Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What position group will have the biggest impact on the Packers' success?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat

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RB Aaron Jones

Hey everybody, welcome to the first Mid-Week Chat of the 2022 season. Hope everyone enjoyed the summer. Go ahead and start sending in questions and we'll get rolling.

What's up Mike? I read Z's comments about the Pack giving him the cold shoulder after he elected to have surgery. It's his side of the story only. Any truth to that or just hurt feelings for being passed over?

I don't know all the ins and outs regarding Smith's back surgery last year. The Packers don't discuss medical details on players publicly. A player never wants to be released before a lucrative contract expires, but it happens sometimes. It's never an easy business.

Thanks for the chats again mike! The roster as a whole looks pretty solid with one exception, back up olbs. Thoughts?

I've been saying something similar for several weeks now. The Packers have some talent backing up Rashan Gary and Preston Smith on the edges, but it's very unproven. This front office clearly believes in them, though, because they're riding with what they've got. They'll need to produce, too, because the defense can't have Gary and Smith playing 90% of the snaps every week. It's too long a season for that.

Can we expect to see 69 and 74 at LT and RT this weekend?

I don't know. We'll see what LaFleur says as the week progresses. Reporters haven't been able to watch any 11-on-11 periods in practice since before the last preseason game.

Mike, you hate predictions? Even in your own head? A prediction is just an opinion. Everyone has one.

I don't like predictions because then those become the only things people remember about what you said, and they'll hold them against you because they're most likely wrong anyway. I'd rather not be judged in that fashion.

Hey Mike. Thank goodness we finally made it. In your opinion, which position group will have the biggest impact on the success of the year (outside of QB)?

The running backs. I think Jones and Dillon have to be, and will be, a big part of this offense week after week. They're bona fide playmakers and the Packers are going to get the most out of them they can.

Hi Mike, was just curious, do you and Wes travel to the away games with the team?

We are back on the team charter after two years of not traveling to road games. So everything is as back to normal in that regard as we could ask for.

Are the rookie receivers in line for a lot of playing time given Allen Lazard's status?

I'm not sure what Lazard's status is for this game. Again, we'll find out more as the week goes on. But rookies Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson are going to play and be in the rotation, regardless, I suspect. As long as Watson is fully cleared to play.

When does the first injury report drop?

After practice today. Probably around 3 p.m. or so.

How is Jake Hanson doing? Don't hear much about him, maybe it's a good thing.

Hanson took huge steps forward this offseason and training camp, and he could be in line to start at RG on Sunday. That's an impressive climb from where he was the past two years.

Public perception is that Christian Watson is behind Doubs currently. If that is true, how long do you think it will be until Watson can catch up? Did missing all that time set back his development that much?

It wasn't ideal, but it wasn't a huge setback in my opinion. Aaron Rodgers has mentioned that Watson picks things up mentally pretty fast, so whatever catching up he has to do, he's already on that track.

Are there any covid testing or covid protocols in place for this season?

Not really. If a player reports symptoms, they'll test him and if he's positive he'll have to stay away for a few days, five I think. That's about all I know.

Coaches always look for match-ups to exploit. If you were a Viking offensive coach where would you be looking to exploit the Packers defense? If you were a defensive coach where would you look the Packers offense?

Coordinators are always looking for the one-on-ones, and ways to scheme up certain one-on-ones based on how they feel the defense will react to a formation or personnel grouping. If I'm the Vikings, I'm not going to shy away from a Jefferson-Alexander one-on-one matchup, for example, but there are times other guys will be single covered, not by Alexander, and they'll want to test everybody. With the Packers' offense, I'm trying to get Jones and Dillon in space, either running or passing, stretching the defense the entire width of the field, and then pick my spots in the seams to others.

Viking rivalry bigger than the Bears currently?

I think so. The Vikings are the biggest threat in the division, I believe.

If you were a veteran player, how would you try to help a rookie playing in their first game in a hostile dome environment? Staying focused is easier said than done even for the older guys.

You just remember it's the game you've played for a long time. They've all dealt with big crowds before to a certain extent. Play the game, trust your abilities and your training.

The week one game takes on a lot more importance this year with the Vikings correct? Perhaps that's why there was a simulated game last week? Rodgers had lots of good things to say about that.

He did, but I don't think that practice was a reaction to Week 1 being against the Vikings. I think it became part of the plan following the bad Week 1 loss last year, and the decision to still rest veteran starters in the preseason, which I think was the right call.

Is this "charter" a plane or buses ?

Both. The buses are waiting on the runway when we land to take us to the team hotel.

Was "The Net" used at all in training camp? I haven't heard a word about it.

It was, but there weren't as many throwing drills with it as in past years.

If Elgton Jenkins does end up playing, do you expect to see him at LG or RT?

He'll be at right tackle if he plays, as far as I can tell.

Hi Mike! Establishing the run is typically the best formula when on the road (especially in a hostile environment like US Bank). With a few shot plays a game and MVS being the primary speedster the last couple years, who do you foresee as the most logical receivers? The two drafted rookies?

Rodgers is going to lean on the veteran receivers -- Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb -- for the most part and they'll work the rookies in, giving them more when they prove they can handle more. If Lazard ends up not playing this week, the rookie playing time would certainly increase, but the biggest load must be handled by the veterans early on.

I'm just thrilled at the potential of having at least Tonyan back for week 1. Ideally, Jenkins and David Bakhtiari would play too, but Robert Tonyan is a player that Aaron knows, is open when he isn't really open, and has great hands.

In the extended 11-on-11 practice last week, Rodgers talked about Tonyan making a bunch of plays, so that's a good sign for him.

Do the Packers practice in a loud environment in order to prepare for a loud stadium?

They pump crowd noise into practice over their speaker system.

I've never been to US Bank Stadium. Is it a "pump the noise in" kind of place or is it more of a natural noise?

It's loud. Not as loud as the Metrodome, but loud. I don't know how much extra noise they create there, but we always get our fill of that Led Zeppelin song regardless.

Are you & Wes excited to return to US Bank? I know how fond you are of the horn

The last time we were there was a big win for the Packers -- clinching the NFC North title in Dec. 2019. The horn honestly makes me chuckle more than anything. It's just a weird sound effect to hear at a football game.

Pack kept a lot of D-lineman on the roster.. Do you foresee all cycling in at some point? Feels like it has been a ton of need to rely on Kenny Clark in years past.

The Packers like their depth up front. Clark and Dean Lowry are the mainstays, with Lowry coming off his best season. Slaton is an improving young player. Jarran Reed is a proven veteran addition. Wyatt has a ton of talent and will get there, too. It's the deepest group at that position I can recall in quite a while.

Statistical models aren't oracles, but they're better than talking heads. 538 published today and both models have the Bucs and Pack at the top of the NFC. Do you think we'll have a solid feel for what this team is capable of after three weeks?

Maybe, but even after three weeks there's still a long season to go.

Have you been able to view any special teams practices. If you what are your thoughts on it?

The practice periods on ST we saw in training camp were pretty intense, and I think Bisaccia has a handle on the players he can trust to get the job done. That phase will still be a work in progress as the season rolls on, I suspect, but it's in good hands and roster decisions were made to help more in that area.

If there was betting at Bushwood, what are the odds that Z jumps offside?

We'll see. I'm sure Rodgers will try to bait him.

After the completion of the first game, are players entitled to their salary for the whole year?

Vested veterans (four years of accrued service or more) are guaranteed their full salaries for the season if they're on the roster Week 1. That's not the case for younger players.

Who do you foresee making a sneaky big impact week 1?

I'm curious to see what Jarran Reed and Quay Walker bring to this defense in the early going.

I think Ben's comment carries a lot of weight. I believe Gronk and Kelse played a big part in Brady and Mahomes success.

It wasn't that long ago Tonyan caught 11 TD passes. He's capable of big things, and Rodgers trusts him.

I think our continued ST woes throughout preseason can be linked, as you've noted, to giving everyone their shot on teams to see who sticks, but don't underestimate the corroding influence of the faulty JUGS machine either.

That became the story that just wouldn't die in August. One of the weirdest media/public fascinations I've seen in a while.

Any idea on who the slot cornerback will be?

The guy who's played it the most based on what we've seen in camp is Douglas. But Alexander is certainly capable and experienced. Stokes would be the least likely, but we saw him take some reps, too. Just not as many.

Plan for kick and punt returners?

Can't say for sure. I think Amari Rodgers and Romeo Doubs are among the top candidates, but I don't know what the final decisions are.

Take the ball or defer? First play run or pass?

I'm always a fan of deferring. First play? Whatever's going to work.

Does the prospect of playing on turf effect the decision to play players coming off knee injuries?

I don't think so, but I can't speak to whether that's part of any discussions. Based on past decisions, if players are ready, they play. If they're not, they don't.

Are there any changes on replay review, what is challengeable vs. what is not?

I don't recall hearing about any significant changes to the replay review system for this year. Last year, they started allowing more assistance from New York to make certain calls, and I would expect that to continue.

Have the long snapper, holder and Mason Crosby worked enough together for week.1?

Crosby missed a lot of time, but I'm sure they've been getting their work in. Pat O'Donnell has been a holder for a long time.

How much do you interact with the team while on the road with them? Do you attend any of the player-coach meetings to gain insight on what to expect in the game?

Ha, no. We don't attend any team meetings or any team functions like that. We're on our own to show up for the bus ride to the stadium on time. That's about it.

Will we see more calls of PI since it was a "point of emphasis" this offseason or will it be "let them play"?

The point of emphasis was on illegal contact, if I recall, which is contact beyond 5 yards but before the pass is thrown. Usually those things pop up frequently early in the season and then fizzle out. We'll see.

Does Sammy Watkins have a big impact week 1? or do Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon have more receptions than WR's ?

I could see it going either way. As I've mentioned, the running backs are going to be highly involved, but Watkins' history in Week 1 is pretty impressive, and he's acclimated to new teams quickly in the past.

All right folks, with that I'm going to sign off. Thanks for getting our season of chats off to a productive start. Enjoy the game Sunday and we'll talk again soon. I'll be live blogging on this same platform for those who want to follow along. Take care, Mike.

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