Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What makes Packers' receivers such good blockers?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat

WR Allen Lazard & RB Aaron Jones

Hey everybody, welcome to the bye week. Thanks for logging on. Go ahead and start sending in questions and I'll get going.

Kinda like Aaron Rodgers dipped out on PMS yesterday, I wasn't expecting this today either, so thank you.

Hopefully some questions start coming in soon ... maybe folks just assumed I wasn't showing up this week, LOL.

Mike, your thoughts on Baker Mayfield to the Rams? Would appear he could be their starting QB when the Rams and Packers play on Monday night after the bye.

Yeah, it sounds like he could even play for the Rams tomorrow night, which would be incredible to walk off the street on Tuesday and play QB for a team on Thursday. The Rams are obviously looking for better QB play now that Stafford is out for the season. Desperate times call for desperate measures. That's not a knock against Mayfield, more just the way they're throwing him in there.

Mike, how do the live blog numbers hold up when the Packers game is shown nationally (Mon/Sun night)?

We've had trouble getting audience readings from the platform in recent weeks, but generally, there's a larger crowd for the blog when the Packers are on a regional broadcast vs a national one. The blog is still plenty busy during SNF and MNF games, though. It's always an active audience.

Hi Mike. Hope you're feeling better. Why has the jet sweep worked so much better with Christian Watson than Amari Rogers or others we used in the past?

Because Watson is the fastest player on the field. He scares defenses into respecting the jet sweep or getting burned like the Bears did. Speed kills, man.

Mike, do you have the whole weekend off coming up? You deserve it!!

I am taking the weekend off, until Sunday night, when I'll sit down to write Monday morning's Inbox column, probably while watching SNF, which should be a good game. Dolphins-Chargers right?

I submitted this to Inbox... but... while watching WYMM (a fav, btw), I LOVED seeing how excited Sammy Watkins got on multiple plays. His impactful blocks certainly helped make those plays successes.

For sure, though to be honest, I'm not sure he even needed to make the block on the jet sweep. Watson might have turned the corner and been gone all on his own. The Bears had no chance. Watkins' outside block on the AJ Dillon TD run created the perfect running lane, along with Zach Tom's block on the inside.

So where do we go from here? A win against the Bears is always good, but it took a full 60 minutes to beat a 3-9 team. It doesn't look like the defense really got anything figured out. Would Love to see what some of the backups can do.

The Packers are going to play to win, and they're not going to be looking at backups when they're not out of the playoff hunt. I agree GB's defense gave up too many big plays, but a fourth quarter in all three phases like that can win you games against anybody in this league.

Jack Sanborn is making an impact for the Bears as an undrafted player from Wisconsin. Does his combine stats make NFL teams review the process?

Undrafted guys find their way all the time. It's not going to change anyone's process. The draft is all about projection, and some guys' physical traits don't project as well for the future. Sanborn sure looks like the real deal, though. It's interesting another former Badgers inside linebacker who went undrafted a few years back. T.J. Edwards, turned out to be a heck of a player as well. He's done some good things in Philly.

Mike, your thoughts on the firing of the Tennessee GM? With the success they have had, kind of shocking to me, especially mid-season.

I think that shocked everybody. I don't think I've ever seen a GM of a first-place team fired in the middle of a season. Obviously some dissension behind the scenes that outsiders weren't aware of.

Zach Tom looks to be a starter. Would he be a top 6th lineman in the league?

I don't know how to compare across the league, but Tom has done very well for himself as a rookie, not just stepping in at LT, but being able to play different positions already in the NFL. That's not easy. I think the Packers found another one there.

When you see the success of Packers WR room in blocking, I do sometime wonder why its not more of a focus for every team. Any thoughts on why the Packers excel at it?

Precisely because they do focus on it, due to the fact that it's so important for the running game in LaFleur's scheme. Not all running schemes have wide receivers cracking down on defensive ends or edge rushers to open creases for the run. When receivers learn to do that, blocking small cornerbacks on the outside must feel like a piece of cake.

Could moving Kenny Clark around the front line with some 4-3 looks help the defense create more of a pass rush?

It probably could, but the Packers lost a lot of flexibility with their pass-rush fronts when Rashan Gary went down. They just don't have a ton of options for moving guys around right now.

I realize the Packers playoff are still alive, but I sure would feel better if they had found one more win in those first 12 weeks.

Wouldn't we all. That's the toughest part about getting to this point. 6-7 would look so different from 5-8 right now. That's why every game is so important, and when you lose a game or two you absolutely know you shouldn't, it's probably going to haunt you.

You probably have been asked this a bunch but I have unfortunately not been able to keep up with packers.com recently. How did our defense regress so much with more talent this year?

I don't have the answers to that, and it's not a simple answer. LaFleur has acknowledged scheme and preparation issues, execution issues, injuries have played a factor as well. There's going to be a lot to dissect in the offseason to figure out how to get this defense playing the way it should be.

Question about the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Are players required to do X amount of community service/charity outreach, or does it come down to a positive character trait? Glad to see 33 up for it again- my sister was thrilled to meet him at the Vet Dog event up in Wausau.

It's up to each individual player. The Packers have had a lot of guys, present and past, heavily involved in community efforts. It's part and parcel of being a member of the organization. Jones' ongoing efforts have certainly stood out, and getting nominated for this award more than once is a tremendous achievement.

How did the coaching staff not see what we have in Keison Nixon as a returner. He really looks like he should have been on returns all season long. Although not a big fan of bringing out kicks from 6 yard deep in the end zone. Just take the ball at the 25 and be happy with not having a penalty back you up.

Keisean Nixon had only returned six kickoffs in three years with the Raiders, so I'm not sure how the Packers were supposed to know. He was given an opportunity he hadn't really received before, and he's maximized on it, to Green Bay's benefit.

Regardless of the win/seeing what we have in JL, and how those questions to Gutey were really for the offseason, I did appreciate what he said, even though I don't fully understand what it means.

I'm not sure what it all means, either, and making assumptions now about how Gutekunst and Rodgers are going to feel about everything before they sit down in the offseason is just a guessing game, if you ask me.

Looking forward to seeing Allen Lazard, Watson and Romeo Doubss on the field together. I know MLF likes to line up WR's anywhere anytime but if we those three are on the field at the same time who is most likely in the slot?

They can all play the slot, so I could see any of them lining up there. It might depend on certain matchups they're trying to create or certain concepts based on the individual strengths.

I know no math allowed in II, but how about in the chat? While I agree with your overall point about playoff records in the MM and MLF era, remember that a team can only lose one game per year in the post-season while a team has a chance to win multiples games per. Thus a 50% overall win rate in the post-season really isn't that good.

Check out the playoff records of a lot of coaches in the league. Batting .500 isn't going to win a bunch of championships, but in the playoffs against the best of the best, it's not bad.

Not a path to the playoffs question; Realistically, who are we chasing?

Seahawks, Giants and Commanders, basically, and the Lions if they beat the Vikings on Sunday. The Cowboys are getting one wild card (unless they overtake the Eagles, then Philly would). That leaves two wild-card spots, so the Packers have to finish ahead of 3 of the 4 teams I listed there.

Speaking of Walter Payton Award, can the football gods please let him actually get it this time? I felt like he should have gotten it that one year (was that just last year?) Not that Andrew Whitworth wasn't deserving, but...Also, was Jamaal Williams a selection for the Lions? Forgot to look at that.

Jared Goff is Detroit's nominee. It's a really difficult award to win, and I don't study all the nominees across the league and their involvement to give an educated opinion. All 32 nominees are probably deserving in some fashion or another.

Dear Mike,

On special teams the kickoff returns, Pat O'Donnell holder, and punting and kicking seem solid. How can the Packers continue to improve Special Teams?

Just keep pushing to make impact plays. Maybe get a turnover. Cut down on penalties. There are always areas to improve.

BTW, you still sounded a touch under the weather on Unscripted yesterday. Have you taken a stronger step forward today in the health department?

I'm getting there. Yesterday I sounded a lot worse than I feel, put it that way.

I know it's been said, and screamed, but I just can't make sense of the D. So many top picks, so much "on paper dominance". It's fair to blame everyone for the record, I know, but the D leads the way in letting this team down, each and every week, with few exceptions. Have to fix that if you ever want to contend.

Absolutely, but I would say earlier in the year, the defense went through hot and cold stretches, and it was really the fault of the offense not to take advantage of the hot stretches. The first half against the Jets, they locked everything down and the offense was terrible. Detroit had been scoring a bunch of points, but got only 15, and the offense scored 9. The defense gave the Packers opportunities to win some games they haven't, and in an offense-oriented league, you have to take advantage of those because there are always going to be bad days at some point for a defense.

A lot of attention has now turned to the draft. What do you think of the Packers drafting Bob Skoronski's grandson Peter Skoronski? Would love to see a Skoronski playing LT for Packers again, but not sure if it's a big enough need with Bakh's health improving and the emergence of Zach Tom.

It would make for a cool story, but if the Packers draft Skoronski, it won't be due to his last name. There's no such thing as having too many capable offensive tackles on a roster.

Dear Mike,

Justin Hollins has been a good in season pick up. Could he be player the Packers sign to team friendly deal to provide additional depth?

I could see him sticking around, potentially, but he'll be looking for the best offer he can get to continue his career I would imagine.

Based on what you said about your experience, no Bak for the rest of the season, again. Man that guy cannot catch a break.

I'm not sure what the doctors have told him or what his situation is, but LaFleur said it would be "a while" before he's back and there are only four games. With limited physical exertion allowed after a procedure like that, it would be tough to get ready to play football again on short notice I would think.

That's a tough task as far as those 3-4 teams, but some of them are still beating up on each other. So keep winning and whatever happens, happens. But if you could win the 5 in the row and we don't have a ton of turnover (knock on wood) next season has good momentum starting. Be interesting to see this draft class in their second season jump.

Absolutely, this draft class has shown a ton of potential and they're all just getting started.

Love Gutey and the work he's done but if you could pass along one suggestion. Please no more third round picks. Use future thirds to trade for a player, move up in the 1st or 2nd or add more picks in later rounds. Please just no picks in the 3rd.

I hear lots of fans saying that. It's coincidence more than anything else.

What was your and Wes' assessment of Reading Terminal Market?

Cool place. I'd never been there before. Grabbed a bite to eat at that little diner (I forget the funky name it had) and walked around looking at all the other sales outlets. I don't think I'd ever seen octopus in a seafood cooler before.

Blaming the defense is getting old year after year. Get some first downs and see what happens.

I believe if the offense had done its part, the Packers would have at least two more wins right now.

Why and how was Hollins cut?

Rams had extra depth at edge rusher they didn't feel they needed.

Could you see Jordan Love holding out if they extend his 5th year? I think he knows at least one other team would take a chance on him for more money, even with his limited playing time.

He has no leverage to hold out in 2023 if that's what you're asking. I would imagine Love won't be thrilled if he's behind Rodgers for another year, and maybe his camp would ask for a fresh start somewhere. I don't know. What I do know is if the Packers pick up his option, which it sounds like Gutey is inclined to do, there's no way both Rodgers and Love can be on the roster together in 2024. That would be way too much money at the QB position under the cap.

Looking ahead to the Rams my thoughts are. Oh No, not another running QB.

The Packers have to be able to beat the Rams, but with their backup last week, LA certainly gave Seattle a run for its money. The Seahawks needed a two-minute drive at the end of that game to win.

I've seen the stat about Brady and top defenses several places. There is no doubt the guy is a winner, but it just goes to show how important a good D is. One hot streak/fluke run maybe, but not consistent winning.

No doubt. I also said for a long time it was a huge boon to Brady that he played so many playoff games at home with New England. I've been more impressed with his last two Super Bowl wins than any others because he had to get to the Super Bowl by winning on the road both times.

Looks like tight end is going to be a major focus this offseason given the few players at that position signed beyond this season.

The Packers have a lot of decisions and explorations to make there.

What single tweak/adjustment/emphasis, coming out of the break would you most like to see on offense and defense? For me, it would be working in all 3 rookie WRs (including all 3 on the field at the same time) and more discipline on defense, especially the secondary.

If by discipline you mean cutting back on the big plays, yeah. That's the defense's biggest problem right now, just getting gashed for explosives. That has to stop. On offense, keeping feeding 33 and 28, working 9 into things, and if you get 87 back all the better. When this offense makes opponents defend the entire width of the field with the running game, outside throws, motions, etc., that's what sets up the seam stuff for big gains.

Mike, is this a watch a bunch of other teams play football weekend for you, or a get away from football altogether kind of weekend?

Oh, I'll be watching the games on Sunday. At least having the TV on in the background all day. The Badgers basketball team plays Sunday, too, so I want to catch that game.

Could you see Rasul Douglas playing safety next season?

It wouldn't shock me. But we won't know if that's in the plans until OTAs in the spring.

Bye week to a Monday night game. If there was ever chance for the players to get healthy and the coaches to catch their breath, this is it.

Absolutely. I think it's kind of silly to get extra time on the bye week and then have a short week again right away, but the NFL schedule can be quirky like that. All right folks, with that I'm going to call it a chat. Thanks for all the participation, and we'll talk again next week. Enjoy your non-Packers weekend. Best, Mike.

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