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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What's the vibe in the Packers' locker room?

Editor Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat


Hey everybody, welcome to another mid-week chat. Sorry about the one-hour delay today, had a meeting that cropped up so I had to adjust. Thanks for logging on. Go ahead and start sending in your questions and I'll get going shortly.

We've signed a number of cornerbacks this season, and I don't recall seeing any of them play. Have they mostly been on special teams or just an insurance policy?

Those signings are about keeping depth available, which can help on special teams as well. Robert Rochell has played on special teams.

Is it possible to over correct on Barclay?

You mean focus on Saquon too much? Of course. That's always a possibility. But he's New York's best offensive weapon and you have to make someone else beat you. The Giants' passing game has been a major struggle all season. You have to make them turn to that passing game.

Mike, here's hoping Christian Watson makes a fast recovery from the hamstring injury. He's played outstanding the past 2 weeks!

Yeah, everyone's hoping it's not a long absence, but there's just no telling right now.

What is your take on the "Love Shove"? Gimmick or Human Confrontation?

I strongly dislike it. Said so last year. It's not football. Not how the game is supposed to be played. There were rules against "assisting the runner" on the books for years in the NFL for a reason.

Hi Mike, I feel like we kept Mahomes and Maauto in check and let them gash us on the ground in exchange. Not good to see the run D get beat like that but taking away the opponents best threat still seemed to work well.

Kelce got free for a couple of big plays, but by and large he didn't have a huge impact on the game. What LaFleur was disappointed with, as I wrote about this morning in a story, is the times Pacheco gashed them when the defense had an extra safety in the box to defend the run. If you make a call to stop the run, then you've got to stop the run.

Thanks for all you do to keep us safe from self-neutralizing pundits!

Self-neuralizing. A word I made up in the MIB context.

Hi Mike, just pondering our problems stopping the run which has been consistent under Joe Barry. How much of this so you think is failure in player effort or alignment versus just a scheme Joe employs to limit the longer pass plays?

As noted earlier, there are times the Packers are scheming to stop the run and have struggled. That's what gets frustrating. The bottom line is the run defense has been the most inconsistent aspect of this GB defense, which goes hand in hand with the tackling being very inconsistent as well. There are games they've played the run, and tackled, really, really well. Then that level of execution -- gap fits, tackling, etc. -- eludes them in another game.

Mike, props to Keisean Nixon for his outstanding play last Sunday, but especially keeping his cool when Pacheco took the swing at him. Took a lot of self-control to not respond. Props to him!

LaFleur pointed that out in his postgame locker room speech. It was a big moment in the game, for sure.

What do you make of the defense up to this point? It's hard not to be impressed when you zoom out, but it still feels very frustrating to watch most games.

The bottom line results have been solid, but there are moments that are frustrating to watch, no doubt. Giving up the third-and-18 to Mahomes early in the second half totally changed the course of that game. They had it schematically snuffed out, but then a couple of coverage guys chased Mahomes too early when he scrambled, went after him before he crossed the line of scrimmage, and it opened up the throwing window to hit Kelce and move the sticks. Very frustrating, but it's a momentary lapse and bad timing.

This seems eerily like1991. Holmgren and Favre's first year. Pack started out 3-6 and went on a 6 game winning streak only to lose to the Vikings on the last game to finish just out of the playoffs with a 9-7 record. I still remember the excitement of that winning streak since it came out of nowhere!

That was 1992, I believe.

Loved hearing what new RB Kenyan Drake had to say about the vibe in the locker room. How many other teams has he played on ?

I absolutely love the Drake signing. Brings an element of game breaker speed we need out of the backfield. How soon do you think he can contribute?

The Packers are Drake's fifth team. Not sure how soon he can be ready to play if they need him, but he's obviously no stranger to diving into new playbooks, so we'll see.

Do you think the O-line rotation / competition will continue, or does it seem to be sorting itself out?

There was a lot less rotation at LT and RG in the Chiefs game than previous weeks.

Mike, are you as concerned as I am of Watson having chronic hamstring problems that will never allow him to reach is full potential and may even shorten his career?

You certainly get concerned just two years in these keep cropping up, but it's not for a lack of effort to get past it. Some guys are just built that way and it can take a while. Clay Matthews had a ton of hamstring problems early in his career, and they never really went away, but they certainly lessened over time.

Why two MNF games at the same time?

Something new the league has tried this year a couple of times. Probably in the interest of improving the odds for a good matchup without having to resort to flex scheduling.

'Morning, Mike. What's the feeling around the locker room now? Is it quiet confidence, excitement, relief? Do you think they now expect to win every "next game", or are they still cautious about backsliding?

I think the players are just keeping their heads down and continuing to work. That's been the message from the coaching staff. Certainly it's more enjoyable to get wins and see the hard work paying off, but I don't think this group is going to lose sight of how they got to where they are. All their struggles are not that long ago. You don't just forget how different it was when that was so recent.

Nice to know we control our own destiny again.

One at a time.

I think our TE room has done a great job in the absence of Luke Musgrave so far, what say you?

Agreed. They've done their part. None of the other TEs can replace the threat Musgrave poses downfield for bigger gains, but the coaches aren't asking them to do that. They're calling plays they can make work, and when the execution is there, you see the results.

Forget player total consistency, how about SOME consistency among officials?

That's what everyone would like to see. A great example in this last game was Ballentine getting a DPI for an arm tug on a pass that looked too far in front of the receiver anyway, but when the exact same thing happened to Kraft not long after, no flag. Same side of the field and everything. That's what angers players and coaches more than anything.

With the veritable plethora of WRs showing good hands this year for GB, losing Watson for a week or two feels different than losing an Adams or a Jordy.

That's a valid point, but Watson is such an explosive threat that defenses play the Packers differently when he's out there, and they'll be able to adjust better to other things the Packers do well with him not involved.

I've been anxious for the return of Ja and Stokes to improve the secondary with experience, but with the way the young guys have been playing I fell a little like leaving well enough alone and not meshing with the chemistry. If aint't broke... what is your feeling on that?

Jaire Alexander is one of your premier players. When he's healthy and good to go, he plays. There's no debating that. Eric Stokes, after such a long absence, is a different decision. I think his eventual availability will give Barry and the defensive coaches more options in terms of packages, or just spelling guys here or there over the course of a long game. That's not a bad thing by any means and can be very valuable.

Will Shaquon be as tough to stop as Pacheco?

I expect Barkley to be a huge part of NY's game plan. You have to get a lot of hats to the ball with him, because he's a tough tackle one-on-one.

Hi Mike, how do the fans reconcile when the coaches are telling us someone is playing really well but we are just not seeing the same thing in the broadcast (ie Josh Myers)?

The coaches are basing their opinions off of reviewing every single play of every single game. They grade their players on every snap they take. That's a much more thorough evaluation than anybody watching a TV broadcast and glancing here or there at a particular player.

How about that punt coverage at the end of the half! Took away all of KCs strategy options.

That's twice in the last two games the Packers have downed a punt inside the 5. The punt unit has been doing some really good work.

Mike, per my research, which could be incorrect, the Packers have defeated the defending Super Bowl champion nine times over the years. This win seems to have generated the most excitement since the Packers beat Washington on Monday night back in 1983. Do you think that is because of the youth of the team, and fans trying to figure out who they really are?

I think there was a lot of wonder and anticipation whether the performance on Thanksgiving, beating a first-place team, was just a one-off or something the team was truly going to build on. Getting that answer by beating another first-place team, and the defending champs to boot with a two-time MVP quarterback -- who was outplayed statistically by GB's new starting QB -- generated the reaction this victory did.

When do you believe the Love evaluation is over and he is the guy gets long term deal?

Not my call to make, but there's certainly plenty to like about how Love is playing, and has grown throughout this season. It's not a decision the Packers have to concern themselves with until next spring anyway.

On Nixon's interception it looked like he ran the route better than the wr. He really has been a great add not only on special teams, but being a blue collar player inside. Do we think Lafleur will scheme him some reps at wr as a new wrinkle?

Nixon has had to play so many snaps on defense and special teams, I'm not sure adding to his workload on offense is really in the cards. But as always, we'll see. I pointed out in my WYMM piece this week that Nixon got an unobstructed shot at that INT because the receiver slowed up and almost stopped on the route, seeing Nixon had him beat with the anticipation and coverage. That's why it looked like Nixon "ran the route better." The receiver momentarily gave up on the play.

Good afternoon Mike! Outside of Insider Inbox, it seems that you write more about film/game oriented topics (WYMM, scheme-adjustment columns, etc.) while Wes seems to write more about individual players (a la AJ Dillon & Offense story from this week). Do you each have designated topics that you focus in on, or am I wrong about there being any rhyme or reason?

I think we both gravitate toward the aspects of football coverage we enjoy the most, at this point in our careers. That's the best way I can put it.

Hi Mike, not sure if you are interested in taking a fundamentals question, but I've been confused how ball placement on the sideline works. Is ball location placed based on where IT goes out of bounds or the players feet go out of bounds? Different on a run vs. catch? I've seen players dancing along the sideline to stay in bounds carrying ball such that it went over the boundary already? What am I missing?

The spot of the ball is supposed to be where the ball is when the player goes out of bounds. Sometimes that can be tough to see but this is an issue I think the officials generally do a decent job.

Do you think the NFL should go back to allowing challenges on PI calls? I know it was a disaster the first time around but with proper leadership I think it could work.

I think it'll be a while before the league tries that again, but I wouldn't rule it out somewhere down the line.

One struggle has been taking sacks in critical, field goal range, situations. Jordan should get rid of the ball but it seems like the plays are longer developing ones which does not increase the odds of a positive result. What do you think about that?

I think he struggled some with that earlier in the season, but in this last game, taking the sack at the end of the game was the right call rather than throwing incomplete to stop the clock.

For all the awesome plays we've seen on offense in recent weeks, my favorite may still be AJ Dillon hurdling over 2 Lions defenders.

That was pretty cool, I must admit.

What do you think about Crosby signing with the Rams, a potential playoff contender with the Packers?

I'm glad Crosby is back in the league. I'm surprised it took this long, but I hope he is able to continue his career as long as he wants to. Not only is he one of this franchise's all-time greats, he's one of the all-time great guys.

What is Musgrave's status? is there a chance he can return?

He's out at least two more games. No idea whether or not he'll make it back.

Whats your take on the vikings? Does Josh Dobbs fall back to earth?

I just heard the Vikings are sticking with Dobbs this week. They're getting Jefferson back so they're going to see how he does with a major weapon back in the fold.

No matter how the season pans out from here on in do you think the last two games show this team has finally arrived?

Thinking they've arrived is the worst thing for the players and something you always have to caution against with a young team. LaFleur has mentioned that specifically. From the outside, the season has definitely shown the progress everyone was looking for and hoping for. But there are still five games left. One strong month doesn't decide anything.

Do you think Love still has lots growing pains to get through?

Of course. You don't get through everything this league is going to throw at you in 3/4 of one season.

On the Packers last possession, it was 3rd and 6 and the offense went for the pass and the win. Do you think LaFleur would have gone for it on 4th down if it was 4th and 2 (instead of it being a sack)? What about 4th and 1?

Hard to say. I think fourth and 1 he would've been tempted to put the game away. Fourth and 2 he probably kicks the FG. But I'm just guessing.

On the WR's hands, they were dropping a lot of balls earlier in the season and many were complaining. Obviously they read the fan chats and amended their ways. Or maybe they brought the bricks back to practice?

All the young receivers have made mistakes and regretted some plays. What you like to see is how they've put those aside and come back to make other plays. Nobody has gone into the tank over a bad drop, and they've all had them.

Your answer about the outstanding punt coverage reminded me ESPN ranked the Packers special teams #32 last week. I thought that was bonkers. Your take?

Hadn't paid attention to any of those rankings. This year, the special teams have had more penalties than Bisaccia would like, and there have been some struggles on FGs and PATs. I think GB's return games have been solid despite nothing as extraordinary as Nixon did last year, and the coverage teams have done a good job helping with field position.

I think I noticed some of the receivers doing 33's first down celebration (wiping the front of his jersey three times). Did you notice this? Possible nod to a true leader in the locker room in his absence?

It would appear so.

The Dillon critics are silent. What a workhorse.

I've said it a few times, and Dillon has said it himself -- he's been cutting it loose. Earlier in the year, I saw a running back trying to make the perfect read every time he got the ball. Now he's just making a read -- even if it's not a perfect one -- and attacking it to get to full speed.

Are there a lot more QB injuries than usual this season? I wonder what the number of missed games from a starting QB are this season compared to other seasons.

I don't have any lists in front of me, but it does seem like an extremely high number of games missed by starting QBs this year.

Re: what coaches see and do vs. what we watch. Some years ago I contracted NFL Films to do work for my company. During time there, I met and sat down with a former player/GM reviewing film. He was watching a left OT. He viewed ONE play for at least fifteen minutes, back and forth, back and forth. Noting ever step/misstep and what else should have been done between the OT and OG. It was a great education on what they know and do vs. our couch coaching. With that being said, I believe this staff has moved the team upward even in the midst of all the injuries

Scouting and evaluating players is way more involved than I could comprehend.

When does the league typically issue fines for penalties? I'm hoping we don't see Owens' name mentioned in that regard this week.

Those normally come out on Fridays, I believe. If Owens isn't fined, we'll know what that means. I would expect Pacheco to be fined.

Logged in late, so sorry if this is already addressed. Has the severity of Watson's injury been described as a re-injury, sprain, pull, tear or something else? It clues us in regarding recovery time.

No, LaFleur doesn't share that kind of information.

Good afternoon. Correct me if I'm wrong, in past seasons has your premiere post-game article been labeled "Editorial" and is that different now? For some reason I thought the "Rapid Reaction" articles were players on social media reacting to the game, but I started reading those and they seem to be the equivalent of your former Editorials. Just want to make sure I'm not missing the good stuff!

Yeah, we just changed the postgame editorial to Rapid Reaction to give it a name (with the hope that maybe our ad folks can sell a sponsorship of it at some point). But it's the same piece. I take the same approach to it. We just wanted to jazz up the name a bit.

The offensive line has made such a turn around, it's hard to qualify its importance to the offensive efficiency. What do you think caused the improvement?

Reps and health. Earlier in the year, Elgton Jenkins and Zach Tom were both playing at less than 100%, and as their health has come around, their play has ratcheted up. Walker is in his first year playing NFL snaps, so every game he plays adds to his experience.

All the NFC tall is of the Eagles and 49ers how about the Cowboys if they beat the Eagles this weekend

Yeah, the NFC East and race for the top seed gets even more interesting if Dallas knocks off Philly on Sunday. Still a lotta season left, as I keep saying.

I know it wasn't a walk-off kick for the win, but how big was Anders Carlson' kick to put the game up 8 for his confidence?

That was a big-time kick. It was 10 yards longer than anyone wanted it to be, but he came through. I don't think Carlson has had any confidence issues even as he's missed some kicks, frankly. He doesn't strike me as one who questions himself. He puts in the work and they continue to refine the process.

What a roller coaster. From let's tank to we're making the playoffs, and in just a month! This may end up being one of the most enjoyable seasons we've had in a long time since none of us truly knew what to expect.

I'll never understand focusing on next year's draft until a season's legitimate possibilities are out the window. Yeah, it didn't look great at 3-6 with games against the Chargers, Lions and Chiefs coming up, but the improvement was starting to show. There's never a guarantee improvement is going to translate to wins, but you never know. This league is crazy.

Best wishes to Coach McCarthy as he goes under the knife for an appendectomy. Minor as far as surgeries go, but it's still surgery

Yeah, I had that exact surgery in a middle-of-the-night emergency last season. It's not fun but hope all goes well for him.

Any idea when Aaron Jones returns?

Nope. First practice this week is tomorrow so we'll see if he's back out there yet or not.

On defense, the Packers rank poorly in yards per carry and are one of the better teams in yards per pass attempt. This isn't the first year this has happened. Is this due to the Packer's defensive philosophy? It's a passing league, so if you can make things difficult on the opposing team's QB you give yourself a better chance to win?

Defensive coordinators despise giving up big plays, because it's very hard to recover from them and prevent points from going up on the board. If you don't allow big plays, you give your defense a chance to stop teams in the red zone and force field goals. That's often the difference in these games, as it was Sunday night, when it was 14-6 at half.

Brazil and Spain? Is the NFL trying to compete with soccer as a worldwide sport?

In a word, yes. That's Goodell's vision, taking the American version of football worldwide.

It's funny how one play can change the view of a game/season. What if KC would have scored on either of those long throws, tied the game and won in overtime. What would the feelings be about this team? This league IS crazy.

Right, just as the fourth-and-1 lob to Romeo Doubs totally changes that game if Doubs doesn't make a phenomenal catch. It was 14-12 at the time and instead, a couple plays later, it was 21-12.

I've enjoyed this season more than any season since 2014. I've loved watching the team mature, learn, and improve. I wasn't upset at losses because they always fought to the end of each game. I loved how the coaches kept grinding. It's refreshing and exciting. I just knew they would play better, make fewer mistakes, and win.

As I said, I could see the improvement coming. I just didn't know if it would mean more wins, because no one can predict that. But things can turn quickly in this league. I've certainly learned that several different times. With that, the hour is up and I'm going to call it a chat. Thanks for all the questions today, folks. There were a ton and I'm sorry if I didn't get to yours. Take care and we'll talk again soon. Best, Mike

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