Saturday, 17 July 2021 10:53

Inbox: Hands down, not even close Featured




It’s a human game Mike Spofford

Tim from Rock Falls, WI

I build software for a living and the tool I use to generate random, fictitious data produced a web domain name today "hodkiewiczkulas.com." What should I make from that? Is Wes OK?

I guess you’ll have to wait until Monday to find out.

Brian from Madison, WI

Mike, you’ve mentioned game days are your longest nights. Do you draft any content before kickoff to get a head start on your stories, or do you wait to see how the game unfolds? What about in your newspaper days when there was a strict deadline?

In this job, I’m live-blogging the entire game so there’s no head start on the postgame stories. In my newspaper days, on a tight deadline, I was always pre-writing some of the factual details of the story and leaving holes to put in comments. In either case, my mind is always churning during the game about how I’m going to organize my thoughts postgame. In some respects, the live blog helps me do that.

Bob from Port St. Lucie, FL

Mike, so you waltz in at 9 a.m. but the Inbox is posted daily at about 8:30 a.m. Does this mean you finish writing before you leave the day before or do you sometimes finish up at home at night? Who then does the actual posting?

The column gets finished either/or, and sometimes with another Q/A added first thing in the morning when I wake up, depending. The intern handles the posting.

Craig from Appleton, WI

In your opinion, what was the biggest move the Packers have made this offseason?

That’s easy. Re-signing Aaron Jones. Hands down, not even close.

Joe from Sun City West, AZ

Hello Spoff. In reference to the question from Edward in SD about how the "Miracle in the Meadowlands" helped keep the Pack out of the ‘78 playoffs, my question is did the LeSean McCoy "Miracle at the Meadowlands II" punt return (as it’s called that) on Dec. 19, 2010, help the 2010 Pack get into the playoffs? Did the Giants hold the tiebreaker with the Pack going into that game?

First off, it was Desean Jackson, not McCoy, and Tom Coughlin’s clipboard was the co-star of that show. As for whether the play helped the Packers get into the playoffs, absolutely. What it did, combined with Tampa Bay’s OT loss to Detroit at almost the same moment, was put Green Bay in control of the final wild card. The Packers lost later that night at New England with Matt Flynn at QB but got on the plane knowing two more wins and they were in, with no more help needed. Where it gets a little misleading is when people claim the Packers needed Miracle II to happen or they don’t get in. To that, I say it’s complicated, because Philly’s final two weeks could’ve played out differently (or not) without the East clinched, so we don’t really know.

Jake from Lake Mills, WI

There have been multiple times that either you or Wes has responded to a question about picking a breakout or most improved player. Has there been an instance when the most improved player was not also considered a breakout player? Like a time when one of the better, more established players came back to training camp and had a noticeably different level about him?

Aaron Rodgers, 2020.

Gregory from Waterford, MI

Hi II, remind me again, did Aaron Rodgers disclose what he found in his technique that was missing during last season?

He eventually revealed on Pat McAfee’s show a couple of days after the loss in the NFC title game that his 2010 film session revealed how much more he used to sink into his hitch at the top of his drop-back. Playing through knee and leg injuries in previous years, he had gotten away from that, shifting/sinking less weight. That’s why he dedicated himself to squatting in the weight room, regaining his old leg strength, and he felt sinking into his hitch again improved his timing and accuracy.

Jason from Austin, TX

II, regarding the TE position, do you think it’s harder to teach new TEs how to block or how to run routes and catch?

The former.

Chuck from Gold Canyon, AZ

A follow up to Brian’s question yesterday, I caught the last two minutes of the replay of SB32. The NFL rules in the past 2.5 decades are evident in two plays, a crack-back block that allowed Denver to get inside the 10 and Atwater’s hit on Ferguson that laid out three players. Both would both have been flagged in today’s more safety conscious NFL. Why do you think it took the NFL so long to impose these safety rules? The CTE documentary help drive the changes but Tatum/Stingley should have.

The league promoted the violence of the game for decades. It was part of the culture of the sport and was used to attract more fans and hype up big games. It worked for a long, long time and was a successful business model. Seeing former players struggle to walk and suffering untold physical ailments later in life didn’t change anything. It took the brain injuries and a whopper of a lawsuit for the league to alter its approach.

Scott from Sheboygan, WI

Spoff, before the huge contracts, players sometimes had to get offseason jobs. Do you know of any players during your time covering the team who had an offseason job outside of football?

Other than Jordy Nelson working on the family farm back in Kansas, no.

Eric from Mequon, WI

Which Packer player (either side of the ball) will a coordinator have to game plan for in 2021 they may have not had to game plan for in 2020? Why?

The simple answer on offense is AJ Dillon, because he really didn’t play much, and there’s only one game of film with him as a featured back. On defense, it’s harder to say due to the new coordinator coming on board, but depending on how Barry uses guys like Rashan Gary, Jaire Alexander and/or Darnell Savage, they might all qualify.

Buffie from Festus, MO

Will Savage have an even better year than last year?

That’s the plan, Stan. I mean, Buffie.

Mike from St. Louis Park, MN

Hi Mike. How do you rank the professional sports all-star games in order of quality? The games don’t seem to carry much significance or importance, and the players don’t seem all that invested (I can’t say I blame them).

I don’t either, and there’s no point in ranking them. They’re exhibitions that are not true competitions. When I was a kid, I never missed baseball’s All-Star Game. It was a singular event with matchups you’d otherwise never see, and the players wanted to compete against one another. Now I catch a little bit of the home run derby, because that’s the real show, and don’t bother with the rest when guys are catching flights home in the third inning of the actual game. In all the other major sports, the risk of injury is not worth competing all-out, which is totally understandable.

Johnny from Jupiter, FL

Morning Mike. Yesterday you mentioned improving on the number of turnovers. How is that practiced and/or accomplished? Thanks always!

With fumbles, it’s about recognizing when the ball-carrier is not protecting it and making solid contact on the ball in the process of a tackle. The idea translates to pass rushers when they attack QBs, too. Easier said than done, but it’s a skill that can be honed. Interceptions can result from instincts and anticipation, which come from film study and player development; or hurried throws and tipped balls, with the pass rush playing a role in creating opportunities.

Michael from Morrison, IL

What training camp battles are you most looking forward to this year? There seem to be plenty of tantalizing storylines to follow this year. Also, to Tony in yesterday’s edition, I’m glad to see another II reader in Morrison, IL (pop. 4,200).

No. 2 corner, No. 3 running back, and how the inside linebacker position shakes down with young guys Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin and the veteran De’Vondre Campbell. Those are at the top of my list. There’s plenty to sort out on the offensive line, too, but that hinges primarily on two things — David Bakhtiari’s eventual return and whether Josh Myers can lock down the center job.

Jon from Fargo, ND

Do you think that there is any chance we use out OL depth to trade for a future pick? Maybe I’m overstating the depth, but it seems like a deep room and would be a shame to lose any of those guys via roster cuts.

Four of the six draft picks on the offensive line the past two years were taken in the sixth round. Of that group, so far only Jon Runyan has played, and additional prospects who haven’t played were undrafted. Realistically, you’re not going to get anything if guys like that don’t make the team. Other squads will just wait to claim them on waivers if they’re interested.

Sreedharan from Pewaukee, WI

Hi Mike, help me out here. If Jace Sternberger is not on the final 53 Week 1 (suspended or not), won’t he be free to be picked up by the other teams? If that is the case, how can we wait until Week 3 to decide on him?

He’ll be on the reserve/suspended list for Weeks 1-2. He won’t take up a roster spot, but he won’t be subject to waivers while suspended, either.

Carl from Sheboygan, WI

Good morning guys! Love the jersey countdown. Love seeing the players from the past. Couldn’t help but notice the changes to the equipment...specifically the shoulder pads, helmets, etc. I understand the changes to the helmets for improved safety, prevent concussions, etc. But what about the shoulder pads? Could you comment on any changes there and why?

My understanding is shoulder pads have shrunk over the years for two reasons — maneuverability (lighter and less burdensome to maximize running speed) and contact avoidance (the tighter and more form fitting, the less for opponents to grab onto).

Robert from Verona, WI

With a roster-building approach that focuses mainly on a draft-and-develop methodology (along with strategic free agent signings), it feels like every offseason we look ahead by saying, "IF player X lives up to their potential" we could have a shot at winning it all. This year is no different in that we need several young players to continue to improve, but it feels very different in that I think Packer fans are expecting it rather than hoping for it. Do you get that sense from fans as well?

It’s natural to expect it when that’s exactly what happened last year, but it may not be realistic to repeat. I listed all the players yesterday. It was impressively long. But no different than the stock market, past performance doesn’t guarantee future results. Just because a whole bunch of guys took jumps in their game last year doesn’t mean another young bunch will follow suit this year. Now, there’s more than just "hope" when the program in place, the coaching staff and the personnel department have proven to get those results, but it’s still no guarantee. It’s a human game, not a video game.

Tony from River Falls, WI

It’s strange to think that the NFL did not originally track sacks. Are there any recent NFL stats within the last few years that are now tracked?

"Targets" for receivers on intended throws is a fairly new one.

James from Chicago, IL

Willie Davis’ 93.5 sacks is even more impressive when you consider he did it during a career with mostly 14 games per season and pass attempts were probably less than 25 per game. It would be curious to see how many QB pressures he had to go along with those sacks.

Indubitably.

Jim from McLean, VA

After catching up on all the Outsider Inbox answers, only one question remains in my mind — what was Wes doing at a Walmart in Kentucky?

I’m guessing it was when he traveled down there for his Mitchell Henry piece. If not that, then I need to know the story.

Terry from Green Bay, WI

Hi Mike, the Bucks are right there. The Brewers look really good. And the Packers are loaded with talent. What are your thoughts on each winning a title and could Wisconsin hold all three titles?

One step at a time, Terry. The Bucks haven’t even tied up their series yet. That would be an important step tonight. Happy Wednesday.

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