Inbox: He has broadened his game

Frank from Naples, FL

Spoff, what would you say is the greatest difference in the coaching styles of former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Matt LaFleur?

That’s a great question and one I honestly struggle to answer, in part because we’ve been so much more removed from our usual observations of the team this year. From this chair right now, I see more similarities (importance of a training schedule that keeps players’ bodies fresh, value of locker room chemistry and cohesiveness, intentional avoidance of controversy in public comments) than differences.

Sean from Boulder, CO

Just a comment. The Patriots are having a down year but the post yesterday isn’t the whole picture. They had more players than anyone opt out, including their best edge defender, safety, RT (a cancer survivor), running back, oft-used fullback and blocking tight end. And their quarterback went to Tampa Bay. How do you think the Pack would perform without Za’Darius Smith, Aaron, Adrian Amos, Marcedes Lewis, Aaron Jones and Rick Wagner? Hats off to the run they had under the best coach since Vince but they knew harder times were ahead.

Aside from when they’ve had their playoff seed locked, the Patriots are about to play their first two “meaningless” games in two decades. Think about that.

Joshua from Riverside, CA

Coach Jerry Gray mentioned Jaire Alexander learning “off technique” this year and how to play it well. I noticed so often Jaire is lining up 10 yards deep, strolling with swag back there. Is this the “off technique”? Last year I felt he was playing up on guys most plays. What have you noticed with the change in alignment?

It’s based on the play call defensively, and I think what Gray was getting at is Alexander has become more comfortable with playing off rather than right up at the line all the time, and he understands better what the defense is trying to accomplish by changing it up. The timing and spacing are different and it’s natural for corners to just want to do what they do best all the time. Alexander has more tools now. He has broadened his game.

Tom from Yardley, PA

I find it very interesting that the Titans are such a prolific offensive team with an ex-linebacker as their head coach. Most teams tend to better on the side of the ball that their head coach is focused on. Vrabel strikes me as the type of guy players love to play for and someone who has total trust in his assistants. He’s done a really solid job. Looking forward to a great battle Sunday night.

Vrabel took over a team that had hit rock bottom in 2014-15, started to climb back before he took over in ’18, but was stuck in the middle of the pack. Almost fittingly, he was 13-12 in his first 25 games. Starting with a three-point win over the Chiefs last November, he’s gone 17-7 in his last 24 games (including playoffs). You can’t help but admire what he’s done.

Eric from Denver, CO

Happy Holidays! Besides Pro Bowl snubs Robert Tonyan and Corey Linsley, who would you say is the most underappreciated member of the Packers’ roster?

Ben from Green Bay asked almost exactly the same question. My mind immediately goes to guys like Adrian Amos and Kenny Clark, but if having a big contract doesn’t qualify a player to be underappreciated, then I’ll say Jamaal Williams.

Avida from Vienna, VA

A Pro Bowl question with a cap twist: Do any of the Packer players named to the Pro Bowl have bonuses tied to being named to the Pro Bowl? Every dollar is going to be needed for next year’s cap.

You and Michael from Burnsville, MN, were on the same wavelength here. Players on first contracts generally don’t have Pro Bowl bonuses. Those on second contracts often do, and the Packers did lose some cap space as a result of a few selections. Chalk it up to the price of success.

Bob from Springfield, MA

Hi II, I’d love to see Rodgers get his third MVP, and the only knock on him this year is that he’s feasted on weak teams. Do you think MVP voters are placing a lot of weight on how he performs against Tennessee on Sunday night? They are definitely not a weak team!

I think this game will factor significantly in the MVP race, yes.

Mike from Mebane, NC

I understand your statements about the game of football being offensive-minded, with the rules designed for scoring, and that a defense needs just a key stop here and there, but what gives you guys the confidence in this year’s team that they can get said stop?

Because they’ve done it a number of times over the last two years as this unit has played together. Not every time, mind you, and probably last season more so than this one, so I make no guarantees. But there were game-on-the-line instances this year against New Orleans, Philly and Carolina where this defense needed to come through late in games and did. When here and there becomes a habit, that’s when teams get on a run.

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