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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: Which young players are continuing to develop and show promise?

Editor Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat

G Sean Rhyan
G Sean Rhyan

Hey everybody, welcome to this week's chat. We're trying a new platform so bear with us in case we run into issues on this trial run. I see questions coming in already so I'll get started.

What are your plans New Year's Eve after the game? You staying over in Minneapolis to celebrate the New Year?

Oh, I'll be coming back on the team charter like always. Probably be ringing in the new year somewhere over Eau Claire.

Late on Unscripted?

We just shot an episode before I sat down to do this chat. Things got pushed back a day because of the holiday Monday.

I'd like to see Bo Melton play more with a few key receivers hurt.

There's a decent chance that happens. Melton came through Sunday, both with some catches as well as some blocking. We'll see how the injury situation sorts out this week.

Did you do any sightseeing in Carolina?

Nope. Just grabbed some dinner with colleagues.

Did you get a chance to chat with Kassidy Hill in Carolina ?

Saw her in the press box Sunday. I'm sure she'll settle into her new gig just fine.

Mike, loved your WYMHM as always. It made me laugh, on the TD pass to Dontayvion Wicks I actually did catch LaFleur heading over to the ref on the TV copy. I thought this at the time-- was letting that play happen an instance of coach and QB growing together? I may be reading too much into it (and hindsight is obviously 20/20), but I liked the coach trusting the man to make a play.

Yeah, that was really interesting. I hadn't seen that until going through the film. Wes told me he saw it in real time when the play happened. One of those things he regrets if it doesn't work out, but he let his QB go with it and it worked out.

Is there a practice scheduled this afternoon?

Yes, in a couple of hours.

Who do you think had the best rookie season for the Pack?

I'd have to say Jayden Reed, but I think Dontayvion Wicks and Tucker Kraft aren't far behind. Karl Brooks has been pretty good on defense too.

True or false? If Aaron Jones runs 25 times against The Vikings, we will win.

I don't think it comes down to that. The Packers have to be productive running the ball, no matter how many carries. Or if they decide to get the ball to Jones in other ways.

Kenny Clark by far has the most snaps of anyone on the DL near 72% according to Pro Football Reference. How is this workload impacting his performance at the end of the season?

Clark has generally played better late in the season, and 72% is actually a bit low I think compared to some other years when he's been up closer to 80%.

Big Picture Question, What were your thoughts at the beginning of the season? Do you think the Packers exceeded expectations? By the way, I was at the Panthers game- it was my gift to my son- first Packer game and gift to myself- I am cancer-free from two cancers in two years. Packers travel well- I think over half were Packer fans.

Good to hear about your health, and glad you enjoyed the game. My expectations were I thought the Packers could compete in a wide open NFC North, and with Detroit winning the division and the Packers beating the Lions once, that line of thinking appears justified.

'Morning, Mike. Just to put things into perspective, I think most of us would, at the beginning of the year, would have called the season a success had we known Love would look like he does. I'm not so surprised by the statistics, but the way he's handled himself, never losing his cool, leading several comebacks (some successful), the several tight-window "wow" throws almost every game, and the steady upward trajectory, even with all the "interesting things" surrounding him have me quietly optimistic about the future. The development of the young receivers is certainly a welcome bonus. What's been your most pleasant surprise/development so far?

The steady progression from the young pass-catching corps has been huge, and amidst a lot of injuries, too, which means several players have grown as required. I also like how some of the young linemen up front have developed on offense, too. Walker, Rhyan, Tom. Myers has played better. There's a lot to like there.

Do you get extra per diem this week for champagne over Eau Claire?

Ha, I don't think so. I'll have my nose in the laptop getting work done anyway.

Will this be the platform used during games? The current one has comments going backward and forward on my iPhone app. Very hard to follow at times.

This is the new platform we're moving to for chats and live blogs. I'm sure there will be bugs to work out, but we'll just do our best.

Depends on what kind of runs. But, it'll be interesting to see how MIN plays their usual blitz game. Jonesy could torch em in that department.

Minnesota's blitz-centric approach has been really interesting to watch, but they actually didn't blitz that much in the first meeting with GB. We'll see if that changes.

I've seen a bunch of talk about the Packers missing the cheap, rookie QB contract window with Jordan Love if/when the team signs him to a big extension. If you look at the other side of the coin though, they've got their QB figured out and now have 2-3 years of Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Wicks, Luke Musgrave, and Kraft on rookie contracts.


How many Packer fans will be in attendance Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium?

Good question. Been an interesting year for both teams. I guess we'll find out Sunday night.

After 15 games, are the first-year players still considered "rookies"? That would be a full season of college football.

They are in that now they're in a playoff chase in the NFL for the first time, but in a lot of other ways they aren't rookies anymore with that many games under their belts. With what rookies go through their first year, it can be a challenge to have enough gas left in the tank at this stage, but so far all seems OK in that area.

Thinking Bo Melton may need to be signed to the 53 soon to not get poached by a team already out of playoffs. I think that is how we obtained Melton in the 1st place. Was he already called up 3 times?

I believe so, yes. Sunday was his third call-up.

Did you see the block by Sean Rhyan on Love's sneak for a TD? The defender had no chance.

The Packers executed that old-fashioned sneak well. Love checked to it at the line when he saw the gap in front of him. Good decision, good execution.

Good afternoon! I hope you had a great Christmas. How do you think Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes have looked in their first game(s) back from injury?

Up and down, to be expected after missing so much time. It's not easy to just jump right in during late December after a long layoff.

Which QB would have the best/worst chance of beating us this week?

I guess we'll see what Kevin O'Connell thinks. The Vikings' season has been all about the turnovers, and I think he just wants a QB who's going to protect the ball and let their offensive weapons make things happen.

Can the Packers retain Jones next season with their cap situation? I sure hope so.

There will be a lot to sort out in that regard but it's a question for the offseason.

It seems that Tucker Kraft will break the 3rd round pick drought?

Sean Rhyan is on his way to doing so as well. Folks are way too quick to give up on players. No reason to do that.

Does that Viking fog horn get under your skin?

No. It gives me a headache.

While we should win, who else should lose to help us make the possible playoffs?

The main teams to root against are the Rams, Seahawks and Falcons.

Does any NFL team have a more mockable chant than the Skol chant?

I think they tried to create something there that didn't have a foundation. Their stadium atmosphere (Metrodome and US Bank) is more synonymous with that Led Zeppelin song than any chant.

I was surprised you don't think Brock Purdy is an MVP candidate. Leads league in passer rating and most passing categories and on the best team (until Monday). Who do you think the leading candidate is?

It's Lamar Jackson now. I think Purdy has had a fine year, but as I said in Inbox, he's got the best trio of weapons in Deebo, CMC and Kittle that any QB could ask for. I don't think that makes for an MVP QB frankly. Jackson lost one of his best weapons in Andrews and the Ravens just keep chugging along.

On the last pass play on the game I noticed the Packers rushed 3. Is that your preferred strategy at that point of time in the Panther game? My preference would have been to at least rush four with may be some stunts. I would rather have the qb have to get rid of the ball sooner than later.

On that last play, that's absolutely what you do. You want the QB to take longer to scan the field before he throws to kill more time, and you want your players in coverage to guard the boundary and make the tackle in bounds. They did that. The previous play where they got the sideline throw and got out of bounds was the bigger problem.

Can our defense be fixed this year, or is this just who we are now?

We've seen the defense play better. It has to get back to that somehow. Not saying they were dominant, but against the Lions and Chiefs they were plenty solid. It wasn't that along ago. But how they get back to that I have no idea.

While Love has certainly improved, his accuracy still seems lacking and quite a few of what some call his "wow" throws were not that great & he was bailed out by his receivers adjusting. Thoughts?

Do you watch any other games? Receivers adjusting and making plays for the QB happens all over the league, with every good QB out there. None of these guys put every pass right on the money.

I find it interesting how Rodgers made a case for Josh Allen being MVP.

Allen's late surge has been impressive and the Bills look dangerous. As far as MVP, though, all those turnovers earlier in the season can't be ignored.

Have you spent time with Carlson to get to know his personality? Is he an interesting guy? Quirky?

I've interviewed him a few times. He's pretty down to earth. His family situation is really interesting with his brothers and their athletic endeavors and how they grew up.

Has a time been announced for the Bears at Packers week 18 game?

Nope, we'll probably find that out Sunday night or Monday morning I'm guessing.

Is it weird that, at the beginning of the season we were thinking our defense had to keep us in games? I don't want to overreact, but I'm more confident in Love and the offense keeping us in games. To take that a step further, while playing from ahead would make Love's job easier (and the defense's easier) I'm actually confident in our offense being able to win from behind, unlike some of the better teams that the comment is they need to play from ahead. Now, if our defense can let us do that? I'm not sure.

The defense did keep the Packers in games early. The offense really struggled against the Saints, Raiders and Broncos and the defense gave the Packers a chance to win all three. They won one of them. If that defense had held up for the bulk of the year, the Packers would be in better shape now but they are where they are, which is still with a chance, so you just keep playing.

Pass rush seemed to be lacking since the KC game. Personnel or schemes?

The pass rush was getting through against the Giants, but DeVito kept getting away. They got the one turnover vs. Mayfield but that was it. I thought the pass rush affected Young early on Sunday, but then he settled down and was getting the ball out faster and bolting the pocket sooner.

NFL network is saying 49ers screen passes average 9 yards. That's a wow stat. Any idea where the Packers stand?

Nope. The Packers have been very hit and miss with their screen execution.

Overall would you say the special teams are better, the same or regressed compared to last year considering a new punter and kicker?

The biggest issue with the return and coverage units has been penalties. Way too many this year, and those have affected field position. Not as many the past couple of weeks so hopefully that's a good sign.

For those 3 teams, we need 2 of them to lose 1 of 2 remaining games combined with our 2 wins to get in.

Correct, that's how I see it. Of the Rams, Seahawks and Falcons losing one more each, two of the three need to lose, with the Packers winning both games.

Been an up and down season to watch but with so many unknowns and young players, being a playoff contender right to the end holds promise for now and the future.

Couldn't agree more. The Packers have plenty to figure out on defense, but this offense's arrow is pointing straight up with Love's development and all the youth around him.

Is there a sense yet whether Musgrave comes back this week or is it all Kraft?

Musgrave has been out for a month and I doubt just one week of practice -- if he's able to practice this week -- would be enough to get him back in the lineup.

I guess I disagree with your last play rushing only 3 comment. Why do you want to give any QB more time to scan the field and use the middle to set up a field goal attempt. The Packers don't cover at all in the middle too many times and were fortunate the clock hit zero. Barry is not aggressive enough in those situations and the DB's don't react fast enough when the ball is in the air.

In that particular situation, with 13 seconds left on the clock, the longer the QB scans the field the less time they have to get the clock stopped. Which is exactly how it played out.

I understand Addison is questionable - JJ is who he is and when you're not careful, Osborn can destroy you on clutch deep plays. But in what ways does it benefit our defense to not have to deal with Hockenson?

Hockenson's absence allows more attention to be paid to Jefferson certainly. Both Addison and Osborn had big games at Lambeau earlier this season, so the Packers will have their hands full regardless.

It will be interesting to see how Love handles the crowd noise at US Bank Stadium. How close was the noise level in Detroit on Thanksgiving as comparison?

The Thanksgiving game was the toughest road environment I thought the Packers have faced all season, and they played their best road game, frankly.

Just jumped on Mike but your thoughts on Sean Rhyan over the last few weeks? Seems to be very consistent in the playing time he's getting.

His development is another bright spot. Gives the Packers more options heading into next season at guard.

I think they have a decent chance to win out. Hopefully they have had a chance to self scout on the defensive side of the ball, and continue with consistency on the offense. I haven't looked, but is Watson a possibility this week?

No idea. He hasn't come back to practice yet but we'll see later today if he's out there.

The Eagles allowed a Seahawks backup quarterback to go 90 yards with less than 2 minutes to retake the lead. Then Hurts force throws a pick when they were almost in FG range. Packers have seen that scenario plenty this year, but allowing the Seahawks to pull that game out may end up dooming the Packers playoff chances.

Yeah, that was a huge result in the NFC playoff picture. The Eagles left Bradberry by himself along the sideline on those two long plays, and the safety didn't get over to help him. Then when Hurts took the sideline shot, the Seahawks safety swooped over and made the INT.

"Backup" can be such a loose term at times. Don't forget that Drew Lock WAS a starter in the league before. It's not like he didn't have experience.

It's been the year of backup QBs, or whatever you want to call them, in the NFL. Lots of those guys have won games this season.

Whether Musgrave can recover fast enough or not, Tucker Kraft is a horse and a half and is fun to watch (except when he keeps hurdling guys and ends up flat on his back)

Yeah, I just don't want him to hurt himself.

Has writing a live blog and morning column changed the way you view modern Packer fans?

Over the years, it's taught me how many Packers fans don't watch any other football around the league. Many of them really don't understand how many things happen to the Packers that happen to everybody.

Somebody was saying there have been 58 starting quarterbacks in the league this year. That's almost two per team. Knock on wood.

Yeah, I think last year was the record, with 66.

Hey Mike, who do you think has the best chance of helping us out by winning this week: Bears, Giants, or Steelers?

The Bears are playing some pretty good football lately, and if they can beat the Falcons, they'll be coming into Lambeau ready to give the Packers everything they've got. The Steelers have been so up and down, and now they're sticking with Rudolph after that big game last week. But going to Seattle is no easy task. The Giants are going with Tyrod Taylor, but the story is really their defensive struggles and a hot Rams offense they have to deal with.

While there is no 1,000 yard receiver for us this year, having likely 4 different players over 500 yds each sure is promising (particularly given their youth/inexperience). Both Musgrave and Kraft could likely also have cracked 500 if not injured and with more use earlier; really looking solid on the receiving end with these young sprouts!

I agree. Now it'll all come down to how they build on things next year.

In your opinion, what has been the brightest spot on the defense so far this year?

The young guys holding their own when asked to go in there in some tough spots. Brooks and Wooden have had their moments up front. McDuffie has been a super sub vs. the run. Valentine and Ballentine helped the defense out quite a bit as well.

All righty folks, I'm going to sign off now. Thanks for trying out the new format with me, and we'll see where this goes. Take care and talk again soon. Happy New Year. Best, Mike.