Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How many surprises are in store for Week 1?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered questions previewing the Packers-Vikings matchup in his weekly live chat

Minnesota Vikings Danielle Hunter

Hey everybody. Welcome back to a new season of football. So glad we're here. Go ahead and start sending some questions in and I'll get started shortly. Thanks for logging on today.

Camp question. What drills did you see in camp that are new or have been modified from the past and what drills common in the past are now gone?

One of the most common drills of recent years that's no longer allowed is the half-line drill, where a center and half the offensive line (plus TE sometimes) to one side run full-contact running plays, with everything but tackling the ball-carrier to the ground. A fullback would be in there a lot, too. The league did away with that drill due to the excessive contact, so it's even harder to get a gauge now on run offense/run defense.

Do you see Ty Summers having a bigger role this year?

I'm not sure with Kamal Martin out and Oren Burks missing some time in camp who will be lined up next to Christian Kirksey in the base defense, but Summers could get a shot, we'll see. He's already a solid special-teams player and will definitely have a prominent role on return and coverage units.

Going to be different for you not going to away games. What will you miss most not being at the game this Sunday and is there a favorite spot in Minneapolis you'll miss?

Not traveling this year, I'll definitely miss a lot of friends I visit in other cities around the country, and Minneapolis has a lot of friends and family I look forward to seeing once a year. It'll be strange not watching the games from the press box, too, but it's just another adjustment to make. It's not like I'll be missing any "atmosphere" at the games, though, because there won't be much in that department.

Kinda worried about special teams, i.e punt and kickoff coverage units.

I think every team in the league has a lot of uncertainty there with no preseason games to go fully live with those units. It's just part of the transition this year.

Out of the players gone from last year who do you think we will miss the most? And, additions that may benefit the most?

Bulaga is definitely the toughest player to replace of those who departed. He's been a rock on that right side. I'm excited to see what Kirksey brings in the middle of the defense, what Rashan Gary can do in Year 2, and how AJ Dillon and Josiah Deguara might be incorporated into the offense.

How is Jace Sternberger doing? We haven't heard a lot about him after the practices have started.

I thought he had a slow start in camp after missing time early on the covid exempt list. I put Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan at the top of the depth chart at TE right now.

Do you have any idea who will start at LT for the first game?

I'm assuming you're asking about RT, because it'll be David Bakhtiari at LT. We'll see how Billy Turner's injury shakes out. Otherwise, I think the top options would be Rick Wagner, or moving a starting guard to RT and having Lucas Patrick fill in at guard.

Do the teams get to control the piped in crowd noise so it favors only the home team when they make a play or do they need to be somewhat fair about it?

I really don't know how that's going to work. I think we just have to wait and see how it goes, because while I think the league has communicated things to teams, it hasn't communicated much publicly about how that's supposed to go.

I've loved all the content this summer. Big thanks again to you and Wes and the staff for your great work. I heard a critique of our WR corps recently saying that other than Davante Adams, all we have are straight line runners. Allen Lazard more of a contested catch guy and Marquez Valdes-Scantling a speedster, but no one other than Adams has enough of the "shiftiness" and advanced route running to consistently beat coverages. Do you see any truth to that?

Not everybody can be Adams and have all the tools. I've heard LaFleur say time and time again it's up to the coaching staff to ask the players to do what they do best and put them in positions to be successful. MVS had a great camp, and Lazard is going to be fine, I believe.

Will AJ Dillon see the field or sit for several weeks??

I really don't know what the plan is with him. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are two experienced backs who have produced, and they know this offense well. They can handle all the roles. I think the coaching staff will try to carve out a place for Dillon, but if it's not right away in Week 1 that wouldn't surprise me.

Not sure what to expect penalty wise Sunday. No preseason for players or Refs to work it out. Sounds like it could be a flagfest. I hope not. What are your thoughts?

Who knows? The officials will have a tough job jumping right into regular-season games without the exhibitions. I hope the err on the side of swallowing the flags than throwing them, personally.

Do you think we will see more trick plays on special teams than normal in week one?

I think anything is on the table in Week 1. Every team will have opportunities to surprise the opponent. There's no way to predict who's going to do that any more than anyone else.

With no full back on the roster do you think a couple of TE and or our new running back will fill in that position?

Tight ends are going to line up in the backfield on occasion in this offense, for sure. They'll also line up there and motion out before the snap. Those duties are built into their roles.

Are the Packers at an advantage given their "home field" advantage is closely tied to the weather/climate as opposed to teams like the Saints/Vikings who have more of an advantage due to the indoor crowd noise? Given that there will be less fans in the stands of course (if any).

Interesting point. The Packers are playing five of their eight road games indoors, so if those places losing noise advantage I think is a greater benefit to the Packers than what GB might lose in its home stadium. Those road venues can create problems that almost no outdoor stadium does, except maybe Seattle or KC.

When will the injury report come out?

Late this afternoon, after today's practice. Probably around 3-4 p.m.

I live in Fort Worh Texas... it seems unfair for the Cowboys to have 40000 fans and most teams none... Is the piped in noise to even the playing field??

I think the piped-in noise is mostly to avoid "eerie" silence in a stadium and to prevent TV mics from picking up some of the, shall we say, emotional words spoken in the heat of battle.

Hi Mike, I thought the loss of Mike Daniels last year really hurt the DL against the run. Did you see anything in camp that might indicate we may have improved in that area?

To be totally honest, I have no idea. Training camp tells us very little about rush offense or defense. The Packers sent a message in the offseason they believe they have the players up front to stop the run. Pettine stressed it's about assignment football, and stressing the run defense scheme-wise when necessary. We'll just have to see.

Hi Spoff, do the players get a chance to have parents, spouses, kids, friends attend games in person?

In stadiums not hosting fans, no. I believe the NFL is giving every player's family a free subscription/access to watch the games from home.

Hey Mike - curious if you think the expanded practice squad will last longer than this year. I feel like the new 69-man roster will offer the team some Nice flexibility throughout the season.

They were in the process of expanding the practice squad to, I think, 14 players over the next few years. I don't know if it'll stay at 16, but it was getting bigger regardless.

Some attention has been given to Aaron Rodgers using this pandemic to get more centered. I can't wait to see how that translates to the field. He is very good at any time, but a more dialed in AR12?? The anticipation is almost too much.

I was curious enough just to see him in Year 2 with LaFleur and this offense. The comments he made during camp about watching past film of himself, getting in a good place mentally, it definitely piqued the interest for sure. He had some days in camp that were phenomenal, and GB's secondary is no slouch of a unit.

Would you expect Minnesota to test the right side quite a bit this week?

Why wouldn't they? They're going to line up with Hunter on one end and Yannick on the other, but as far as twists and stunts, I could see a lot of games being played on the right side to see how the Packers respond.

I see the Packer yearbooks are out. Just curious as I have everyone since 1960 when they first came out. Are all the Packer yearbooks displayed somewhere in the building? I know of 2 other persons who have them all also.

I know there's a full collection of them in the Packers Hall of Fame, but I don't think they're on display. They have them all, though.

Is Lambeau closed to tailgating?


How many members of the media are allowed at practice?

It depends if the practice is inside or outside. Today because of some rain, it'll be inside the Hutson Center, so media attendance is very limited.

Will Matt LaFleur let me air it out this year? I think I'm good for 5,000...

I think LaFleur wants to have a productive ground game and run as much of the passing game, on first and second downs anyway, off play-action as possible.

I think that Aaron Jones will have more total yards than Cook's rushing yards. Am I wrong?

I don't know. I could see both guys having monster years.

Any particular areas of emphasis this year as far as officiating is concerned ? Pass interference ? Protecting the quarterback ?

Use of the helmet. That's the main point of emphasis with the officiating this year. The helmet rule they put in for 2018 is going to be watched very closely.

Any idea what either team or the league will do in terms of making a statement about social justice (e.g. messaging on the field)?

The end zones will be painted with messages. One will be "end racism" and I can't recall off the top of my head what the other one will be. The players haven't said anything publicly about what they might be doing.

Mike, great to see the chat back. Thanks for your time. Which player or two do you think the Packers need to have circled when they are on offense this week?

Minnesota's two ends (Hunter, Yannick), two top LBs (Kendricks, Barr) and two safeties (Smith, Harris) is as good a half-dozen players as any defense could ask for. That unit will be a lot to handle, even with all the young CBs that will be thrown into the fire.

I read that if vested veterans are added before week one and start the season their contract is guaranteed but if their added after week one it is not. First is that true and how much is that a factor in so many good players out there that can still play?

It is true, and it does result in a few veterans every year being signed after Week 1.

Who in you opinion will be the most impactful rookie will be this year?

I would have said Kamal Martin before his knee injury. He looked headed for the spot next to Kirksey. With his outlook changed, it's probably Dillon or Deguara, but as I said before, it wouldn't surprise me if their impact is later in the season rather than earlier.

Besides Packers/Vikings, in what games will you be interested this week?

It's a big start in the NFC North with the Bears and Lions squaring off, too. Otherwise, Seahawks-Falcons looks intriguing, as does McCarthy's first Cowboys game, on the road at the Rams.

With Minnesota's young corners Rodgers should have some deep looks.

I think that depends on how the Vikings play their safeties. It's going to be a chess match from the first snap.

Will Adams get his 1000 this season?

Good health willing, he absolutely should. It's crazy he's 6 yards away from two more 1,000-yard seasons, with two finishing at 997.

Is the Packers' practice squad still at 14 players?

No, two more signings were made official this morning. WR and LB. The practice squad is now full at 16.

Did the team replace the two players that were moved to IR?

One was the signing of CB Parry Nickerson. There remains one open roster spot on the 53.

See headshots and action shots of the complete Green Bay Packers 2020 roster. #BuildingOurTeam

Will Wayne and Larry be doing the radio stream on WTMJ? The Seattle game will be aired here in Oregon. By the way, send rain-thoughts our way, the state is burning down...

Stay safe out there. What's going on is just frightening. Wayne and Larry will be doing the radio broadcast from their Lambeau Field booth for all games this season. I'm not sure how the streaming rights work on WTMJ.

Read that Hunter hasn't practiced in camp do to an undisclosed injury? What do you make of that and what affect might it have on him if he plays?

I don't know. Zimmer has been as coy about that as LaFleur has been about the right tackle spot. We'll find out on Sunday.

Have you seen any notable changes in the offense while watching practices? Will we see a faster pace?

I think the Packers will have the ability to go faster if they want to. Rodgers mentioned in an interview with Larry for our Total Packers preview show (which should be available on the website in the next couple of days) that mentally he's starting to know what the plays are when he hears the first couple words of the play call. Mentally, that's big for him I think.

Do you expect Tonyan to surprise a lot of folk this season? His limited time is filled with a couple highlights already.

I thought Tonyan was headed for a bigger role last year when he got hurt on that great catch in Dallas. He was never really right again, fighting through a lot to play late in the season. His opportunities will be there.

Is the key to victory which team gains more rushing yards?

I think the ground games are going to be big factors on Sunday. I don't think the Packers have to outrush the Vikings in order to win, but the Packers want their pass rush and secondary to win the day on defense, and that means forcing the Vikings to throw in key situations.

How much live tackling was done in camp?

Only the young players in a few extended practice periods toward the end of some practices. LaFleur was not going to put the front-line players at risk going live against one another.

I hope we see Gary,Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith all on the field together. Cousins worst nightmare, I think...

There are definitely packages on defense that have all three on the field together.

With the new game day active roster at 48, and needed 8 OL included in that number, is there any two-way player (ex. DL) that can be stated as an OL but okay as a DL?

No, that's not an option. The 8 OL have to have OL as their primary position.

Have you noticed anything noticeworthy in how Rodgers delivers the ball since ne "noticed something" during his old film study?

Can you put the word notice more times in the same question? Ha, just giving you a hard time. I can't say I saw anything specific. I'm no QB guru. His accuracy really stood out at a few practices, that's for sure.

Will this be the first time the Packers play the Vikings with an active Dalvin Cook? A good test for the run defense right out of the gate.

No, it's not the first time. They've faced him a couple of times. But it'll be a very different game than the one from Week 16 last year, when Cook and his top backup, Mattison, were out and the Vikings couldn't run the ball.

Not much changed with the DL from last year. What's your take on how the DL will perform differently from last year ?

That unit has heard all the questions and criticisms. They'll be out to answer the bell.

Thanks for all that you do! I can't believe it's already football season. This Covid crap has messed up the timing of almost everything else. Go Pack Go!!

You're welcome, and with that I'm going to call it a chat. Week 1 is here folks. Enjoy it. Thanks for all the participation and we'll talk again next week. Take care everybody. --Mike

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