Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How will the Packers' defense respond?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his weekly live chat

Packers defensive unit

Hey everybody. Happy Thanksgiving one day early. Go ahead and start sending in your questions and I'll get started.

Happy Thanksgiving Mike, and to Wes as well. Thanks for doing this in a holiday week

You're welcome. Hope everyone has a great day tomorrow. Nothing like a day devoted to food, family, friends and football.

Mike, Why does this team struggle so defending the 2 point conversion? I cant remember the last time they even looked close to stopping one. Most of the time someone is completely uncovered or someone is trotting in untouched. I don't see other teams make it look that easy

Yeah, that's frustrating. I don't think it's anything specific to two-point conversions. It's just every time someone seems to miss an assignment really badly that makes it pretty easy for the offense to convert. I don't know if that's a defender taking a chance, or what, but there's always someone not doing what he should be doing on those two-point plays.

Thanks for the chat, Mike! Have you seen Josh Myers around the facility? Do players on IR still use the weight room/do most of their PT on site?

We aren't allowed in the team facility, haven't been since the start of last season, so I can't speak to that. I have not seen Myers at practice yet. Players on IR often are around using the weight room and working with the training staff on their rehab. They also use outside resources at times, too.

Mike, happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! It feels like the sky is falling after losing the game in MN, but if the Packers are still very much in the drivers seat for the #1 seed.

I don't know if I'd say driver's seat, but they are very much in the hunt. Every team has either six or seven games left, and right now five teams in the NFC have either 3 or 2 losses (AZ the only one with just 2). It's anybody's playoff bye for the taking as far as I'm concerned.

How many hours A-day does Mason Crosby get to practice with the long snapper and holder

They have specific practice periods as well as their own time they work off to the side. I have no idea what the total time is, but I also know Mason isn't going to go about fixing anything by kicking so much his leg gets worn out. That won't accomplish anything.

What exactly is Myers' finger injury that made it so bad to be on IR and be out so long?

He had returned from the finger injury. He hurt his knee in Chicago back in Week 6. That's why he was put on IR.

Have you heard how Aaron Rodgers injured his toe? Football injury or stubbing it on a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night?

He hasn't said how, because he obviously doesn't want to. He has said it's very painful and indicated on Pat McAfee's show yesterday it's his pinky toe. He's hoping the bye week will do it some good, but he expects to have to continue dealing with it. He does not want to miss any games because of it.

Obviously this is an important game, but I want the win so I don't have to listen for 2 weeks how Gute should have been more aggressive getting OBJ.

The narrative will be the narrative, win or lose. I don't let myself get caught up in it.

Any suggestions what they can do to help Mason out of tis other keep giving him shots?

Not really. He has to have success and work his way through it. I think he will, as long as the snap/hold/protection stay on point and settled down.

What will do as a back-up left tackle now that we're on our third stringer?

Dennis Kelly would be an option there, and Ben Braden could possibly fill in as well, if needed. But let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Wes listed linemen with college experience at tackle but didn't list Jon Runyan. Wasn't he a left tackle at Michigan?

He was, but he hasn't played any tackle since he got to the NFL. The Packers consider him a guard.

What do you see that's negatively impacting the first quarter play?

Well, we're not seeing a bunch of three-and-outs or anything. The Packers are moving the ball, for the most part, but just not finishing drives. And then when they settle for a FG, it's been hit or miss. Maybe it's a matter of finding better options at the top of the list in the red-zone plan, I'm not sure. I also would like to see, especially with Rodgers not practicing, more running the ball early to get everyone in the flow.

Hey Mike, I figured the Packers would try to keep a healthy pass/run ratio heading into Minnesota, but right from the start Aaron was airing it out. Why do we seem to abandon the run in so many games?

I wouldn't say the run was abandoned, but I did expect to see more running plays early. The coaches study everything and come up with what they feel is the best way to attack. I know anytime there's a penalty on first or second down, like holding, it takes running plays pretty much out of the equation. So down-and-distance has factored into decisions, too.

do they players have a normal practice tomorrow or is it going to be short for the holiday?

They're having a normal practice, to my knowledge, just a little earlier in the day so everyone can get home sooner. In a week like this, they often move some meetings around to Wednesday or Friday to make for a shorter day on the holiday, and they make up the time before/after.

How will a tired, hurting defense guard against a savvy Rams offense?

I think how GB's defense responds after what happened last week will be fascinating to watch, because the Rams offense is coming off two sub-par showings and then their bye week. McVay is going to have some really aggressive stuff dialed up, I suspect, and the Packers might have to weather an early storm and get the game to settle down.

The Packers ran 33 pass attempts vs 16 rushing attempts. With AJ Dillon running for 4.8 yards per carry, what did you see out on the field that encouraged this pass-run patio?

The Vikings have their inside linebackers (Kendricks, Barr) and safety (Smith) up at the line of scrimmage an awful lot. They aren't always blitzing, but they're often looking like they will. That's tough to run against. Handing the ball off against a stacked front is no way to live.

How soon will Aaron Jones be back? When are you getting shades like his?

LaFleur didn't rule Jones out for this week, so we'll see if he's back at practice at any point. My gut says he'll be back after the bye, but who knows. I don't think I'd rep those shades quite as nicely as he does.

With the game Justin Jefferson had on Sunday, how can we plan to minimize Cooper Kupps impact on the game?

Tackle him. The Rams throw him a lot of short passes and look for him to get yards after the catch. The defense has to stay in position and make tackles. He's going to get the ball, but the Packers just have to keep the gains to a minimum.

Much said about the slow starts. I wonder if the Rams pass rush will prompt ML and Rodgers to game plan a more patient approach right out of the gate spreading it around short with short passes early. Earn the deep shot by making the DB's come up..

I'm sure they'd love to do that, but the Rams have a heck of a defensive front that doesn't always need extra help to stop the run. If the Packers have success running it, then the Rams will adjust, and the chess match is on.

Any chance you and Wes get a lighter work load tomorrow, or is it get up early to try and finish early?

Hopefully we can both bug out of here after the post-practice player interviews.

Going to my first game at Lambeau on Sunday. Let me make sure I have all the rules down. Loud on defense, quiet on offense and Big Dawg call whenever Lewis touches the ball. Did I miss anything?

That pretty much covers it. And don't do the wave when the offense is out there.

I find traveling east harder on the body clock. Do the Rams plan to fly to Green Bay on Saturday, or with a late game Sunday will they wait until then?

No idea how they manage their travel schedule. Different West Coast teams do things differently.

Given what looked like a brutal schedule, at least on paper, if the Packers win Sunday they will be 9-3 heading into the bye. I would definitely have signed up for that.

Absolutely, and with Rodgers missing one game to boot, plus all the other injuries. Anyone would take 9-3, a week of rest, and then gear up for the stretch run. It just feels like there will be such a difference between 9-3 and 8-4 after the 7-1 start.

What is our offensive line depth at center and guard if there's an injury there?

Ben Braden can play guard, Jake Hanson is a center, Cole Van Lanen is on the practice squad.

Who is one young player on the rise who can make a difference late in the season, especially with injuries mounting?

On offense, I'd say Josiah Deguara. That TD he had in Minnesota was great to see. On defense, I'll say Eric Stokes and T.J. Slaton. Those guys have had their ups and downs but the defense is going to need them to keep improving.

besides Kupp and OBJ -- what other threats do the Rams pose offensively? I don't know much about their RBs/TEs.

Henderson is their RB because they lost Cam Akers early on. Higbee has been a productive TE for them (38-344-3).

Do you get annoyed when fans jump on a certain bandwagon for a particular player or offense/defense just because of a few game performances? Things even out over time.

It's all part of it. When someone does well, you want to see it continue. Consistency is ultimately the name of this game. Guys have to be reliable.

We're hurting injury-wise. Where are we the strongest and healthiest right now?

Defensive line, inside LBs, secondary. Other than Jaire Alexander, the Packers have pretty much everybody they're counting on at those positions. Kingsley Keke made a strong return up front last week. I know he had the costly RTP, but he was making an impact on other plays as well.

The Packers had two all-pros and one Pro-Bowler on their O-line last season. Now none of those guys are in the line-up. You probably don't have the info in front of you, but have you ever heard of such a thing?

It's been a massive change but they've battled through it. And they have to keep battling through it. Despite all the injuries, the Packers haven't seen everything fall apart up front so that's a credit to those guys and their coaches. They're making it work. Elgton Jenkins went down with the ball inside the 10-yard line, Yosh Nijman went in, and the offense still drove 90-plus for the TD. On the road. In a noisy place. That's saying something.

I really like the new IR rules. The season is more interesting from a personnel perspective. Also, with a 17 game schedule it seems necessary. What do you like about the new IR rules?

I like all of it. It's better for the players and for the game. Teams don't have to decide if someone is going to be out 6-8 weeks whether they should just shut him down for the season. They can put him on IR, see how it goes, and possibly bring him back. As long as teams don't start abusing the privileges, I think it's here to stay.

It seems it's time for Darnell Savage to actually get an interception this week. I don't remember what Stanford's stats say about that.

Yeah, Darnell is certainly due. Had plenty of chances at Minnesota, and had the one wiped out by penalty. This was about the time last season he got on a nice run of INTs, so let's see.

last week our defense struggled with open field tackles-- something they have done quite well up till that point. Is it just getting back to fundamentals? did we get a little too cocky? Or is the Vikings offense just that potent and a bad day at the office was too much to overcome?

I didn't think the tackling was awful, but there were a couple of costly misses. The Packers have avoided those for the most part. It mostly comes down to the angle and timing. A bad angle, or shooting for the legs too soon, and anybody can miss a tackle.

To be the Rams, I think Packers need to create some short passes and max protection for Rodgers with a TE or FB. Defense just need to get back to be themselves.

Yeah, I'll be interested to see if the offense looks a lot like the game at SF when Jenkins got hurt and Nijman took over previously. Extra help in the pass protection, or if empty backfield, then quick throws. As noted earlier, how the defense bounces back from last week will be a big story this week.

Pecan or pumpkin?

Yes, please.

I was guessing our late bye was the last week any team has a bye then I found that Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles have week 14 byes. Do you think the players association will address this?

I'm not sure how much control or influence they would have. The schedule is dictated by the league and the TV networks, who are paying billions to broadcast the games.

I feel missing Rashan Gary was the difference last week. If Gary had been in, I think we get to Cousins just that split second sooner on some of his passes which would have been enough to win the game. I really hope Gary is back this week.

We shall see. The Packers definitely missed Gary's presence off the edge. He's becoming a key cog in this defense and they need him.

How is the Rams secondary? We know their DL is monstrous but how are they in coverage?

They're only allowing 240 passing yards per game, which is darn good, and that defense has 12 INTs on the season in 10 games. Jalen Ramsey is the leader of that unit and it's a tough one.

With that folks, I'm going to sign off because LaFleur is scheduled to go to the podium in about 10 minutes. Everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving and a great weekend. We'll talk again next week. Take care, Mike.

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