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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: Which young players are emerging for Packers?

Editor Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat

T Rasheed Walker
T Rasheed Walker

Hey everybody, hope all is well. Thanks for logging on today. I see some questions coming in already, so keep them coming and I'll get started.

Noticed Keisean Nixon letting kickoffs go, so thinking ST coach gave him some "orders". Similar tone, do you think TE coach and MLF will be telling Tucker Kraft to be smarter about hurdle attempts to not get hurt?

I would imagine they're telling him to be a little careful. I've never felt hurdling was worth the risk-reward, and I wish those plays weren't highlighted so much. It's dangerous for both players involved.

Mike, I hope your Christmas presents include a Packers win on Sunday, as well as a smooth and timely flight home from Charlotte!

That would be nice. Hope everyone out there has a great Christmas. Should be a heck of a game on Christmas night -- Ravens v. Niners.

Thanks for everything you do for we the fans. Just a comment for your consideration. Dontayvion Wicks reminds me of Greg Jennings. Good hands, he has a way of finding the open space, YAC, just the way he moves on the field.

I don't see the comparison, but if you do, that's fine. Wicks honestly doesn't really remind me of anybody, and that's not a bad thing. Really like how he's playing right now.

Has Bryce Young played every offensive snap for Carolina or has he been benched/injured?

Andy Dalton has 58 pass attempts for the Panthers this year, so Young did miss some time. I don't recall what the injury was immediately, though.

Mike, thank you for your detailed analysis on the 3rd and short play in today's II. I especially appreciate how you explained that it's impossible to determine where the fault lies in the how the scheme was played.

I'm just not a hot-take artist and I try to appreciate complexity and a lack of easy answers. That said, the buck ultimately stops with the coaches who are tasked with getting results. I've never denied that. Just tried to explain that it's never as simple as a lot of people make it out to be, or want it to be.

If the Packers lose at Carolina, does that officially mean no playoffs?

Not sure exactly what the math will say if the Packers pick up a 9th loss, but for all intents and purposes yes. In that case it's truly lottery ticket time.

Great point on hurdling. That is what caused Nick Collins terrible injury to retirement. At some point wonder if competition committee at least has a conversation

I wonder if they have but can't be sure how to effectively enforce it. I really don't know.

Thanks for the explainer response RE: the blame game in II today, Mike. If folks don't get it after that, they're being willfully obtuse. (Read as: I expect you to continue to receive those very same sort of questions, perhaps slightly reduced)

Thanks for reading.

Should we expect more blitzes (blitzen?) by Packers D in Carolina?

Ha, good one. I wouldn't be surprised, but then again, who knows. It's long been standard practice in this league to heat up young QBs with blitzes and see how they react, but the Packers didn't do that vs. DeVito so I really don't know.

Morning Mike. Rather than discuss He Who Will Not Be Named, I thought I'd point out how incredibly spoiled we've been for many of the past few decades. We've had some excellent LT play since the Holmgren era, and we've kind of taken it for granted (except when it costs us playoff games.) Hard to top Clifton to Bak', but how would you evaluate Walker so far? Various reports on the interweb indicate he's been good to very good lately, and I haven't noticed many egregious breakdowns lately. Is he passing your eye test? It would certainly make the next few games' (and next season's) outlook a lot rosier if he's the next excellent LT.

Walker might be the most improved player on the entire roster from last year to this year, considering he basically didn't play at all as a rookie and is now starting at LT and holding his own, game after game. He was very good vs. Tampa Bay and is definitely trending upward. Side note, might've gotten away with a block in the back on Kraft's TE screen TD, though. Lavonte David was none too happy the flag wasn't thrown. Something I caught on film that I hadn't seen previously.

Only 5 plays on "What You Might Have Missed" tells me I didn't miss much.

I thought the early Aaron Jones runs and the scramble drill plays with Jordan Love/ Dontayvion Wicks / Jayden Reed were the best film from that game of things I hadn't focused on in previous weeks. The later it gets in the season, the harder it is to find things that aren't total repeat topics.

Kraft's own body may have asked him to dial back the hurdles as well, considering where he took the hit.


What have you noticed in the battle at LT? Too close to call or is someone winning the battle?

I like what both guys have done, but the Packers are definitely taking a long look at Walker now with regard to the future. He's got two years left on his rookie contract. Yosh Nijman will be a free agent after playing this year on the RFA tender.

I was screaming at the TV on the top of my lungs: It's a screen (to Goodwin), it's a screen....If my untrained eye can catch this, I am guessing....well you know what I mean.

It got to the point in that game where every key play, Mayfield was looking to Godwin confident he'd be open. If you had told me before the game Evans was going to be held to 57 yards, I never would've thought Mayfield would be approaching 400.

Spoff, I just checked the guide on my TV. We get lions on Fox and browns on CBS. Any suggestions on how I can stream the game without breaking the bank?

Not my wheelhouse, but I'll encourage you to hop on the live blog and follow along.

How does the injury report look for this week?

Haven't seen it yet. Going to head out to practice as soon as I log off here.

Is Luke Musgrave out for the rest of the season?

I don't know. He might be. But nothing definitive has been announced.

Do you think a New Year's Eve game against the Team that Shall Not Be Named will get flexed out of prime time ??? ... I hope not.

I believe they would've had to make that decision yesterday, and there was no news. (Correction: Week 17 flex decisions can be made with just six days' notice, so that game is still in play.)

We need to make sure we don't turn Bryce Young into Steve Young…. We seem to have a way of doing those things.

The Panthers were pretty fired up about getting their second win. I watched the highlights and that team battled a division rival in the rain all the way to the end. They're 2-12, but they are going to give the Packers everything they've got, and that has nothing to do with the Packers' current struggles. That Tampa Bay team that just beat the Packers? The Panthers lost to them by just three points earlier this month.

NFL says it's down to 5% chance if Pack loses this week.

Like I said, lottery ticket time. Problem is the Packers got their lottery ticket when Barkley fumbled all by himself, and they still didn't win the game.

On the video showing the great plays by the young receivers. 1st play Wicks and Reed looked to be within a yard of each other. Wicks then got good YAC. Wondering if that was maybe a pick play, or another case of mistake in route running?

There was a route mixup on another play where they were in the same area, but the one you reference I think was a rub/pick concept.

Rooting interests this weekend for Packers fans?

Honestly haven't looked at all the games. I know the Rams and Saints play Thursday night, so one of them is getting an 8th win.

Lots of rain up and down the east coast this week. Have you peeked ahead at the Sunday forecast?

Nope. I know it was pretty rainy in Charlotte last Sunday.

Saw an article outlining who we received for the He Who Will Not Be Named trade and really amazing to think of the contributions those picks (Musgrave, Anders Carlson, Lukas Van Ness) have made to the team already. Impressive.

I'm fine naming Rodgers. Don't know where people get that impression, unless that's your own thing, which is fine. The trade returns are looking pretty good and more is coming in this next draft. It'll be really interesting how it all shakes out in the long run.

Are there any staff Christmas parties at 1265 ??? ... are there food and beverage coordinators ?? what kind of schemes do they run ;)

The company holiday party was held on the Saturday night before the flight to Jersey.

Love what I'm seeing from Kraft. Do you think his upside might be higher than Musgrave? has he shown enough at this point to pass Musgrave on the depth chart?

Musgrave is the faster runner and the bigger downfield threat, though Kraft has two big explosive receptions the past two weeks. I think the future is bright for both guys and they can be used different. As I mentioned on Unscripted, the way Kraft's blocking shows up on the game film now is really impressive. Been that way for several weeks.

Appreciate your rapid fire work - mid week and game day chats. How many WPM do you type? I have to look at my fingers. :(

I haven't been tested since high school and I don't even remember what it was then.

What's going on with Jaire Alexander? Should we expect to see him back on the field this season?

I don't know. I said all I know about that situation in the Inbox the other day.

I think Larry called out a hold from Jones on that TE TD as well. Oops.

I didn't see that. I just saw Lavonte David sitting on the ground with his arms outstretched looking for a flag on Walker. Then he just got up and trudged off the field, practically shaking his head. That's football.

Lambeau is a place for packers winning, they have got to start protecting home.

Yeah, 3 home losses this season is less than ideal, obviously. Last year had 3 as well.

Early in the year I saw JL in a lot of Shotgun formation with AJ and Dillon. Then AJ go hurt and saw them start to use a lot of under center formations. I noticed JL did a lot better under center with timing and rhythm. That said I thought last week he started to get the timing of shotgun throws a little more. Would be nice to see some productivity stat on JL under center vs shotgun. Personally I like the under center version of the offense using 2 tight ends. That will be a monster for teams to diagnose and defend.

I've never played quarterback, but I would think timing and footwork would be easier under center. But shotgun gives the advantage of a clearer look at the defense to make decisions. That's why it's important to use both, keep mixing it up, and I expect he'll continue to improve.

What I gathered from your soliloquy was it was a tough Monday column and your as frustrated as the rest of us. At the risk of offending the homers this team is going no where without some changes. Truth hurts and it doesn't make me any less of a fan!

Never said anybody was less of a fan. I just run out of patience with simplistic explanations when the reality is far from that.

Mike, quite a few radio hosts pointing out that the lack of change at DC may be partly due to a void in a viable alternative on staff. If Gray was still here he would have been a logical choice. What's your take on this?

It's LaFleur's purview and he's doing what he feels is best for the team right now. He's in meetings with his staff every day, probably multiple times per day. He knows the landscape he has to navigate these last three weeks.

Mike… I saw an interesting comparison between R Gary first year stats vs L Van Ness stats for first year… very comparable… your thoughts?

I said that when LVN was drafted, the approach would probably be much like Gary. The Packers have two veteran starting outside 'backers, just like they did when Gary was drafted. LVN was not being asked to come in and start right away, but get his feet wet, learn the ropes and grow. I think that's happening.

It feels like this season is a bit upside down. Everyone expected the defense to carry the team while the offense (new starting QB and very young receivers) found its way. Instead we've had a defense that can't seem to find its way, and an offense that's becoming a strength of the team. Do you think the return of Jaire Alexander would have any substantial impact on this defense?

I think any All-Pro level player returning to the lineup would provide a boost.

Goes to show that no matter what I think in the moment, not all of the holding calls can go against us in the course of a game.


True or false ... the most significant injury and loss of playing time this year is A Jones ... different football team when he plays and gets touches.

That one's up there, but I'd probably still go with Bakhtiari, because the plan was to have a veteran, rock-solid, Pro Bowl-level left side of the line with Bakhtiari and Jenkins. That never materialized and they've had to make the best of it. It took a while for the group up front to come together.

With so many empty seats in Carolina last week, do you expect a home type atmosphere or did the win re-energize Panther fans?

I would think a lot of green and gold will be in the stands Sunday.

If we finish 3rd and the Jets finish 3rd (currently are) we will have Rodgers in Lambeau next year!

I'm aware.

In regard to Musgrave and Kraft, here's hoping the two of them turn into what Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura were for the Packers of the mid-1990s.

I don't like to put expectations on young players. That would be tremendous, but they're just getting started.

Hey Mike, do you think we'll see a better defensive performance this week? Typically the group bounces back after rough outings but it's 2 in a row.

The story of the last two seasons defensively has been a roller coaster. Lots of fans out there think the defense has just been terrible all along. That's just not true. They've played well in spurts. But it has had some very rough stretches, and this is one of them. They have to pull out of it. They have before. They've also had rough stretches that lasted 3-4 games before things turned around. We'll find out.

You're a warrior Mike, Thanks for bringing the gameday blog.

I've been doing it for so long now it's hard to imagine watching a game without doing it, lol.

I remember Rodgers saying he picked one thing every offseason to work on. And he said he learned that from Tom Brady. Do you think JL picks up on that tactic? Do you think footwork is something he can greatly improve on in one offseason?

Absolutely, and let's be clear, his footwork is not terrible. It's just a bit inconsistent, and clearly not second nature yet. It wasn't second nature for Rodgers in his first year as a starter either. He and Clements put in a ton of time together in those early years. Players don't actually get as much offseason time with coaches now as they did back then, per the CBA rules.

Mentally, is it more challenging or easier to write at this time of the season?

I just look for good stories I believe readers will be interested in. That's it, that's all.

The Packers have scored 300 points so far this season and given up 301. Which stat is most disappointing?

There's nothing about the stats specifically that are disappointing. It's losing to two sub-.500 teams after two big wins when the team's arrow was clearly pointing up. Things can change in a hurry in this league.

Your responses to II questions regarding defensive breakdowns got me thinking. I know this is just a guess on your part, but on what percentage of plays do you think at least one of the 11 defenders makes a mental mistake? Not the Packers but across the NFL. My guess is a range of 50-75%.

No idea, but football is an incredibly imperfect game. Mistakes happen everywhere. Many go unnoticed and/or have minimal impact on a play. Others not so much.

Eagles and Cowboys showed us once again its a week to week league. Though somewhere I also saw the Cowboys had an illness bug, and Hurts was sick enough to take a different plane. Even Miami took a surprising L.

The Eagles have gone from 10-1 to 10-4 and fighting to win their own division now. The Cowboys can't seem to win a big game on the road, which doesn't bode well for the playoffs if they don't win the NFC East. Miami melted down in the last 3 minutes a couple games ago vs. the Titans, who are out of the picture. Crazy stuff happens in this league all the time.

Regarding Gary, LVN, and also Love; It's such a luxury when we don't have to throw the rookies with upside fully into the fire immediately.

That's the ideal. It hasn't been the case this year with the WRs and TEs, but the two-year overhaul of the pass-catching corps and all the early playing time should pay dividends in the long run.

Mike, on a scale of 1-10, how much are you looking forward to the offseason?

I never want the season to end as long as the team is in the hunt. The offseason is a nice break when it comes, but then it's awfully long, so I'll keep the season going as long as it takes.

Why did we not hand the ball off to Jones for the entirety of the last game?

Because he had missed the previous 3 games with a knee injury.

The Love to Reed throw looked alot like the sideline throws Rodgers and Adams had perfected. That throw is almost impossible to stop. Hope to see more of it!

I said earlier this week I thought that might've been the most impressive throw from Love so far. And it was the exact step-up-scramble throw to the end zone boundary he missed to Toure the previous week. This time it was right on the money and Reed's footwork was exquisite.

Musgrave, Kraft or Ben's just wonderful to see some RAC from the tight end position this year.

And from Wicks. Last game was outstanding with the YAC.

Hahahah to the "I'm aware" reply! Are you already waking up in cold sweats thinking of the II questions around that game if it happens?

No, not that. Just that I'm aware but plenty of time to hype it if it happens. No need to go all crazy about the possibility right now.

Assuming the Packers can start winning, who should we be rooting for on Thursday?

That's a great question. I haven't really dug into all the permutations. It's probably just let this one happen and then adjust rooting interests in the coming weeks accordingly.

In the category of good problems to have , I think we possibly have 3 very promising TE's all rookies. So bummed when Love missed Sims on that explosive play opportunity, hope he gets more chances next 3 games.

Yeah, Sims was open there. One of two throws Love unfortunately missed that he definitely would want back.

I don't see our CBs harassing WRs at the line hardly at all. Is that scheme or due to the youth of our players?

Might be some of both.

I think realistically this season is already written off.

That's your prerogative. I always figure there will be ample time to think about next year, so just stay in the moment.

Jets currently pick 7th next year. Thats a nice place to be in the 2nd round. If we get lucky and they lose the last 3 we might be looking at 3rd or 4th. So we have that going for us which is nice!

Yeah, that could end up being a top 40 pick.

Mike, There is now way we can lose to there?

Anybody can lose to anybody in this league. Just look around.

This might be a better topic for off-season rather than a mid-week chat, but do you feel the current CBA has hurt the game? Not players, or owners, specifically, but the product on the field?

Hard for me to say. I was only in this post for five seasons before the 2011 CBA took hold and instituted major offseason changes. Lots of folks who have been around this on a daily basis longer than I have will say the overall product was better before, but I honestly don't know. The games are still just as competitive, which is what the league wants.

I heard a radio guy once say "don't judge the rookies by their mistakes, but by the flashes, that is their ability. it's the coaches job to make the overall play match the flashes" if our offense is judged by that, the ceiling is very high.

You judge the mistakes if they keep making the same ones. If not, the flashes mean that much more.

After the last two losses it makes me.think of an old Vince quote "what the hell is going on out there. Do you have any quotes that come to.your mind after those two losses?

Nothing is easy in this league. Said by many folks.

Mike, I get you want to comment on the grumbling player's comments without knowing the intended direction, but I find them alarming in terms what was said (not playing through injury) and the timing (when the outside noise is the loudest). It kind of goes against the locker room sticking together. Will the media be following up to ask for the player to clarify?

I would imagine so.

I am sure it means nothing, but I find it ironic Packers O used to be weak in middle of field, but now our D is the one struggling with middle of field pass D.

Funny how that works. And then the Eagles are just fine in the middle of the field but get burned for two sideline bombs to lose on Monday night in the final two minutes. There's no tried-and-true formula for anything. You just have to beat the guy across from you.

Remind me. Did Aaron Rogers get into the play offs his first starting year??

No, his second.

It is bizarre that ML continues to state things like "it's a communication problem" and "we're not in the positions we're supposed to be", etc. Isn't that exactly what the coaches are supposed to ensure?

LaFleur was not absolving the coaches of blame. He was taking his share for him and his staff.

Thinking about Jaire's shoulder issue I'm wondering if our defensive scheme (which plays a lot of zone defense) is a hinderance to him playing? Maybe if he was going to play more man coverage he could get away with playing since he could just match up and try to shut someone down. But with zone it's just too many times having to come up and make a tackle? Any thoughts?

Corners have to support the run game, regardless of zone or man calls. They have to be able to tackle.

Actually the playoffs are here for the Packers. A single loss realistically snuffs out any post-season hopes. This will make these games even more interesting than usual.

Just like last year, frankly. No different.

We lost 2 we should have won and won 2 that we weren't picked to win. Time to finish strong

Works for me.

Do you do this blog from your office?

Yes. Sometimes in the offseason I'll do a chat from home, but during the season I'm almost always in the building.

What's your though on Brady's comment about the hits on receivers. Basically said "read the defense and don't throw your receiver into that hit"

Couldn't agree more. That's how the game used to be played, QBs protecting their guys from vicious hits. Now the rules do so QBs have a lot more latitude to make risky throws. It's a huge change in the game over the last 20-25 years.

Be the ball.

And with that, Danny ... I mean, Mark, I'm going to call it a chat. Gotta run to practice. Merry Christmas everybody. Thanks for all the participation and take care. Talk again soon. Best, Mike.

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