Tue, 31 Jan 2023

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chatMike Spofford

Hi everybody. Hope it was a good Thanksgiving for all. Go ahead and start sending in your questions and I'll get started here very soon.

On Monday I had to do some work on the roof and a mishap with the ladder resulted in an 8-foot fall to the deck. Predictably at 71 that didn't go well. I need you and the Packers to cheer me up this week. Just remember things can get worse. Much worse. It took me 20 minutes to write this.

Ouch. Sorry to hear about your accident and wish you a speedy recovery. Take care of yourself. Hopefully this Sunday's game can get the Packers back in the win column and a smile on faces.

As a young fella, if Romeo Doubs isn't at practice today/tomorrow, they won't even put him in Sunday if he's '100%' ready to go, right? I guess 'practiced' may be included in that 100% back for a young guy?

With the amount of time he's missed (three full weeks now), I would guess Doubs needs to be on the practice field by Thursday to have a realistic chance of playing. It's usually a different approach with veteran players vs. rookies, but there are no absolutes, so we'll just see.

Has a team ever been eliminated from playoff contention before their bye week? Because we could inflict that on the Bears this week. Another unintended consequence of the late byes...

Hadn't thought of that, but I guess I'd have to go back and look at when teams with very poor records had their bye weeks.

Hi, Mike! Thanks for doing this and the live blog during the games!

Have you seen anything this week during practice that indicates the team is working on defensive fundamentals (tackling, gap control, etc)? With that performance last week I feel like getting back to basics might be a good thing for them to do.

Well, today is the first practice of the week, but we don't get to see much of practice during the regular season anyway. When it comes to missed tackles, I usually think that falls mostly under taking poor angles than the actual physical skill of getting someone on the ground on contact. Poor angles make for easy tackles to break. It's mental focus, spatial awareness, timing, all of that. For whatever reason, the Eagles just had the Packers all out of whack Sunday night.

Did you see a change in the defense at some point in the 2nd half last week. The rush seemed to be more constrained then the normal pedal to the metal get a sack rush where they lose containment.

I do think they adjusted. There were some early rushes that were far too aggressive, and Hurts doesn't need much of a lane to escape. Fields can get by on even smaller lanes to be honest. I can't speak to how the game plan for Philly was put together, but I think early on when the spy approach was having no effect on Hurts, the pass rushers had to dial it back.

One thing I was surprised to see was not much Samori Toure lately. I think he and Christian Watson could both stretch the field. With Doubs coming back soon, would you anticipate any packages with all three out there?

Hard to say. Toure hasn't played much lately. I don't know if he's just not earning game reps in practice, or if it's more an effort to have Watson, Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard on the field as much as possible right now. When Doubs comes back, I'd expect to see Watson and Doubs on the field a lot together, but I don't know what that means for Toure.

20 missed tackles... it seems like either we have some defensive coaches who aren't good teachers, and/or some defensive players who aren't good learners. But we'll have to wait until the offseason to get more clues. Fair?

LaFleur said it was actually more than 20. Like I said, sure tackling is as much if not more so about angles than the physical skills on contact. The Packers were one of the better tackling teams in the league according to the statistical metrics last year, and this year that hasn't been the case. How that happens with professional players, I have no idea.

Pondering what might have been I have harkened back to the Giants game. The Packers were 3-1 and up two touchdowns in the 2nd quarter. Then things go to heck and the Packers are forced into attempting a Hail Mary, which of course results in a broken thumb for Aaron Rodgers. Without that injury maybe the Packers have another win or two under their belt, which means they would still have meaningful games on the horizon. Not that the Packers have shown anything close to championship-level play at any time this year, but it would have been nice to at least have the possibility that if they started playing their best football now it could have been the start of something special.

I've played that scenario out in my mind several times. If things don't go haywire in London resulting in the Hail Mary that injures Rodgers' thumb, who knows where this season would be? Nobody does. That's the beauty and the bane of it.

Mike, what input, if any, does Gutey have about playing time for various players? Curious if he has any say in who's playing quarterback in the upcoming weeks after the bye.

If the Packers are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, I would suspect the GM would be involved with the coaching staff in decisions about playing time. That said, even with all of GB's struggles, these next two games are imminently winnable. Can they get to 6-8 and start scoreboard watching? We shall see.

Dear Mike,

What players have surprised you on positive side both on offense, defense and special teams?

I don't know if I'd classify these as surprises necessarily. But I like what Watson and Doubs have done as rookie receivers. It's just too bad they've dealt with so many injuries. Walker shows a lot of promise on defense, even if he's had some rough moments. T.J. Slaton keeps improving up front, and Kingsley Enagbare looks like a keeper. On special teams is where the most guys come to mind ... Keisean Nixon, Rudy Ford, Eric Wilson, Isaiah McDuffie, Taylor, Tariq Carpenter ... there's a lot to like about what those guys bring to the mix.

Your WYMM was great. Clearly Nixon kick returning brought a spark, but, were there other changes in the other 10 that made a difference?

I thought they just blocked really well, and a lot of guys looked in sync with their assignments and persistence. The last one Nixon really showed his running skills and vision, because that easily could have been stuffed early. But the blockers gave him opportunities on the other two and he hit those with gusto.

Following up on Nathans comment I hope the coach is careful when he calls for more aggressiveness. It has seemed like every time he has made a point of that we have got a ton of Personal Foul 15 yards penalty calls.

There's always a fine line, but the rules and officiating in this game also makes life difficult. Case in point: Jarran Reed's sack of Hurts on Sunday night. Reed was on the ground, dove at Hurts' ankles, and got him down. If Hurts has gotten rid of the ball, that's a low hit on the QB and 15 yards. Reed took the chance and got him before he threw it, but that easily could've been a 15-yard penalty if the ball is gone. Life on defense in this league is not easy.

Can't wait to see the starting OL in CHI for (fifth? Fourth?) straight start. The last two DLs we faced were really good. CHI line isn't as formidable as it has been in the past. Do you think that this, in CHI, is as good as any to get another run dominant game like against DAL?

The Bears have been very poor defensively, period, the last several games. The continuity up front developing for the Packers is definitely a good sign. O-lines playing together is always better than the alternative. But this is a game GB's offense needs to build on what it did in Philly, because the Bears have really struggled on that side of the ball, and some key pieces from earlier in the season are now gone (Quinn, R. Smith traded, E. Jackson IR, etc.).

The Packers understandably have been trying to keep the championship window open as long as possible and for the last three years have been kicking that can down the road. Now that can looks like a 55-gallon drum. I assume this approach isn't sustainable. So, the question is', What's Next?

Great question, but the salary cap is going to rise substantially in the coming years and the Packers' plans have taken that into account. As far as what they've kicked down the road, they are going to have some cap issues other teams don't, and tough decisions will have to be made like always, but they won't be as tight up against it as they've been these last two years I don't think.

Spoff, thanks for all you do for packer nation. What is your proudest professional moment as a sports writer?

The night at age 23 I bolted into the newsroom in Wausau coming back from a marathon sectional final volleyball match that sent a local team to state, and as I sprinted to my desk, my sports editor said, "You've got 15 inches and 15 minutes," meaning length of story in column inches and time until deadline. I hit both marks. That's when I figured I could probably make it in this business. The rest was built from that night.

How many times have you covered a game at Soldier Field Mike?

I think this Sunday will be my 16th in the press box there ... didn't travel in '20 or '21 but have been to every other game there since '06, including the one postseason tilt.

Who would or should the Packers like to sign to new contract using this year's salary cap? Thanks for doing this!

There are a few guys in line for possible extensions, but I don't know how the Packers have prioritized them, or whether those players have prioritized the Packers.

What is the process for doing a WYMM? DO you watch every single play?

I usually pick one side of the ball to focus on when I get to the office on Monday (in this week's case it was special teams). There isn't enough time for me to watch every play in all three phases as closely as I need to for that piece. But as I watch, I just start taking notes at things that jump out at me, maybe something I made a mental note of from watching the game live I wanted to check out. As the notes pile up, I see if there's a theme developing or a focus on an individual player or players that makes sense to feature. Then I put together the written piece in more detail and cut up the video clips with my little telestrator app.

Hey Mike, thank you for all the hard work. In today's II a reader challenged Joe Barry's coaching. I can't imagine during X and O time a coach says 'and this is where I want you to miss the tackle.' It's about execution, no?

That was basically LaFleur's point on Monday. When you have 20-plus missed tackles, there's not much more the coaches can do. Missed tackles means players are in position and not making the plays. That said, LaFleur also noted there are times the defensive call might not have been the best for a certain situation. So nobody's getting the brunt of the blame, but nobody's being absolved either.

You were spot on today in the II saying be careful about laying the blame on Barry when it comes to the defense. Look no further than ST's... we fired 2 coaches in consecutive years. New specialists brought in this year by Rich along with using starters has made a big difference in the turnaround.

Look, ultimately it's a coach's job to get the players to perform, and when they don't they're held accountable when everything is analyzed at the end. That's how this business works. Regarding ST, there aren't that many starters playing on ST actually, though guys like Nixon and Ford have taken on larger roles on defense and are continuing to be ST leaders, yes. But bringing in veteran leaders on ST like Nixon and Dallin Leavitt with a leader like Bisaccia has changed the culture of that phase, no question.

Did you see the Pulisic goal yesterday? Vic probably has his blinds drawn tightly shut, but I feel like even he would have appreciated the human confrontation there.

Perhaps so. I saw the highlight and it was pretty impressive. World class athletes are world class athletes in my book. There's always plenty to appreciate.

Dear Mike,

Does Taylor Rodgers who does the Packers POV Podcasts part of your staff? They are very well done.

Yes, Taylor joined us a few years ago. He's technically on the video side of things, in charge of Packers Daily and the POV podcasts. He's also a producer for Wayne and Larry's gameday radio broadcast. And he appreciates my beer recommendations, unlike Wes, so he's got that going for him, which is nice.

Speaking of which to Hugh Janis' comment, I'm still mad that they're leaving Soldier Field and potentially even having a domed stadium. As much as I dislike the Bears, I still hate that because it's a part of tradition.

Yeah, the Bears moving to a dome is just depressing.

Watson remind me so much of James Lofton. Not saying he is Lofton, but height and speed match.

Physical traits, yeah, there's a similarity. Watson can just run away from people with those long strides.

Do you see Watson winning ROY if he averages 1.5 TDs per game?

If he gets to double-digit TDs by the end of the season, he'll have to get due consideration. He was a late bloomer this year because of the injuries he's dealt with, but he's proven he can be a game-changer out there.

Mike, have you and Wes ever played the Packers Predict contest for bragging rights and how have you fared to date this year?

I am not in the prediction business. There is absolutely zero upside for me to engage in that world.

Is Toure ahead of Watkins on the depth chart now?

I don't know. In Philly, Watkins played four snaps on offense and Toure played two.

It's a team game, always has been, always will be. Part of defensive poor angles and poor tackling technique is because offense has had too many 3 and outs plus lack of taking advantage of turnovers. At times, the defense looks and plays like they're exhausted.

I think at times this year that's been the case. I don't think that was really the case in Philly. The interception on the first drive and the three-and-out to start the second half were the only real bad possessions on offense in that game. Otherwise, the defense had its opportunities to reset and rise up.

Many of life's twists and turns come down to opportunity and timing. It was reported two years ago that the Packers offered the DC job to Leonhard and he turned it down. We seldom get a chance at a do-over. Could this be one of them for Jim Leonhard?

That's a popular question amongst fans right now regarding Jim Leonhard. I have no idea what's going to happen with Leonhard at Wisconsin, what his future ambitions are, or what LaFleur is going to decide regarding his own defensive staff. For me to speculate on any of that would be out of line.

Obviously the Packers will prepare for both, but how much does the game plan change if you're facing Fields or Siemian?

I think you prepare for Fields and all of the running he's going to do, and then you can make adjustments for Siemian if necessary. It would be easier to do that than the other way around. In any event, making the Bears throw the ball is the key to the game defensively. Stop the run, whether it's their backs or QB running it.

Coach LaFleur said after the first pre-season game that the team was out of shape. Could conditioning be an issue that hurt the team all season long?

No. The team had plenty of gas in the tank to win overtime games against New England and Dallas, and the defense played some of its best football in the fourth quarter vs. Tennessee after an otherwise rough night vs. the pass. I'm not going back to a comment about conditioning from August and saying that has anything to do with 4-8.

All right folks, with that I'll call it a chat. LaFleur is headed to the podium in about 15 minutes so I need to get downstairs. Thanks for the participation and we'll talk again soon. Best, Mike.

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