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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What style of game will unfold at Tampa Bay?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette

Hey everybody, thanks for logging on today. Let's go.

Mike what extra prep are the coaches making for the players with a hot and humid game on Sunday?

I'm sure the team nutritionist and strength/conditioning coaches have a plan for hydrating through the week and leading up to the game. I don't know all the science behind it, but figuring this stuff out is what the experts get paid to do.

Mike, here's to hoping history doesn't repeat itself in Tampa Bay! Question for you, was the Chicago game cold? Why was Watkins wearing sleeves? Seemed out of context.

It was not cold. It was actually a pretty warm night. He must just be more comfortable with that attire.

Good morning, Mike. What, if any, is the weakness in the Bucs' defense?

If there is one, their first two opponents didn't find it. They've given up only 13 points, have 10 sacks, 6 takeaways. That unit is off to a gangbusters start.

Last time we played in TB, we didn't use many motions because MLF felt like ILB's sideline to sideline speed wouldn't give to that style. Does Christian Watson's speed change that? Also, they didn't have to face Dillon as much in the run game because I believe that's when Jamaal was still here. How do you think Dillon's presence helps against that big front?

Interesting thoughts. I do think Watson's speed changes the jet motion equation. He makes that more of a threat. As for AJ Dillon, he can definitely force the defense to adjust to his game vs. Aaron Jones' as a ball carrier. There's a greater difference in styles between these two vs. Jones/Williams.

If we go down on Sunday, I hope we go down running the ball 30+ times. That's all I ask.

While I'd like to see the Packers stay committed to the run, I don't put a number of carries on it. For me, the number of times Jones and Dillon get the ball in their hands, however they get it, is more important.

Thanks for the chat, Mike.

That was a dominant second quarter against the Bears. Does that become a blueprint for this team?

The Packers dominated second quarters in 2020 and that turned out pretty good. I think they'd have dominated the last three quarters Sunday night if not for the two self-inflicted miscues on offense.

I was confused to see Bruce Arians on the sidelines during the TB/NO game last week. He seemed like he was actively involved with the game and not 'retired' and working in the front office. What do you make of that?

I think the TV cameras made it look like he was actively involved in the game. But I don't know their situation. It's up to the Bucs where he watches the game.

Hey Mike. Great WYMHM this week. Seems to me that the key to successful runs start with the OL getting a few hats on the second level. Especially against Tampa, do you see anyone on their defense playing at the level of those 2 ILBs?

David and White make that defense go, in my opinion, and that secondary is underrated. Davis and Dean are becoming a top-notch cornerback tandem that nobody's talking about as much as they probably should. With Hicks injured, their defensive front isn't what it was when the Packers played them twice in 2020, but Vita Vea is still an awfully tough customer.

With TB depleted O line and receiver room. Does D dial up the pressure on passing downs?

If they get the Bucs into obvious passing situations, I'd bet Barry will mix it up a bit. But it starts with stopping Fournette. If he starts grinding away the yards, third-and-longs will be hard to come by.

Mike, is there any hope for the Brewers this year?

To be only 2 games back as erratically as they've played is a miracle in itself. But over the last two months, every time I don't think they could suffer a more brutal loss, they top themselves. The list of just awful losses is nearing a dozen now since late July.

If I'm Bowles, I wouldn't like having my predecessor hanging around My team...

As I said, that's up to the Bucs. Maybe Bowles doesn't care.

could this be the game our TE's break out and our rookie receivers show they are better than CB3 on the Tamp Team?

Murphy-Bunting is no slouch. Good cover corner in his own right. This defense is not easy to solve.

Is there any stadium Aaron Rodgers dislikes more than Tampa's? He's attributed multiple injuries to the playing surface, and he hasn't played well there when healthy either.

I was wondering about that this morning. He hurt his shoulder there in '08, then his calf in '14. He's made comments about that surface in the past, but when he was there in '20 I don't know if it was improved in his eyes. The losses there in '08 and '09 were really bad losses, and then the one in '20 was bad in a different way. Not a place with fun memories for him or the team.

It seems like there's been more pre-snap motion in the offense vs last year. Is that true?

Since LaFleur implemented his system, the motions have come and gone a bit based on game planning and the opponent. As mentioned earlier, with a serious speed threat like Watson, we'll see if it becomes a more consistent piece to things now.

How important will Dre and Quay be in helping to slow down Fournette?

The guys up front have to keep 59 and 7 clean so they can flow to the ball. Easier said than done, but the best way to beat second-level blocks is to not let the blockers get to the second level.

Last time we played TB, didn't Jaire Alexander have three picks against Brady? Do you think Brady will test him, or nah?

Brady threw three picks in the 2020 NFC title game, two by Alexander, one by Adrian Amos. He will certainly be aware of where Alexander is on the field.

Mike, I think the 90 degree heat and humidity will be an issue. I expect the Bucs may go no huddle hurry up offense. Dink and dunk with Beasley and some Fournette to wear down the Packers DL and pass rush. Thoughts?

If they can find a way to use the weather to their advantage, they will. I'm sure they'd like to rack up TOP so the Packers' defense is out of gas in the fourth quarter. The Packers' offense will have to do its part to help the D in that regard.

If Ja keeps running across the field for interceptions QB's will have to watch for him everywhere

Yeah, that piece of film from the Bears game will be noticed by QBs around the league.

At least the game is at 4:25 eastern and not noon like last time in TB. Being from Central Florida myself, that will make a difference.

I wondered about that. Yeah, at least the sun will start going down in the second half and more of the playing field will be in the shade.

Does Joe Barry finally dial up some blitz's? Seems Quay would be good at that, for example. not to mention Rasul Douglas

A defensive coordinator has to feel out when to blitz, and whether he has to. If a four-man rush can get steady pressure, you'd always rather avoid the risk of exposing the coverage with fewer players. In Week 1, I thought the Packers got decent pressure on Cousins for the most part, but their coverages in the back end just broke down. There wasn't much to glean from the Bears game because Fields only threw 11 passes and the Bears decided to pound the run down 14 in the fourth quarter.

Ever imagine a game between Brady and Rodgers being about defense and running more than this one.

Yeah, it's a different narrative, isn't it? Just the nature of where both teams are this early in the season.

How quick can Cole Beasley be ready for this game? What kind of impact do you project he has?

He's a veteran who will probably be given a package of plays to be ready for so he can step in right away. It'll be based on how much he can absorb mentally in a short prep time.

Thanks Mike for the MWC. I feel like ML really opened up the running game playbook against Chicago. Put a lot of successful concepts on tape. I'm curious to see how he builds off it against a stout unit like TB. What will you be looking for in this game?

Just for the Packers to move the ball consistently and avoid the negative plays -- sacks and penalties. The Packers rebounded from a penalty and sack to convert a second-and-28 on two plays vs. the Bears. That'll be nearly impossible against this defense. They have to stay out of those situations to increase their third-down percentages.

It sounds like this would be a great game to get D Bak back on the field. Any news on that?

Nothing yet. We'll see as the practice week unfolds.

Should we be surprised if Evans gets his suspension overturned? Or is that like asking if we should be surprised at what is or isn't ruled a catch?

Evans' suspension has been upheld. It was announced shortly before this chat started. He's out for Sunday.

I actually read somewhere that Beasley is usually allowed to freelance on most plays. But that was when he had some chemistry with Prescott, and then Allen. Wonder if something like that works when you're getting used to a new QB, and also if Brady/OC would even allow him that.

Every system is different in terms of how it incorporates a new player. Beasley has been around a while and it's not as though any playbook is going to have a bunch of concepts foreign to him.

Packers Win If: Commit to Jones & Dillon mixing in play action to move chains and finish with points

Finishing drives will definitely be key. You're only going to get so many scoring chances against this defense and settling for field goals likely won't get it done.

Did you see the video last week of David Bakhtiari seeming to limp? What's your take on that?

He's still working his way back. When he's ready, he's ready. The Packers aren't going to put him out there until that time comes. They always talk about stressing players who are coming back from injury and seeing how the body responds the next day. It's part of the process.

Headline on ESPN, Evans appeal denied, out VS GB. So we got that going for us.

Yeah, it's interesting, there are 3 individuals who can preside over those appeals. Two of them are Jon Runyan Sr. and Derrick Brooks, so it was no surprise the Evans appeal was heard by the third guy, James Thrash.

The Rock is a true treasure. Gotta love it when you get the ole "Seal here, and a seal here, and we want to run this play in the ally" Great Rock Report today

I love every Rock Report. It's the best 2 minutes on our site, if you ask me.

How are the backup DL for Tampa? Heard at least 1 of them is out, another questionable

I'll have to see what the injury report says later today. I had heard about Hicks. Not sure what else is up. Gholston has given the Packers plenty of trouble in the past.

Assuming best 5 are on the field, when 69 is ready what do you think the OL looks like at this point?

I think when Bakhtiari is back, they'll plug him in at LT for Nijman and the rest will be what we saw last week -- Jon Runyan at LG, Josh Myers at C, Royce Newman at RG, Elgton Jenkins at RT. That's my guess.

Special Teams making a good start. Still holding my breath when they're on the field though

We're too conditioned to do that after the past two years. There's a lot to like about what the special teams are doing, though. I've been really impressed with Pat O'Donnell and Dallin Leavitt in particular. I thought Leavitt might be down for the count after that hit in the preseason game at SF. He came back from that way faster than I anticipated.

Oktoberfest beer season for you yet Mike?

Oh for sure. Been trying all different kinds the past few weeks. It's my favorite beer season.

I'm definitely holding my breath a lot less on STs plays. By the way, I saw the starters that were listed for FG Block Unit. Has that been normal, or no?

I didn't look that closely at the personnel last year. It's not that uncommon to have a lot of defensive starters on that group in particular, just in case of a fake.

this would be a good week for Amari Rodgers to break a return, any feedback on what happened on his muff and recovering his own fumble?

I wasn't in the locker room after the game. I was in the auditorium for the press conferences, so I'm not sure if he said anything about it. His 20-yard return early in the game was a good one. Ball security is the top priority, though.

To your point I think Leavitt is a difference maker on ST and by season end he could be ST MVP

Wouldn't surprise me. He's not just a good player but a leader on those units. Rudy Ford and Keisean Nixon are good special-teamers, too, and I think Isaiah McDuffie is starting to come into his own a bit.

How would you compare Josh Meyers athleticism to Corey Linsley? I feel like I see him pulling out to the perimeter more.

Yeah, that's been interesting to watch. Myers is really athletic out in space. When Linsley was younger like that, he wasn't asked to do that in McCarthy's offense so I don't really have a comparison. But it's fun to see those power concepts when they're executed right.

What are you looking at the young wide receivers to do to show continued progress?

Just make the plays that are there. Romeo Doubs fell down on a route in the red zone last week or he might've gotten a key throw to pick up a first down. We've all seen the opportunities Watson is getting. As their confidence and comfort level grow, they have to take advantage of what plays are called for them.

I realize Leavitt is a spark plug. But his injury in the pre-season was caused by a questionable hit IMHO and last week he commuted a stupid penalty. I'm not so sure yet…

The hit was one of those bang-bang plays where he led with the shoulder but it caught the receiver's head/neck area as body positions changed. The holding penalty last week definitely can't happen, though. He knows that.

I know it's a young man's game, but do you think we'll see Cobb fielding kicks much this season?

Hopefully Rodgers gives the Packers what they need in that area. I think Doubs could be a threat in the return game if they want to try him, too.

Will D focus on pressuring Brady up the middle? That seems to rattle TB12 the most

That's the best way to disrupt him because he's not very mobile and inside pressure doesn't allow him to step up. But it's not as easy as it sounds. Clark is the Packers' best interior rusher. It'll be interesting to see if Gary lines up on the inside here or there on Sunday.

Is this offense at its best when constantly alternating Jones and Dillon, or are there defensive matchups where one or the other of them would be better suited to attach it?

That's what the coaches get paid to figure out. They have concepts that are better suited to one or the other, and there are some with both on the field. But LaFleur has even said at times he doesn't care which one is out there, so there are portions of the playbook where it doesn't matter.

Saints seem to have a good blue print to defend Brady. How much do you think Green Bay takes from that and tries to copy.

You can't play someone else's defense. You have to do what your guys do best. The Packers have good defensive players and they have to play together, whatever the calls are.

It has been difficult to get a good look at the long snapping operation watching our first two games. What have you seen if anything how Coco's balls compare to Wirtel

Jack Coco has been solid through the first two games. During training camp when I was able to watch up close, I questioned the velocity on some of Coco's snaps, but that seems to have improved and they were comfortable with him after a long offseason/camp of hard work.

Hasn't Brady generally struggled against the Pack as of late, yet still found ways to beat us? I remember the 3 interceptions, I remember Flynn almost beating him and the Patriots..I think that's part of why he's so annoying.

The Packers had a chance to beat the Patriots out east in '18, too, and then Jones fumbled in a key situation and the game went south from there.

Speaking of pressure up front, I saw a stat that claims Clark has equal pressures to Aaron Donald on something like 12 less snaps. How bout that?

Clark has played really well to start the season. That's for sure.

I feel so much better about the ST! I suspect the O-line will benefit from the young guys getting snaps. Could we wind up with the best O-line by the end of the season (health permitting)? The future looks good too.

I think the Packers are just focused on getting their best 5 out there and then hopefully keeping that group together for a while and gelling as the season goes along. There's a lot of youth at the three inside spots and those guys are far from finished products.

With Evans officially out, who are the Bucs top threats through the air this week?

Perriman had a big TD in New Orleans last week, and we'll see if Godwin is back from his hamstring injury. Gage has caught 7 passes through two games but has just 41 yards.

Hi Mike,

I love the What You Might Have Missed segments you do. Hats (helmets?) off to Dean Lowry. It seems in many of the plays you showed he was getting double teamed. He may not have the numbers but I think I know why those on the team like him. A big man occupying opponents.

Lowry is a very unsung player in this defense. He's reliable and will make an impact when given a chance. The goal-to-go play I highlighted in WYMM this week was a darn good one. He separated from Patrick and just filled the hole, made the tackle.

I like Pat O'Donnell and he is so good, wonder why Bear let him go?

I don't know, but I don't know why the Bears ever moved on from Robbie Gould all those years ago, either.

Tampa Bay does not seem to generate much offensive yardage. Any insights?

Their offense is off to a slow start. Just two offensive TDs through two games, and just 12 total points before halftime so far. They've had injuries and are still figuring some things out. But I'm with Wes in that Fournette is a huge key in this game. The Packers can't let him control the tempo and tenor of things.

I'd like to see slug fest this weekend with two amazing defenses going at it. Prevailing in that way goes further IMO.

I don't care much about the how and I don't think the Packers do either. Just so whatever it takes to win.

With that I'm going to sign off folks. Thanks for all the participation today and we'll chat again next week. Take care, Mike.

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