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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: So what does the defense do now?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered questions from fans


Hi everybody. Sorry I'm a couple minutes late, but let's get to it. Thanks for logging on today.

I just looked up each Washington's and the Packers stats, I was surprised to see the Redskins currently have the 1st ranked overall and passing defense. I then remembered they played the Cardinals and Colts, so far. Regardless, it's still impressive. What do you think are our biggest challenges in heading to DC?

I think it comes down to limiting the explosive plays. Alex Smith won't go bombs away, but he'll take his shots here and there, and the Packers' defense looked awfully good for three quarters against Minnesota before it started leaking big plays.

Hello Mike. You said you "didn't have any issues with the clock management"? What about having to burn all three timeouts in the 2nd half in order to avoid delay of game penalties and then getting called for one (because we didn't have a fourth timeout to burn)?

My reference there was to the possession after the HHCD interception. The early burning of timeouts was not ideal, obviously. Rodgers was in the huddle longer than normal a lot of times in the second half. I'm not sure what was going on there, but you'd rather not be out of timeouts in the last few minutes, clearly.

Is Kevin King this teams most important player on defense? I know they have some depth at CB but when he went out there was a noticeable difference in the pass defense.

There was a noticeable difference, but we don't know enough about this defense yet to label any player the most important. At least not yet. I think as the Packers' rookie corners gain more experience, they'll be given more responsibility, and if King is out, Alexander and Jackson could be joining Williams as the main three on the field all the time.

How do we tackle the QB?

The million-dollar question. If I'm a defensive player, and I don't mean to sound absurd, but I think if you get a shot at the QB, you wrap him in a bear hug, hold him up, and wait for the official to blow the whistle. Right now I wouldn't know what to do without risking a flag and/or fine.

Mike I can't help but think the league really botched the new rule and their explanations of them, So much confusion.

There needs to be clarity, as McCarthy said. I also thought he was right in stating not all the variables are being taken into account, such as a QB's body position and natural momentum as he finishes a throw, particularly a long throw. That's why I continue to insist on reviews for these, because it's very difficult to see what actually happens in real time with everything else the officials have to pay attention to, and if one given official's one angle is all anyone has to go on, some of these calls will continue to make little sense.

Who is going to be cut once Oren Burks is active?

No one has to be released for Burks. He's on the 53-man roster, just hasn't been active on gamedays. The Packers will have to make a roster move this week, though, to make room for Aaron Jones coming off his suspension.

Any word on Kevin King's injury?

No update yet. First practice of the week is tomorrow.

The key component of Matthews' tackle was the fact that he placed his left hand under Cousins' right knee for a brief moment after the initial wrap-up. To the official, that was probably the "lift up", wrestling-type takedown look that caused the penalty. It took me several times watching the replay before I noticed that. You may still disagree with the call, but that's the crucial aspect that needs to be seen before making the judgement.

I agree, but Cousins also was already off the ground when he released the deep ball. What Matthews did with his hand/arm was negligible, in my opinion. That's why everything needs to be looked at if these calls are going to be made at crucial times in games.

Although the sample size is small, I like what I'm seeing from our new defense. However, tackling still seems like a big concern... Is it just the players we have, or how can we improve in this category?

I don't think the Packers' tackling has been a major issue. Some players are difficult to tackle one-on-one, it's the nature of the league. But I don't see missed tackles as a glaring problem right now on defense.

Aaron Jones is BACK! Mike, do you have any insight on how he has looked this season compared to Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery?

I thought Jones looked really shifty and explosive in the preseason game at Kansas City. I think he brings another dimension to GB's offense.

Mike, do you see a bigger emphasis on the run game this weekend?

If it's working, and with the Packers having an extra option now, sure. But it's so early in the season it's hard to know which defenses will be stout against the run and which won't until you get going in a game.

The Vikings first touchdown was a clear miscommunication between King and HA HA. Who was in the wrong there?

Couldn't tell you. It looked to me as though both were playing outside leverage on the slant route, and that can't be how it's supposed to work.

How can the league say that Clay's hit was exactly the type of hit that's illegal? I watched it over and over and thought it was a text book tackle!!

It is a textbook tackle, on anyone except a QB in the current NFL.

Mike is that where the NFL is heading with their new rule implementations, bear hugs and praying a flag is not thrown?

I'll be interested to see the league's teaching tape this week, if there are examples of how to get the QB on the ground without violating the rules. I need to see it, because otherwise, aside from a bear hug, hitting a guy in the midsection and hoping he falls seems like the only other option. Any kind of wrap-up is going to look like lifting and planting, isn't it?

Is it time to bring back the "In The Grasp" rule?

I don't think that rule ever left, really. If the QB is held up and can't move or throw, they'll blow the whistle.

Do you foresee Aaron Jones getting the starting nod this week? It definitely couldn't hurt in my opinion.

I don't know if he'll start right away, but I think if he gets in the game and shows production, he'll earn more chances.

This may be too involved for a chat but here goes anyhow. Being a ref involves some mix of trying to enforce competitive fairness and looking out for player safety. The NFL, in its admirable pursuit of better player safety, has charged refs with more and more responsibility in the area of player safety to the point where the mix is out of balance imo. I don't blame the refs. I think the NFL has given them an almost impossible task. The NFL needs to think outside the box to figure out a way to serve the dual masters of competitive fairness and increased player safety. I'll get off my soapbox now.

That's what I've been saying all along with these defenseless receiver rules, QB rules, etc. It is an impossible task for the officials, and why replay is required to make sure games don't hinge on calls that are crucial yet very difficult to make correctly a large percentage of the time at full speed.

Mike I was at the game and I felt so weird since. I feels like we lost, but we tied. Give me something to think about for Washington to take my mind off the game

I hate the press box there. Does that help? It's low and in the end zone, so I'm basically watching the game on TV when the ball is on the other half of the field. I know, cry y'all a river, but it does make it more difficult to do my job. Just sayin'

Also what do you think was the key to our defense slowing down the Vikings rush? Neither the Bears nor Vikings have been able to exploit our lack of depth at MLB yet. Is that credit to scheme, Martinez or our fill in guys?

I think the Packers' D-line has done a solid job against the run through two weeks. Especially against Cook. Hardly an explosive gain. Now the interior pass rush needs to flush the QBs into the edge guys for sacks.

Hey Mike, Am I the only person commenting that says that these questionable calls are making me enjoy the games less?

Not at all. It's less enjoyable for a lot of folks, and why the NFL has to figure this out.

Is there any chance that the league would implement reviews for quarterback tackling questions mid-season, or will this issue get tabled until the off-season?

For me, that's the half-million dollar question. I really don't know. I suspect any changes to the replay rules would have to come in the offseason.

How come we never see deep shots down the field off play action, like we used to in the early Jordy Nelson days? Can any of the Receivers get enough separation for this?

The play-action boot with the deep shot is drawn up with the QB under center, and Rodgers is exclusively in the shotgun or pistol right now with his knee.

Has the NFL said anything about the hit to the back of Adam's helmet? That seemed pretty blatant to me.

Haven't seen anything, but we'll see when reporters get wind of fines on Friday if anything comes out. A call there certainly would have changed the game, too.

Several years ago, we had the "fail Mary" in Seattle that led to the replacement officials going away. Will the Matthews roughing call make the NFL again address an issue? If so what changes? Both of these calls cost the Packers a win.

Bongo! This is different, because the Fail Mary was a labor issue. There's no easy fix here and I think it will remain an ongoing discussion throughout 2018.

Will there always be gold package games? I could barely stand listening to the away crowd cheering against the Packers at Lambeau field.

Gold package games aren't going away. There were a ton of Chicago fans in Week 1, too. Packers fans are putting a lot of tickets on the secondary market. It's their right, but it doesn't help the team.

Despite the ppg our denfense has really impressed me. The arrow is pointing up for them. Do you think we will see a more aggressive approach on blitzes and forcing turnovers as they gel this season?

The two turnovers (including the one that didn't count) in the fourth quarter Sunday were both crucial plays at big times, and that's when you want those plays to occur. That's what allows a defense to make a difference.

Mike you blue in the face yet?

Have been for a while now, my friend.

Did anyone ask Rodgers about that timeout that he tried to call at the end of the first half when the Packers had none available? That sort of mental error is super-rare for Aaron.

I didn't get a chance to ask him. I thought the same thing, though I was in a Twitter conversation at halftime with fans saying he was signaling to huddle up, not trying to call timeout. I haven't seen a video replay of it.

As you've said before with all of these new rules they are going to have to allow more challenges and have more reviews to prevent these new rules from changing the outcome of a game. Does this mean we are heading towards 4 hour games in the NFL? I don't think that's good for the casual fan.

I don't think so, either, but that's what the league will have to weigh. Longer games, or constant controversy? Maybe there's a way to change the clock rules to shorten games a tad, like how long it remains stopped after an incomplete pass outside of the last 2-5 minutes, or something like that? I don't know. It might require some thinking outside the box.

As we face the Redskins, I have to say that I'm very excited to see how the secondary does against Smith! I think there is a big opportunity for Alexander to have a huge game. How is Jackson doing?

I think both rookies have acquitted themselves well so far, but they're by no means playing flawlessly. Diggs and Thielen are one tough duo, one of the top duos in the league now to be honest. They were a huge test, but they really made their plays in the fourth quarter. Everything is a learning experience for these guys. There's so far to go, but so high a ceiling as well.

When I watch a Packer game I try not to have a 'homer mentality' but I'm obviously focused on the Pack. Not withstand the roughing calls I thought it was a terribly officiated game with the Packers on the wrong end another 5-6 times. Did you notice any questionable calls that went against the Vikings other than the Kendricks roughing call?

Zimmer made some comments about holding calls on the Packers' O-line, which was ironic because the biggest one of the game wiped out the Graham TD and was a ridiculous call. One time I thought a GB lineman inadvertently false-started by moving his leg, causing the MN player to jump, and they called it on the Vikings' defense. It wasn't that he actually false-started, but the leg moved enough to make the other guy jump. They weren't happy about that one, either.

Has the NFL ever admitted a penalty was called incorrectly?

Yes, it happens often. Doesn't make anyone feel any better about the result, though.

Everybody is talking about the Matthews call but what about the other questionable calls in that game? What was your opinion on the OPI call on Adams, the holding call that negated the TD and the non call when the defender pulled the receiver's arms down?

Graham was clearly interfered with on the deep ball, and the Adams OPI was really touchy. That's another call that is clearly not consistent across the league. Some officials are looking for a clear advantage gained by an WR making contact, others are just throwing the flag when they see contact.

As bad as the game was refereed, I do think that some of the younger guys on defense showed flashes of what is to come. I'm not sure if this defense has all the horses to run the type of D that Mike Pettine wants, but I think it is a step in the right direction. Anyway, keep up the good work, Mike.

Coaching is about figuring out what you have and adjusting to put what you have in the best position to succeed. This defense will continue to evolve. This isn't Mike Pettine's first rodeo.

Why hasn't Mike Daniels made any impact yet on the D-Line? He seems like he doesn't exist out there the first 2 games.

His snaps were limited against the Bears after he missed a ton of time in camp and the preseason. I thought he was more impactful vs. Minnesota.

Re: the roughing the QB plays... has anyone noticed a difference with the defender's feet? In both the Barr tackle last year and the Kendricks tackle on Sunday, the defender's feet come off the ground. Matthews' feet didn't.

Maybe that's another variable that should be considered, to use McCarthy's word.

Mike, I know that it is only week 3 but what has surprised you about our team so far? AND what teams has been surprising both good and bad?

I don't get surprised by much anymore, to be honest. This league is just crazy and so unpredictable. I'll say this ... I thought it was extremely important for the Packers to find ways to get Graham the ball against the Vikings after the Bears took him out of the game. That will mean a lot offensively. I also haven't seen Pettine send more than four rushers a whole lot (thought he uses all different combinations), and GB's defense has held up pretty well without having to compromise the back end numbers-wise. That's a good sign as well, though the entire unit was clearly worn down in the heat in the fourth quarter and OT Sunday.

Take the power away from the refs. leave them out there to make it look like they are calling the game, and leave the calls to a team upstairs.

I've been saying for a long time the specific safety rules should be adjudicated by booth officials looking at all replays. Let the officials on the field worry about all the rest of the game management and combative penalties, not the safety ones.

Are the Bears really that good, or is Seattle really that bad?

Seattle hasn't fixed its O-line, and until it does, Wilson and that offense will be hit or miss. The Bears are coming around. If they can successfully add more downfield attack to Trubisky's game in that offense, they'll reach another level.

When you're forced to watch part of the game on TV in a badly-located press box, are you watching the same feed that we are? Or are you able to view different angles, etc?

No, same thing at home.

I think the Packers are a good team whose arrow is pointing in the right direction. But we all are very aware of how very thin the line is between being 0-2 and being 2-0. Can you imagine the panic if this team was standing at 0-2?

No question. That thin line is what the NFL is all about, because you only get 16 games.

So will we have a different officiating crew in Washington on Sunday?

I don't know if I've ever seen the NFL assign the same crew to a team's games in two straight weeks.

Ok, so we tied and should have beaten the team that was tipped as a shoo-in for the Superbowl. What's the next step / step up for the Packers? Very excited about the possibilities now.

Now it's about dealing with expectations. I suspect the Packers will be favorites, significant ones in a couple of instances, in their next four games heading into the bye week. The one-game-at-a-time mantra is an absolute necessity to be in the right position before that difficult stretch of road games after the bye.

After the Packers drafted Josh Jones last year I was super excited with his potential and he showed a lot during the season although he struggled with assignments. Thought he'd make a big jump in year 2 but he ended up being passed by Brice in camp. Hopefully he's healthy this week. What do you think is holding him back?

Right now health, and Brice has been very assignment-sound thus far. Once Jones is back from the ankle, I look for him to give Pettine another option in his many DB packages.

Why didn't the refs look at Adam's TD catch that was considered a non-catch? I though it was a catch according to the new catch I wrong?

The Packers thought there'd be a booth review as well but it never came. I thought it was pretty clear Kendricks stripped the ball out and Adams never really had it secured. The hit to his head was another matter, of course.

I noticed that on several plays Valdes-Scantling was on the field. Has he moved up into the 4th WR spot after Allison? I didn't notice any of the other rookie receivers getting any playing time.

Both Moore and St. Brown were inactive on Sunday, so yes, MVS is the No. 4 right now.

Any chance you could do these chats during non-work hours? The auditors keep interrupting me with requests.

Sorry, but I need my evenings free to watch the Brewers right now.

What was Crosby's thoughts on that last kick?

Every kick to that end was blown by the wind to the right. On the first one when the timeout was called, he hit it right at the left upright and let the wind bring it back in. He did the exact same thing on the second one, and it stayed out there. All of Carlson's three missed FGs were on that end, and he missed right. Some things are hard to explain, but from 52 yards, you have to play the wind as best you can, and Crosby is pretty good at it. Just a tough break.

Mike, how many wins do you think the packers need to win the division this year?

Way too early to tell, but all I'll say is the number has a "half" on the end of it now, right? OK, folks, I've gotta run. Thanks for all the participation today. It was a fun discussion. Take care, talk again next week. Best, Mike.

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