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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What can the Packers expect from their new acquisitions?

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


Mike, finish the following sentence: Aaron Rodgers wins MVP if he...

Gets to around 45 TD passes, doesn't throw any more picks, leads the league in passer rating, and runs the sked from here for 13-3.

Kenny Stills cleared waivers. I though several teams would be interested including the Packers. What do they know that I don't?

I think his contract was an issue. Clearing waives now wipes out his deal.

Mike, what do you think of the Tavon Austin signing? I assume he will mostly be used on special teams, but what can we expect if anything from him on offense?

Popular question. Hard to say, but it didn't take long last year for LaFleur to work Tyler Ervin into certain offensive packages, so I'd expect him to take a similar approach with Austin. He can certainly jump in right away on special teams, too, just like Ervin did last December.

Has the team made any adjustments based on the experience of the Denver QB situation?

LaFleur said he was considering some options. But it's important to remember if the Denver QBs had just worn their masks in meetings, as they're required to, they wouldn't have been put on the reserve list.

Hi Mike! Watching the all 22 film, I have noticed in the past that the Chicago QB10 will stare down his primary receiver. He appeared to do that on both interceptions on Sunday. Darnell Savage seemed to take off after reading the QB eyes in both cases. Would a player respond to a direct question about reading the QB eyes in an interview after the game or would that be kept to themselves?

I don't know. Most players aren't going to reveal much, especially when they might see the same QB again. But it was pretty obvious when the Bears called a deep shot that Trubisky wasn't reading anything, he was throwing deep no matter what.

Is the best play we've seen from Rodgers since 2014?

I would say so, yes. The run the table stretch in '16 was awfully good, too, but this is a longer period.

I saw Austin play some in college, he was impressive and he put up some impressive combine numbers but I was still surprised he went to 10. Do you the high draft status and the expectations that went with it have hurt his NFL career?

It was out of the norm for a 5-8 skill player to be drafted in the top 10, that's for sure. But that was so long ago, none of it matters now. It's all about what he can do with the new opportunity in front of him. I'm sure he's plenty motivated.

With COVID protocols, how long before Austin can play?

He had to clear all that before the signing was official, so he's good to go as far as I know.

Is Allen Lazard good to go on Sunday?

He indicated after the game on social media he's fine. We'll see what the injury report says later today and as the week goes along.

It seems like I've seen a lot Za'Darius Smith crashing down to rush the passer this year and breaking contain on running plays. Is this something you've noticed too? I'm not trying to nitpick such a great player.

Pettine was asked about that last week. There are times Z crashes down and someone else has containment responsibilities, and those aren't held up. Other times it is his responsibility and he has to be more mindful.

I assume Rodger's has still not revealed what he saw in old footage that has improved his play?

Not specifically, but he's reiterated it's more about the comfort level with the offense and the changes LaFleur and the coaches made in the offseason to streamline some things in the scheme. That's been the greater benefit regardless.

What is the protocol for players that have tested positive for COVID to return to the active roster? Also for the ones that have been out for awhile are they given time to practice with the team before they count against the 53?

I confess I don't know all the details there, and LaFleur hasn't discussed any of that publicly. I don't think there's a roster exemption for those players to practice and not be on the 53. They have to be activated to practice, I believe.

It seems like they did not blitz much last week against Chicago, is that correct? With Philly's O line issues seems like they might not need to do much of that this week to get consistent pressure?

Pettine hasn't blitzed a ton this year, I think mostly because when he has sent a fifth rusher, there's often minimal impact on the QB. If blitzing doesn't help with the pressure, you're just making yourself one guy short in coverage. The Eagles' O-line has been banged up and shuffling around all year. Wentz leads the league in sacks. You'd like to get home with four and then throw a surprise here or there.

Can we anticipate Anthony Rush seeing much in the way of game time action on Sunday?

Really hard to say. I'm sure the coaches are going to try to find out what he can offer and find a role, albeit a very limited one at least at first.

At this point in the season, which Packers will be selected to the Pro Bowl? Which Packers 'should' be selected to the Pro Bowl? And to go a step further, which Packers should be selected for All-Pro?

I'll probably forget someone here, but Rodgers, Davante Adams, David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander and Z. Smith probably have the best Pro Bowl chances. I think Jenkins should be in the mix, too, but sometimes there's a lag in the recognition with younger players.

Hi Mike - It was great to see the run game do so well, providing a more balanced offense than we've seen in the past few weeks. Were you surprised that Aaron Jones + Jamaal Williams switched off each series & shared equal carries? It seemed to work, but I still feel that Aaron Jones is the better RB, averaging more yards per carry. Do you see MLF using this same approach in upcoming games? (I may or may not be asking this because Aaron Jones is on my fantasy team) ;)

I think Aaron Jones is still the No. 1 guy, but last week Williams got a lot more carries late when the Packers had a big lead and the Bears knew they were going to run the ball. It really just depends on how the game goes.

Is it a given that Elgton Jenkins will be at center, or could they slide Lucas Patrick in there and revamp the line that way?

Patrick would be an option, but based on what they've done the last two weeks I expect Jenkins to be at center while Corey Linsley is out.

Absolutely convinced I have to be patient in waiting for young receivers to develop in tandem with AR. He has such high expectations but when they "get it" the results are amazing. Equanimeous St. Brown is beginning to show flashes.

St. Brown's contributions in the Chicago game are a good sign moving forward. Nothing wrong with finding more options on offense.

Elgton Jenkins ability to play all 5 line position is pretty unique and he seems capable of playing them all at a pro-bowl level. Is that assessment to far over the top?

That might be a bit much. He's an interior lineman, and I think he can play either guard spot or center at a really high level. The fact that he can slide out to tackle and hold his own is no small feat, but I can't say I've seen enough to say he could play tackle as well as David Bakhtiari or Bulaga or someone like that.

Take a look at photos of Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers from his MVP season.

I thought the Packers would get more pressure against the Bears. Their O-line is not a strength. If Wentz isn't running for his life Sunday can we admit that we have a pass rush problem?

We'll see. The Packers definitely need to be able to put the heat on Wentz straight up against that line.

Has there been any talks with Aaron Jones so far and do you believe they'll get a deal done?

I've heard no updates but my gut says they're going to try to bring Jones back.

How big was that Preston Smith scope and score for him? Seems he has been frustrated this year...can this get him going?

I mentioned in the live blog during the game that Preston needed something to smile about. He finally got that during this frustrating year. His sack was a good power move on third down, too. Let's see how he builds on it.

In the Zoom press conferences, how do they decide the order of who asks the questions? Would you like having that structure even when they go back to live? Would seem to help to avoid questioners stepping over each other.

The members of the team's communication staff who run the calls, usually Sarah or Jackson, call on the reporters to ask their questions. There's no set order, but they do a great job managing it in my opinion. The process has its plusses and minuses. It is nice not to have people talking over one another to get a question in, but it's also harder to get a follow-up question in on a particular topic when there are so many others who have yet to be called on. There's no perfect way, but I'll admit overall it's nicer and easier to just see the players in person to talk to them.

Have you been able to watch Rashan Gary individually during games or after? Has he expanded from his one bull rush move?

Gary is not a one-move rusher from what I've seen. He's got pretty active hands. I think his bull rush is his best move, but he's got the quickness to do other things, too.

Do you think there's any chance the Eagles play Jalen Hurts at QB for any of the game on Sunday?

He took a couple of snaps on Monday night, and I would expect more of the same. It might be difficult on a short week to expand his workload too much, but you never know.

With big leads, our defense seems to go into management mode rather than seeking to dominate for four quarters. I'm curious if you think this saves wear and tear in a long season and if there isn't a danger of it leading to a less committed mentality?

I don't question the players' commitment at all. The players are human, they know where things stand in a game, and nobody is interested in risking a major injury. It is a long season and playing fire-breathing defense when the score is 41-10 or 41-17 just isn't realistic to me.

Some good running teams coming up, including Tennessee down the road, do you see the defense going to more of a base with two ILBs?

It will depend on matchups for sure. The Packers use a lot of different fronts that aren't straight base against the run. Sometimes it's 3 DL, 2 OLB, 1 ILB; or 2 DL, 2 OLB, 2 ILB. Straight base with only 4 DBs is the best way to stop the run, but it invites play-action, and a guy like Tannehill in Tennessee has thrived against that with so much attention on Henry. Every opponent is different.

Packers RB Aaron Jones celebrates his birthday Dec. 2. Take a look at photos of him from the 2020 season.

I understand the playoffs have expanded from 6-7 teams per conference and only one team gets a bye. I would like to know if they kept the formula for matchups after the wildcard round which had the highest seed play the lowest seed or if they changed it to top seed plays winner of the 4 vs. 5 game more like March Madness. Go Pack Go!

My understanding is the 1 seed, which gets the bye, still plays the lowest remaining seed after the wild-card round and the rest of the matchups are arranged accordingly ... 2, if still alive, gets the next lowest, etc.

Miles Sanders is far from the same player as a Kamara or Cook, but can do damage in a similar fashion. Do you agree it starts by stopping him and forcing Wentz to pass more for our defense to be successful?

Absolutely. If that Philly O-line gets things going for Sanders, that'll make everything defensively more difficult and offensively easier for Wentz.

Jaire Alexander is already one of the best CBs in the league but I believe in order to be considered the best or one of the best ever he needs to improve his ball skills and regularly complete more interceptions. Has he ever talked about working on his catching and ball tracking skills? Jugs machine etc.?

He works on it all the time, believe me. It's not for a lack of effort. He's covering really well and hence doesn't get a lot of chances thrown his way. I think some of the opportunities he does get, he gets so excited it almost works against him.

How many Pittsburgh and Baltimore fans do you think are suddenly feeling ill and asking to get off work early today? Such a weird time and day to have an NFL game; just doesn't feel right

The league is doing everything it can to avoid a Week 18 of the regular season. I don't even know what kind of team Baltimore is going to be able to put out there they've had so many positive tests.

The Packers beat the Bears handily. Unfortunately many of us Packer fans have seen leads slip away over the years. Was one stout defensive stand too much to ask for? On to the Eagles. Glad to have the game pushed back a bit as that will give us time to get home from deer camp.

GB's defense played an outstanding third quarter -- two punts and one pick -- which allowed the lead to go from 27-10 to 41-10. This Eagles game has been slated for 325 all year. Next week at Detroit was pushed back to 325.

Isn't it interesting that Trevor Davis turned out to be a great draft pick. He got us Jon Runyan.

I hadn't traced all of that, but that's an interesting way to look at it. Runyan has filled in nicely and now gets to settle in for a couple weeks.

HI Mike: I was reading Inbox today and there was a picture of Rogers and one later of Jones, wishing them both a happy birthday. Is that true? Keith

Yes, the two Aarons share the same birthday, and it's today. With that, I'm going to sign off, folks. Thanks for logging on today and we'll talk again next week. Stay safe and take care. Best, Mike

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