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Some stats mean more than others

Onside kicks will become even more difficult for kicking teams to recover


Michael from Santa Cruz, CA

Good day, gents. I just re-watched the Bengals game from last season and what stood out most (besides the second half and OT brilliance of Rodgers) was that Josh Jones was the best defensive player on the field for that game. He was not asked to cover much and his impact was greatest playing at or near the line of scrimmage. He was causing havoc behind the line the whole game. While I expect his coverage skills will only improve going forward, I hope they don't ask him to cover much in Pettine's D. His strength seems to be "see the ball, go get the ball."

I've referenced the Bengals game several times in this space. I think Jones has plenty of skills in multiple areas, but McCarthy said again this week too much was put on his plate last year, partly out of necessity due to injuries. Early in the year, like the Bengals game (Week 3), before the injuries mounted, Jones gave us a glimpse of what he can be. Whatever lumps he took later on, he'll be better for it and so will the Packers' defense.

Ben from St. Charles, IA

Biff, the NFL equivalent of a strong bullpen would be a team with a good "four-minute" offense, i.e. an offense that can close out a game, don't you think?

I like that analogy.

Vinny from Arlington, VA

Mike, with you previously mentioning being hit by an errant throw along with Wes's Thursday comment about seeing Rodgers' passing velocity first-hand reflects something I've wondered. My question is does he need to pass with such velocity? Essentially, does Rodgers throw too hard? Especially, if doing so, results in dropped passes, broken fingers, etc. No one will ever question Rodgers' velocity. Given that there are a lot of young players on the team and three rookies, they have enough to adjust to then to add Rodgers' arm strength. Some of these younger players are either transitioning to a WR (Clark) or have been labeled, from college whether fair or not, with drops (Moore).

Let me see if I've got this straight. You'd like Rodgers to soft-touch the ball more for the young guys, which means he needs a bigger window in which to throw to them, necessitating holding the ball in the pocket longer and allowing more time for the defenders to react to his throws? Sure, that'll work. Down the street at Ashwaubenon High maybe.

Keith from Dearborn, MI

Hello Insiders, as we progress through the offseason, the hype will continue to grow as we march toward another Super Bowl run. We have been very fortunate to have our eyes on the Super Bowl year-in and year-out as a new season approaches. When was the last offseason you can recall where the Super Bowl wasn't a legitimate possibility?

Probably McCarthy's first year in 2006, when he was taking over a 4-12 team whose roster Thompson was in the process of gutting.

Joe from Ames, IA

I was watching baseball the other day and on a play that went to review the announcers mentioned it would be interesting if the people reviewing in New York didn't know the initial call on the field, instead making their decision based only on what they saw. Do you think replay review could ever go that route in sports or will the call on the field always have to be irrefutably overturned?

I believe if the leagues wanted to diminish the weight given the calls on the field, they'd have done so explicitly already. The officials/umpires deserve the respect the review process gives them, in my opinion, though I think it was obvious last year in the NFL some calls were getting overturned with less than conclusive evidence.

Bob from Rossford, OH

"I think it's only a matter of time before teams have analytic sectors the size of coaching staffs and personnel departments." Well that would be nice, but how about some analytics on the Insider Inbox. Percent "snarky" replies. Total number of movie references in a single day. Number of Oxford commas. Now if we had that going for us, that would be nice.


Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Clay Matthews doesn't seem convinced the pieces are in place for a better defense. He said it, but didn't sound believable. Was he calling out his fellow OLBs to step up?

Sure he was, but I'd expect nothing less. The organization has put a lot of faith in the young edge-rusher group behind Matthews and Perry, and it's going to need veteran leadership. I'm getting a story ready for next week discussing this, but as for Matthews' tempered tone, I think he's just being realistic, knowing the young corners being counted on and the edge-rushing depth are not going to develop overnight. Both are works in progress, but it's still only May.

Antonio from Kimberly, WI

Marcedes Lewis won't be over-hyped as a receiving threat, and he shouldn't be. He's 34 years old, and has a reputation as one of the league's best blocking tight ends, helping lead the way last season for Leonard Fournette. However, five touchdowns on just 24 catches is significant: his size still makes him a red-zone threat. The Packers can put him on the field at the same time as Jimmy Graham in the red zone, and make defenses pick their poison.

Nicely summarized.

Ben from Albuquerque, NM

"There are players who will be on the 90-man roster for training camp who aren't here yet, and there's at least one who will be on the 53 in Week 1 who is not here yet." Ding ding ding!

I wasn't exactly going out on a limb there. I would say it still holds true.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

In response to the Jon from Columbia, MO, moneyball question, the spread formation is really the marking point from the "small ball" era of power running to achieve field position and time of possession, over to the NFL equivalent of "OPS" with downfield throwing and multi-receiver sets. As for predicting team successes, you can do that by QB quality.

I'm getting lost in all these analogies, but I'll say this: Some stats mean more than others. Turnover margin and passer rating differential correlate more toward wins and losses in the NFL than any others.

Guilherme from Lins, Brazil

2017: first season without Lacy, three RBs drafted, fans asking for a veteran RB and two rookies stood out. 2018: first season without Jordy, three WRs drafted, fans asking for a veteran WR...I think we're going to be fine.

I tend to agree.

Luke from Wichita, KS

I just watched the David Raih press conference. He seems so real and genuine. Can you tell us a little more about him?

He gave up a lucrative medical device sales job in southern California to join Rick Neuheisel's UCLA staff unpaid. That's how he got into the coaching business. It's all you need to know about his love of the game and passion for his job.

Wyatt from Grand Rapids, MI

Hi Insiders. With the use of scout teams, how often do the No. 1 offense and defense go against each other in practice? Are you present enough to estimate a winning percentage?

Through the playbook installation phases – such as now at OTAs and during the first couple of weeks of training camp – the first units go head-to-head all the time. Later in camp, and during the regular season, it's cut back to mostly two-minute and no-huddle situations.

Darren from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Jimmy Graham had less productive years in Seattle than New Orleans, yet Green Bay signed him to a three-year deal. Do you interpret this as the Packers staff feeling he was underutilized or maybe just in the wrong system in Seattle?

Not necessarily. I interpret it as feeling Green Bay's best Joe Philbin offense prominently featured Jermichael Finley in '11, while Green Bay's best post-Joe Philbin offense prominently featured Jared Cook during the '16 stretch run, and acquiring Graham was the fastest, most effective way to get the offense back on that track.

David from Hallowell, ME

When traffic lights first went to LED, cold-weather cities had issues with snow accumulation blocking the lens because the energy efficiency meant the bulb was not hot enough to melt the snow. Newer designs include a heating element to compensate. Do the new Lambeau lights come prepared for blizzard playoff conditions?

Lambeau Field installed new lights with a new LED lighting system via helicopter on Wednesday

I hope we get to find out.

Ralph from Goose Creek, SC

With Mark Murphy not one of the privileged owners, what level of respect does he receive from the owners at gatherings like the spring league meeting?

Plenty. Murphy serves on the NFL's management council executive committee, which is the owners' labor bargaining team. He's also on the competition committee, which has as much say regarding on-field rules as any group, and the health and safety committee, also very influential and important in the current climate.

Greg from Ann Arbor, MI

The NFL is understandably concerned that fallout from anthem protests may ultimately eat into the league's profit margins, but at what point does clearly and unequivocally endorsing players' freedom of expression as American citizens become more important than maximizing corporate profits? And if the answer to that question is "never," then who's being unpatriotic here?

I'll go back to what I said when this issue first arose – I was most disturbed by the suggestion, if not insistence, from many corners and pulpits, that anyone should be punished or disciplined for legal, constitutionally protected actions during the anthem in the absence of any league or team rules. That's not how the First Amendment works, whether you agree or disagree with the conduct. Now, there are rules in place. An angry, vocal segment of the NFL's fan base made its feelings known, and the owners have responded. That's how the free market works, whether you agree or disagree with the resulting action. I hope the players continue to bring awareness to the issues and causes, but the owners have decided it won't be during the anthem. Their league, their rules. As for whether these rules should be collectively bargained, that's for labor lawyers to argue. Personally, I wish people could find a way to respect different interpretations of what the anthem and flag represent, as well as different definitions of patriotism. That's America, to me. Will there be more fallout to come from this issue? Probably. That's America, too.

Matt from Verona, WI

The NFL should make a rule requiring that the anthem singer sing without needless embellishment of the tune.

Thanks for adding some needed levity to the subject.

Sam from Janesville, WI

I agree with you on not bringing in a veteran receiver this year, but to answer your question, the last time the Packers signed a veteran free agent WR it was James Jones. I miss the hoodie.

A hoodie that has since been outlawed. How I long for the days of that controversy. Congrats to JJ on the San Jose State University Sports Hall of Fame, by the way.

Carl from Marshfield, WI

Spoff, I don't want Rodgers to change the way he plays, and I don't think the coaches do either. However, I do envision the ball coming out quicker and Rodgers not dancing for 8-9 seconds as often. I see better rhythm and efficiency with the development of the talented RBs, better play at TE, and playbook enhancements. What are your thoughts?

That's the goal. You'd love for every play to be executed with perfect timing, just as it's drawn up. But when it doesn't, it's guys like Rodgers who make the difference. You can't give up that advantage.

Geoff from Omaha, NE

I don't know about you, but I think the recent kickoff rule change is going to put a premium on kick returners. As we all know, these guys only need a small crease to take it to the house and I think this rule might be that crease. What do you think?

Maybe. The changes are going to make kickoffs more like punts, with blockers and cover men running more side by side down the field and then engaging in close quarters. But unlike punts, the coverage team is not going to get down there fast enough to force fair-catches.

Ben from Stanley, WI

How do you think the new kickoff rules will affect onside kick attempts?

Mandating five players on each side of the kicker and eliminating the running start will make onside kicks much more difficult for the kicking team to recover than they already are.

Jason from Ringle, WI

It's nice to see a couple references to D.C. Everest in the column lately, with Derek Abney and Dave Krieg. Mike, you probably remember Everest football coach Wayne Steffenhagen. The field is now named after him: "Steffenhagen Field at Stiehm Stadium." You also might remember Tim Strehlow from 1994-1995. I played on the team with him...he's now the head coach.

I believe Strehlow graduated just before I got there, but yeah, of course I remember Steffenhagen. My favorite moment was covering a playoff game on the Everest sideline. One of the Everest kids fumbled just as he was going out of bounds near Steffenhagen. The ball was sitting there, just inside the boundary, and Steffenhagen was yelling so intensely I thought he was going to jump on it and recover it himself. To revisit the 50-yard field goals previously mentioned, Mike from Pawcatuck, CT, recalled witnessing some there. This might not be Mike's time frame, but the kicker I covered on that team, Preston Gruening, certainly had the leg, and he went on to kick for Minnesota in the Big Ten. Steffenhagen always gave his kicker a ton of credit for giving his defense 80 yards of field to defend every time after a score. In high school, that's a huge advantage.

Jake from Greenville, NC

Are we allowed to talk about Wes's Fight Club reference, or is that against the rules of Insider Inbox?

The perfect paradox with which to end the day and the week. I'm tapping out. Enjoy the holiday weekend, everybody.

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