Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How do the Packers get back on track?

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

Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson

Hey everybody, thanks for logging on today. Go ahead and start sending in your questions and I'll do my best. Let's get to it.

What, if anything, can these two teams get from practicing against one another last year?

Absolutamente nada, if my long-unused Spanish is correct.

With all the speed demonstrated by the Tampa defense, how often was the hard count cadence tried to slow them down?

Aaron Rodgers tried it quite a bit, during the times he was up to the line early enough with time on the play clock to make the attempt. The Bucs were well-schooled and didn't bite once that I could see. Unfortunately, the one time they jumped offside, the officials missed it and the second pick happened. That should have been either offside or a false start on Billy Turner at RT, but whichever, the pick shouldn't have occurred.

Hi Mike, appreciate your time and insight. I'm looking forward to seeing Cobb again, albeit in enemy colors. Have you seen the same quick twitch and strong hands from him this season?

I've only watched a couple of quarters of Texans games so far this year, mostly when they played the Vikings. I didn't see Cobb do much while I was watching, but what I did see looked like the same tough guy who isn't afraid to go over the middle.

Hey Mike, thanks for doing chat. I have been hearing everyone talking about the lack of production out of Preston Smith, some are saying he's not in shape, do you agree with this, or did the lack of a pre-season actually hurt him?

I don't have an answer on Preston's productivity being down compared to last year. I'm curious to hear what his position coach, Mike Smith, will say late tomorrow when he speaks with the media.

Since 2015 the packers are 1-5 after regular season Byes what do you think attributes to the lack of success after byes?

As I said in Inbox earlier this week, I think the opponents are the biggest factor. Denver in '15, the Rams in '18, SF in '19, TB this year ... all darn good teams, and all those games were on the road. Hundley was the QB in '17. The more concerning thing was hearing LaFleur and the players say the practices last week coming out of the bye weren't good. That definitely plays into it, though I didn't hear LaFleur say that last year after the first SF game.

Mike, thanks for the time. Defending Watson's mobility and arm strength to me seems similar to preparing for Wilson. Would preparation (Defense) be much the same?

That's a pretty decent comparison. Rushing to sack Watson comes with risks, because you can get out of your rush lanes and he can take off. Rushing/pressuring him to hurry, but with a contain mindset, could be more effective.

What moves are made around the OL if David Bakhtiari has to miss a few games? Elgton Jenkins, Turner, and even Jon Runyan seem to be pretty versatile around positions.

I really don't know how they'll go about it. First, we'll see if Bakhtiari can get back on the practice field at some point this week. If not, we really aren't going to know until the game starts Sunday. LaFleur didn't reveal his O-line plans during the injuries in September either.

How much attention would the staff be already giving to the Bears?

Zilch. The Packers have five games between now and the first time they play the Bears.

Hey Mike, We got to see a decent amount of reps from AJ Dillon yesterday towards the end of the game. I thought he had some good runs in that period. How did you think he did? Do you think we see more reps out of him down the road this year without it being a blowout?

A popular question. I thought Dillon did well for himself and he gave the coaching staff something to think about.

Mike, how can the Packers explain the soft coverage and dropping DL in to zone coverage on more than one occasion? Rushing 2 then 3? What a mess.

Playing coverage and trying to flood the passing lanes was working against Brady early in the game. The Bucs did nothing on their first two drives. But they adjusted and when there was no pressure with the standard four-man rushes later on, that was pretty much it.

Did Davante Adams seem at 100 percent?

As close as a guy can be after missing 2 1/2 games and also resting through the bye. I didn't see any limitations.

Do you see the Packers making any moves before the trade deadline?

Hard to say. It's not a time traditionally the Packers make any major moves. I think we'll continue to see steady shuffling of the lower portion of the roster, as is common.

What do you make of the decision to punt instead of going for it in the third quarter in Tampa. Seems like they threw in the white flag a little to early.

That's a tough one. The way LaFleur talked about searching for something that could work on the call sheet and getting frustrated, he probably didn't feel good about any play call on fourth-and-8 there. Often a primary impetus for a head coach to go for it on fourth down in an iffy situation is his confidence in a certain play call.

Mike, do you see the terrible Houston def rankings as more a product of opponents, coaching changes, scheme or personnel? With that being said is there anyone you see other then JJ Watt that can impact the game on the def side of the ball for the Texans?

Watt and Mercilus are good pass rushers, obviously. They've played some darn good teams, but that defense also didn't hold up against the Vikings and Minnesota got its first (and only) win down there. The Packers have to get the offense back on track. This is a huge opportunity to do so.

Hi Mike, thanks for the chat! I know things are different this year but is there any intel on how Jordan Love is progressing?

Couldn't tell you. Reporters don't get to see any of the 11-on-11 practice periods during the regular season, when Love would be taking at least some of the scout-team snaps.

Mike, have the Packers blocked a punt, FG or extra point this year? I don't recall special teams getting one.

Not this year.

Any chance we can get the Packers/Bucs score removed from the main page banner? It's slightly depressing.

Slightly? Ha. I've passed the suggestion along.

I enjoyed the "Rambo" audible Rodgers used Sunday. Has he called that one before to your recollection?

I'm pretty sure I've heard that one before, but it didn't necessarily mean the same thing.

Do you think ML will mix it up and run some no huddle in the coming weeks?

Perhaps, but you have to pick your spots with that, particularly with the defense coming off a rough game, too. The offense was humming along pretty good for four games and didn't need to do a lot of up-tempo so I don't anticipate them going crazy with it.

Any word on the return of Tyler Ervin? Seems like a pretty important piece!

Again, we'll see if he's back at practice this week. I thought it was interesting the best run of the game was Jamaal Williams' 25-yarder in the first quarter off the jet sweep motion by Aaron Jones, but they only ran the motion a handful of times. LaFleur said their film study showed the Bucs knew how to defend it.

It's so odd that the Packers have only generated 3 turnovers on defense in 5 games, while winning 4 of them. What do you think the Packers can do to generate a few more game changing plays?

I wrote about that last week, and it really comes down to taking advantage of the one or two opportunities you're going to get each game. Adrian Amos had a great shot at a pick of Brady but missed it. We talked last week about the two defenders both getting a shot to pick Ryan but it didn't work out. I think it starts with the pass rush, though. Pressure is what leads to errant throws most of the time.

Maybe it's time to blitz more?

I think that's totally dependent on the QB you're facing and the WR/DB matchups.

"Yellow Weasel" and "New York Bozo" are the all-timers for Rodgers audibles, though. Can't help but smile when I hear those.

Classics for sure.

Are you also living in fear of seeing Hingle McCringleberry appear again?

Yeah, I'll pass.

It's been awhile since we've seen a corner like Jaire Alexander in Green Bay. He's the complete package. The coverage, the athleticism, the ability and desire to make tackles. I fully believe he's going to start hauling in some of those opportunities (if opposing QBs challenge him).

I do, too, but if he does his job and the QBs are looking elsewhere, then it's on the pass rush to disrupt the QB and make it difficult to go elsewhere.

Enjoyed your response in II regarding the 2nd pick by Rodgers. I can't help but believe the results would have been different had that not happened. Momentum just completely switched.

I think all of Packer Nation was as shocked by a second pick as by a pick-six. It was so out of character for this team, this QB, everything. As noted before, the really unfortunate thing is if the officials had been on top of things at the snap, the play that resulted in the second pick would have been blown dead.

Our team is 4-1 with me wearing my Kelly Green INDUBITABLY t-shirt, do I rest it for a week or just forge ahead?

Tough one. Maybe it's just a first-quarter shirt ... first quarter of the season, first quarter of the game ...

What did you make of Kenny Clark's return on Sunday?

He wasn't supposed to play as much as he did after such a long layoff, but Tyler Lancaster's injury changed those plans. I saw Clark make some nice plays against the run, but he didn't look like the interior pass rusher we're used to seeing, and I attribute that to having played only 15 snaps this season before Sunday. He'll find his groove.

You've mentioned that LaFleur went away from presnap motion against Tampa Bay because their defense was adept at defending it. If that's a strength of our offense, why not force them to go through the high effort required to actually do so?

LaFleur may be asking himself the same question, especially after seeing the 25-yard run by Williams on film and how it opened up. But he's on to Houston now. No other way to go about it.

Speaking of turnovers, I have a feeling one game soon they'll come in a bunch. They've been awfully close on several occasions, and they seem due.

That was the jist of the story I wrote last Thursday. Maybe I was just a week early. We'll see.

Mobile QBs are always an issue, but do you think Krys Barnes could help with that area of defense?

There's plenty to like about what Barnes has brought to this defense. Is he fast enough to spy Watson? We might find out.

Are open roster spots being kept open in hopes that Kamal Martin and others may return soon?

I think that's a decent read on things. But with the Covid protocols about bringing in new players, there may be acquisitions in the works there, too.

I was surprised to read in II that Houston is 3rd in the league in passing yards. Looks like their 1-5 record is due to their abysmal D?

They've given up at least 28 points in each of their five losses.

Any word on the extent of and prognosis for Parry Nickerson's injury? The press release announcement was pretty sparse.

It's really hard to tell because IR is just a 3-week minimum this year and there's no limit on how many guys can be brought back.

If we can't get organized in 25 seconds why speed it up and go no huddle just to go no huddle?

I think that's a valid point.

Depth at CB with Kevin King being down really seems to be an issue? Thoughts?

It's tough for any team to replace one of its top two corners for a game. The Packers have faced other defenses dealing with the same thing, and the Vikings had to replace three of their top four corners from the start of the year and look where that defense is. You could see even back in 2018 when Alexander and King were on the field together, this defense was different. I don't think that's changed.

Sounds like this week should be a great opportunity to re-establish the running game based on the Texans' D rankings.

I don't care whether the Packers do it running or passing, they just have to get their rhythm back. But yes, the Texans have struggled to stop the run.

Contain Watson on D and throw it all over h_ll on O, we win.

It's going to take 4 quarters. Houston proved that last week. Tennessee had them down 21-7 in the second quarter and then had to rally late to get the game to OT.

Do you think the current Covid rules will be retained? Example: 3-week IR in which any player can come back. 16-person practice squad, etc.

I doubt they'll be retained as-is, but maybe with some modifications. The league has always been careful about providing opportunities for players to be "stashed" on IR so they don't have to be exposed to waivers to get jobs elsewhere. This year obviously a lot of restrictions have been set aside due to the pandemic, but they don't want long-term rules that could be abused.

Regarding no huddle comments, how about just snapping the ball with maybe 10 seconds on the play clock to change it up. It always seems to be at one second and the defense can plan for the snap.

That remains a work in progress. It seemed clear this past game that the play call wasn't getting in very quickly -- I referenced earlier LaFleur's frustrations with trying to find something, and an extra 3-4 seconds to make the decision on the call can have an impact. That also affects how much time you have to run presnap motions too.

Any unexpected predictions for this week's games?

I'm not into predictions as many of you know, but it's an interesting slate of games. Steelers-Ravens, Seahawks-Cardinals, 49ers-Patriots, Bucs-Raiders, Bears-Rams on Monday night. Should be some entertaining stuff.

With that I have to sign off folks. Thanks for the participation and we'll talk again next week. Take care and stay safe. Best, Mike

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