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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What to expect in Week 1?

Senior writer Mike Spofford kicks off his weekly chat series analyzing the matchup with the Bears

Bears LB Khalil Mack
Bears LB Khalil Mack

Hey everybody. Thanks for logging on. Strange first week of the season but we'll start the chat today. More likely to be Wednesdays except for these odd weeks. Anyway, let's go.

Understanding we haven't seen the full plate yet, what kind of differences have you noticed, if any, with how the new coaching staff utilizes the tight end position compared to the previous?

I don't think we're really going to know until the games. I didn't see a bunch of newfangled routes during training camp or anything, but I'm no X's and O's expert. Rodgers made reference last year to Graham not being "high in the progression" often enough for his liking. We'll see if LaFleur changes that.

Mike, The season hasn't started and the Packers are losing to the Bears 18 to 2. I'm concerned, how about you?

Your reference to the injury report there means little to me. With all the Packers who are listed as full participants, I expect several to be removed from the list by tomorrow with "probable" no longer an actual designation.

John looks more and more comfortable with you guys. He's a great addition. Hope you all are having fun with him.

He's a blast. Really enjoy tapping into his perspective as a former player, and one who knows so much schematically. Rodgers always said the only other person in the locker room who knew the offense as well as he did was Kuhn.

Hi Mike. Thanks for the chat. Which roster move surprised you the most and what matchup are you most looking forward to on Thursday?

I was admittedly surprised Shepherd made the roster, especially after he fumbled a kickoff against KC. In my mind I thought that might really hurt him, but it speaks to everything else he did well and the impression he made, particularly behind the scenes, that he made the team. I think the key matchup for this game is Bulaga vs. Mack. Mack might move around some, but I expect Bulaga to see him more than anybody else. In both the run and pass games, Bulaga winning that matchup will go a long way for the Packers.

Mike, we're finally here. If you had to pick one player to watch out for in Chicago on both sides of the ball, who is Chicago's most dangerous weapons this week?

Aside from Mack on defense, it's safety Eddie Jackson. He was responsible for a lot of turnovers and defensive scores last year. On offense, I'm really curious what David Montgomery is going to bring for Trubisky and Co. He's a huge unknown because we haven't seen him, but the Bears drafted him high for a reason.

Thoughts on the #1 offense (Rodgers/Jones) not seeing in game action this preseason?

Couldn't care less. They're healthy for Week 1. That means more than any snaps they could have taken last month.

Have you seen the RBs blocking games develop this off season?

RB coach Ben Sirmans certainly did his share of blocking and blitz pickup drills with his guys. I wouldn't say it was any more than other years, but that group knows pass protection is a huge part of their job responsibility.

First stepping stone to completing the task of taking down da bears is...?

Protect the football. Of all the Bears' accomplishments on defense, leading the league in takeaways and defensive TDs last year was what stood out the most. You can't turn it over against these guys. It's what they thrive on and where they build all their energy.

Good afternoon Mike! Rodgers' recent comments about the "need to grow" in the offense kind of concerns me, especially with kickoff in two days. Is he solely speaking in terms of the young WR core, or does he mean the offense entirely?

I think he was just being honest that the offense you see in Week 1 won't be the same as the one you'll see later in the year as the group plays more and more games. Evolution is natural, especially in a new system. You want to hit the ground running as best you can right away, but no matter what, defenses are going to adjust over time to what they see on film, and the Packers will have to evolve too.

We won't know if he's fully healed for some time yet, but how crucial is Kevin King's availability - considering how deep the CB pool seems to be?

I've maintained all offseason for this defense to be at its best, King and Alexander need to be on the field together, and that just didn't happen enough last year. Look back at the first half of the Rams game last year, or the first three quarters of the first Vikings game, and tell me that's not a different defense. King has missed a month and he won't be playing every snap Thursday, but he expects to play. We'll just have to see how much now and as the season rolls along. The group is deep, though unproven. Tony Brown, Josh Jackson, Ka'dar Hollman, Chandon Sullivan all had their moments in camp/preseason, and they'll be ready, but they'll also have targets on their back once they're in the game. That's not a knock, just reality.

Between Allison and MVS, who seems more likely for a breakout year? Who seems to have Rodgers trust more?

I think there's more trust with Allison just because of experience, but I'm not saying he doesn't trust MVS. They're receivers with very different attributes, and situations/coverages will dictate who might be the No. 2 guy statistically in any given game, and it could change weekly.

Gutekunst has made it clear he'd like to get Clark signed long-term sooner than later, but there have been no updates. That doesn't mean nothing's happening. Maybe it's just being kept quiet, I don't know.

With Clay gone, who do you expect to really step up in the pass rush game?

Za'Darius Smith was brought in to be this team's top pass rusher, and he has embraced the leadership and responsibility since the day he arrived. He hasn't spoken with the media much, but I've gotten the sense he's a very serious individual.

What is the press box set up like at Soldier Field for you?

It's one of my least favorite. It's on a corner of the end zone on the opposite side of the field, so when you look at replays on the TV, everything is flipped. I'm getting too old for my brain to handle that.

Given your comment about the importance of pass pro, do you think it will be tough for D Williams to get on the field at RB early in the season?

Will he be the last of the 4 RBs to get a carry or pass reception?

I expect the Packers to use Jones, Jamaal Williams and Vitale much more in the backfield early on than the rookie Williams.

Tim Boyle, Darrius Shepperd, Lucas Patrick...draft position might mean less than heart and attitude. Wonderful stories all!

You have to have talent. Just because they were overlooked doesn't mean they don't have it. But they've also maximized on their opportunity and become better players than many projected. All good guys, too.

What do you think about the offensive live this year and do you think they'll grow this year?

Outside of QB1, it's the most experienced starting position group the Packers have when you look at it, and it should work to their advantage. You want that group to stay healthy and play together week after week. No matter what system you're in, an O-line that plays together regularly always gets better. The group can be the anchor for the entire offense.

Mike, do you believe Darnell Savage is a great fit for Pettines defense? Is he ready to take on a big role?

We'll find out soon enough. Gutekunst traded up to get him for a reason. Having a speedster back there next to a cerebral veteran in Amos is an intriguing combination, but we have to see how it works in the real games before making any judgments. On paper, it's exactly what Pettine wants his safety tandem to be.

I see speculations of us going 13-3 on espn, then I see the "experts" saying the lions will finish ahead of us in the rankings, why do you think there is such a variation in opinion and what's your guess for our record this year?

I have absolutely no idea, and the fact that the predictions are all over the board tells you how much unknown there is about this team with a new head coach, revamped defense, etc. I don't think anyone in the NFC North qualifies as a juggernaut, though. I think the division will be season-long race.

As someone embedded in the press corps, are you sensing more pessimism/trepidation/negativity than normal? Looks like at least a couple long-time beat writers think this campaign will be futile. Or certainly this game will be.

There's no question this is a tough matchup to start with, facing the defending division champs on the road in prime time. But as I've said all offseason, it's also an opportunity, so embrace it. This league is crazy. Matt Nagy's bunch had the Packers down 20-0 at Lambeau last year. You just never know.

Good morning Mike, I'm curious how many plays will be designed specifically for Adams this Thursday. I think 12 will aim his way often and early to get the offense in a groove, hoping he has 9 plus catches for 130 yards. Your thoughts?

My note before about the "progression" earlier with Graham also applied to Adams with regard to Rodgers' comments last year. He's made it clear the ball is going to 17 early and often, and it needs to for this team to be successful. I suspect he and LaFleur are on the same page in that regard.

What's your over-under on Packers penalties this week? We've got a lot of young guys debuting on a very big stage, and I have to think penalties are going to determine the outcome of this game almost as much as turnovers.

Holding calls were way up in the preseason as an officiating emphasis. I guess we'll see if that continues Week 1. Where the Packers have to cut down their penalties the most is on special teams. They were detrimental to field position all last season, and if Mennenga can clean that part up, the offense and defense will already be in a better place.

Will Travor Davis do kickoff and punt returns?

As far as I know, Trevor Davis is this team's No. 1 returner. He'll be a huge piece on special teams as a punt gunner as well.

Speaking of pass rush, KF had 10.5 sacks last year but doesn't seem to get much love. Can he repeat that success or has he been pushed down the depth chart?

I look at the OLB group as a quartet -- the Smiths, Gary and Fackrell -- and they're all gonna play. Being fresh in the fourth quarter to get after QBs is a huge part of the game, and the Packers are in position to do that. A lot of eyes are on Fackrell to repeat what he did last year. I don't know if he can repeat double-digit sacks or not, but he got that total on a relatively low number of total pressures overall. If he's effective when he's in there and getting pressure, he can actually make a bigger impact even if his sack number declines.

Is the O Line built better for running or pass blocking, LaFleur said he wants to be very balanced, is the Oline built for both?

That's the idea. The linemen talked late in training camp about feeling much better about the running game than they did in the spring. It's been a process, but they're all veteran pros, and it was coming around. I think it'll continue to improve as the season goes on, whatever happens Thursday.

Do you see Petine putting Kevin King on a pitch count?

Pettine himself suggested as much at the podium yesterday.

Since he signed his extension I have not heard Dean Lowry's name much how did he look during camp?

Like a guy who knows what he's doing and knows what's being asked of him. Lowry came on strong late last season and the Packers rewarded him for it. He's ready to prove he earned it.

Just read Wes's piece on Sheperd. If I'm 5'10" I'd feel really good about having Lucas Patrick as a friend. I've heard he's kinda taken Lang's place as the on-field enforcer.

He said in the story every locker room needs a guy like Shepherd. Every locker room also needs a guy like Patrick.

Mike, do you have any inside Scoop on NFL 100 celebrations taking place at Soldier Field?

There's something going on at Grant Park in the afternoon, but that's all I know.

Mike - Davante Adams recently brought Chad OchoCinco to tears with his route-running ability. What is it about Adams and what he does that makes him so tough to defend?

Footwork. It's been compared to Allen Iverson's crossover. Moves you know are coming but still can't quite stop.

Mike, what single thing that the Bears do well on offense could give the packers fits on Thursday night?

Cohen and Montgomery give them a lot of speed for that running game. From the games I recall seeing last year, Trubisky can't really hurt you as a scrambler, too. You have to keep him in the pocket and not let him get on the move.

Gary looks to be kind of the odd man out in the pass rush room with how inconsistent he was in preseason, what is your over/under for snaps he gets against Chicago?

I don't know, but I think he'll be on the field a lot on third downs, probably as an inside rusher. Pettine has various packages and a role in mind for Gary.

Hey Mike, will you be doing a live in game blog this week? How does that affect your traditional in-game routine?

Yes, we're going to continue the live in-game blog we started last week in the preseason finale. For me, it's a substitute for writing quarter-by-quarter recaps and being live on Twitter. I'll be doing everything on the blog, including answering questions at halftime. I'll still write a quick summary of the game highlights and main stats that will go up as soon as the game ends, but it'll be a topper to the full-game blog that can be read through below it. Then the official Game Recap story will still come after the press conferences when we have comments from the head coach and QB.

The Packers hit the field for another practice ahead of the Week 1 matchup against the Bears.

Has the baloney stopped yet? Or does it not stop until Thursday night?

It doesn't officially stop until the foot contacts the ball at 7:20 p.m.

I think everyone will see lots of surprises from Packers offense this Thursday.

I expect both teams to spring surprises on one another. There will be some pencil-whipping going on, especially early, with schemes no one could prepare for. But eventually those bags are emptied and you have to settle in and play "beat your man" football.

Wes says first offensive play from scrimmage is an 8 yard hitch to DA. What say you?

Whatever works. As long as you don't turn it over on the first play, the second play will be more important anyway.

Do you think the O-line has had enough time to develop continuity/communication with the incorporation of two new starters?

There's only one new starter I'm aware of, Turner at RG.

Mike, how does the home field advantage of Soldier field compare to US Bank Stadium and Ford Field?

It's always greater in an indoor stadium, but Soldier Field is not a quiet place. Like Rodgers said this week, they know when to get loud. They're knowledgeable fans and fourth quarters are tough at that place, whether you're ahead or behind.

Where do we find your blog? Does one need a twitter account do follow it? What will we see from during the season between games?

The in-game blog will be on the website during games. You can also access it on our mobile site. If you're on Twitter, the Packers account will post a link to it, and I'll retweet that link as well.

With both teams still just getting their feet wet, which is more likely Thursday night: a barn-burner or a defensive standoff?

This will have to be it for today, gotta run. But thanks for all the questions, everybody. I don't expect a shootout, but I don't think it's going to be 10-6 in the fourth quarter, either. I'll be surprised if it doesn't come down to the last 4 minutes. It's going to be an intense finish. All right, take care everyone. We'll chat again next week. Best, Mike

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