastime was picking the worst team in the league and rebuilding them. Proud to say I once won a Super Bowl with the Bengals and Akili Smith. I might have even put that on my first resume.

Samuel from South Carolina

Hey Mike and Wes, glad to have you young guns onboard. Looking forward to the opening of 2016 training camp. Should be an exciting time for our young draft prospects. Who do you guys feel will have an immediate impact on the defensive side?

Definitely agree with you. The Packers have two legit prospects in Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, and I'm excited to see if Kenny Clark can follow their lead when it comes to making an impact as a rookie. I also want to mention Nick Perry, who was healthy enough to participate in his first offseason program. Personally, I've always felt Perry is the Packers' best outside linebacker at setting the edge against the run and flashing the ability to dominate on the defensive side of the ball. I'll be interested to see if he can translate all of his work this offseason into a strong start. His performance against Washington was the best of his NFL career considering his 2½ sacks against one of the league's top left tackles came despite a club on his hand. Perry isn't a rookie anymore, but still see a lot of untapped potential in him.

Paul from Ellensburg, WA

Hey Wes, everyone is excited for the competition at WR3. Who do like between the candidates? Adams' skill set and experience, Abbrederis' route-running or Janis' talent and speed?

Davante Adams had a rough year in 2015. No one is denying that, but I think it would be a mistake to dismiss him. First, he's only 23 years old and won't turn 24 until Christmas Eve. Second, he'll have the benefit of Nelson returning to the offense. The NFL is all about production. I get that, but remember how long it took Nelson to get his feet under him. I'm just reminded of how Adams performed in big games against New England and Dallas in 2014. I want to see what he can do with Nelson back in the offense. At the same time, I like the competition that's brewing at the position. Janis made huge strides last year when you factor in his maturation on special teams, and Abbrederis proved a consistent steady presence despite starting the year on the practice squad. Assuming Montgomery returns to form, the Packers have plenty of options for handling their receiver-heavy packages.

Nick from Richmond, VA

Hey Wes, I want you to know, I've been reading everything you wrote on the site in sharp judgment trying to decide if you have the "chops" to follow up Vic. I decided you pass. I like your fresh view on things. I was curious, what's your favorite football memory?

Easily the Packers' preseason game against the Titans in 2003. The game had like a 2½-hour delay due to lightning, but we stayed anyway. Typically, I'm frightened of inclement weather, but my buddies and I had a blast killing time. Barely anybody stayed for the end, so we went down and sat on the 50-yard line when the game resumed. I'm sure it was an absolute nightmare for the beat writers, but it was a great time for a high-school kid with a week to spare before the start of school. I always enjoyed it whenever games fell on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, too. My parents don't have tickets other than the Brown Co. lottery, but I always seemed to go to those games. My reflections of coming to Lambeau, tailgating and then going home to play Madden are memories I'll always cherish.

James from Long Island, NY

Mike/Wes, how is the LB position looking? With Clay going back outside there's a big hole in the middle, with only rookies to fill it. Who do you think can step up?

*Don't want to be a cliché here, but I don't think we'll get a good feel for it until the pads go on. Blake Martinez has done everything you could ask of a rookie linebacker and Jake Ryan certainly has put in the work in the weight room to make a bid for an every-down role this season. When you factor in Sam Barrington's return, I think the Packers have enough options to allow Dom Capers to use Clay Matthews however he chooses. As for what young linebackers emerge, I go back to what Martinez said earlier this offseason – it's on them to prove they can handle dime responsibilities rather than the coaches inserting a hybrid defensive back  like other NFL teams are doing. *

Brett from Winchester, VA

I think Jared Cook may be a hidden gem if he stays healthy. He is the prototypical tall TE that can stretch the field, but I see a little Spiderman in his hands when he's on the edge. A tall tight end with Jordy's catching skills, dare I dream?

Although Cook has seven NFL seasons on his resume, there's still a lot of upside to his game. For starters, he's never had a quarterback like Rodgers throwing passes to him. The Packers' abundance of weapons also should help increase his play-making opportunities. His presence in the middle of the field could go a long way in making defenses pick their poison again. All indications are Cook's foot should be fine by the start of camp. In blending his skill set with that of Richard Rodgers, the Packers like their holdings at tight end.

John from Flanders, NJ

Afternoon guys! I've always felt the Packers' defense needed a little more of Mike Daniels' type of attitude. From the little I've seen and heard, does Kenny Clark bring that?

My first impression of Clark is he seems like a nice, well-mannered kid. The Packers raved about his maturity despite his youth (he won't be 21 until October) and that's shined through so far. That doesn't mean he's a marshmallow, though. His UCLA film suggests he's a pretty gritty and aggressive nose tackle. Daniels is boisterous, assertive and possesses a motor like few others. It's the last part that I believe is the key to Daniels' game. If Clark brings that same energy, the Packers could be onto something.

Wendell from Porto Alegre, Brazil

Wes, I'd like to see preseason games like it is the NBA Summer League, just with first-, second- and third-year players. Thoughts?

I agree with you. My favorite part of the preseason is seeing the young guys play. Barring injury, it's really our only shot to see undrafted free agents playing their natural positions. To your point, NFL teams do a good job of policing their own veterans in the preseason. So I don't know if you need a hard-and-fast rule where players have to sit out a set number of games. I don't have any statistics, but it seems like veterans are playing less and less each year. With the five preseason games, I think most players on the bubble will get more than enough reps to prove themselves.

Barry from Hayward, WI

With a greater emphasis on the pass in the modern game, which part of the defense has to be premium to make a run in the playoffs; the defensive line, the linebackers or the secondary?

I guess it kind of depends on the scheme. In a 3-4, I'd say the edge rushers. You could have the best secondary in the NFL, but it's all for naught if you can get to the quarterback. Even the best coverages will eventually breakdown. I think you saw the power of the pass rush last year with Denver and I'm sure that's part of the reason the Packers want to move Matthews back to an every-down rusher this year. The quicker you get after the quarterback, the more difficult it becomes for the opposing offense to establish rhythm and tempo.

Jordan, Medford, NJ

Hello Mike and/or Wes, when does a team with a franchise quarterback know it is time to start looking for the future franchise QB, and how do they do it without stepping on the toes of the current franchise QB?

That's the million-dollar question. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer other than maybe drafting for value. The Packers didn't draft Aaron Rodgers in the first round in 2005 because they needed him to start immediately. Ted Thompson saw the best player available fall directly into his lap and reacted. If you and your scouts feel you've found a once-in-a-generation talent, you have to act on it. For the past 20 years, we've seen quarterbacks play at an MVP-caliber level well into their 30s. You always have to make sure the quarterback cupboard is stocked – the 2013 season proved that – but I don't think you have to go out of your way to make sure you're preparing a successor when your franchise quarterback is in the prime of his career.

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