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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How do Packers handle Lions' pass rush?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat

Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson
Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson

Hey everybody, thanks for logging on today. Not a mid-week chat this time due to our earlier pause out of respect for Damar Hamlin and the Bills, but so great to hear all the positive news coming out of the hospital in Cincinnati the past couple of days. So appreciate the flexibility, and let's get started.

Mike, not a question but an observation. Jaire last week could easily have been called for taunting. It could have changed the game. The last couple games have seen the Pack do some stupid late or rough hits. Is enough being done by the staff to stop it. Who are the officials crew this week and how do they fit our game, good or bad?

The Packers have certainly been right up to the edge at times, but if you're celebrating without being in the other guy's face (e.g., Jaire Alexander's version of the Griddy), the refs are generally fine with it. I believe it's Brad Rogers and his crew doing the game Sunday night, but I haven't looked up any trends with that crew just yet.

Hutchinson is a game wrecker, how do the O line effectively deal with him? More TE chips?

Tight ends, running backs can also help. Hutchinson strikes me as a young guy who makes plays when they really count. In the big moments, the Packers have to have a plan for dealing with him.

Where do you expect to see Hutchinson lining up in the Lions defense?

Anywhere they feel they can get an edge. It's helpful knowing David Bakhtiari is back and ready to go for the Packers on the left side. Not sure whether GB will go with Yosh Nijman or Zach Tom on the right side, but the Big Giraffe as Aaron Rodgers calls him will play a big role in this game.

Mike, why are they changing the rules for the AFC? Why not just follow the cancelled games "winning percentage" decider?

They're trying to be as fair as possible to all the teams potentially affected by the canceled game, which is the Bills, Bengals and Ravens. Not having that Bills-Bengals result in the standings is significant. It was the right thing obviously to cancel the game Monday night, and it feels like the right thing to not try to resume it as well. It's about trying to make the best of a difficult situation and be as far as possible to the affected teams.

Amazed that Bahk can play so soon after surgery. I imagine he has some padding or some kind of tape job to protect the incision from his surgery?

I don't know. Once you get a month out from surgery, those incisions are pretty good. I don't think he'd be out there if there were any legitimate risk.

Is Jameson Williams full strength? If the secondary concentrates too much on St. Brown can he be a factor?

The Lions seem to pick and choose their spots with Williams. He's an explosive player who can hurt you at any moment, but he's not fully integrated into their offense from what I can tell. The Packers will still have to be ready for him, though.

I saw on FB the commissioner has submitted a proposal to the Competition Committee concerning a scenario for canceling the bills Bengals game. Any truth to it?

Yes, the owners are taking a vote today on the proposal, which would involve having a coin flip to determine home field for a potential Bengals-Ravens playoff game (since the canceled game has nullified Baltimore's chance to win the AFC North from Cincinnati), and it also involves having a neutral site for the AFC title game should it involve the Chiefs, Bills and/or Bengals, because Buffalo and Cincinnati have both had their opportunity to take the No. 1 seed from KC diminished or taken away.

Any word on the red zone offense and possible changes? Seems like they have really struggled without Adams this year.

The Packers keep working through it. It has been a struggle, no doubt. I've always felt the best red zone offense is one that runs the ball, but defenses have loaded up to stop the run down there without having Adams to worry about. Play-action and misdirection are possible options, but it's not as though the Packers haven't tried a number of things.

Keisean Nixon has been a major find for GB and I hope they can get him signed for the future. It used to be for many years that we just hoped the kickoffs would make it to the endzone and stayed there. Rich Bisaccia deserves the credit. That's the guy that needs to stay in GB. What is his contract status? Will he be here for awhile?

I don't know if Bisaccia signed a one-year deal or something longer. He may want to pursue head-coaching opportunities after his successful interim stint with the Raiders last year. I certainly hope the Packers can keep him, but there are a lot of variables.

What's the logic behind having two kickers on the practice squad?

Ramiz Ahmed got hurt in warmups last week so the Packers signed another kicker to the PS as a result. PS players don't have to go on the injury report, so we don't really know Ahmed's status for this week.

Do you expect a little more blitzing early to get Goff out of his comfort zone? He been playing very well of late.

He's been playing extremely well. I don't know if blitzing is necessarily the answer, but it seems in recent weeks the Packers have blitzed at some odd times, trying to stay unpredictable, and they've done a better job disguising their coverages. Goff isn't easy to fool because he's been around plenty, but the Packers will try to make him hesitate here or there. His passing numbers this year home vs. road are starkly different.

Seems like this lions game is ready made for Rashan Gary. Bet he hates watching from the sidelines.

I'm sure it's painful for Gary to have to watch while the team makes this run. I agree with you, this game is tailor made for a pass rusher like him, and this is the type of game his absence could really show up. Hopefully the Packers can still generate enough pressure without compromising the back end.

What can you tell us about the Lions' Special Teams unit? We've made a lot of progress (Nixon's amazing returns) with a few set backs (blocked punt) recently. What should we look for this week?

Raymond has a punt return TD this year (47 yards) and a solid return average (13.2), and they have three different guys with kickoff returns of 40-plus this season. They're also not afraid to try anything, like faking a punt from anywhere on the field.

How important has Justin Hollins been?

Significant. Kingsley Enagbare has developed well as a rookie, but without Gary, the Packers haven't gotten much on defense from Jonathan Garvin, and Galeai was injured and then released. He's been a big boost to the OLB position, a veteran able to step in and make some things happen right away. His familiarity with Barry was a plus there. But it's also worth pointing out that, even without a ton of splashy stats, Preston Smith has had a whale of a season. Talk about a dependable, reliable veteran who does his job and does it well. He's been outstanding.

The Green Bay Packers held practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.

The Lions have some weapons at WR but the obvious number one option is ST. Brown. Do you expect to see Alexander travel with him similar to the Vikings game and Jefferson?

I would imagine the Packers will deploy Alexander against St. Brown similarly to the matchup with Jefferson, but remember, it's not as though Alexander was across from Jefferson on every snap. Anyone suggesting that hasn't watched the film. The Packers mixed and matched coverages, primarily using Alexander, but bracketing him with other guys, sometimes having a linebacker across from him in the slot with a safety behind. If the Packers can limit St. Brown the way they did Jefferson, I like their chances Sunday night.

It feels like whenever Aaron Jones or AJ Dillon spring a big run, #81 is a making a key block. I hope Josiah Deguara's calf is okay for Sunday and beyond. He's turning into quite a football player for this team.

I agree. Hopefully his calf will be OK, but those can be tricky injuries. Deguara is used in so many different blocking roles, coming in motion to cut an edge player, getting out in front on an outside pitch, etc. He's gotten really good at whatever they ask him to do. His block on Nixon's TD return last week was impressive too. He just buried the Vikes LB (47).

Loved the deep shots to Christian Watson Sunday. Both could have been completions. Hope that at opportunity shows itself again Sunday night.

And hopefully Watson's hip is a bit better after another week. Hard to say if he was really able to run full speed last week. We'll find out Sunday.

Amazing to me how fast UW Madison football has become a hot spot for transfer portal and even high school recruits to a degree. have you ever seen such a quick transition in reputation and draw to a college program?

When you hire a coach who's taken a program to the CFP, potential transfers are going to be interested. I don't think it's that much of a surprise, frankly. You still have to recruit and develop young players to be successful, but the transfer portal plays an immeasurable role in college sports now.

Just logging in and trying to catch up. If I ask a double, I apologize. With the DET defense struggling against the run, would you expect GB to get some running going early and build pass off of that (which is in GB's identity already)?

I'll be very interested to see. Carolina just ran all over Detroit, but the Panthers also used a sixth O-lineman quite a bit in that game, and that's not really the Packers' MO, though as Stenavich mentioned to reporters yesterday, the Big Dog is as good as any sixth O-lineman when it comes to blocking in the run game. This offense is at its best when the play-action is effective, and succeeding with play-action requires running the ball well, so the Packers are going to test the Lions there for sure.

Is Darnell Savage back to starting safety status or reserve CB?

It looks like he's earned his starting job back, though they were also putting him in the slot last week with Nixon not playing defense full-time. I give Savage credit. He got demoted but didn't go in the tank and has been ready when the team needed him. There's a lot to be said for that.

Also, I absolutely loved Rodgers' response to the question regarding Jamaal. Obviously, we don't want him to do very well in this game - but that doesn't change the fact that he's one of the best guys around.

No question. Jamaal was a treat to cover during his time here, and nothing has changed in that regard in Detroit, either. He moved on to a better opportunity and has seized it. LaFleur's comment the other day about him being a severely underrated running back was spot on. He's gotten more attention from national fans this year because of all the fantasy points he's scored, but he's as complete a running back as you'll find. He can do it all.

Complimentary football. A successful passing game sets up the run and a successful running game sets up the pass. Against the Detroit D which will be more important to get working first?

That's not how I look at complementary football. As I said on Unscripted yesterday, there are two types of complementary football. One phase of the game doing well, and the others continuing the momentum. Or when one phase messes up, the other phases pick up the rest of the team. For the defense to make the goal-line stand after the blocked punt was a textbook example of the second type. For the offense to score four touchdowns off the four takeaways was what the first type is all about.

At NDSU, Christian Watson would occasionally line up in the backfield. This could ensure a few more touches per game or at least confuse the defense. Will we ever see it?

I can't imagine exposing his body to NFL tacklers in that way. All due respect to NDSU and the FCS, those defensive fronts don't hit running backs the way NFL ones do.

What's your take on the Vikings complaining about the condition of probably the best natural grass field in the league? Are we going to hear more about that from indoors teams, especially with Da Bears deciding to play indoors?

Every team I know of, including the Packers, takes different types of cleats or studs to be able to make adjustments to an unfamiliar field. When you go out during pregame warmups, you see if the shoes you've got on are good enough or if a change is needed. That's standard operating procedure. If the Vikings didn't do that, it's on them. It was nearly 40 degrees on Jan. 1, which means a lot of moisture in the air, and on the grass, in a location like Green Bay. Teams have plenty of options at their disposal to deal with it.

Mike, what was going through your head when Mason lined up from 56? I think we've all noticed a drop in power from him this year, but man if that kick didn't fire me up. Mase is a Packers living legend

I don't think the Packers are trying that kick if it's not the final play of the half because of the field-position risk, but it was incredible to see him make it. Longest made FG at Lambeau in January as far as I know, and longest he's made at Lambeau in his career. Pretty amazing kick. Watching from the press box, you could tell right away it was touch-and-go whether it would be long enough, and then everyone heard the crossbar clunk.

I have seen some tweets about Christian Watson. They opine that ''He is soft.'' after the concussion injury in Bills game. This game he proved them wrong. He played with a hip injury. Even in certain run game he was there battling, blocking and that says a lot about his character.

The hamstring injury earlier in the season was unfortunate, but the Packers learned something about Watson and how to handle that, as they do with all new players. The concussion was not his fault, and leaving the Lions game when he took another tough hit -- which turned out not to be a concussion but the Packers were being cautious -- was not Watson's call. He wanted to go back in. That shot he took to the hip on the fourth-down catch in Miami was significant, too. He missed one half of football and was back out there. The urge to label players so early in their careers has never made much sense to me.

Will either GB or Detroit try to shield their players from hearing the result of the Seattle game? Seems nearly impossible.

No. Everybody's going to know.

Sorry I should have specified complimentary offensive football. Which phase is more important against the Detroit D?

I think the Packers have to stay balanced, unless the run is working against Detroit like Carolina's run game did, in which case just keep it up. But a balanced offense protects Rodgers best and allows him to get the offense into the right plays at the line and to execute them.

With as good as Slaton has been playing and as good as Detroit's O-line is, I'm guessing he can't wait for this game to start.

This is a huge challenge for the Packers' defensive front, and Slaton in particular. The Vikings were all banged up last week and the Packers dominated, which they should have. This Detroit O-line is really, really good. Goff was sacked five times vs. the Cowboys, but only 17 times in the other 15 games. Williams and Swift have produced on the ground all year. This is a major matchup in the trenches, and a great test to see if Slaton can continue making high-impact plays.

ML making the comment about hoping not too many people sell their tickets to Lions fans is probably too late. Was at the Viking game and when I saw how many purple shirts and cars with MN plates were outside the stadium beforehand, I figured that a lot of Packer tickets were dumped back when the team was 4-8.

I'm sure that was part of it. We'll just have to see when kickoff rolls around. Despite the presence of Vikings fans, I thought the crowd really brought it last Sunday. Need to do that again.

Mike - the only thing better than WYMM is your live blog on game day. Anything special planned for Sunday night's big crowd?

Just gonna do my thing as best I can.

Which press boxes, say top 5, give you the best sightlines from your seat during games?

Lambeau is definitely up there because it's not an end-zone press box, which much of the league has gone to, and where visiting media often gets seated (that's pretty standard). Nashville has always had one of the best views. The press box is nearly midfield between the upper and lower decks. I'd have to think longer and harder to remember more like that one.

Do you think the Packers will elevate the new PS kicker for Sunday for kickoffs?

They wanted Ahmed to handle kickoffs last week and then he got hurt in warmups. If he's healthy, or if Matt Ammendola has shown them enough during the week to be trusted with the duty, I could see them going that route again.

To piggyback on Sezer's comment, I liked that Watson didn't whine about the defensive holding on the long ball. Shows character. But he may also feel rookies don't have that luxury.

You have to earn it, for sure. A little more separation and that kind of contact gets easier to call if they reach and grab.

Honestly, after Hamlin's scare, I'm not really sure I'm going to comment on someone's strength or weakness in the negative light but praise them for what they do accomplish through it or if they want to play.

True. It's part of the NFL culture to fight through things, and it's good the culture has changed regarding head injuries. But players still talk all the time about whether you're hurt or injured, and there is a difference. The Hamlin situation is just in an entirely different category. Players who fight through the bumps and bruises and can still play effectively earn a lot of respect from their teammates. Guys are dealing with stuff all the time that never shows up on the injury report.

Jefferson said that packers double teamed him all game. I can see that was not the case every single snap. Even if it was, I think a player think that he is the best wr in the game should be able to beast double coverage. Because I know a receiver who has beat the triple team named Davante Adams. What do you think? Is Jefferson still can be the MVP candidate?

I think any MVP hopes took a big hit getting held to one catch for 15 yards in a nationally televised game with high stakes. But I don't think he was going to be seriously in the MVP running anyway. Last year Cooper Kupp led the league in catches, yards and TDs for a playoff team and didn't come close to getting MVP, so it's just not going to happen unless it's something crazy like a 2,200-yard season.

In the stadiums where you have a poor view are you watching the monitor when the play unfolds or watching the field? Using binoculars?

I can't use binoculars because I need my fingers on the keyboard. I watch the field as much as I can, but if we're in one end zone and the ball is all the way at the other end of the field, I'll watch a TV monitor sometimes.

All right folks, with that I think I'll call it a chat. Thanks for finding this on a Friday, and for all the participation. I'll be on the live blog Sunday for anyone who wants to join there. Take care and have a good weekend.

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