Wed, 19 May 2021

Inbox: Games hinge on difference-makers

Packers
13 Apr 2021, 18:12 GMT+10

They won’t make that mistake again Mike Spofford

Dwight from Brooklyn, NY

So what's your mid-term grade for AR on Jeopardy?

Two thumbs up. Rhythm and execution during the game itself have been almost flawless. I expect we might see a little more of his personality here and there in Week 2.

Mark from Pitt Meadows, BC

What are your thoughts on AR potentially hosting "Jeopardy!" year-round while still playing in the NFL? I think if anyone can handle that much workload and pressure it would be Mr. Rodgers, but I am concerned about the burn-out effect it may have on game day or for recovery and practice schedule. All just speculation at this point of course, just curious how you view that playing out if it did happen?

It sounds like he'd only need a couple of months in the offseason to film an entire year's episodes. It could definitely be done in the offseason. It would not be practical during the season at all. I guess we'll see what the producers ultimately decide.

Cliff from Granville Centre, Nova Scotia

We lose a free agent to another team and get an extra draft pick the FOLLOWING year. Why the delay? The free agents of any value are pretty much gone by the time of the draft, so the NFL could award these picks in this year's draft, and not next year's. Makes the loss of a free agent that much more painful.

Playing time and player performance with the new team are parts of the compensatory pick formula. They're not as important as the average annual salary of the contract signed, but they are minor factors in the calculations for how the draft picks are handed out.

Josh from Melbourne, Australia

With the increased consternation over "wasted" picks and teams going through every pick with a fine-tooth comb, do you think they're actually having a higher success rate in the early rounds of the draft than 20 or 30 years ago? Or is it just a platitude about "maximizing your chances" and "it's not an exact science"?

I don't have any data at my disposal, but it seems the hit-miss rate in the draft hasn't changed to any considerable degree overall. Injury risk, the human element and other variables will always be involved in the process.

Steve from Kansas City, MO

Would you exchange a first-round draft pick for your QB to have a MVP season? The Jordan Love pick may well have been that, as Rodgers wasn't playing at an especially elite level the past few years before it. I'm sure 28 other teams would have still welcomed him as he is that good, but he found another gear last year - and I'm not buying the explanation of squats being the difference. Do you think the Love pick lit a fire that hopefully still burns?

I would never proclaim to know what's in Rodgers' head. What you reference sounds natural to me and in keeping with the personality we've gotten to know over the years. Rodgers also was rather forthcoming about last year's draft resetting him mentally, in the sense that some loss of control over his long-term future relaxed him and put him in a different headspace to enjoy the here and now. Motivations and mental states can have multiple bases, so maybe it doesn't have to be one or the other.

Walter from El Centro, CA

I am just wondering, in all honesty, if the Inbox is the most grueling part of your job? Not in a negative way but dealing with people who criticize you for your opinion they asked for. And also do you sometimes wish you could just be a regular Joe Fan? I know you both have other sport interests, but do you ever think about just watching football without the journalist eye? Everything you do is appreciated by many. Thanks.

As has been mentioned before, the Inbox is only grueling following a night game, when I'm writing it in the wee hours of the morning after already banging out the game recap and editorial. Vic used to split the postgame work and go to sleep for a few hours before writing the Monday morning column. I can't do it that way. I have to plow through it before I crash. As for watching sports as a fan, I enjoy the opportunity to turn off a game when it's over and not have to write, but my mind is writing the story on what I just witnessed anyway. It's how I'm wired.

Jimmy from Richfield, WI

Upon further review (and I urge other Packer fans to go watch the highlights, then come back here and chime in), was Reggie White out of bounds when he lateralled the first ever Lambeau Leap to LeRoy Butler?

Oh, yes, that's been understood for a long time now. If replay reviews had existed then, the touchdown wouldn't have counted. But it wouldn't necessarily have prevented the Lambeau Leap from being born.

David from Cable, WI

Over a year ago a golfer named Hideki Matsuyama shot 63 in the first round of the Players Championship. Then the pandemic shut everything down. I remember feeling so bad for him and wondering if an opportunity for a great season for him was lost. Today he leads the Masters. And I hope he wins. Not about football but as any fan knows the opportunities are rare.

You obviously sent this in Saturday evening, and Matsuyama did indeed take it to the finish line Sunday at Augusta. Congrats on his breakthrough.

Gordon from Newport Beach, CA

How would we recognize if the Packers drafted to upgrade the special teams? Many CB and WR or a punter or what?

Drafting a punter to compete with JK Scott and/or an experienced, dynamic returner would be the obvious signals. Other potential upgrades won't really be known until the games roll around. Many young NFL players haven't played a lot of special teams in college, or not since early in their college careers. The best special-teamers embrace the new opportunity and grow into the role.

Nic from London, UK

Great special teams are definitely an advantage but I don't think that's a realistic goal for us, and they weigh less than the other phases of the game. I will happily settle for just the absence of one-plus boneheaded plays per game. Not giving up huge returns and just taking what yardage is there, without penalty, would already be a huge success. What's the key to making that happen? I don't think it's a speedy return man.

I hear what you're saying. Just do no harm, right? I get that. I do. But I think having a legitimate threat back there can change the way opponents approach the third phase against you, and it can energize your own guys to elevate their games more than they otherwise might. Most special teams coaches will say all their units play better when they feel confident they can legitimately impact a game. For players, do no harm is a defeatist mentality.

Bob from Cortez, CO

Green Bay has shown, in cold hard cash, the importance of Aaron Jones' abilities in our offense. Why is there no talk of drafting a running back in the early rounds?

Because the Packers have their top two running backs under contract long term now, with Jones' new deal and AJ Dillon coming off his rookie season. Last year at this time, the team's top two backs were both heading into the final year of their rookie contracts.

Al from Green Bay, WI

If you believe the Smith Brothers and Rashan Gary are among the Packers' best 11 defensive players (as I do), it makes sense to get them together on the field together regularly. You've just been named defensive coordinator assistant. Your job is to find the best position for each of these studs. Where do you line them up?

If Barry is going to play a five-man front as much as the Rams did last year, I could see Za'Darius Smith or Gary taking a share of snaps lined up between Kenny Clark and the outside 'backer. I'm curious how the new defensive coordinator is going to approach this.

Jeff from Brooklyn, WI

Hello II, Jaire Alexander in my opinion is the best corner the Packers have drafted in a very long time. With the cap casualties happening with all the teams, do you think they will be able to afford getting him signed to a long-term contract this year?

They can wait a year on extending Alexander thanks to the fifth-year option, but I see them looking to make the big commitment before he actually plays that fifth year in '22. That'll be to their benefit because the greatest flexibility with the cap charge is in the first year of a long-term extension. So they can probably structure Alexander with a minimal cap hit in '22 when some of the money being pushed out this year comes due.

Sam from Greendale, WI

The Jets now have two first-round picks and a second-round pick this draft, and two first-round picks and two second-round picks in 2022. That all sounds great until you find out that, with the trade of Darnold, the Jets have now traded away six straight first-round picks. Will they be able to draft and develop with all these picks or will it just be more misery for Jets fans?

The fruits of the Darnold trade have to become the foundation for the team's future. They just have to. For each of a team's last six first-round picks to have been traded is unsightly. I don't know if I've ever seen that before, especially from a team regularly picking as high as they have. The Jets own the longest current postseason drought in the league (10 years), and it's at least twice as long as anybody else's. These next two drafts are an opportunity that must be seized to find building blocks.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi II, I'm guessing we will draft a third-string QB. My over/under is the fifth round. Do you agree we'll draft one and, if so, what round?

I'll say sixth or seventh round, or UDFA, for the developmental No. 3.

Craig from Johnson City, TN

Not expecting a trade up in the first round as it's too expensive, and with potentially five QB ahead of us we should get a decent player at 29. In later rounds it may make more sense. Don't you think Seattle would want to swap seconds with another team to add to their three picks? That's who I would target if someone I liked were dropping. Oh, and I got my second Moderna shot today. So I've got that going for me which is nice.

Gutekunst made significant draft-day trades with Seattle in each of his first two drafts, 2018 and '19. I could definitely see him making another deal with his ol' buddy John Schneider (in this case on Day 2) if the right player is available. Sean from Boulder, CO, chimed in about how excited he is to see Gutekunst "work the board." I second the motion.

Chase from Ft. Wood, MO

Good morning team. Do we spend the money on Tae even though WR is "the easiest position for any NFL team to revamp/restock"? I would think that rule would only apply to good, or even great, players but not All-Pro level players. Thanks.

Definitely. When you have one of the best in the league possessing such a great rapport with your Hall of Fame QB, you don't let him leave. Games hinge on difference-makers. Any restock starts after a top dog like that.

Brian from Pensacola, FL

How often does a team's current cap situation effect what they are able to do in the draft? Do teams ever not trade up to a certain position (if they were able to) because of potential cap implications, or are rookie salaries not generally big enough to have that much of a cap impact in their first year?

Since the rookie wage scale was implemented with the 2011 CBA, cap implications with draft picks have pretty much ceased to be a concern. Pre-2011, there could have been a huge and potentially cap-damaging difference in the contract of, say, the No. 10 pick vs. the No. 5 pick. Not anymore.

George from North Mankato, MN

Have any of our division rivals made enough moves thus far to change the balance of power in the North?

As Wes and I have both noted, Minnesota has made the most intriguing and impactful moves among the division foes. But there's no way the Packers won't be the clear favorite in the North. The preview pundits all got it wrong last year. They won't make that mistake again.

Jeff from Chandler, AZ

I am longtime reader of II and a fairly frequent submitter of questions. I want to know if you keep stats on number of submissions and questions posted? It's always a big thrill to see your question worthy of posting and I wonder where I rank in postings as a percent of submissions.

Sorry, I don't have that list in front of me.

Brian from Columbia, MO

I'm guessing that Lambeau will have to suffer the "Final Jeopardy" song for 30-second timeouts until Rodgers is gone...

I'm pretty sure it's been used during replay reviews in the past.

Jared from Tampa, FL

Who doesn't eat all of the Skittles?

And with that, a new week has arrived. Happy Monday.

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