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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: Who gets the next game ball? senior writer Mike Spofford answered questions in his weekly live chat.


Hey everybody. Thanks for logging on. I see a lot of questions in the queue already so let's get started.

I'm surprised no one has asked a question in the Inbox or made a comment on Alex Light. From what I saw he held up pretty well playing both tackle positions. How do you think he looked? Did he get help or was he usually on his own?

Light held his own but there were a couple of plays he'd probably like back. Nothing glaring by any means. We'll see what the word is on Bryan Bulaga's finger this week.

Packers offense hasn't had a good field position. Special team needs to improve.

No question. The Packers have been losing the field-position battle far too regularly. The third phase needs to provide more help. The one good thing is the units aren't committing penalties like we've seen in recent years, but the coverage has experienced breakdowns and there have been no explosive returns to speak of. The roster moves yesterday were obviously geared toward making adjustments there.

Is there any update on any of the players who were on injured reserve? Do we have anyone practicing?

Jace Sternberger (from IR) and Ibraheim Campbell (from PUP) have been practicing the last two weeks. There is currently one roster spot open, so it's possible they're planning to activate one of those two this week. We'll see.

Can someone ask Pettine why Josh Jackson isn't playing? We all know he's a 2nd round pick but he had plenty of playing time last year. He's barely seen it this year. Just don't really get it.

Jackson fell down the depth chart when he missed so much time in training camp and he hasn't gained it back. As far as the reserve DBs go, Tony Brown, Chandon Sullivan and Will Redmond are all ahead of him and playing more.

Hi Mike, Did both Darnell Savage and Jaire Alexander return punts in college? do you think we will see either do it in the pros or are they too valuable?

I'm not sure what LaFleur's approach is regarding the risk-reward of using starters on returns regularly. Perhaps we're going to find out on punts.

Was #12 throwing to #80

I thought he was throwing it away, honest, and I know I'm not alone. One for the career highlight reel for sure.

You mentioned in the Inbox that the kneel downs at the end of the half count against the QBs rushing yards. I know Aaron Rodgers takes great pride in his ability to run the football and pick up 1st downs. Wouldn't it be fairer to credit kneel downs to 'team rushes'.

Maybe they'll do that someday, I don't know. They've been doing it this way statistically for a long time now.

Is Raven Greene out for the year or is he eligible to return off IR?

He's eligible to return because he went on IR after the 53-man roster was initially established. For him it was after Week 1 if I recall. The Packers have one more player they can designate to return from IR aside from Sternberger, but I don't know Greene's health status, where he is with his rehab, etc.

With such a deep secondary were you surprised that no one was traded at the dead line?

Not at all. You're never more than an injury or two away from suddenly not looking so deep.

Any thoughts on load management for Aaron Jones? With his injury history

Hopefully Jones has turned a corner health-wise. His workload was a concern last year, and rightfully so, based on his history. I don't think 20 touches a game wears him down too much, because he's not playing every snap either. Jamaal Williams' presence and LaFleur's liberal use of different personnel packages helps in that regard.

Will home crowd noise be less of a factor with only 27,000 capacity as opposed to Kansas City or New Orleans?

Anytime it's a road game but there are more fans on your side, which I expect on Sunday in LA, you take it.

Can you tell us something about what is keeping Wes to busy for the II?

It's a significant feature story he's been working on for a while now that will, hopefully, be posted very shortly. I'm not going to give anything away, but I will definitely encourage you to check it out.

Did allowing that punt to bounce with 5:10 left and not make a fair catch at the 17 cost Shepherd his job?

It's never just one play, but it would appear that was a significant factor in the roster move. He also wasn't getting any snaps at WR with the way Allen Lazard and Jake Kumerow have been playing.

I think Davante Adams should stay out against the Chargers. Or maybe he already is, not sure. Any update on him?

The Packers hit the practice field around 4 p.m. today, so we'll see if Adams is out there. Signs last week were pointing toward a return fairly soon. I'm guessing this week or next.

How can a fan interpret the D's performance against the Chiefs? During the game felt like we weren't generating any pressure and subsequently getting beat from the 2nd quarter on, but I also think I saw more pass rushes with only the front 4 rather than blitzing. Was it scheme to allow the short underneath stuff or a poorish performance?

Pettine kept a lot of defenders back in coverage to prevent the big, explosive plays by guys like Hill and Hardman, and he was counting on a standard front to get pressure. Za'Darius Smith had two sacks, but the pressure on Moore wasn't consistent, so he had a lot of time to let guys work open.

Is there any concern about the lack of consistent contributions from Rashan Gary? Seems very similar to what critics said about him coming out of Michigan.

Mike Smith continues to work with him and the Packers are being patient. They believe in him and the more he shows in the snaps he gets, then he'll get more. I think they're in a good spot having Kyler Fackrell and Gary behind the Smiths. That's a solid quartet.

I didn't hear where Blake Martinez' injured hand came from. Any report on what happened, recovery and his effectiveness while clubbed?

No. I'm sure he's going to be asked about it today or tomorrow when he speaks with the media.

Do you think that Kenny Clark has logged too many snaps so far this season and might be the reason his stats are down?

I'm not sure Clark has been entirely healthy. Nothing has kept him out of a game yet, but he's been listed on the injury report in various weeks with things. He's not one to ever make excuses, but I suspect he's not entirely at full strength.

Do you see the run D improving from the 1st half to the 2nd half of the season!? I'm really concerned because these teams in the 2nd half know how to ground & pound! And they know that's the formula to beat Us!

It's week to week based on how the Packers need to match up against an opponent. I didn't think the run defense was all that bad in KC. The focus was more on Hill, Watkins, Kelce, Hardman, etc.

The game plan and use of AJ as a pass catcher was brilliant. The inability of the WRs to get much/any separating was concerning. After Adams how do you see the order of WR 2,3,4 shaping up at this point?

I still think Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the 2, but after that it's looking pretty interchangeable between Geronimo Allison, Lazard and Kumerow. I don't think that's a bad thing necessarily.

It seemed the Packers were pretty high on Shepherd earlier in the season based on non-season play. Are there some players whose game, for whatever reason, just doesn't translate to real game action?

It happens. It's a big jump from the FCS to the NFL, and all signs during camp and the preseason were that Shepherd was capable of that jump. But preseason is also different from the regular season. There's progress to be made at every step.

The Chargers won the close ones last year, but not this year. What makes the difference?

Making the plays when they matter most. That's what this league is all about. It's always a fine line.

Packers running game proved it can run it when everyone in the stadium knows it (last 4 minute game ending drive) however they still seem to want to throw when they get inside the 5, do you think they will become more of running team as the weather turns in GB?

Williams powered one into the end zone in KC, and then on the crazy TD pass they went with the same personnel group and spread everybody out. They got a good matchup with a D-lineman for KC in space, but the Chiefs played the route combination well and switched on Jimmy Graham and Williams, and a LB picked up Williams when the D-lineman slipped at the goal line. It was a weird play all around.

Runner interferance or not?

Goodness, no. That was awful. What really chaps me is not one soul said a word about how poorly Gurriel played that ball at 1B. His footwork was all backwards, and if he's got his proper foot on the bag to make a legitimate stretch, it's a pretty easy out. Gurriel got rewarded with the out for a bad play. Embarrassing for baseball that call was made in Game 6 of the World Series, frankly. I'm glad it didn't affect the outcome. Really looking forward to Game 7 tonight.

Who would you like to see have a career game against the chargers? I would like to see MVS break out.

MVS's breakout game of 2019 is coming. I truly believe that.

I know it doesn't matter, but I saw a ranking for coach of the year and LaFleur was not even on the list, but Peyton and Belichek were. Why no love?

Who cares? The season is only half over. The Pats are unbeaten and the Saints have won half their games without Brees. It is what it is, and there are two months of the regular season left.

Is having a new OC an asset or a liability for the Chargers this week?

We'll find out. These in-season moves can go both ways. You never know until you know.

Do you think the Smith duo should get some break during the game? Hope they have some gas left for the playoffs.

I do think their workload needs to be monitored, but they're also still young players in their mid-20s. As much as the offense has been growing and progressing in Adams' absence, I've sensed the last couple of weeks that the defense needs the bye week to get here. I think it'll really help the group.

I've always appreciated Rivers' play style, demeanor, interviews, etc. Kind of reminds me of Favre so maybe I'm being sentimental. I wish more success has come from his efforts. Have any good Rivers stories or comments on what's kept the Chargers from finding more success?

I've always liked Rivers. Can't say I've been able to watch a ton of his games, but a lot of people thought he wouldn't last with that arm motion of his, yet he's still slinging it pretty good. They've had good teams that have run into some very good teams in the playoffs. I thought last year they were ready to get over the hump, but it didn't work out.

What can be done schematically to slow the pass rush on Rodgers?

I don't think there are any magic schemes. He was sacked five times in KC, and a couple of them were on him. A couple were clearly miscommunicated assignments up front, which can happen on the road in noisy places. The protection had been really solid for about six games before a few breakdowns last week. I don't see it as suddenly a major issue, not with this group.

Who gets a game ball this week?

I'm hoping someone on defense gets it this week.

What was the Packers record in 1 score games last year.

3-6-1 I believe.

Just a shout-out to your photographer!! The shots of Lambeau in the snow were amazing!

Great stuff as always.

Hey Mike, at mid season we are finally allowed (by superstition rules) to look around the league. The 49ers are undefeated, but what do you see them ending up with having to play the saints, ravens, Rams, packers, and Seahawks twice in their remaining schedule? Which two teams do you think get the bye in the NFC? Thanks for all the work you do!!!

I'm not about to predict that at the midway point. That Niners schedule is really interesting. A lot of playoff-caliber teams are playing against each other soon enough here. It's a long way from sorting itself out.

many returners have struggled through different games. it seems that the blocking is a bigger problem on returns. have they mentioned any changes to blocking schemes or personnel in addition to changing returners?

The blocking definitely has not been good enough, but the coaches aren't going to discuss personnel changes publicly and give the opponent a heads-up.

Saints or Niners? the thing that really sticks out with the saints is how all 3 phases of the game are on point. for as well known as the QB and playcalling HC are for the saints there special teams is routinely making plays.

I think the Saints have been the best team in football the last two years, and it's continuing this year. What they did without Brees was phenomenal. That's a really, really good team with a ton of experience in big games.

I happen to think you are overworked Mike. I hope Wes is up to the task of putting out a product that is worth it.

Ha, trust me, Wes put in a ton of work on the project that's about to go up. Number of bylines doesn't necessarily reflect workload. But I will say I'm looking forward to the bye week getting here, too. Four night games in the first eight is really taking its toll.

Do the Chargers have a weakness for us to attack?

They haven't defended the run all that well. Their numbers are better than KC's, but this front can be run against.

The tape from KC has to look pretty scary when the Chargers defensive coaches look at Aaron Jones. Unless they've got someone really special at LB putting a LB on Jones won't cut it. How do you see the Chargers and other future opponents handling him when he motions out of the backfield?

That's the million-dollar question, right? Every team might have different ideas or different solutions depending upon their own personnel.

I loved seeing the flea flicker, even though it didn't end up working out. Can we expect to see more gimmicky/trick plays from LaFleur this season?

No idea.

Has utilizing the RB in the pass game been the biggest difference in the offense this season. Patriots have used mismatches through dump offs to James White to their advantage for quite some time. Glad we finally hopped aboard that train. In previous years we only used the RB for screen plays.

It's a huge part of the offense, not only on planned plays but on getting the RBs in space for check-downs along the boundary, so they can get some yards after the catch on a simple dump-off. I've always been a firm believer a QB gets in a rhythm by simply completing passes, even if they're short ones that don't look like much.

Mike, who do you think will get their first victory first? Miami or Cincinnati?

I'd say Miami. Cincinnati just changed QBs and I don't follow that team at all, but everything I've read said Dalton has been the least of the team's problems. They play each other in December, so if a win doesn't come for one of them before then, someone will get one.

When are we going to be treated to another "LEGO" presentation? Those are hilarious!

I'll pass along the request to the boss.

Looking forward to the Chargers game and expecting it to be close. They have been in every game and our defense does tend to bend lately. what is our best chance to keep it from being "too" close?

I fully expect a close game. The Chargers have played only one game this year that wasn't close. They're in every game.

Marcedes Lewis is having a good season in my opinion. Some great catches and crucial blocking, I am liking what I am seeing from him. That toe tap was a really good catch that didn't get much attention in the Chiefs game.

Packers DL Kenny Clark partnered with NEW Zoo and Adventure Park on Tuesday to host Howe Elementary School's third grade for a day of learning, fun and activities.

A veteran play for sure.

Dome games always scare me with the Packers (Atlanta, New Orleans, etc). I always felt the Packers didn't have the speed to compete as well on turf. Do you think the changes they've made the last couple seasons has reduced that gap?

The Packers are definitely a faster team than they've been. No question about that. Gutekunst has focused on that area personnel-wise.

Mike, there are still ties in the NFL.....

Wouldn't that be something? Miami and Cincinnati tie. Yikes.

One of my favorite opposing players was Matt Forte for his ability to be both a dynamic runner and receiver. Is that what we are heading for with Jones?

It sure looks that way, except Jones is faster and shiftier. Forte was a really powerful guy. Different body types and styles.

I have to be honest, I never gave Andy Reid the credit he deserves. What he did with play calling and Moore on Sunday night was nothing short of brilliant. I also want to give a shout out to ML - nobody in the league could honestly say they expected this level of success halfway through his first season. The Packers are in good hands.

Agree on both counts. Reid probably wishes he hadn't called that third timeout at 2:41 left, though. He wasted it.

A wise (or senile) man once said, "how do you wish to die". it seems this years offense is getting back to that level - stack against the run, here comes the pass, play hybrid on the RB, look out because we're going to pass on you. I feel when Adams comes back this will only get harder for other teams - am I founded in feeling this way?

I suspect Adams' return at a time the offense has evolved to where it is will open up a lot of new possibilities for LaFleur.

All right, folks, I've gotta run. Thanks for all the participation and questions. Take care, we'll talk again next week. Best, Mike

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