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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: Anything more important than limiting Derrick Henry?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill

Hey everybody, welcome back. Thanks for logging on and hope all is well. Go ahead and start sending questions in and we'll get rolling here.

I think Jarran Reed is playing as good as anyone right now, not just against the Cowboys. Good pick up by Packers.

He's been a solid player, and he's played more snaps than I thought he would, mainly because Devonte Wyatt started slowly and has been coming on more of late. Reed will have a bad play against the run here or there, like they all do, but he's a veteran who knows what it takes and really played well in the second half vs. Dallas.

Mike, what do you make of Hill being cut right after coming back from IR?

LaFleur made it pretty clear at the podium yesterday there were issues with Hill that weren't related to his football performance. If you didn't see the remarks, the video is on our website.

Hey Mike

Cowboys team did not show enough respect to the rookie. If I have not missed, they did not try to cover him with their top corner or the doubled coverage even after he scored 58-yard td. Do you think Titans will come up with a different strategy that can neutralize Christian Watson without harming their run defense?

Great question. We shall see. Watson's speed is different and must be accounted for. The Titans are the best run defense in the league since Week 1, plunking a safety in the box quite a bit. If that's their approach against the Packers, then Watson has to win one-on-one.

Aaron Rodgers did not play particularly well in the cold-weather games late last season, and this year, his thumb is still not 100%. Will the offense need to lean on Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon even more as the weather gets cold?

I think the offense needs to continue to lean on the running backs regardless. It's what I've been saying all year as far as the foundation. The point you raise about the cold and Rodgers' thumb is an interesting one, though. He mentioned yesterday something happens in just about every game that sends the thumb back to where it started injury-wise.

Hi Mike, do you think Westbrooke will be activated by tomorrow night?

I don't know. I wouldn't rule it out, but that would be awfully quick to put a new player out there without even a full-speed practice with his new team. Everything this week has been walk-through.

Mike - It looked like Christian Watson was catching a lot of balls with his body instead of his hands. Could this be a contributing factor in all the drops?

He needs to become a hands catcher, and if that's going to take some time, they'll work with him on it. The first drop on Sunday he was trying to snag the ball with his hands and couldn't bring it in. Right now, at this point in his rookie season, he just has to do whatever is going to work.

Aren't they also near the bottom on pass defense?

Yes, yardage-wise, the Titans are at or near the bottom against the pass.

NFL really need to consider of changing turf field to grass. Players are not happy. Do they really care about players' safety?

That's a topic gaining steam now and I suspect it'll be a major offseason topic this spring. I don't think teams with turf fields are going to go all-in there. If a wholesale change eventually happens, it's going to take some time.

Mike, for away games, can the players order anything they want from room service?

Yeah, but they have to pay for it. Anyone in the traveling party, including me, is responsible for your own incidentals and you have to pay them before you leave.

Hi Mike, are there any players who've been out the last couple weeks that we can expect to have back tomorrow evening?

It sounds like there's a decent chance Randall Cobb will be activated from IR. How many snaps he can play after a month off and no real practices remains to be seen.

Mike, do you care to adjust your stance on grass vs turf? I believe you said previously there is no data to suggest increased injuries on turf.

That's what one report said. Another drew a difference between certain types of field turf, and the slit film type does show a higher incidence of non-contact injuries than other fields. That has become the focus of the discussion now. Six stadiums in the NFL have that type of turf.

What will be necessary to stop Simmons (assuming he plays)?

Probably double-team blocks, but the second guy has to then get off him to get a block on somebody else. Those combo blocks can be tricky to execute, and really good D-linemen make it hard to pull those off.

Recent top Clemson guys seem to not make a smooth transition to the NFL, will this lead to a pause on taking those players in future drafts?

You draft the player, not the program. DeAndre Hopkins, Tee Higgins, Mike Williams all did pretty well coming from Clemson.

Bottom against the pass yet have a decent amount of interceptions. So is it because their players are similar to Diggs in that they get aggressive and taken advantage of, or? (Not saying equal to Diggs ability, obviously, but approach)

I honestly don't know. The Titans do have nine INTs, from eight different players. They give up a lot of yards through the air but they obviously have shown they can make a key play, too.

Will Keisean Nixon be returning punts tomorrow night? If so, I hope Bisaccia addressed his two hand punt return catch last Sunday, scared us fans to death. It'd be nice to have some stability in the punt return game for once.

We'll see. If Cobb is activated, he'd be an option on punt returns too.

Take a visual tour around Lambeau Field during the first snowfall of the 2022 NFL season on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022.

What's with Rasul Douglas this season. It's rather quiet around him, don't see his name in the live blog often. Last game was the first I could watch (on TV) and he seemed out of position sometimes. Was late to the ball, late for tackles. Is he playing a different position?

He's been switching back and forth between the slot and boundary corner spots all season. With Stokes out long-term, he's going to settle in on the outside now. Honestly, I think the biggest difference is he just hasn't caught the INT opportunities he's had. He snagged them all last year. This year he's let some get away.

I know this is a hot button for you. Will it be easier to change the fields to grass or get a safety official in the booth like college?

They're going to do something about the replay system again at some point. That missed facemask leading to a fumble on Monday night is the type of play that generates a lot of offseason discussion. But the season of reviewing pass interference was such a disaster, there's great resistance to another experiment. Personally, I don't think there'd be nearly as much controversy over reviews of safety calls compared to what happened with PI.

Who do you think is going to be the MVP this year?

In the league? A few weeks ago, I would've said Josh Allen, and he may still win it. But he's got 7 turnovers or so the last three games. Tua in Miami might have a shot if he keeps this up, and I'd never rule out Mahomes. Jalen Hurts could be in the mix too if the Eagles start another winning streak (which hopefully they don't ...)

Mike, Aaron Jones is averaging 5.6 yards/carry this year which is extremely impressive given the ever-changing o-line and a limited passing attack. What has been his key to success this year?

I think a lot goes into that. For all the talk about Rodgers changing plays and throwing run solutions, part of Jones' success is Rodgers giving him the ball against the best possible defensive looks. So that matters when he's not carrying the ball 30 times a game. Also, Jones is just so darn explosive through the hole. He takes off like a rocket and can change direction so quickly. I've been saying for a few years now how special a player he is.

Is the forecast Thursday night for high winds?

Not that I've heard, but it will be chilly, in the 20s.

Have you ever seen LaFleur come as close to throwing a player under the bus as he did with Hill yesterday?

That was a new one. He was definitely sending a message with regard to the decision as well as his description of the rationale.

You make my game days Mike, being from the LA area (Palmdale), thx for such a superlative job you do on the blog!

Thanks for following along. We could have a pretty big crowd tomorrow night with the game outside the GB/Milw markets being available only on Prime.

Does Westbrook have returns in his career, or was that just a "let's get more veteran depth and see what he can do once he has the playbook down?" kind of move?

He's got 69 punt returns in his career. He's done it a bunch. 9.3 avg with 1 TD, in 2018.

It just seemed Sunday that offensively we overcame that razor edge execution difference. The OL held a fraction of a second longer and skill positions didn't have that key error/drop. Let's hope that continues Thursday.

Everything's a razor's edge in this game. Convert fourth-and-7 on offense, stop fourth-and-3 on defense in OT. Those are the plays that decide games and when you can make those, you have a great chance.

AJ Dillon has not been the player we need him to be this year. He did very well last time he played the Titans. Does that type of performance help him confidence-wise tomorrow night? Or do you think it's not a confidence issue with Dillon?

I don't see any confidence issue with Dillon.

Mike, we ask you a lot of random questions during this chat and you answer them super fast. Do you just inherently know the answers? Or is there someone in the background helping you out with some of the history/stat questions we don't know about? Regardless, very impressive and kudos!

Just like the live game blog, it's a one-man band here. I've always been able to type really fast, but you learn that in the newspaper business when you're on tight deadlines. It was a matter of survival early in my career.

What would be the most sacrilegious change at Lambeau, turf or a dome?

A dome would be worse, but an artificial surface wouldn't be far behind.

Do you know if Watson and other receivers have put in any extra time (before/after practice) with the new Jugs machine?

We don't get to see much of practice at all during the regular season, so I couldn't tell you. That's pretty standard practice, though.

What kind of stats would it take for a defensive MVP again?

I think a pass rusher would have to obliterate the sack record, get like 25 in one season or something, plus be involved in a bunch of turnover plays (forced fumbles, recoveries, INTs). Otherwise, it's defensive player of the year, and then the MVP will go to an offensive player.

AJ ability to make himself small bursting through minimal gaps!

And it's not just how Jones slips through small gaps, he can do it so quickly, and gaining speed toward the second level as he does it.

Will the fact the Titans are bottom of the league in pass defense actually impact the Packers game plan? The Lions were as well and played outstanding pass defense.

Detroit did, but the Packers lost Watson in that game and Allen Lazard was gutting it out on a bum shoulder. That alone, plus possibly Cobb, changes the equation. As I always say, it's a week-to-week league.

Thanks for doing this, Mike. It wasn't on my radar to think you would be able to with the compressed week, so I'm a bit tardy in joining.

Turns out there's no media access to players or coaches today with it being the day before the game, so things are more relaxed than normal on a Wednesday. The past two days were much more jam-packed for us, though.

Was this last W bigger for the players or for Lafleur?

I'm not sure there's a difference after five straight losses. Everybody needed a win, and they got it against a darn good team that was rested coming off a bye. There's a lot to build on but they had no time to celebrate, and now they have to follow it up or honestly it won't mean much.

Hi Mike, any clear indication from the team on an injury diagnosis for Eric Stokes beyond an "ankle/knee"?

No, no other details given but it's a pretty serious injury. I saw him in the locker room yesterday during the media time and he's still on crutches.

Cowboys fans opine that there was a non-called PI penalty against Jaire Alexander ? Do you think that could be true?

I assume you're talking about the third down in overtime from the GB 35. I've seen coverage like that flagged plenty, I've seen it let go. Part of the whimsical nature and randomness to how these games unfold.

When Aaron Rodgers turns to Tom Fanning for help, how often does he really not know, and how often is he just pausing for emphasis? Case in point: checking the box score for Mike McCarthy on Sunday.

He's just having some fun either way. He does check with Tom to confirm a stat sometimes if he's not sure, because he doesn't want to get it wrong, but other times he knows exactly what it is and is just joking around with Tom, who's a great guy by the way. He joined me on the website here in 2008 and we did all the writing for three seasons before he moved into the communications dept. full time and away from the website. Known him a long time.

Any updates on Romeo Doubs?

No. Haven't heard anything.

Anything more important than limiting Henry tomorrow?

That's definitely job 1. I think offensively it's imperative to get a lead, because that gives you a chance to reduce the emphasis on Henry later in the game. Tennessee is No. 1 in the league in third-down defense, at just 29% conversions. The Packers need to convert somewhere near 50% to score enough points against these guys I think.

'Meaning much": not to be pessimistic, but losing to lowly lions lost the season for GB. There's still a possibility to win 5 out of 7 which is what it will take

I realize it's a tough hill to climb, but I don't think the Lions loss ended the season by any means. Until proven otherwise, I'm taking the perspective this team had to hit rock bottom before it could turn anything around, and the trip to Detroit was rock bottom.

I always love watching the post-game locker room speech. I'm fascinated by the facilities, trying to gleam as much information from those videos as possible. Would the Packers ever consider a video tour of the main areas in the stadium/training facilities? I bet it would get a ton of views, but I know the facilities are a sanctuary of sorts.

Putting all that on display for the world wouldn't really be the MO of this organization, or many NFL teams really. There are always little things viewed as competitive advantages so there's no need to advertise those.

Mike, in your years covering the Pack what percentage of Packers significant knee injuries have occurred on turf vs natural grass? The Packers play about 75% 0f their games on grass. Do knee injuries occur at the same rate?

I'd have to do a lot of research to figure that out. I don't know. As far as the non-contact ones go, Jordy tore his ACL on grass in Pittsburgh, Gary's was on the turf in Detroit. Bulaga's was here at Lambeau on Family Night. Bakhtiari's was during practice, but I wasn't there so I don't know if it actually occurred outside on the grass or in the Hutson Center. Too many to go through right now.

Thoughts on Mike McCarthy's comment of, "I'm humble pied out, okay"? I thought that was a classic MMC line.


It seems in college they allow more hand fighting between DB's and receivers. How do you project cover skills in the NFL?

It's not easy. There's no illegal contact penalty in college, so DBs can bump and push and what not (as long as they don't hold) before the pass is thrown. You can't do that in the NFL. That's why film study of the prospects is so important, and if a guy has some bad habits but otherwise a lot of skills and athleticism you look for, then the question is whether coaches can break those habits or not.

Mike, how do you compare Tannehill to other QBs in the league?

He's a smart quarterback who knows what his team needs from him. He's going to let Henry set up the offense to take some shots, and he's going to do his best to protect the ball. But I've also seen him down double digits in the fourth quarter and find a rhythm. He can be dangerous.

What are the resemblances and the differences between 2016 packers and this this season, other than 4-6 score?

Back in 2016, the defense was the bigger issue. It gave up a ton of points in the four-game losing streak midseason. This year the offense has been holding the team back more than the other side. In both cases, the defense is going to look better if the offense plays better, and that'll be the key to stringing some wins together.

Does 9 wins make it in for the NFC?

I think someone at 9-8 will get in, but I could also see that being a tiebreaker situation where a 9-8 team or teams doesn't make it as well.

You and Wes really present a polished program when you do your studio show. Do you rehearse? Clearly you both hit on key elements moving forward.

No, the show truly is Unscripted. I jot down a few notes on a notecard, but that's about it. We just turn the cameras on and go. We've been doing the show for so long we have a good rhythm and feel for each other, so that makes it easier.

Watson making those catches changed the entire feel of the offense. Especially the difference in passes downfield vs behind the line of scrimmage. Sign me up for more of that.

Exactly. He's the game-changer. As I said in this chat last week, his absence due to the various injuries has been a big factor in the offense not hitting its stride. He's got to stay healthy and he can make a huge difference.

The "sauce" used by the Jets and the Lions looks the same to a casual observer: Stuff the box to force a pass play then play bump-run so that the receivers take longer to come open. Your observations?

Right. That's what the Cowboys tried and Watson had three TDs. The receivers have to win when they get single coverage. That part of the game won't change.

Does it take a certain kind of QB to pair well with Henry, or would any QB have success with him?

Oh anyone would take a running back like that. My goodness. Tannehill is not a Hall of Famer, but he embodies the way Mike Vrabel has built that team -- smart and tough. That's how they all play.

The 9-8 tiebreaker criteria might go 3 or 4 levels deep - Yikes.

Yeah, I could definitely see that happening. The NFC is wide, wide open.

Why didn't you get Larry a present?

Ha. Well, he didn't get one for me, and my birthday was a more significant number than his this year. LOL

Henry is good enough and fast enough that no matter the score or time left he has to be stopped and Tannehill is good enough that if you load up to stop the run he will make you pay for it.

Precisely. Tannehill has a lot of experience, has played in a lot of big games, and knows how to win.

IHMO, even if we hit on 2 of 3 WR's drafted, that's still a huge draft win! I have no "doubt", Doubs and my dear Watson will be substantial contributors!

I think so, too. They're just getting started. Unfortunately, both have dealt with injuries, but they both look like keepers to me. And Toure has flashed ability that will be interesting to see develop as well.

I hope you show LeRoy's name going up on the stadium after the game. I will not be able to get it so just a request to put it on the web site please.

I'm sure it's on the video dept.'s agenda.

GB handled Henry very well last time, just say'n

They did, but the offense was also rolling and scored a boatload of points, so him getting 98 yards was inconsequential in the final analysis.

Looking forward to the live blog on Thursday night.

Me, too, and with that I've gone a full hour so I'll call it a chat. Thanks for all the participation and enjoy the game tomorrow night, however you are able to watch or follow it. Take care, talk again soon. Best, Mike.

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