Tue, 05 Dec 2023

Inbox: It's a game of constant adaptation

17 Nov 2023, 17:12 GMT+10

The Chargers are a dangerous team and must be treated as such Wes Hodkiewicz

Kent from Appleton, WI

Wow. And I thought being selected for the opening question was supposed to be an honor?

In that particular case, it was a funeral.

Phillip from Corona, CA

Dave from Waterford, WI: "What do you think the Packer's chances are against the Charger's this coming week?

Spoff: "Better than yours on a punctuation test. Sorry, it's been that kind of week for me already."

Thanks Mike, that was awesome as it made me laugh and I'm still smiling. Take care. Wish you guys the best.

We still have our humor.

Al from Green Bay, WI

The bad news: The Chargers can score points! The good news: The Chargers tend to allow points! It feels like a game in which the Packers' offense can build upon last week's performance. But they may need to score 30 points to pull off a win. How does the Packers' defense match up? What are the biggest concerns?

The answer to that question could hinge on the availability of Jaire Alexander, who didn't practice Wednesday. Having him and Quay Walker - who returned to practice - back in the lineup would be helpful. Justin Herbert can make all the throws and Keenan Allen is one of the most underrated players of his generation. The Chargers are a dangerous football team and must be treated as such.

James from Panama City Beach, FL

I expect the run defense to play much better at home because they always seem to do so after giving up 200 rushing yards! That being said, can the Packers' secondary holdup?

From a coverage standpoint, Green Bay has been up to the challenge all season. We all thought the cornerback conversation would be centered on Alexander, Keisean Nixon, Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes from Week 1-18. Instead, we're talking about Carrington Valentine, Corey Ballentine, Robert Rochell and Kyu Blu Kelly. And that's not even discussing everything that's happened at safety. It's a game of constant adaptation. To its credit, the secondary has rolled with a lot of punches this season.

John from Tulsa, OK

Austin Ekeler's prolific usage in the Chargers' passing offense is not only effective, but it also really opens up the downfield passing game. I've been waiting and hoping a long time that ML would adopt an "Ekeler-esque" model for Aaron Jones in the Packers' offense, but it never seems to quite get there. Do you think watching Ekeler catch a bunch of outlet passes for big gains could inspire ML to say, "We need to do that"?

The Packers pass the ball to their running backs quite often. They just use multiple RBs in that capacity. Ekeler is just a different level - not only with how the Chargers utilize him but also his skill set. He really is equal parts receiver and running back. The name of the game is moving the chains and few skill-position players do it better than Austin Ekeler.

James from Appleton, WI

Justin Herbert has been padding his stats this season playing the NFC North - the three games account for more than 40% of his passing yards, 10 of his 17 TD passes and his top three games in QB rating. The Lions have the division's only interception off him. We can only hope the Packers do them one better.

It's on the defense to add to that NFC North takeaway total against Herbert.

Mark from Greenville, SC

It was great to progress and all of the explosive plays. Let's go finish it this week!

That's that pesky moving target we always talk about. Earlier this year, the Packers were automatic in the red zone but weren't getting enough explosives. On Sunday, they were busting big plays but couldn't finish.

Barton from Tulum, Mexico

I still can't believe our Packers haven't beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh since Dec. 6, 1970. Did you know the Chargers haven't beat the Pack at Lambeau since Oct. 7, 1984? Can we use this information as motivation for the players to bounce back from the loss in the Burgh and keep the home win streak against the Chargers going? GPG!

Did you know? Green Bay holds a 10-2 (.833) record against the Chargers, including a 4-1 mark at home. It is the highest regular-season winning percentage for the Packers against an opponent.

Brian from Charlottesville, VA

We've had several discussions the last couple years about challenges the Packers face preparing and traveling with multiple West Coast games. Is there anything they do differently to prepare for a home game when they know the opponent is traveling from the West Coast and potentially facing unfamiliar cold weather?

Not really. The Packers practice in this weather already. They don't need to do anything out of the ordinary. I think the biggest advantage comes with knowing the elements, the field and how to adapt throughout the course of a three-hour football game. Coincidentally, this is also tied for the latest-ever trip to Lambeau Field for the Chargers (Week 11 - Nov. 24, 1974).

John from Stevens Point, WI

It's the halfway point of the season. Who are the offensive and defensive MVPs to this point in the season?

Jayden Reed is creeping up there on offense. I'm sticking with my answer on Quay Walker. He's been a high-impact player when healthy.

Ed from Windsor, CO

It is high-speed chess not checkers. The nuances of playing receiver at the NFL level consist of things such as, from yesterday's Inbox, "flash his eyes," aka a quick look or a head nod, or other coaching vernacular. It is the difference between separation and covered. The Packers have talent, but concentration and the devil are in the details, in all phases, need consistent elevation. Which position group has shown the most elevated consistency?

Considering all the injuries and the midseason trade of Rasul Douglas, I'd probably say the cornerbacks.

John from Tucson, AZ

I think Love will be OK. He still has to grow into his own shoes. How hard it must be to watch Aaron year after year and then come out and try to emulate that style and accuracy. He has the arm, he has the smarts, he has the eyes for it. All that said it's a different game from the sidelines to the field.

That's why young QBs have to play. Sunday was hard, but there was so much for Love to learn from in that game. He made spectacular throws and a few regrettable decisions.

Richard from Telford, TN

Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams were so synchronized they made complex plays and changes look easy. It didn't happen overnight. Certainly not in their first nine games together. Do you see Love and any of his new WRs or TEs getting the same connections?

It's developing across the board, but Romeo Doubs seems to be a go-to option for Love in gotta-have-'em situations. Doubs catches the football naturally but also has good sideline awareness.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

Tucker Kraft appears to be getting more opportunities recently and to an amateur's eyes his blocking looks to be improving. Have there been any discussions from the coaching staff on his development in recent weeks?

Kraft is a young tight end who's catching up to the speed of the NFL game and finding what he does well.

Gary from Las Vegas, NV

Good day to you, Mike and Weston! I realize that youth and inexperience are contributing factors, but the fact we are 1-4 in games that have been decided in the fourth quarter is a troubling trend. What's your take concerning this?

It goes back to how you learn from those setbacks. If the Packers can pull off a few fourth-quarter comebacks in the second half of the season, then I'd argue they responded in the appropriate manner. Any loss that leads to an eventual victory is valuable. That's the flower that grew from the 6-10 campaign in 2008.

Scott from Noblesville, IN

Hey Wes, as a retired hoops coach from Indiana, I loved the "Hoosiers" movie reference! But praising an opponent's DB veteran experience in your very next answer is a bit confusing. Do you believe a veteran in the DB room is that much more important than the possible help a true veteran WR could have provided; or are you basing your differentiation because we're now 11 weeks into the season?

Bingo. There's a difference between having a veteran on the roster and bringing in a veteran off the street. I also think the game is kinder to older DBs than older receivers. According to StatMuse, there are 23 defensive backs older than 32 in the NFL this season. There are six receivers. That includes New England special-teams ace Matthew Slater, who hasn't caught a pass in more than a decade.

Mark from Deerfield, IL

I seem to remember about playing rookie QBs, Mike McCarthy would say the question is more whether the team is ready for your QB more than the QB being ready. ML often points out the other 10 men when being asked about Jordan Love. I think Love would look different with Nelson, Driver, and Jennings in the middle of their careers than he could ever look with all the inexperience. He looks like he will be OK. What do you think?

Sure, but you're talking about three of the greatest receivers in Packers history and imagining them all in the prime of their careers. Those aren't the cards the Packers are holding. I have no doubt this receiving corps can be special, but you can't force the mold to harden. You gotta give it time to set.

Len from Knoxville, TN

Contrary to many, I'm optimistic about our team. The last two drafts have brought in new young talent that is beginning to perform. Players who have left are not performing in a way that makes us miss them. Adams while performing would be too expensive and Rodgers' injury supports having moved on from him. Those moves garnered valuable draft picks. I have confidence that continued growth of our young talent and quality draft picks in '24 (and maybe FAs) will result in strong future performance.

The Packers were in a tricky spot this offseason. They lost quite a few free agents, but none of those departed players is having a banner year. I'd argue structurally Green Bay is in the best spot it could be in, especially when you consider the ongoing healing with the salary cap. Unfortunately, it just hasn't produced enough wins...yet.

Kyle from Waunakee, WI

I watched the two Denver FGs on replay originally. After the Wednesday II mentioning DEN opting for a live clock at the end, I went back and watched the whole sequence, and have a question. During a normal drive, the defense is given extra time to substitute when the offense makes a change. Does that apply to wholesale changes like the FG unit? Feels like Buffalo could have waited for Denver to change, "confirm" Denver's personnel, then start their own changes and probably run out the clock.

That's not how it works. It's my understanding that rule does not apply on a "mayday" field goal.

Christian from Metairie, LA

Hello Wes, I was catching up on the Inbox and had to give you kudos on your swift Taylor-made response to Richard from Caledonia, WI. Can't believe it wasn't followed-up on. As for my question, I've been very impressed with AJ Dillon's running recently, did he make a major adjustment or are things just coming together better for him right now?

I've never felt more confident about sneaking an Easter egg into the column than that reference. Dillon has talked a little about this over the past month, but I think the difference is he's doing more than thinking - see hole, hit hole. A more cohesive offensive line also has helped matters, but Dillon is playing downhill and putting his pads into the defender.

Tom from Columbus, NJ

Do you know if the Packers will be doing the Salvation Army signings again this year? And if so, when can we expect an official announcement?

Yes, they begin next Monday in the Lambeau Field Atrium. Rashan Gary, Elgton Jenkins and Isaiah McDuffie are the first three signing autographs. Fans are asked to donate a minimum of $20. (Editor's note/Update at 10:03 a.m. CT on Thursday): Monday's signing has been cancelled due to a change in the team's schedule. The remaining dates and times will be finalized next week).

Darren from Wakefield, MI

Hang in there, guys. To me, it sounds like both of you may be having a rough week. Not that you would "complain," though how much harder is it to do your job when the team is on the wrong side of the W more often than we'd like?

I'm good. I'm always me regardless of the outcome. The challenge is handling fans after a loss. That can get trying.

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