Mike's Mid Week Chat: What are the storylines now?

G Elgton Jenkins
G Elgton Jenkins

Hey everybody. Thanks for logging in. Thought I'd jump on for a post-draft chat on a rainy May Day. All right, let's get started.

Have you heard anything at all about Kevin King's recovery?

King was not practicing during the one minicamp practice open to the media last week. He was down there with his position group but was not doing all the drills. That's all I know. We haven't received any recovery updates and he did not speak with reporters when the locker room was open.

Good morning, Mike. Thanks for taking the time to do this chat. Now that free agency and the draft are over, what are you most looking forward to seeing when the Packers put on the pads for the first time in training camp?

There's a ton to look forward to. Seeing how the offense is different with LaFleur and Hackett, seeing all the new guys on defense and how Pettine wants to use them, seeing who might emerge as special teams standouts under the new coordinator there. No end to the curiosities.

Hello Mike! My question is do you feel like this is the last of Mike Daniels in Green Bay? There have been some reports saying he doesn’t fit in this scheme any longer.

I don't necessarily agree. Daniels is in a contract year, and I assume he'd prefer to not be done playing. He'll be a highly motivated player this year (not that he ever isn't). I think when healthy he's still a solid run stuffer and productive pass rusher on the interior. I see Pettine moving guys around that front all the time and maybe no one is going to be asked to play 50 snaps per week anymore.

How much of an impact do you think Kingsley Keke will have as a rookie?

The Packers have enough options up front on defense that he won't have to light the world on fire. Pettine will find what he does best and if he can bring something to the unit on game day, he'll be given a role. Start small, work toward more expanded duties. That's generally the pattern with rookies who aren't being plugged in as immediate starters.

How happy are you with how we did at the draft?

I'm not one to judge drafts right away. As I wrote and said several times leading up to the draft, what Gutekunst did in free agency allowed him to stick to a BAP approach to the draft and go after players he targeted in certain spots. Gary was clearly a BAP pick, and Savage was obviously a target given the trade. After that, I'm sure some guys they liked went off the board before their turn came up, but that's the nature of the beast.

Darnell Savage's speed jumps off the film. That Smash & Dash safety combo is going to be something.

Amos has experience and seems to be fine with taking on a leadership role with the safeties, which he'll have to. The chemistry between those two on the back end will be important. It would appear Amos in the box and Savage in CF, generally speaking, are the spots that would suit them best.

What does the compensatory draft look like for the Packers next year?

I don't see the Packers getting any compensatory picks next year, if that's what you're asking. The contracts given out for the Smiths, Amos and Turner significantly exceed the deals signed by Green Bay's departing free agents (Matthews, Cobb, Ryan, etc.).

Do you foresee any of the draft picks being a starter this year? Seems like all the other teams have them but rarely does GB.

Savage would appear to be a Day 1 starter. After free agency, that was still the biggest "hole" in the starting lineup and Gutekunst made sure he got his guy.

There appears to be a tight and good working relationship between MM, ML, and GB. Are you getting that same feeling?

I was impressed during our media sit-down in Indy at the combine how connected Gutekunst and LaFleur already seemed to be. They didn't look to me like a pair brought together just a little over a month earlier at that time. They've both talked about being on the same page and having a similar vision. That's a good start, and the bulk of the personnel work building the 90-man roster is done. Now come fall it's about winning games.

What’s the schedule for the rookies this week. Are the veterans off for a bit?

The veterans had their usual four-day week of offseason program work. They shifted to Phase 2 this week, which involves on-field work with the coaches but no 11-on-11 stuff. The rookie minicamp will be this weekend, with the first practice Friday, to my knowledge. The rookies will get here Thursday throughout the day.

Mike, it seems like the word of the draft this year was "versatile." Obviously this gives the coaches more to work with, but as far as rookies making a contribution, should we temper our expectations? I for one don't see a guy like Savage having to learn multiple positions right away. Find out how he can contribute quickly and go from there.

I'm not worried about Savage's versatility. He just needs to do what Pettine asks from the get-go and learn the pro game as fast as he can. Guys like Gary, Jenkins and others have some position versatility, which makes them attractive and gives the coaches options, but as I said before, you start with finding what they do best at this level and go from there.

I've seen a ton on social media this offseason of Packers players hanging out together outside of 1265 Lombardi. I love it, and don't seem to remember it this much. At least from the outside looking in, it looks like chemistry is forming.

Rodgers has said often this is the time of year when chemistry forms. The players are working out together in the offseason program, hanging out in the locker room, and they have their free time, all without the pressure of preparing for games or dealing with media obligations on a daily basis. I don't know if the off-field get-togethers are any greater in number than in the past. Maybe some guys are just being more public about it on their social media accounts.

Not sure I see any glaring weaknesses this year other than perhaps depth at safety and inside linebacker. Other than 12, I think we are better set up to withstand an injury or two much better than we have been the last several years.

When injuries hurt most are if they occur, obviously, to the most indispensable players (like Rodgers, Adams, Bakhtiari, Clark) or if they pile up at one position. Because no one has the depth to maintain a certain level after a run of injuries at one spot. Every team deals with injuries. You just hope they're spread out and not to certain guys.

The recently drafted running back from ND is listed as running a rather slow 40 yet he ran a 97 yard TD last year. Is this a case of a bad combine test or just game speed vs track speed?

I asked a similar question of Gutekunst on Saturday night, because Williams' big-play track record doesn't speak to a 4.57 in the 40. Some guys play faster than their timed speed. With Williams, Gutekunst also chalked it up to no wasted motion. See hole, hit hole.

What's it like having a former Packer like John Kuhn joining you and Wes? I know he's only been with you a short time thus far, but does he seem to bring a different kind of insight or fresh take on things?

John's been great. The insights of a former player always add to the perspective we can provide. He's off to a great start and if he wants to stick with the media business for a while, I think he'll be really, really good at it.

Is Burks starting this year?

The Packers are looking for Burks to take a major step forward, for sure. Starting will depend as much on Pettine's packages and all that. But they didn't draft an inside LB until the seventh round, and Burks has all the smarts and athletic traits you look for. The shoulder injury in the preseason last year was really unfortunate. It's hard for a rookie to make up ground once the regular season begins. When I talked to him for a story at the end of last season, he mentioned needing to play faster and not think as much out on the field. Those are some of the same things Martinez was saying after his rookie year.

If you had to pick between MVS and EQ for the WR3 spot this year? Who do you give the edge to? I like MVS' speed and physicality, but EQ seems to have good awareness and chemistry with Aaron. Both seem to have great upside and potential.

I would agree, and they're going to get an opportunity to show it. MVS had the better rookie year overall, but I thought EQ was really coming into his own late in the season, closing the gap so to speak. With a new offense, who knows. The competition at receiver with these two, Allison, Kumerow, Davis, etc., will be one of the storylines of training camp.

The OLB acquisitions this year are notable for their larger size than what we have had previously at that position. Do those players have the ability to drop into coverage the way Clay did or are we seeing a shift in the scheme?

Pettine was much more inclined to put a hybrid safety-LB on the field as a coverage player and not ask his OLBs to drop into coverage as much. That's not to say they won't, but he uses a lot of different coverage packages that don't always require the standard 3-4 outside 'backer to do everything.

Looking at some highlights, looks like J'mon Moore can really surprise some people, your thoughts Mike?

He was another guy I talked to in the final open locker room after the last game, and he was very candid with me and a couple other reporters about his shortcomings. Learning the on-the-fly route adjustments and making them right before the snap and at game speed based on the coverages seemed to be where he struggled most. It's not all that unusual. What I think gives Moore a chance, other than his obvious athletic ability, is he was plenty self-aware of what didn't go well and what he needs to do to get more playing time. He wasn't some rookie sitting there saying he deserved to play more. Self-awareness can be half the battle in this league.

Will this be the toughest year in a while to get down to 53 + practice squad? Seems to be legit depth across the board.

It always feels that way this time of year. There's a lot to sort out with LaFleur's system and preferences, and injuries through camp and the preseason will factor in. These things have a way of sorting themselves out, which is why no one worries about them now. They're trying to build the best 90-man roster they can, and when they have to get it to 53, they'll focus on keeping the best 53 and let the chips fall.

Are draft "experts" the most sensitive group of people you've ever encountered?

Everyone's more sensitive in the age of social media. It's why I participate in that realm as little as possible.

Accountability was a buzz word last pre-season and at the end players were quoted indicating that accountability was an issue. Has MLF addressed the concepts of accountability and how he plans to be different from last year?

He talked last week during the veteran minicamp about setting expectations. I'm sure everybody was tuned in.

Did you see Booger McFarland got the MNF assignment on ESPN? You have got to be kidding me. He was awful on the their draft coverage, a carryover from last year on their games. There has got to be someone better....

I heard that this morning. Can't say I really have an opinion one way or another. When I watch games at home, I rarely have the sound on. All the graphics that fill the screen these days tell me everything I need to know.

Which player or position group do you think received the most pressure to perform and earn their playing time in light of the draft additions?

I'm not sure if one position group is in any starkly different situation than expected. What I'm curious to see is if Jenkins challenges Taylor for a starting job up front, how soon Sternberger gets on the field behind Graham, and how it shakes out between the two Williamses behind Jones in the backfield.

Speaking of being self-aware, what are the Packers biggest challenges to them selves as a team? Obviously we're still in team building process so there might not be a definitive answer yet, but are there any challenges to the team that are presented due to the team itself?

I think the biggest challenge could be dealing with any potential overreaction to whatever early results are seen under LaFleur. If the Packers light it up in the first few games, or if things don't go as well as hoped, it's not going to set the path for the entire season. 16 games is a long road, and teams adjust all the way along. Keeping an even keel early, good or bad, will be incumbent on the players no matter what the outside noise is.

The Pack only has 3 home games after week 8. Do you believe this is a sign of the NFL trying to get away from snow games or just luck of the draw? Also, what game are you most excited for this season?

I think that's just how it worked out this year. The Packers had five potential cold-weather games in December last year, so I don't think the league is setting some sort of new trend. Outside of those first two division games to open the season, the road trip to Kansas City to see Rodgers vs. Mahomes definitely stands out on the schedule.

All right, I'd better get going. Thanks for the questions today, folks, and be sure to catch our coverage of the rookie minicamp this weekend, along with Ted Thompson's Packers HOF induction. Take care, talk again soon. --Mike

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