Mon, 20 Sep 2021

Inbox: That seems almost impossible

Packers
12 Sep 2021, 18:12 GMT+10

They aren’t all the same Mike Spofford

Craig from Milwaukee, WI

Do you think this team is a real Super Bowl contender?

Is there a fake Super Bowl I'm not aware of?

Andrew from Lakeville, MN

When did taking your helmet off on the field become okay?

Apparently the same time pushing off on a back-shoulder throw was deemed legal, but I digress. Whale of a game to kick things off. If that's any sign of what we're in for in 2021, sign me up (not that I already am).

Jeff from Chugiak, AK

Just got done watching the game (Thursday night). Great to have football back. With both QBs having 50-plus attempts got me thinking. How many games in AR12's career has he attempted 50 or more attempts? My guess would be around 15 which would roughly be one per season. Am I way off?

Unless I missed one in my quick research, he's had 50-plus pass attempts in a game nine times. The first time wasn't until 2015. The Packers are 3-6 in those nine games.

Jim from McLean, VA

Mr. Woodson, which wall do you want me to run through?

That video is something else.

James from Asheville, NC

Because Mason Crosby has been such a steady force it's almost tempting to take him for granted. 14 years without missing a game? That's amazing. In the history of the NFL which kicker holds the records for most consecutive games with a single team?

With one team, that mark belongs to Jim Bakken of the St. Louis Cardinals with 234. At 224, Crosby will obviously surpass that this year if he doesn't miss a game.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

The most interesting thing about our first game is how it is two teams that rolled it back and brought back almost every major starter. The sole difference is NO changing QBs. Seems like it is one of those theoretical experiments you never really get the chance to do. Maybe we will see a bellwether for how a team can look with just a change from a HOF QB?

The Saints decided not to start over with Brees' retirement, but keep things together as best they can, find another guy, and try to make it work. The rest of the league is watching.

Luke from Wautoma, WI

I am assuming the Saints are the home team, so do they get the shaded sidelines versus the sunny side? Lots of Packer fans sitting behind the Packer bench are going to be miserable. Vic warned us years ago about this!

He certainly did, but a kickoff time of 4:25 p.m. ET is very different from 1 p.m. ET. The sun will be setting in the second half on Sunday.

Robert from Georgetown, TX

Ingrid from Superior, WI: "No question, I'm just excited to see the new punter work this Sunday." While I know the Packers will have to punt sometime this season, let's wait as long as we can to see the new punter. Deal?

Ideally, as many readers submitted, his first appearance will be holding for a Crosby PAT.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Neglected by II player who comes up big this week, I'll go with Marcedes Lewis. With all the chatter about our receivers being upgraded, the wily veteran will slip out after a block to make NO pay. Any thoughts on someone from you?

After the big TD he had down in New Orleans last season, I think the Saints will be ready for Marcedes. MVS caught one pass for 5 yards in last year's game. I'm going out on a limb and saying he improves on that.

Peter from Peterlee, Durham, England

Hi Wes and Mike, following previous MVP seasons how well has AR12 played? Do you feel he can improve on last season's amazing stats? Keep up the great work you do.

In 2012, Aaron Rodgers was almost as good as in '11, completing 67.2% and throwing for 4,295 yards with 39 TDs and eight INTs for a 108.0 rating. The numbers fell off a bit in '15 (60.7%, 3,821 yards, 31-8, 92.7), but remember that was the year the Packers lost Nelson, Davante Adams battled injuries all year, and James Jones was brought back last-minute before the start of the season. Improving on last year's otherworldly numbers? That seems almost impossible - his passer rating of 121.5 was only one point shy of his record 122.5 from '11 - but if he can, it'll probably go down as the greatest single season ever by a QB.

Thomas from Rowlett, TX

Seeing the first weekend with college football fans back in stadiums looked amazing. Do you think the fans will increase the power of home-field advantage in the pros this year?

Yes. Last year, if I recall, road teams actually won just over half the games in the NFL, which is unheard of. Playing on the road will return to being the challenge it's always been.

Rich from El Cerrito, CA

It seems Jacksonville is a grass field which should help the Packers slow down Kamara? The Saints in years past have certainly been a team built for a turf field. With heat being a factor, I hope we have a lead in the fourth quarter and can put AJ Dillon to work on a tired defense.

Sounds like a plan, Stan. I mean, Rich.

Aaron from Scottsdale, AZ

Mike, I'm surprised the '18 comeback against Chicago didn't make your list of best openers you've covered? Was there a detail about that question I missed that would eliminate that game from consideration? Otherwise, I'm curious why it didn't measure up to the other three you chose. That was a breathtaking comeback. Rodgers to Randall Cobb to seal the deal was as thrilling to me as it gets for a non-playoff related contest. Thanks for all you guys put up with to keep this show running! GPG!

I addressed the reasons for the omission later during my live chat. Also, '18 became such a lost season that I don't think much about it, honestly.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

I noticed that Chandon Sullivan is likely to be the Packers' starting slot corner. I was wondering if Eric Stokes could also play slot corner, or are the Packers really focusing on having Stokes as a traditional outside corner?

The latter, for now.

Martin from Evansville, IN

What is the biggest challenge the Saints present? Kamara, defense, Sean Payton's mind, etc.?

Without Michael Thomas and having just released Latavius Murray, for my money it's Kamara. The Saints had 397 yards of total offense in last year's game. Kamara had 197 of them.

Michael from Burnsville, MN

Year over year, we haven't made too many significant transactions that drastically change the personnel on our team. What changes have been made or what players have we seen make strides to help us realistically expect to be a Super Bowl contender because it's clear we haven't been able to get over that hump for some time.

As I've said many times, the Packers weren't lacking anything last year. They had everything they needed, except probably their All-Pro left tackle for the playoffs. They just didn't win a game that was there for the taking. It was very different from the NFC runner-up finishes in '16 and '19. They aren't all the same. But to answer your question, the changes are as follows: new defensive and special teams coordinators, two starters on the offensive line, two slot receivers, No. 2 running back, inside linebacker, fourth cornerback, punter, returners. Important returning players who, in my view, haven't yet reached a professional peak would include Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Dillon, Josiah Deguara, Rashan Gary, Kingsley Keke, Darnell Savage and Krys Barnes.

Douglas from Bemidji, MN

To Jeff from Eveleth, MN's question about hard coaching, in my experience you have to know your players and know how they respond to different styles of coaching. Some guys need hard coaching, some need more encouragement. It's all about finding the best way to get the most out of your player.

That's the definition of the job.

Lee from Conifer, CO

Hi Spod/Hoff. Sorry I, never really know who's writing what and when. How much of Marcedes Lewis' signing had to do with the Packers realizing there would be a big change in the O-line?

I don't think it mattered at all. Even if the Packers were bringing back their entire starting line and David Bakhtiari weren't injured, I think they'd have re-signed Lewis for his leadership and locker room presence, along with what he brings to the running game and the occasional pass-catching opportunity.

Dan from Cromwell, CT

Marcedes Lewis is as old-school as they come. I love it.

How can you not?

Kevin from Janesville, WI

Good afternoon Insiders! I'm not much of a researcher, and sorry Wes this one might be more up Spoff's alley but I can't remember the last time we signed a RB to a sizeable second contract like AJ33. There hasn't been much discussion about him lately, but the fact that Gute spent what he did to bring 33 back should give us an idea of how important he'll be to what might be our last best chance to go the distance. Here's hoping 33 and 28 can hold up in pass pro and keep this offense moving!

James Starks got a minor second contract from the Packers, but nothing on the level of Aaron Jones. The last comparable one was Ahman Green, who played one year with the Packers in 2000 (his third year in the league) before getting a substantial new deal.

Albert from Crystal Falls, MI

Is Joe Barry going to be on the sidelines during games? If so, who will he have in the press box for his eyes above the field?

Barry will be on the sideline. The defensive coaches in the box will be Ryan Downard (assistant DBs), along with Wendel Davis and Justin Hood (quality control).

Tom from Walker, MI

What is the biggest key to look for that indicates improvement on defense?

For me, it'll be can it force the offense into mistakes that generate more turnovers. I think that's what LaFleur is after. I think he wants to pick spots to push the issue. Only six teams last year generated fewer than Green Bay's 18 takeaways.

Tim from Champaign, IL

I would respectfully disagree with Spoff's claim, in his reply to Bob from Grand Rapids, MI, that the O-line is the biggest unknown on this team. I would contend that it is Joe Barry - his system, his philosophy, and his play-calling. As expected, the team took great care not to tip any of this off during the preseason. The reveal should be fascinating.

As I've said all along, I don't think the change will be anything overly significant schematically. The curiosity for me is situationally.

Mike from Harlem, GA

Maybe I have the concept of the scout team wrong, but this would seem to be the equivalent of playing a practice round at a muni the day before teeing off at Augusta National and saying, "Golf is golf, I'm ready." The players on the scout team can't be anywhere near the levels of the starters for the opposing team, so what value does this scout team practice give the players and coaches?

The scout team is running the opponents' plays, the X's and O's stuff, to give the offense and defense a look at what they're likely to encounter. No one can replicate the actual level of play, of course. But they get to see and react. It's always harder early in the season, though. That's why coaches talk about all the "unscouted looks" that are in game plans during the first month or so.

Tim from Cameron, WI

Historically, the Packers have generally been built to be a natural grass team. A quick glance at the 2021 schedule confirms that the team will play on natural grass at 14 of 17 games with only games at Minnesota, Detroit and Cincinnati on turf. Do you see this as any type of advantage or just trivial?

Players always say playing/practicing on grass is easier on their bodies.

Mike from Manchester, UK

With the new league year around the corner, who is your dark horse for this year's playoffs? And who could you see making the biggest drop in standings?

My dark horse is Arizona, but the Cardinals are in an awfully tough division, so what do I know. As for playoff teams sliding, again who knows, but the interesting thing is five playoff teams have new QBs this year - Colts, Saints, Rams, Bears, Washington. That's four of the seven from the NFC. I've never seen that before, and the Packers play all four of them.

Jon from Salem, MA

Is the big glowing G behind you guys in "Packers Unscripted" actually there, or is that a green screen situation?

Oh it's real, and it's spectacular.

Kolby from Oak Hills, CA

My mind is befuddled when I consider the likely roster turnover that awaits this team in 2022. With the Packers presumably wanting to keep their young core together with a tight cap, could you see a possibility of them letting Davante Adams walk and prioritizing somebody like Jaire Alexander instead? There are so many good receivers being effective directly out of college nowadays and high-end corners are so hard to come by. Thoughts?

Just beat the Saints.

Sam from Germantown, WI

Do you think there will be enough green and gold in the stands for there to be a wave while the Packers are on offense?

Happy Friday.

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