Mike's Mid-Week Chat: The Bengals are up next

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

Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow

Hey everybody. Sorry I'm a couple minutes late. Let's get to it.

Morning, Spoff! I am normally part of the "draft and develop/next man up" crowd, but the sudden availability of Stephon Gilmore is testing me. Players of his caliber just don't become available like that very often. The timing when considering Jaire Alexander's injury is considerably auspicious as well. Would you pull the trigger on him, or stand pat and trust in the Packers' CB depth?

Everybody's asking about Gilmore, and it's understandable, given the injury to Alexander and all. I have no idea how strongly the Packers are interested, or what it would take to acquire him as far as a contract. We all know the Packers don't have a ton of cap space. This is a stay tuned situation I guess. He would be a great addition, but at what price? That factor can't be ignored.

I was curious after seeing it in the San Fran game: what does a receiver holding their fist in front/behind them signal to the referees on a spike?

I've noticed teams line up pretty sloppily when they go to spike the ball, but no illegal formation is ever called. If they hold their fist back is it signalling they won't move?

They're signaling whether they're lining up on the line of scrimmage or behind the line. Someone has to be on the line outside the tackle on each side, so two guys have to take those spots and they stick their fist forward to let their teammates and the officials know their intentions. The guys in the backfield, with the fist behind, can line up pretty much anywhere in the backfield. It's all part of the process to avoid an illegal formation.

are we signing gilmore? Is jaire ok?

We're getting an update on Alexander after practice today from LaFleur, probably after 3 p.m. CT.

Who are the Bengals' key playmakers (on offense and defense) to watch for this Sunday?

Offensively, Joe Mixon is their workhorse running back. He's taken 83 of their 102 rushing attempts so far, but he has an ankle injury, so his status for Sunday is uncertain as far as I know. Jamarr Chase is their top receiver, as he's reconnected with his LSU college QB Joe Burrow. Chase has 4 TDs and a 17.5-yard average per catch already. Defensively, I don't know a lot of names, but it's statistically a really solid unit. Opposing QBs have a collective 86.5 passer rating through four games.

Hello Mike, Past few weeks Stokes has seen a lot of snaps and he's gotten a lot of targets. While he's given up some big plays and the penalties are concerning, he's still only giving up a 60.3 passer rating against? That sound/look good to you?

Stokes is doing more than fine for a rookie learning the ropes in this league. A couple of the flags against him have been questionable at best, but to his credit, he doesn't let that stuff fluster him. He just keeps getting after it. I know he missed the one tackle on the outside vs. Pittsburgh last week, but he looks like a pretty sound tackler to me, too.

Do you think the packers should value their 3-5th round draft picks more for trade value? A look back at some of our recent draft picks in those rounds being strike outs, you get the feeling that we could've acquired a decent WR or Defensive player at some point in the last 2-3 years.

There's always risk-reward. For every mid-round bust, you get a David Bakhtiari or Corey Linsley once in a while, and you don't find those guys without the attempts. Fewer attempts means fewer hits. That's just the nature of it.

When can BAk come back?

He's eligible to return to practice following the Bears game, but there's been no indication one way or another if it's going to happen then.

What should we be concerned about against this Cincinnati team? I am worried this is the game where injuries start to catch up to us. It would be pretty tough not to win this one knowing what's ahead on the schedule.

The Bengals are a solid defensive team that hasn't given up a lot of points, and they have an up-and-coming QB who certainly looks the part. They've also been in multiple close, down-to-the-wire games this season and come out on top twice. This is going to be a very tough game, and the Packers can't let the injuries and swirling rumors affect their preparation.

Do you see Burrow as having any weaknesses

He's still young and he'll make mistakes, like he did against the Bears in Week 2 with multiple turnovers that cost the Bengals a game I'm sure they feel they could've won. He's thrown four picks, but he's also hit on a lot of big plays in the passing game and he's completed 73% of his passes, so other than the Chicago game he's been really efficient.

What is the long term prognosis on Z?

It sounds like the Packers are hoping he can be back before season's end, but that's about all that's been said.

Really enjoyed Rashan Gary's sack where he took down the offensive lineman along with the QB. How did you think he did overall in the game?

I liked the way Gary played. He's learning what it means to be an every-down player in this league, and I think he's had a positive impact against the run and rushing the passer so far. But he and Preston Smith can't play every snap, and with Za'Darius Smith out, what the unit needs is to get more production from Jonathan Garvin and Chauncey Rivers while Gary and Preston get a breather. Both those other guys have shown flashes, but with Z not coming back anytime soon, the Packers need all four of those outside linebackers to be consistent threats.

The Packers stayed committed to the run and had so-so success through three quarters. In the 4th the Steeler D was getting worn out and AJ Dillon was getting goods yards every play. Then they went 3 passes in a row and turned it over. Why, and did MLF say anything about not staying on the ground there?

I liked the play-action shot down the field to Robert Tonyan on second down on that series. It was there. Rodgers just underthrew it. I think if LaFleur had it to do over again he'd go back to the run on third down and see where they are on fourth down on that series. He mentioned some "bad play calls" to the media and I'm guessing that was one regret.

One big plus for this week is we finally get a boon kick-off

I'm sure you mean noon, and yes, I'm looking forward to that as well. Three in a row at noon, in fact. No complaints here. Sunday work days are much easier with the early kickoffs.

I know there is a lot of concern about Z being out - but honestly our pass rush has looked really good the last couple weeks. Is our D line as good as they look or have they faced less talented offensive lines?

Pittsburgh's offensive line is probably the weakest unit on that team. I wouldn't say that about SF, though, and I thought the pass rush was affecting the QB in that game, too, even if the Packers didn't rack up a bunch of sacks. When you see that pocket collapsing around the QB, that's good work, especially if a blitz isn't required.

Mike, any indication when Elgton Jenkins will return? Hope it is not a high ankle sprain he is dealing with.

We'll see if he returns to practice this week. The Packers haven't practiced yet today. I'm amazed at that guy's toughness. He hurt that ankle vs. Detroit and finished the game, but the injury has been bad enough to keep him out two weeks. He must've really gutted it out on that Monday night. Hopefully he's back soon. The Packers didn't put him on IR so they weren't expecting him to miss three games. That doesn't mean he's back this week, but it's an indication they don't expect him out much longer.

What do you think is the most optimistic prognosis we can expect on Alexander today?

Considering LaFleur didn't rule out on Monday that the injury could be season-ending, I think any news that indicates he'll be back this season would have to be good news.

Are you concerned at all about the Brewers going somewhat cold to wrap up the regular season (winning only 4 of the last 14 games)?

No, they prioritized health and rest for their key pitchers over winning meaningless games. I realize that could open the door for second-guessers, but I think it's the right approach. Like any postseason in any sport, though, anything can happen. Should be fun.

If Davante Adams is getting double teamed so much, why do you think Allen Lazard and Tonyan aren't getting more targets in certain situations? That fake run left with Rodgers spinning and delivering a strike to Lazard across the middle for a big gain seems like it should work more often when Adams is blanketed.

I suspect LaFleur, Hackett, Getsy and Rodgers are going to figure that out. The more they see how teams scheme to take away Adams, they'll get familiar with where the vulnerabilities are. It still comes down to being able to run the ball effectively, though. That opens so many doors.

Before the season lot said and written about the star position in Joe Barry's D. Since then nothing. What's with that and is it still a thing?

It's just the slot position and so far we've seen Chandon Sullivan and Kevin King both play it, and Alexander some. It hasn't been that big a deal because the larger focus has been getting Stokes on the field and finding the right roles for everyone.

Has there ever been a report on what exactly Jenkins ankle injury is? Dreaded high ankle sprain or something else?

No details have been divulged.

If Z's injury is potentially season ending, why did he even play week 1? Seems like a head scratcher to me.

Based on the reports last week, it would seem Z was trying to find a way to play this season without having back surgery, and he gave it a go Week 1 but it didn't go as well as planned. So after a couple more weeks without the necessary improvement, surgery became necessary, which sets a whole different recovery timeline.

Any update on King's concussion protocol?

Presumably he's made some progress because he was doubtful on the injury report for the Pittsburgh game, not ruled out in advance, even though he hadn't practiced. Again, we'll see if he's back at practice this week.

Great to finally have a consistent punter with a big leg who can flip the field position

Bojorquez has been really impressive, to say the least. He pinned the Steelers at the 4 with his first punt of the game, and then later boomed a 57-yarder from the back of the end zone that was fair caught. You can't do it much better than that in two big moments. He's been interesting to listen to at the podium during interviews as well, speaking very technically about every aspect of punting. He's really a craftsman.

Mike I live in Columbus and studied broadcast journalism in Athens at Ohio University (burrow's hometown) so of course I'll be at the game Sunday. Any chance I could give you and Mike a wave hello?

Wes and I are not traveling on road trips this year, at least not yet. So sorry, we won't be in Cincy.

Lambeau Field hosted a Week 4 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021.

It was SO great to see Cobby getting targets.

That performance was like a blast from the past, for sure. While doing the live game blog, after those first couple of third-down conversions, every time the Packers faced third down again, the fans kept sending in the comment, "Third & Cobb." I got a kick out of that.

With Jaire potentially being out for awhile, and the situation with King, how important is it that the Packers got Isaac Yiadom? Do you forsee him getting playing time? Or who do you see stepping in next to Eric Stokes if both King & Jaire are out?

Yiadom and the rookie Jean-Charles both played in the fourth quarter Sunday vs. Pittsburgh and they'll potentially be counted on now to play meaningful snaps. We'll also see if the Packers bring in any other candidates to play corner.

How able to Burrow able to run the ball?

He hasn't scrambled much this year (13 rushing yards) but he's capable. Not a statue in the pocket by any means.

Was Cobb's performance this past Sunday a one time turn back the clock to 2014 moment, or just a taste of what can come on a regular basis in this offense?

I would suspect given Aaron's rapport with him this was just the start of something, even after Marquez Valdes-Scantling comes back from the hamstring injury. Randall Cobb had to start learning a new offense in late July, so this whole thing has been a process, but he proved he can deliver in the clutch. I would say there's more to come.

Not trying to "trip you up", but the only time a flag should be picked up is by the one who threw it in the first place. Is that what happened or did a different ref "overrule" the thrower? If so, just look up at the jumbotron to confirm the call.

Yeah, that was weird. All I can figure is the other officials talked the one who threw the flag out of what he believed he saw, and it turned out he was correct and they were all wrong. Watt came out of that game with two sacks and a fumble recovery. Talk about piling up the stats for doing nothing. The trip should've negated the first sack, and he got the second when Rodgers took the slide late in the game because he was the closest defender.

Jones has fumbled 4 times in his last five games. At what point do you sit him for a few series so he can think about it?

He's got to secure the ball better, no question. But I don't think it's to the point of benching anybody. The one fumble vs. SF was right by the sideline and went out of bounds. Still shouldn't happen, but it was never in danger of being a turnover.

Are the refs allowed to watch the Jumbotron replay?

I don't think anyone can stop them, but they're not supposed to, no.

With Dominique Dafney injured, how is the development of Josiah Deguara coming along?- After returning from injury, I've only seen penalties on him it seems...

We haven't seen Deguara getting any targets in the passing game yet. He's mostly doing dirty work as a blocker, but he's capable of more. It's a long season and he already missed some time with the concussion. I'm willing to be patient.

My impression on the tripping non-call was that the referee dropped the flag to stop play and allow for discussion with his crew. When no one was 100% certain how Rodgers fell/who he tripped over, they picked it up. Just one more example of how replay review could be significantly improved by the league…

Absolutely. Imagine if that's late in the fourth quarter with the Packers down a score, and that call is missed, resulting in a sack instead of a first-and-goal. It feels like the league just crosses its fingers that these types of situations don't decide games, but hope is not a strategy.

The fumble in SF was in danger of going out in the end zone, and we know what that means.

I disagree. It was at the 5-yard line, not by the pylon. But I get your point.

All right, with that I'm going to sign off. Thanks for all the participation today, folks. Hope everyone is doing well. Take care and we'll talk again next week. Best, Mike

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