Sat, 16 Oct 2021

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his weekly live chat. Mike Spofford

Hey everybody, thanks for logging on. The next game can't get here soon enough, right? Go ahead and start sending in questions and I'll get rolling shortly.

Assuming all goes well the remainder of the season can we legitimately claim a 13-3 record? Makes sense to me, 39-9 just sounds right!

Ha. We shall see. I know you're joking, but I do think everyone has to move away from thinking about the final record and just work on winning the NFC North. The Packers are still the best team in the division. I firmly believe that. But they also have the most brutal schedule I can recall in my time here. It's going to be a tough road regardless.

When Kevin King is on the field the opponents see a big flashing sign and arrow that says "THROW IT HERE". King was the Packers lowest graded DB and Stokes (limited snaps) was the highest. How many more chances does King get?

That's up to the coaches. It wasn't ideal that King missed so much time during training camp, but we all know injuries have been his issue. I still think he's a darn good corner when doing what he does best, which is pressing at the line of scrimmage. He has to improve other parts of his game, and I'm not saying he played well, but based on what I saw on film I don't believe the deep TD was 100% on him. He bears responsibility, yes, but not all of it.

Do you still think some of the Packers defense was unsure of their assignments on Sunday? That's sure what it looked like to my (untrained) eye.

It's hard to say if it was uncertainty or just reacting too slow. I can't get into a player's head. I think growing pains with the new defense were expected, but in my mind not to this extent because I don't think schematically the changes are major. But maybe I'm wrong about that.

Could McDuffie make the 46 and see some snaps this week? He brings a lot of energy and that's something the D could have used last week.

I don't see a rookie sixth-round pick getting thrown in on defense right away. They're not going to just scrap the tandem of Barnes and Campbell after one game, and Burks and Summers are behind them before McDuffie at this point.

How can the defensive line improve with players who failed in the past? Tyler Lancaster and Dean Lowry haven't shown the ability to start along with Kenny Clark.

I don't consider those players failures. Lowry was a solid starter all last season. Lancaster is a run stopper, but if he's on the field and the QB drops back to pass, there's not likely to be pressure from him. Last year's defense was not the cat's meow, but it wasn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be. LaFleur wanted new leadership for the new unit and a little different approach. We have to see how it evolves.

T-H-U-D. That's how you describe it. ML doesn't need to make excuses for players not being ready to play. But why doesn't he try to be a little more imaginative on play calling when things aren't working? Also, I think coaches make players overthink things too much and then they get hesitant. I saw a number of times defensive players not ready for the snap because they're distracted with making last second adjustments that put them in the wrong position anyway.

Imaginative? I'm not sure what you're looking for on offense. They didn't react well to the Saints' two-deep safety look for the bulk of the game, but getting imaginative wasn't going to solve it. On defense, yes, the players need to be in position sooner and not moving around and pointing as the ball is being snapped. That's gotta change.

I heard a lot about low energy before the game. While this is a bit alarming, How much do you think losing an energy player like Jamaal has to play into this and who do you see bringing that energy in the future? I see Jaire on D with it but I think we need an offensive player too!

I said all offseason and through training camp that this team was going to have to embrace the long, hard grind to get back to where they were and take another shot. Lack of energy in the first game indicates to me they haven't mentally embraced the long, hard grind yet. The fact they got this kick in the you-know-where, to use Rodgers' words, in Week 1 given everything swirling around this team for the last five months is probably a good thing.

Hoping there are no bad feelings going on inside of the locker room, after seeing Zadarius posting a picture of a Captains Patch-chain on his Instagram story, while not being elected captain..

There's no way for us to know what it's like in the locker room because the media is not allowed in there again this year. But I don't think Z is out to create trouble or sabotage anything. I think plenty of players still look up to him as a leader even if he wasn't a top vote-getter. Missing all of training camp didn't help his cause there, so to me it can't be a shock others got more votes.

Just want to say the MLF is perfectly built as a modern day NFL coach and I am excited to watch him mature as his tenure continues.

He's shown resiliency and his team has as well. This game will knock you down plenty and you have to get back up. He believes in his approach and he's still won more than 3/4 of the games he's coached. The games don't all go well but nobody's jumping ship just because of a rough Week 1.

Rodgers was very careful not to throw his OL under the bus but to my eye collectively they weren't very good. Rodgers never had that much time and for the most part the run game was stopped at the point of attack, especially early in the game. To much penetration. Your view Mike?

The play of the game, the red-zone INT, was the worst of the protection breakdowns. The sack he took on the bootleg, Rodgers put it on himself and rightly so. I don't think they gave the O-line enough opportunities to get things going in the run game. Part of that was play-calling, part the game situation. It's a game that went sideways and it's not worth spending too much time trying to draw major conclusions.

Despite the bad result of Week 1, do you have a favorite player-performance from that game?

Elgton Jenkins was plenty solid at LT. Marcus Davenport didn't do much except the one sack when the play design left him unblocked. I thought Billy Turner at the other tackle played just fine, too. The two rookies inside showed they belonged and know what they have to work on.

Did the Packers 'quit' in the last quarter versus the Saints?

They put Jordan Love in, which was waving the white flag for the day, but I didn't see the players on the field quitting on their teammates, if that's what you're asking.

How do you see Randall Cobb's role evolving as the season goes along? Is it unreasonable to hope for anything close to what we saw years ago?

That's a really good question. I don't think Cobb is going to be the 1,000-yard, double-digit TD receiver he was back in 2014 again, but I see his usage being a week-to-week, game-plan specific sort of thing. Some games he might get 30-35 snaps and a handful of targets. Other games he might only play 10-12 snaps. But Adams, MVS and Lazard are the top 3 WR on this team until something changes.

What's your new season over/under for Rodgers' INT? Will he reach a 1975 John Hadl like effort of 21 picks :)

I could see him ending the season with a half dozen or fewer again. Last year's October game vs. Tampa and this last one are the only regular-season games in which he's thrown two since 2017, when he came back from the broken collarbone. He hates turnovers more than anything and he's always protected the ball well over the long haul.

Was Amari Rodgers on offense before the fourth quarter? Also, if Heflin proved he belongs in training camp, then give him the chance he deserves and don't keep him inactive just because he's low man on the totem pole.

Cobb is ahead of Rodgers on the WR depth chart at this point, so a No. 5 receiver is going to have limited reps (and the Packers had limited snaps overall in that game, too). Heflin isn't a player who can help on special teams, so it's not a surprise he was inactive with all the other D-linemen healthy.

Much of coaching (successful game plans) on both sides of the ball is doing what the other team doesn't expect. Saints seemed to be well aware of everything the Packers tried to do. Lessons learned for the coaches as well?

Doing what the other team doesn't expect can work in the first month of the season or so, and the Saints certainly got more out of their unscouted looks than the Packers did. But eventually games come down to doing what you do best, which gives you game plans to build off of week after week. The foundations of game plans are not surprises.

Although it was a pretty dismal weekend for the NFC North which team had the most positive outing?

Probably the Bears. I know they ended up losing by 20, but they were on the road in prime time against a Super Bowl contender in a stadium that was hosting fans for the first time. They hung in there and were down by only one score well into the second half before the Rams put them away. The Lions had an impressive comeback, but that was mostly due to a lucky bounce on an onside kick. Without that, Detroit loses to SF by a lot more.

What's the Inbox schedule with the Monday game? Wes on Monday, you're on Tuesday?

Correct. We'll switch days next week with the Monday night game, so Wes will post Mon, Wed and Fri mornings, and I'll take Tue, Thur, Sat. Then the week after we'll go back to our normal days.

Which team (besides the Packers) were the biggest surprise of opening weekend? Either good or bad

I was surprised, not that Arizona won, but that the Cardinals blew out the Titans the way they did. Tennessee was a playoff team last year, and I think Arizona made a little bit of a statement in Week 1.

Billy Turner seemed to have a nice edge to his responses the other day. Was that normal or part of being frustrated from the Saints game?

Turner was as expected. He's been asked before to go in front of the media after rough games, so he's used to it. It's not fun duty and I don't blame him for not exactly enjoying it.

We really don't know what plays the Coach sends in from the sidelines. Maybe the running plays were sent in and maybe they would have been successful. We'll never know. On to Detroit and hopefully better results.

True, but LaFleur regretted the keep pass he called after Dillon had run twice for 12 yards, so that call that led to the sack wasn't changed. I do wonder if the pass on second down when backed up by the goal line that led to the illegal shift penalty was a last-second change, though.

Any explanation yet on why Z's hit on Winston was a penalty? When is the league going to change the rules on what's reviewable, especially on plays that result in turnovers?

You're preaching to the choir there, as I did my best to state my case on the latest episode of Unscripted. LaFleur said he wasn't given an explanation, and the media hasn't had a chance to talk to Z about it. Those who know me know my position -- make the safety rules reviewable so these calls, which apparently are so important rules keep being added and adjusted, can be right.

Last night notwithstanding, How about those Brewers? Nice to see Peralta bouncing back after his stint on IR.

They need to get a few more guys healthy and they'll be ready to go for October.

What aspects of play calls can the line, or center, change? Just blocking patterns or can they over rule the coach and QB and say we are run blocking, so run the ball?

It depends on the play call, if it has options. Many do, and the QB can pick the one he wants. But not all options are run to pass, or pass to run. Sometimes it's the direction of the run, or routes that change at the line based on the coverage. In any event, even without changing the play, changes are made to protection calls and such depending on the look of the defense.

Did you see Rodgers on Pat McAfee?

I did not but I heard some of the comments. I wondered why he was so slow to get up after the first INT, and now we know. I thought what he said about dealing with the lows vs. being praised for the highs was absolutely spot-on.

It appeared from my inexperienced view of the game, that Dillion ran the ball with much more tenacity than Jones (although there were limited runs). My question is, do you believe Dillion earned even more carries for himself going forward?

The times Jones got handoffs, he didn't really have anywhere to go, so I'm not going to make that judgment. I expect both to get more cracks at it Monday night than they did last Sunday.

It's surprising how much the narrative can change in a week with only one game played. We all need to relax (talking to you national media) and move on.

We live in an instant reaction, constantly judgmental world. It's part of the deal. Blocking out the noise is a cliche, but it's important to do. Nothing anybody outside the locker room or meeting rooms says really matters at the end of the day. The players and coaches know that, but they also know the judgment doesn't stop. It's perpetual, good or bad.

If the way to beat a two-high, coverage-oriented defense is to just keep running the ball, why not just do that every time? I seem to remember a few games (both Lions games in '19, maybe) where the Packers came from way behind without trying to run much.

You still have to execute blocks and open holes. Just because there are two safeties back doesn't mean holes will magically appear. If teams can stop the run with both safeties back, they're going to stick in that defense. The run game has to be successful enough for them to change it up.

I'm kind of tired of discussing last week. The Packers weren't ready to play. It's over.

How about: Just Beat Detroit (?)

Sounds good to me. With that I'm going to call it a chat. Thanks everybody. Talk again next week. Take care, Mike.

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