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Inbox: That's how young players distinguish themselves

The more you know in spring, the better you’ll perform in fall


Nate from Naples, FL

It's finally happened. The offseason has made us all so bonkers we're debating the merits of touchdowns in the Inbox.

I saw this in Spoff's Inbox Friday and nearly spit out my coffee. Are touchdowns significant? I guess it depends. Do you consider winning significant? Good morning!

Jeremiah from Denver, CO

Athletic talent is a prerequisite for a shot at the NFL. Still, many players with the talent don't make it and some without it do. How would you describe the mental side of NFL life? How do attitude and intelligence interact, and how can players use the offseason to sharpen their football mind?

I go back to what Mike McCarthy said last season - players who make it to this level have athletic talent. They'd be writing about this sport like me, Rob Demovsky and Jason Wilde if they weren't athletically gifted. However, there are levels to this game and those who excel thrive because of their intelligence, work ethic and even some good fortune. Players travel the country to prepare their body during the offseason, but it's just as important to keep your mind sharp. The more you know in spring, the better you'll perform in fall.

Shilo from Murrieta, CA

So Justin Vogel and Jeff Janis both landed in Cleveland? If they make the roster there, it'll be interesting to compare Cleveland's net punting average to ours in 2018.

I've always felt Vogel has an NFL leg and Janis was a stand-up guy who did whatever was asked of him without complaint. At the same time, the attributes JK Scott brings to the football field are unique. When you draft a specialist, you're looking for that characteristic. Putting those tools to use, however, is how young players distinguish themselves, so the next step is critical. Janis was an exceptional gunner, but others will emerge just as Janis helped carry the torch after Jarrett Bush departed.

Bruce from Green Bay, WI

With our new punter's style to keep his feet on the ground, could this style cause more chances for injury or even draw more flags?

Scott has the legs of a high-jumper, which his father was, so peripheral awareness is key. However, Scott knows his body. He's been walking around in it for 21 years, so I'm sure it won't be a problem for him to stay out of harm's way. As for flags, I don't see his style changing anything. Running into the punter is running into the punter.

John from Superior, WI

At 6-6, 208, what are the chances that JK Scott could be moved to receiver? Or quarterback? Since he is a punter, is he eligible for any number?

Since 88 is already taken, I guess they'd have to create an 8^2 jersey. I am slightly surprised it took this long to take a question about converting Scott to receiver, in jest or not.

Collin from Omaha, NE

I've heard a lot of good things about Emanuel Byrd and I've got to say I'm intrigued. However, do we take four TEs on the 53-man roster? Also, Graham (pass-catching) and Lewis (blocking) both seem to have well-defined strengths that separate them. What are Kendricks' and Byrd's strengths that would come into play if we only take three TEs?

The Packers have carried anywhere between two and five tight ends on the roster during my time on the beat, so never rule out any possibility. If Byrd plays well and earns a spot in training camp, that doesn't necessarily mean the Packers won't keep the other three veterans, as well. He's undersized but has caught everything in Green Bay. I see a lot of similarities between him and Kendricks. They're both athletic tight ends who can play that H-back role. It's going to be fun to watch that TE battle play out.

Kurt from Green Bay, WI

How did Kendall Donnerson look throughout OTAs and the minicamp? We haven't heard much on him yet. I recall seeing a lot of teams have St. Brown as a third- or fourth-round draft talent. I'm curious on the fall to us in the sixth. I doubt it has anything to do with him; was it just how the stars aligned?

Donnerson has the size and speed to make a run at a roster spot, but I want to see how he puts it to use in the one-on-one drills once the pads go on. That's when you really begin to notice pass rushers. I don't know everything that played into St. Brown falling, but I've been impressed with him this spring. He has functional speed and is versatile enough to play in the slot or perimeter.

Ezra from Hartford, WI

Which current Packers player or coach could you see in a Western film? And look good doing it?

Aaron Ripkowski.

Tom from Fairfield, CT

So we've heard all about Jason Spriggs gaining weight and strength. My question is how do the Packers and other professional sports teams ascertain when gaining weight is too much? I would think that at some point the weight and mass gain is too much and actually begins to diminish the athletic performance. Similarly, is Aaron Jones' increasing his lower body strength and weight going to slow him?

The Packers know everything there is to know about their players, but you don't need to be a performance nutritionist to see Spriggs could add weight to his body. The guy practically had a six-pack when he got to Green Bay and has the kind of frame to carry extra weight. As for Jones, he developed his lower body to stand up to contact. There are ways for a runner to build strength without compromising speed. More weight isn't always the result. It depends on your body composition.

Dan from Minneapolis, MN

Last play of the game, Rodgers needs a TD to win, 30 yards to go. Shotgun, four wide, one protector. Who's the protector? I imagine Ripkowski, but I'd rather see Ty Montgomery be able to sneak out if they rush only three or four.

I'd feel comfortable with Ripkowski, Montgomery or Jamaal Williams depending on what you're asking from the running back. With Jones putting on a little more size in his lower half, I see him as a guy who could fill that niche in the future as he continues to hone his pass-protection technique.

Rocky from Merrimac, WI

You hear a lot about contracts for players that make the 53. What about practice squad players? Is there a contract? What's the average pay or is it a set amount?

There is a minimum stipend NFL teams must pay practice-squad players over 17 one-week installments. While there is no maximum, all that money counts towards the salary cap.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Interesting to hear DeShone Kizer mention his interception totals last year were late-game forced throws to come from behind; intimating that it was an anomaly that wouldn't happen if he was on a winning team. Shouldn't a talented QB be able to overcome the odds for one game?

That's a fair criticism, but this is where I again remind everyone Peyton Manning once threw 28 interceptions as a 22-year-old quarterback for a three-win Colts team in 1998. There's constant pressure for rookie quarterbacks to play, but I still advise against it.

Juan from Coral Gables, FL

Did Kizer and St. Brown have a connection while at Notre Dame? Have they been able to hook up on any plays during OTAs or minicamp?

Kizer and St. Brown were Notre Dame's one-two passing punch in 2016, with St. Brown catching 58 passes for 961 yards and nine touchdowns. Their opportunities have been limited so far, but it's obvious they have chemistry as QB and receiver.

Rick from Albuquerque, SM

At the pro level, do coaches switch from one side of the ball to the other (offense to defense or the reverse)?

It happens, but mostly at the level of quality control or coaching administrator. I know Bill Belichick coached all three phases in the '70s and '80s, but coaching staffs were smaller back then. Once coaches take charge of one position, they tend to stay on that side of the ball these days.

Ryan from Atlanta, GA

Case Keenum had a higher passer rating than Kirk Cousins last year. Factoring in Minnesota's skill-position players, how well will Cousins have to play for the Vikings' offense to see improvement, or at least no drop-off this year?

The Vikings are betting on Cousins' career consistency (93.7 passer rating) taking them farther than Keenum, whose career passer rating still sits at 86.0 despite his career year. There's a much bigger sample size with Cousins. While nothing is guaranteed, NFL teams are more likely to invest in the established veteran than the overnight sensation.

David from Pensacola, FL

The receiver that Gavin referred to was Antonio Brown. I remember Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth talking about it on Sunday Night Football a few years back.

Oh, right. I remember that now. Just shows it can happen to the best of 'em.

Dave from Savage, MN

Respectfully, in 2014, I say it's the defensive call that turned into an easy TD on a fake FG. The FG block was unnecessary and unforgivable.

That play also taught me how many layers there are to a field-goal operation and how imperative it is to have all 11 players on the field doing their job regardless of how mundane a close attempt may be. The fake was a perfect storm…much like everything else in that game.

Jason from Rockton, IL

It cracks me up when I see readers take offense to some of the sarcastic replies. I find the balance of spot-on analysis and sarcastic wit to be entertaining and astute. Keep up the great work guys! Love, love, love the Inbox!

I don't know if my sarcasm could be classified as "wit," but it gets me through the column during long weeks.

Joel from Green Lake, WI

A comment regarding the best QBs, you mentioned that you never saw Unitas play. I did, I think it was a Monday night game against the Packers at County Stadium. I sat in the upper deck, in the north end zone. That view allowed me to see a surgeon in action. He skillfully picked apart the Packers' defense with little apparent effort. While it led to a disappointing Packer loss, it was one of the most beautiful sports performances I have ever seen.

Cecil Isbell is one of my favorite all-time players because he performed – in tandem with Don Hutson – at a level few others did in the early 1940s. Isbell's 24 touchdown passes in 1942 stood as the Packers' franchise record for 40 years. I put Unitas' 32 touchdowns passes in 1959 and 3,000 passing yards in 1960 in a similar category. He was a true innovator in the evolution of the passing game.

Chad from Starr, SC

Greetings, Insiders! I want to start off by saying I really appreciate the time and effort it must take to go through all the questions you receive each day. I also appreciate the fact you answer all types of different questions, even some with easy to find answers. Do you ever see a question come through and instantly think to yourself, "Do you know what an internet search is?"

More than you could imagine, Chad, but our job here is to inform, so inform we shall. You can lead a reader to Google, but you can't make him/her type.

Matthew from Allentown, PA

Playing a soccer game at Lambeau Field would be a slap in the face to anyone who's ever watched or played a real football game at that field, my two cents.

Are you diving? There's no diving in football! I guess the founders indirectly found a surefire way to make Lambeau Field fit for only one form of football.

Tyler from Orem, UT

What made you quit "Madden" and what would it take to get you back playing?

A free PS4.

Brett from Brisbane, Queensland

In the spirit of the Washington Capitals' first Stanley Cup win, which non-Super Bowl winner has the best chance to win the SB?

Texans. I've been all-in on Houston this offseason, so might as well make them the favorite to emerge from the AFC.

Jason from Manor, TX

Tywin Lannister, being the supreme strategist and seeing the bigger picture as offensive coordinator. And Brandon Stark as defensive coordinator since he can see the future (or at least warg into the other team's quarterback).

Who needs "Angels in the Outfield" when you have Bran doing your bidding for you?

Jeremy from Lethbridge, Canada

How are you going to take Jon Snow at QB and leave the Night King on the board?

What has the Night King done? Taken an entire series to get down to the Wall and make one impressive throw. What's his 40? 4.4 years? Please. I'll take Petyr Baelish warping around Westeros in a single episode for the win.

Al from Green Bay, WI

I had a brilliant question all ready to submit, but it was 507 characters long. I see you are limiting questions to 500 characters now. While I think that's a good move, you will really miss my 507-character question! Have a great weekend!

I'll live (you too).

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, happy first Father's Day. How do you plan to celebrate?

We're heading down to Wisconsin Dells with the family. I can't wait. And on that note, I'm finally on paternity leave. You'll be in good hands with Michael next week. I'll see you guys on the other side.