Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

06 May 2009

Four Downs: NFC North

by Bill Barnwell

Chicago Bears

After years of waiting, the Bears finally secured their franchise quarterback; the arrival of Jay Cutler in a trade created hope around the Bears offense for the first time since the nascent days of Rex Grossman. Grossman and Kyle Orton are both gone, along with starting tackles John St. Clair and John Tait. 2008 first-round pick Chris Williams will be expected to fill in on one side, while former Browns tackle Kevin Shaffer will shore up the other end. If Williams isn't ready, it may not matter how good the Bears' quarterback is.

Cutler won't have the same breadth of options to throw to; after trading their first-round pick to acquire him, Chicago's first offensive selection was third-round wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias. Iglesias is a good blocker who should operate over the middle, and he should see immediate playing time in the Chicago offense while competing for a starting role with Earl Bennett.

Chicago's glaring hole heading into the offseason was at safety; as expected, longtime Bear Mike Brown was released, but instead of adding one of the prominent safeties available, Chicago chose former Saints free safety Josh Bullocks. Bullocks lost his starting job in New Orleans last year, which doesn't bode well considering how porous the Saints' secondary was. The Bears may very well miss Brown as the season goes along.

NOTE: I got a couple of e-mails from readers wondering -- well, yelling at me for being so stupid, but I'll go with wondering -- why I didn't mention Orlando Pace in the tackle discussion above. My answer was that I'm very skeptical on the likelihood that a 33-year-old player who suffered season-ending injuries in 2006 and 2007 and missed time last year is the solution at any position. You, as always, are welcome to disagree.

Undrafted Free Agents

Rutgers linebacker Kevin Malast could stick as the backup weakside linebacker and on special teams; he has that college wrestler background that's all the rage with NFL teams these days, with the added benefit of having actually played college ball, serving as defensive captain for the Scarlet Knights this year while contributing against both the run and the pass. He's no pass rusher, though, so it might be hard for him to stand out.

Detroit Lions

New coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew applied a scorched earth policy to the Lions' roster; it's very possible that the number of players remaining from the 2008 team may be approaching single digits by the end of training camp.

The most prominent pick, of course, is rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford. He of the huge arm is extremely unlikely to start the season under center, so expect Daunte Culpepper to at least be the opening day quarterback. After adding second-division starters like Bryant Johnson and Ronald Curry in free agency and tight end Brandon Pettigrew on draft day, the Lions will at least have other options besides Calvin Johnson to toss the ball up to.

Schwartz cut his teeth on the defensive side of the ball, though, which is where the Lions will be expected to improve quickest. Detroit traded disappointing tackle Cory Redding to Seattle for former Pro Bowler Julian Peterson; he should combine with Ernie Sims to give Detroit at least one unit of strength. Schwartz is cognizant of building his defensive playbook to his team's strengths and weaknesses after undergoing the rebuilding effort in Tennessee, so expect few blitzes early on as he attempts to build around those linebackers and rookie safety Louis Delmas, who should be the defensive captain by 2011.

Undrafted Free Agents

The most prominent of the team's UFA's would be one Demir "D.J." Boldin, who emerged as a senior after accruing only 26 receptions over his first three seasons. As a senior, he made the All-ACC first team with 77 catches for 782 yards, beating out Darrius Heyward-Bey in the process (as Cris Carter might remind you). Boldin's somewhat like his brother, lacking great speed and size, but showing off good hands and routes as a possession receiver.

Green Bay Packers

The biggest switch for Green Bay comes on defense, where incoming defensive coordinator Dom Capers will move the team from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 alignment.

To account for the switch, the Packers will move Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Kampman to the unfamiliar role of outside linebacker; first-round pick B.J. Raji should step in immediately as the team's nose tackle, while Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins will man the two defensive end spots. Green Bay traded up in the draft to acquire USC linebacker Clay Matthews, Jr.; the logical landing spot for Matthews is at the outside linebacker spot opposite Kampman, while Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk patrol the middle. If everything goes as planned, the Pack should have a fearsome front seven.

They'll have to be good if the secondary doesn't hold up; while it rode a string of defensive touchdowns to success over the first half of the year, Green Bay really struggled thanks to injury and age during the second half. Corners Charles Woodson and Al Harris will be a combined 68 years old during the 2009 season, and backup Tramon Williams is wildly inconsistent. If the guys up front can't get to the passer, the secondary probably won't be able to hold up their end of the bargain. That could make for a year full of blowouts.

Undrafted Free Agents

Delaware defensive end Ronald Talley had an interesting path to Green Bay; a superstar recruit when he arrived at Notre Dame, Talley barely made an impact before leaving the Fighting Irish halfway through the 2006 season. Moving on to Delaware, Talley had 6.5 sacks over his final two seasons. He got the largest signing bonus of any undrafted free agent the Packers signed, and at 282 pounds, it's easy to envision him bulking up and finding a spot on a pretty thin defensive line.

Minnesota Vikings

Any discussion of the Vikings' offseason has to begin with their acquisition of Percy Harvin on Saturday. The Florida receiver unquestionably has good speed and is a downfield threat, but so is Bernard Berrian, who's already entrenched at one spot in the Vikings lineup. It's hard to envision a role for Harvin, who's not the polished route-runner that the Vikings could've used across from Berrian; you can safely take the under on any projection you'll see for his totals in 2009.

In lieu of replacing embattled quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, Minnesota supplemented him with former Texan Sage Rosenfels. Rosenfels was seventh in the league in DVOA a year ago, so if the right players are around him, he's capable of succeeding. He's a more accurate passer than Jackson, but lacks the deep arm that would seemingly fit an offensive scheme built around bombing passes to Harvin and Berrian, making Harvin's acquisition even more curious.

Minnesota also lost two prominent veterans in center Matt Birk (Ravens) and safety Darren Sharper (Saints). They didn't make much of an effort to replace either in free agency, so second-year players John Sullivan and Tyrell Johnson will be expected to step in.

Undrafted Free Agents

Arguably the best-known player who wasn't drafted, Ian Johnson is best known as "The guy who scored on the Statue of Liberty play and proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend a couple of years ago", which is a move I'd been plotting if I was dating a cheerleader and played running back for a bowl-eligible team. Johnson produced a Speed Score of 107.2 at the Combine, the third-best figure of the year; at Boise State, he was a versatile back and effective special-teams gunner. He's one of those guys who some team will find a spot for.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 06 May 2009

57 comments, Last at 17 Jun 2009, 6:16pm by Sparkyo

Comments

1
by coboney :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 11:24am

You didn't mention Brett Favre in the Vikings Section !!!

On a more serious note: good anaylsis as always - the plan I think in Green Bay is to keep Pickett and Raji at Nose Tackle. In that scenario - who starts at the other Defensive End position ?

Also on the Packers front - They seem to like Jarett Bush matching the Titans offer for the young CB

(*Disclaimer: I'm not a packers fan - my father is*)

9
by ammek :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 1:14pm

Yep, you're right about Pickett and Raji — they'll rotate at NT, and play side-by-side in the 4-3 part of the Packers' 'hybrid' scheme. The organization has talked about moving Pickett to DE for some other plays but he'll get less time there than one (or more) of Johnny Jolly, Justin "waitin-to-bust" Harrell and Somebodyorother Wynn whom they drafted in the late rounds.

Bush is the Packers' special teams ace and that's why they re-signed him — he won't be more than a dime back in the defense, I hope. Also Pat Lee might see some time in the nickel/dime; he was a 2nd-round pick in 2008 and is being sold by the organization. The big hole I see in the secondary is at safety, where Atari Bigby and Aaron Rouse might not make it through camp, leaving something called Aaron Smith and the perenially useless Charlie Peprah to partner Nick Collins. Unless the plan is to repeat the 'waste your best corner at safety' experiment of Dec 2008.

43
by rk (not verified) :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 1:04pm

That's Anthony Smith, the former Steeler who, in 2007, famously predicted a victory over undefeated New England only to be burned repeatedly in a blowout loss. He became an unrestricted free agent when the Steelers declined to tender him as a restricted free agent.

44
by Flounder :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 2:27pm

They also gave Raji some reps at DE at rookie camp. The plan seems to be to get him some work snaps there as well.

34
by Division by Zero (not verified) :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 12:39am

Much respect for not making a Favre reference anywhere in the article.

2
by Joseph :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 11:26am

Based on recent draft data, where should Johnson have gone if you ONLY looked at his speed score?

3
by Sophandros :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 11:35am

The Johnson thing was surprising because he also tested well in the other drills at the combine. Were teams holding the fact that he split time as a senior against him THAT much?

Dude returns kicks, catches the ball well out of the backfield, has good size and good speed, seems to be of a high enough character. What gives?

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

20
by c_f (not verified) :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 4:05pm

Injuries in at least 2007, level of competition (and pedestrian numbers given that level - averaging 5 ypc vs. the WAC is not amazing), the fact that he played around 200 lbs.

4
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 11:54am

Harvin, for better or worse, will be the Vikings kickoff and punt returner, plus line up in the slot, plus share the backfield with Peterson and Taylor.

Picking Percy was just the first step to the Vikes drafting Tebow next year (and making Urban the coach the year after).

5
by Chocolate City (not verified) :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 12:05pm

Yeah, bringing in craploads of Florida Gators at the pro level worked well for Spurrier. Why not try it again?

13
by andrew :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 2:04pm

The Urban Meyer Gators are not the Steve Spurrier Gators.

I'm not saying that it will or won't, but assuming anything because of who played at the school two regimes ago doesn't seem to follow...

54
by MC2 :: Sun, 05/10/2009 - 2:44am

The Urban Meyer Gators are not the Steve Spurrier Gators.

Yeah, you're right. Meyer's offense is even more gimmicky and even less likely to translate to the NFL than Spurrier's was.

16
by Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 2:53pm

I agree that Harvin is a different player than Bertrian. Harvin is fast, but he thrives off his quickness. That should make him ideal as a 3rd WR in the slot or a 3rd down RB. I still think he could have a great career for a few years... if he can stay clean and (mostly) healthy.

I agree that the QB selection next year is better than this year. In fact the 3rd best QB (if Tebow is #4, since he may not be an ideal pro-style QB: he tends to overthrow the long passes by a few feet) next year may be better than the #1 QB this year. I suspect Tebow will go late in the 1st round or 2nd round. Tebow will probably be willing to play H-Back, LB, and special teams while playing the Wildcat/3rd QB role.

23
by AlanSP :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 5:54pm

Not sure that making him the primary kick and punt returner is a great idea given that he hasn't returned a kick or a punt since he was in high school. He certainly has the open field running ability for it, but I wouldn't just hand him the job.

28
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 7:59pm

I would guess that most returners in the pros have relatively little experience running back kicks in high school or college. It would seem they were usually starting WRs at the lower levels, but due to lack of either size or pass-catching skills or both, couldn't play WR at the pro level.

29
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 8:00pm

I would guess that most returners in the pros have relatively little experience running back kicks in high school or college. It would seem they were usually starting WRs at the lower levels, but due to lack of either size or pass-catching skills or both, couldn't play WR at the pro level.

31
by Drunkmonkey :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 9:46pm

That's not really true at all. Look at Devin Hester, he played at Miami. I know he doesn't really have great size, but he returned kicks and punts in college, and he was actually drafted because of his excellent return capabilities, not his potential in that department. Having bad measureables isn't what makes you a return prospect, its usually just amazing speed, the ability to hang on to the ball, and the ability to make a few guys miss. It does seem like a lot of the returners in the league are small for their position, and played at smaller schools, but I think that is just coincidence. With teams more afraid then ever to play their best offensive players on special teams, they take more chances on smaller school players since they are a dime a dozen.

Sproles fits into there as well. He was the starting running back at Kansas State, but he also returned kicks. And Reggie Bush was also a dynamite returner in college, and he still returns punts every once in a while for the Saints. I know most of these guys are small for the position they play, but at the same time, they were good returners in college, everybody knew it, and they were originally drafted with the intent of using that capability. It's not like they were drafted, and the team just decided to try them at return jobs and they worked.

35
by AlanSP :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 1:00am

Virtually all NFL punt and kick returners returned punts and/or kicks in college. The only returner I know of who didn't return kicks at all in college is Josh Cribbs (who was a QB). J.J. Arrington, Mewelde Moore, Rock Cartwright, and Maurice Hicks returned 5 or fewer kicks in college, but basically everybody else was a returner in college, and generally a good one. College coaches generally have far fewer reservations about using their star players as returners.

32
by Drunkmonkey :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 9:53pm

I called it in the draft chat we held; Minnesota drafted Percy Harvin so that next year they could get Teebow and hire Gruden to run the offense. That's why Gruden is taking the year off. He want to wait and find a team that will let him draft Teebow with a top 10 pick. Gruden has such a man-crush on Teebow, he'll do anything to work with him. "Concrete Cyanide." That truly is one of the greatest nicknames ever.

6
by Jimmy :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 12:13pm

Does anyone know how old Willie Roaf was when he got traded to the Chiefs?

7
by Duke :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 12:35pm

According to wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Roaf ), he was 32 his first season with the Chiefs.

8
by Tom Gower :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 12:36pm

The Magic of the Interwebs tells me Roaf turned 32 that offseason. Said Magic also tells me Roaf had been fairly healthy, missing only 4 games, before the season-ending injury (I believe) that caused him to miss 9 games the year before he was traded. Note also that Pace has been in the league for a dozen years, Roaf only 9 when he was traded (and his 13th season was his last).

27
by Jimmy :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 6:36pm

Cheers for the info, I didn't have time to check myself at the time.

I read somewhere in an article by a Rams journo that Pace played reasonably well last year, more so in the passing game than hurling defenders about like he used to be able to. It also seemed to indicate that he didn't seem as motivated as at his peak but it is anybody's guess if a change of scenery and a better team might switch the light back on.

I hope Pace stays healthy this year, it would be an enormous upgrade over St Clair. He was reasonably healthy last year and may stay that way, I guess only time will tell (unless someone can get a comment from Will Carroll).

10
by Doug English (not verified) :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 1:19pm

Kampman played linebacker for his first two years at Iowa, and racked up 100+ tackles in his sophomore, so his transition shouldn't be too difficult.

12
by ammek :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 1:32pm

Yeah, 1999 was like yesterday, man. And he must still be having nightmares about those Northwestern tackles.

11
by ammek :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 1:28pm

They'll have to be good if the secondary doesn't hold up; while it rode a string of defensive touchdowns to success over the first half of the year, Green Bay really struggled thanks to injury and age during the second half.

The Packers' significant injuries in the secondary occurred in the first half of the season — and the unit coped pretty well. Harris missed six games from Week 3 with spleen issues, while safety Atari Bigby missed weeks 3-7 and 16-17. Woodson and Collins both played a little beaten up towards the end of the year, but that's football.

The pass defense went to seed from the Saints' game on Week 12. I'd chalk that up to a combination of: facing some real live NFL QBs and receivers, rather than Bears, Vikings and Titans; Kampman wearing down and the feebleness of the pass rush; Bob Sanders' unimaginative defensive scheme, which has now been dumped; and opponents using the Saints as a blueprint (bunching receivers, etc). Age might be a factor, but we don't really know, do we? After all, didn't Woodson and Harris finish at the top of your defensive back DVOA last year?

14
by Dan :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 2:12pm

It looks like Plan A for the Bears OL is to put Pace on the left & Williams on the right, with Omiyale, Kreutz, and Garza inside. Plan B, if either Pace or Williams can't play, is for Schaffer to come in at RT. Plan C, if both Pace & Williams are out, is to move Omiyale outside and have Beekman or Buenning take over at guard. Under any of these scenarios, the offensive line should be at least as good as it was last year, when they were starting St. Clair, Beekman, Kreutz, Garza, and Tait.

17
by Chip :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 3:09pm

I'd set the over / under on Plan A at 8 games, B at 3 games and C at 5 games. That said, I'm happy with that outcome and you're right, the O-line will still be an improvement over last year.

As for the Packers UDFA, I'd throw out Jamarko Simmons of Western Michigan. He has good size / speed and challenged many of Greg Jenning's records. Nice to see TT dip back into the WMU well. I had hoped that the Bears would have taken a late round flyer on him.

18
by tuluse :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 3:33pm

They drafted 3 receivers, and have 2 or 3 receivers on the roster who haven't caught a pass in the NFL. I doubt they really could have used an undrafted FA.

40
by Chip :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 9:53am

I was hoping that he would be the 2nd or 3rd drafted WR.

The Bears still don't have a split end on the roster and this guy may have the size/speed/skill set to play it.

41
by Chip :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 9:54am

I hoped that he would be the 2nd or 3rd WR drafted by the Bears in the 6th/7th round.

The Bears still don't have a split end on the roster and this guy may have the size/speed/skill set to play it.

55
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 05/11/2009 - 9:00pm

One of my friends and I drove up for the WMU-Illinois game at Ford Field (it was good to see some real football there), and it seemed like every other WMU play was intended for Simmons. 11 for 174, about half of their total offense and seemed like a lot more.

15
by drobviousso :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 2:43pm

The Lions' LB crew got better this morning/last night whey they came to terms with Larry Foote.

19
by andrew :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 3:53pm

I wonder how Ian Johnson and Adrian Peterson will get along...

21
by Rochbear (not verified) :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 4:57pm

Regarding the Bears OTs, is there a known adjustment to injury probability with age, and with previous injury history? I once ran across a statement from some NFL trainer who claimed that outside of back injuries, most injuries were 'flukes', by which I assumed he means statistically independent of injury history. (I assume here he was not talking about a single injury that just never healed right but more whether there was such a thing as a "china doll" syndrome).

I'm sure age increases injury chance, but I wonder how much.

22
by tuluse :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 5:09pm

I remember reading a study that showed injuries didn't really increase with age, but recovery time did.

24
by Marko :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 6:08pm

"The Bears may very well miss Brown as the season goes along."

They would miss the 2001 version of Mike Brown very much. The 2006-2008 version? Not so much. He simply cannot stay healthy anymore, and even when healthy he had lost a step or three.

That's not to say they are set at FS; they aren't. (There's talk of shifting Corey Graham from CB to FS. That's a good idea if Nathan Vasher regains his health and confidence or if D.J. Moore is ready at CB.) But Mike Brown would not have been the answer, unless the question was "which Bears DB is guaranteed to end up on IR."

30
by c_f (not verified) :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 8:42pm

Mike Brown was so slow, the Bears effectively swapped safeties midseason, playing Brown at SS where his physicality could be used, and playing Kevin Payne out of place at FS.

Josh Bullocks was pretty bad for the Saints; he was benched for Kevin Kaesviharn (the shame!) midway through last season. NO plays a lot of man, while the Bears are ostensibly still a zone team; I hope the transition helps, but doubt it will: you want him isolated on Jennings/Berrian/Megatron?

Graham makes a lot of sense; he has just enough size at 6-0, 190-something. McBride is an adequate backup at corner, and the team seems pretty happy with Bowman and Moore, so that could be an option.

37
by BrixtonBear (not verified) :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 2:51am

The Bears have already said they're going to try Bowman at FS. Graham is going to stay in the mix at CB.

39
by Jimmy :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 9:34am

The Bears have said a lot of things about free safety, the only thing they have actually done is sign Bullocks. Bowman could probably turn into a decent safety if he could stay healthy longer than one quarter. Graham has been mentioned over the last couple of weeks if the team tries to get the best four DBs on the field and if Moore can handle the dime back duties. That would leave Manning at nickelback and Moore, Bowman and McBride as the reserve corners which of course all depends on Vasher being worth a damn this year.

In all Bears fans are probably going to have to wait at least until training camp if not preseason to find out how the defensive backfield shakes out. However I don't care as we have Jay Cutler, everything else is gravy.

36
by tuluse :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 1:06am

Mike Brown was still very good as of 2006. It was only this past year that age/injuries finally slowed him down to where he wasn't an asset.

46
by Marko :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 3:53pm

Mike Brown was good in 2006 until he got hurt in the 6th game of the season (the MNF miracle in Arizona in which the Bears showed that they were "who we thought they were"). He then went on IR.

49
by Roch Bear :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 5:41pm

When I think about it is a bit puzzling that the Bear pass defense in 2008 was as good as it was (FO ranked it 11th, overall defense 7th). The pass rush was widely panned, the safeties were hurt and couldn't cover anybody, and the CBs were hurt.

Almost looks like Tillman (when playing), Briggs, Urlacher and D Manning (nickle back) were gods, :-)

50
by tuluse :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 7:16pm

They had their moments. Early in the season no one was ready for the mug formation and it lead to offenses making a lot of mistakes. The Bears also got a lot of picks. The secondary was also good at tackling, you didn't see a lot of YAC. Plus, playing cover 3 all year meant there were almost no deep passes completed against the Bears. However, they gave up short and mid-range passes all day long. Need 11 yards on 3rd and 10? It's there. We give teams slants like they're candy. That doesn't bother me as much because of the good tackling slants rarely lead to problems.

25
by Shalimar (not verified) :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 6:16pm

NOTE: I got a couple of e-mails from readers wondering -- well, yelling at me for being so stupid, but I'll go with wondering -- why I didn't mention Orlando Pace in the tackle discussion above. My answer was that I'm very skeptical on the likelihood that a 33-year-old player who suffered season-ending injuries in 2006 and 2007 and missed time last year is the solution at any position. You, as always, are welcome to disagree.

I don't see how that is relevant. Pace is penciled in as a starter now, not Schaffer. You may not expect him to play another NFL game, but you still have to mention him if you're talking about Bears tackles for next season. Because he is supposed to be a starter.

38
by BrixtonBear (not verified) :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 2:57am

By that logic, can I assume we'll not be reading a single word about you-know-who on FO this year?

Because you have to be skeptical that a 40-year-old QB with half a bicep coming off a disappointing season is the solution at any position, too.

26
by AlanSP :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 6:32pm

The Florida receiver unquestionably has good speed and is a downfield threat, but so is Bernard Berrian, who's already entrenched at one spot in the Vikings lineup. It's hard to envision a role for Harvin, who's not the polished route-runner that the Vikings could've used across from Berrian; you can safely take the under on any projection you'll see for his totals in 2009.

Harvin's really not much like Berrian except in the sense that they're both fast. Being a deep threat was only part of what he did at Florida, and it wasn't the strongest aspect of his game. He also worked underneath a lot, and was used frequently on screens and as a runner (he was used as much as a runner as he was as a receiver).

If it's hard to envision a role for him, you really aren't being very imaginative. Basically, you want to try to maximize his run after the catch ability, which is exceptional, and he can also be used a few times a game as a runner, or a receiver coming out of the backfield. I still don't expect all that much from him this year, but only because receivers in general tend not to be very productive as rookies.

33
by peachy (not verified) :: Wed, 05/06/2009 - 10:35pm

If it's hard to envision a role for him, you really aren't being very imaginative.

Just so - he was only one of the two most versatile offensive players in the country last year. Using him strictly as a designated deep guy would be fairly brainless. On the plus side, Minnesota apparently really wanted him, so I can only hope Childress et al plan to take advantage of his particular skillset.

42
by jimm (not verified) :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 10:39am

I was about to write a post but AlanSP pretty much said what I was thinking.

Now whether Childress mucks it all up is another question.

45
by Dave T (not verified) :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 3:42pm

"Arguably the best-known player who wasn't drafted, Ian Johnson..."

I'd argue that one. Better known than Chase Daniels? Better known than Graham Harrell?

47
by tuluse :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 3:55pm

I would say he's right there with them. I mean he proposed to a cheerleader on live TV.

48
by lol (not verified) :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 4:55pm

"My answer was that I'm very skeptical on the likelihood that a 33-year-old player who suffered season-ending injuries in 2006 and 2007 and missed time last year is the solution at any position."

Yeah obviously, you chose to deliberately exclude mentioning him instead of saying that. It's not like you forgot about him and are now covering that up, at all.

51
by Chief George (not verified) :: Thu, 05/07/2009 - 7:21pm

This is my first thought too. Pace is going to be the starting LT at the beginning of the season. He signed with the Bears because they were going to start him at LT. You are going to misidentify the starting tackles because you don't think Pace will have an impact?

Pretty brutal article overall.

52
by smirnoff22 (not verified) :: Fri, 05/08/2009 - 6:10am

Got to say I think this article is a long way from the best I’ve read on this site.

1. Agree with the others about Pace. You might not think he’s going to contribute much but that’s not a reason to exclude him from the article altogether. You don’t think Josh Bullocks will contribute a lot but he’s pencilled in to start and gets a mention. Would be nice to see you acknowledge an honest mistake for once (we all make them) without going into warrior mode.

2. Kampman. I kinda agree that while noteworthy, the fact he played LB at Iowa isn’t that relevant now. But I do look at a guy like Greg Ellis who made the same move at a similar stage in his career. Kampman is definitely athletic enough. Also there was the stat that 33 of Kampman’s 36.5 sacks the past 3 seasons have come in sub packages, where the team still plans to use him as a down lineman with his hands on the floor.

3. Harvin. While I think he may not contribute a great deal this year, I think in time he could be a good deal better than a deep threat a la Berrian. He’s a drugs risk (because he’s already in the programme), a character risk and he’s raw, but I think he’s got tons and tons of talent. His upside is probably something like Steve Smith, so from that point of view questioning his role in an offence containing Berrian seems a little odd. Look at the stats, teams who draft rookie WRs on the expectancy of significant production their first year are nearly always disappointed. For this season, yes maybe there were better fits. But I’m sure the Vikings have drafted him because they think he’s going to be a better player over the long haul.

4. The Packers secondary/defense. This is the bit I find most puzzling and contentious. Yes, the Packers cornerbacks will be a combined 68 years old this year, but they were a combined 66 years old last season and, as this site has reported (see the article ‘The return of Al Harris’) they played pretty damned well. The team was ranked 25th in the league in sacks so it’s not like they were being propped up by a ferocious pass rush either. The Packers’ D finished 7th in DVOA against the pass and 29th against the run so it seems odd to assert that the main problem Green Bay is going to have on defense this year is that their starting corners are a year older!?

Why question this which is based largely on guesswork – it could happen sure, but how do we know, what’s the basis for this projection? The glaringly obvious thing for a site like this to question is whether the defensive changes are likely to repair the run defense and whether the pass rush can rebound to 2007 levels. In 2008 all signs are that the secondary propped up the defense in Green Bay. In 2009 it could end up being totally the other way around but that seems an odd and largely baseless prediction to make.

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by witless chum :: Fri, 05/08/2009 - 12:30pm

I think I'm starting to get the dreaded Lions optimism. Now, this year, that's thinking they could go 5-11, rather than 2-14, but still.

56
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 05/11/2009 - 9:00pm

wait ... I thought 2-14 this season would be optimism.

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by Sparkyo (not verified) :: Wed, 06/17/2009 - 6:16pm

This article falls somewhere below perfunctory with its authors' lack of familiarity with the subject matter and outright speculation, e.g., Projecting Ryan Pickett at DE and B.J. Raji at NT for Green Bay when the opposite is far more likely according to the coaching staff. This information was never out there, neither from the team nor from the knowledgeable local media that cover the Packers. Did he make it up or simply read some speculative article on ESPN? I'm not even going to mention the other factual goofs he's made in the rest of the article. True wisdom is knowing what you don't know. This guy is sloppy and arrogant. Aaron, get rid of him.