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25 Mar 2010

Four Downs: NFC North

by Ned Macey

Chicago Bears

Biggest Hole: Wide Receiver

Sometimes games at the end of a season portend future breakouts. Sometimes they are just a couple of fluky games. Just ask Drew Bennett, the former Tennessee receiver who exploded at the end of the 2004 season, never to reach those heights again.

That's history that the Bears should study before falling in love with Devin Aromashodu, who totaled 196 yards and three touchdowns in the season's last two games. Somehow, those two games seem to outweigh nearly four full seasons in which Aromashodu was on an NFL roster and totaled 198 yards and one touchdown. Despite the obvious flukiness of Aromashodu's performance, the Bears harbor hopes that he will emerge as a starting-caliber receiver.

Aromashodu could conceivably be a starter, but only because the Bears' current starters are mediocre. Devin Hester, the once-dominant return man, has turned into an adequate but far from spectacular receiver. Earl Bennett's first season as a receiver showed some promise, but he struggled as the season progressed, totaling 427 yards in the season's first half and only 290 yards in the season's second half.

Most troubling is that the Bears appear unlikely to seek any help for this receiving corps. Bears fans won't find much help in the draft. The Bears have drafted a bevy of receivers in the middle rounds of the drafts in recent seasons, acquiring Bobby Wade, Justin Gage, Bernard Berrian, Airese Currie, Mark Bradley, Hester, Bennett, Johnny Knox, and Juaquin Iglesias since 2003. Only Berrian ever performed at a high level for the Bears, so finding a hidden gem in the middle rounds -- the Bears do not pick until the third round -- is extremely unlikely.

Among the remaining free agents, the most obvious answer would be Torry Holt, who has lobbied for a reunion with offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Holt, at age 34, has clearly lost a step, and most teams are wisely avoiding him. The Mike Martz factor, however, makes the potential signing somewhat intriguing. Isaac Bruce, another former Rams great, reunited with Martz in 2008 and amassed 835 yards and eight touchdowns. His performance ranked a very respectable 25th in Football Outsiders' DYAR, which measures total value. The last Bears receiver to rank that high was Marcus Robinson in 1999.

The Bears will probably continue to ignore Holt, content to wait for their current young receivers to develop. Time will tell if they offer anything more than promise, but nothing in their mediocre 2009 campaign suggests that they will.

Free Agency Recap

The Lovie Smith era has had its ups and downs, with 2009 undoubtedly a down. Never before, however, as Smith had a below-average defense. Injuries, age, and a failure to infuse new talent created the worst Chicago defense of the DVOA era. Devoid of draft picks following the Jay Cutler and Gaines Adams trades, the Bears decided to make a splash in free agency, signing the biggest fish in the sea, Julius Peppers. Peppers has never emerged as a transcendent, Hall of Fame-type player, but he immediately becomes the best pass rusher the Bears have had under Smith.

The Bears did not stop there, trying to upgrade their offense with role players. They signed versatile back Chester Taylor to a four-year contract. But is he the best fit at backup running back? Taylor is best as a receiver at this stage of his career, and Matt Forte has already developed into a solid receiver. The Bears also paid relatively big money for tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. This signing is troubling because Manuemaleuna excels as a blocker. Since offensive coordinator Mike Martz likes to feature three wide receivers, that means starting tight end Greg Olsen will have to be split out as a wide receiver, losing his match-up advantages. Perhaps Manumealeuna will serve as an H-back, a move made more likely by the release of veteran fullback Jason McKie.

The Bears also made a couple of moves at cornerback. They cut Nathan Vasher, the once-emerging star cornerback who has been hampered by injuries in recent seasons and who was no longer was worth his contract. They also signed Tim Jennings away from Indianapolis; he is familiar with Smith’s Tampa-2 system but never excelled in it. Vasher will not be replaced by Jennings, at best a nickel back, and the Bears will go with Zack Bowman as the second starter.

Detroit Lions

Biggest Hole: Cornerback

The Lions' atrocious pass defense makes this an easy enough call, but the reports that they had Adam "Pacman" Jones in for a workout makes it a slam dunk. Last season, the Lions had zero quality cornerbacks on their roster. This offseason, they have acquired Chris Houston, a competent player who started for Atlanta. Still, the rest of the roster is a disaster. Opposite Houston, the likely starter as of today is Jonathan Wade, a player who was not good enough to start for the woeful St. Louis Rams.

The Lions are unlikely to address this hole in the first round of the draft. No cornerback appears worthy of the second overall pick (and the Lions certainly have sufficient needs that they can draft the best available player). The Lions will certainly add a cornerback in the first couple rounds, but it would be a tall task to expect a third-round cornerback to become an immediate starter.

Therefore, the flirtation with Pacman is perhaps not as ridiculous as it appears on its face. Head coach Jim Schwartz worked with Jones in Tennessee, and Jones emerged as one of the game's best cornerbacks under Schwartz before off-field demons ruined his career. A Jones signing remains highly unlikely, but the Lions are obviously being creative after missing opportunities to acquire Antonio Cromartie and Dunta Robinson.

A more likely possibility is Lito Sheppard, a talented but absurdly inconsistent cornerback who has fallen out of favor with teams two years in a row. Sheppard is a good upside play, and the Lions should continue to pursue that avenue. Otherwise, the Lions will remain extremely thin at cornerback in 2010.

Free Agent Recap

Schwartz had one guy in his sights and showed up at his house the minute free agency started, intent on securing a deal. For that kind of effort, one would not expect the player to be a 31-year-old defensive end with a total of 7.5 sacks during the past two seasons. Of course, Kyle Vanden Bosch had two monster seasons with Schwartz as his defensive coordinator, but in that situation, Vanden Bosch was younger and playing with a guy named Albert Haynesworth.

Signing Vanden Bosch wasn't necessarily a bad move -- the Lions have plenty of money to spend, and Vanden Bosch presents an upgrade. The move raises flags because it is so reminiscent of the Lions' last big foray into free agency, the singing of Dewayne White before the 2007 season. White was acquired by then-head coach Rod Marinelli, who had worked with White when he was an assistant in Tampa. White never developed like Marinelli had hoped. He was released this offseason and will be replaced by Vanden Bosch.

Detroit's other big signing was also a player hoping to recapture his glory by reuniting with a former coach. Wide receiver Nate Burleson is rejoining Scott Linehan, the coordinator for Burleson's breakout 2004 campaign in Minnesota. While such an impressive season is unlikely, Burleson is a definite upgrade at the second receiver position and should provide a good option opposite Calvin Johnson.

More importantly, since the Lions appear only able to attract free agents that have previously played for their coaches, they turned aggressively to the trade market. As mentioned above, they acquired Houston, and they also acquired defensive tackle Corey Williams from Cleveland. Both acquisitions cost very little in draft picks (a sixth-round pick for Houston, a fifth-rounder for Williams) and netted likely starters. Williams had one really good year for Green Bay in the 4-3, but even if he doesn't match that production, he still should be an upgrade on the interior (particularly if he gets to play alongside Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy).

Green Bay Packers

Biggest Hole: Cornerback

This may seem an odd choice given the fact that the Packers feature the league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year at cornerback in Charles Woodson. Still, Woodson, while exceptional last year, is just one player -- and an old one at that.

His long-time running mate Al Harris tore his ACL in November and is not guaranteed a roster spot. Otherwise, the cupboard is bare, as shown by the shredding the Packers secondary suffered at the hands of the Cardinals in the playoffs. Tramon Williams is extremely stretched as a starter, but it only gets worse after him. The re-signing of Will Blackmon, also coming off a torn ACL, hardly fills the need for cornerback depth.

Despite this obvious need, the Packers eschewed free agency and appear likely to target a cornerback in the draft. The Packers have other needs, interior offensive line and outside linebacker to name two, so a first-round pick is far from a certainty. Still, the Packers need to acquire a cornerback in the draft who is at least able to play the nickel if they hope to avoid a repeat of last year's playoff debacle.

Free Agency Recap

The Packers have been quiet in free agency, but their moves have been important. They re-signed tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, and safety Nick Collins. All were crucial parts to the Packers' impressive season, and their re-signings ensure that the Packers will bring back mostly the same team next season.

The Packers did lose one important player, defensive end/outside linebacker Aaron Kampman. Kampman was one of the most important factors as the Packers' defense rose to respectability in the late-Favre/post-Favre era. Still, his skills were not maximized in the Green Bay 3-4 scheme, so his value to the Packers didn't match the enormous sum paid by Jacksonville.

Minnesota Vikings

Biggest Hole: Interior Offensive Line

The Vikings return to the playoffs in 2008 was fueled in large part by one of the league's best offensive lines. What a difference a year makes. Last year, the team never opened lanes for its running backs, putting the offensive pressure squarely on the shoulders of Brett Favre. Minnesota had a great season -- and a great offense -- so the deficiencies were somewhat obscured. Still, the line played mediocre or worse last season.

The two sensible places to upgrade are center and right guard. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie and left guard Steve Hutchinson produced league-average results for Pro Bowler salaries, but both will undoubtedly be back and hoping for bounce-back seasons. Rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt was impressive at times as a run blocker, but he lacked consistency. It's reasonable to expect him to improve in his second year.

The middle of the line, however, was a small disaster with no firm, long-term plan in place. With the rest of the line struggling, the weakness of Anthony Herrera was exposed. At age 30, he is unlikely to get better. At center, John Sullivan was unable to adequately replace veteran Matt Birk, leading to too many situations where the line collapsed on running plays. The Vikings had the second highest percentage of runs that were stuffed for a loss or no gain.

The Vikings appear to have decided to sit out free agency, and collective bargaining rules that limit the free agent signings of a team that made the conference championship has had an impact on that decision. Therefore, the Vikings will be reliant on the draft for help. The team is mostly complete, with no obvious deficiencies for the 2010 season. A long-term strategy could focus on finding replacements for some of the Vikings' aging core, such as defensive tackle Pat Williams or cornerback Antoine Winfield. For 2010, however, the biggest impact would be drafting an interior offensive lineman in the early rounds. The fact that this team will likely sink or swim based on Favre's status makes playing for the moment a sensible solution.

Free Agency Recap

In some sense, this section could just be left blank. As mentioned above, the Vikings lost Chester Taylor to the Bears. As mentioned last month, that might not be a bad thing. Taylor was not at all effective running the ball last year, and third-down backs simply are not worth millions of dollars per season.

More proactively, the Vikings re-signed cornerback Benny Sapp, wide receiver Greg Lewis, and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy. All contribute on some level (although Lewis only with one miraculous, game-saving catch), but none are starters. The Vikings, fresh off the NFC Championship game, will go into next season with basically the same team as last year, provided a certain Mississippi resident finds the desire to play once training camp is halfway finished.

Portions of this article originally appeared on ESPN.com Insider.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 25 Mar 2010

69 comments, Last at 11 Apr 2010, 10:59am by BrixtonBear

Comments

1
by Mungo (not verified) :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 12:39pm

"At center, J.T. O'Sullivan was unable to adequately replace veteran Matt Birk"

Wow, who would have thought replacing your starting center with a crap backup QB would be such a bad idea?

2
by Jimmy :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 12:46pm

If holding the ball for too long is bad for a QB, how terrible would it be for a center?

13
by TXNiner :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 1:47pm

As a Niners fan, I saw his name and was immediately terrified. Not cool.

The correct answer would be John Sullivan, although I am unaware of what his middle name is. He might be a J.T. And possibly Irish.

36
by Theo :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 8:44pm

Writer Ned Nacey saw it and is greatful.

3
by Jimmy :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 1:05pm

I would have named free safety and left guard as the spots the Bears need to find help for. I fail to see the point of adding a mediocre veteran to a team that has five promising young receivers (or at least guys who are relatively new to the position ie Hester). They might take a bigger guy towards the end of the draft but he would have to play specials or he wouldn't make the roster.

The current candidates for LG are Lance Louis and Josh Beekman. No one outside of Halas Hall has any idea if Louis is any good as he hasn't gotten anywhere near a football game since he got drafted and the Bears coaches seem to hate Beekman as they never seem to want to give him a chance. Omiyale seems to be on his way to right tackle (where he will be given a starting job even if Schaffer is clearly outplaying him). If they can't find some competition in the draft (which basically means with with either the 75th or 109th pick) I suspect Louis will be the starter, which doesn't exactly fill me with glee. Having said that I would expect Mike Tice to get more out of the existing group than Harry Heistand ever did.

In a parallel universe somewhere Danielle Manning was left at free safety after his rookie season and given time to develop as a player (I have no idea if he ever became any good but it would have been nice to see as opposed to swapping him all over the place). Since this never happened in this plane of existence the Bears need a free safety (again). They seem to spend a pick every year on a big, physical safety from a tin pot program and are then amazed that he isn't an eite coverage player. As far as I can tell the current plan is to play Craig Steltz at free safety (admittedly LSU is not a tin pot program). The only way this will work is if the manage to sneak rocket boots onto the field for him. I would love the Bears to get a guy like Morgan Burnett or Major Wright. Maybe one of the big CBs like Chris Cook or Akwasi Owusu-Ansah if they think they can play center field.

7
by Marko :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 1:27pm

I started typing my long post below before your comment was posted. And we completely agree on the Bears' two biggest areas of need.

47
by galactic_dev :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 12:23pm

I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees offensive line as the Bears' biggest hole. Not that Forte broke any tackles last season, but the lack of holes for him to run through was embarrassing, and Cutler needed better protection too (which would give his mediocre WRs more time to get open).

12
by Sophandros :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 1:46pm

What, you're not happy with Josh Bullocks as your FS?

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

18
by malcomzion (not verified) :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 3:17pm

...and with that thought a small part of every Bears fans dies.

41
by Sophandros :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 9:40am

That was the Saints' gift to you for beating them in the NFC CG a few years ago...

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

69
by BrixtonBear (not verified) :: Sun, 04/11/2010 - 10:59am

Would that the bastards had just paid a voodoo queen to put a hex on the Bears and been done with it.

20
by Jimmy :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 3:36pm

What is quite worrying is that some local journalists seem to think Bullocks was great towards the end of last year. That is scary.

35
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 8:44pm

He wasn't as bad as his reputation. I don't mind him being the 4th safety.

34
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 8:43pm

Bears coaches seem to hate Beekman as they never seem to want to give him a chance.

The only explanation I can come up with for Beekman not getting playing time is that they're "grooming" him to replace Kreutz. Which apparently means keeping him on the bench as much as possible.

In a parallel universe somewhere Danielle Manning was left at free safety after his rookie season and given time to develop as a player

There is another one where we kept Chris Harris and never acquired Adam Archuleta, and then made the playoffs in 2007.

39
by Dan :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 11:36pm

I'd say FS. Beekman is fine at LG - better at his position than any of their safeties are at free safety - and Omiyale was even better once he returned from his benching.

48
by Jimmy :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 1:53pm

You are probably right. Beekman at LG or Steltz at FS? Neither is good but Beekman is probably about average.

4
by ppabich (not verified) :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 1:17pm

I agree the packers have a hole in the secondary, but no way was Tramon Williams stretched as a starter last year. At his age he will be one of the better corners in the league for a while. Where they need help is in depth and strong safety. When Al Harris got hurt and Williams was promoted the lack of depth was apparent. On the bright side, Blackmon coming back as well as pat lee (a former second round pick), a lot of the depth could come from within. Corner depth is still a huge question mark, and i'm sure it will be dealt with in the draft. Bigby is solid against the run, but wasn't at the form he played at in the 2007 season. I strong safety with some ball skills would be a great improvement for the packers in 2010.

And as far as the Vikings, Steelers, and Cardinals torching the packers last year, it most often came down to double teaming Matthews and getting no pass rush from anywhere else. The lack of a pass rush allows for more passing yards than secondary play. Brad Jones is a good player, but a pure pass rusher opposite Matthews would be a tremendous plus for the team.

With the resigning of Clifton and Tousher, the packers just filled a hole for next year. OT is still the most pressing need for the packers

16
by ebongreen (not verified) :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 2:14pm

I tend to agree with the latter part of this comment. OT, specifically a backup to LT Chad Clifton, where the Packers have ... no one. T.J. Lang is destined to play either LG or RT; they have guards to spare in Colledge and Spitz. They're adequate at center with Wells and last year's rookie FA Dietrich-Smith, and Josh Sitton has RG locked up barring injury. Barbre was a failure at RT last year, and Giacomini hasn't played yet. The future of both tackle positions is open, with Tauscher and Clifton both on the wrong side of 30.

Yes, they need to find corners of the future and the present as well, but they at least have candidates (lots! a plethora!) in Williams, Lee, Blackmon and Underwood. They've even got someone at LOLB in Brad Jones, though they need depth and competition there. But unless there's a miracle hidden somewhere on the roster, they've got nothing at LT other than Clifton, and that was part of last year's sackfest/disaster. If they don't draft their would-be LT of the future with one of their first two picks, I'll be shocked out of my skull.

captcha: fishy company

19
by ppabich :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 3:26pm

with tousher and clifton it gives the packers the chance to find a later round LT or wait till next year when there is a more pressing need. as long as the guy they want or feel fits well in their system isn't available at 23.

43
by justanothersteve :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 11:44am

You are far more likely to find a good CB in rounds 2 or later than a LT. Or even a pass-rushing LB/undersized DE who can play OLB on passing downs while he develops. While we all remember Tony the Steroid Tiger, most high LT draft picks do work out. Between Lee, T Williams, and the oft-injured Blackmon, they can pick for depth. I'd prefer if TT picks 3 DBs in rounds 2-7 and let them compete for a roster spot.

50
by S :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 2:47pm

Unfortunately, that's been the Packers attitude for far too long. GB didn't resign Tauscher until it was obvious Barbre wasn't going to work. Aside from being on the wrong side of 30, Clifton has missed time with an injury in each of the last 3 years. Neither is a long term solution, and TT has tried to skate by with late-round picks without addressing the long-term problem. They need an LT who can (long-term) be developed to replace Clifton and (short-term) can step in adequately when Clifton inevitably gets injured.

5
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 1:18pm

The Bears' receivers might not have the pedigree but they do have the speed that Martz loves. Receivers that can get 25 yards down the field quickly will also mean that the crappy offensive line won't have to hold their block for as long. However, I can see the Bears being woeful in the red zone next year.

As I said on the AFC North thread, they should trade Olsen to the Bungles for a 2nd round pick or Anthony Collins/Whitworth. The trade works for both side.

6
by Marko :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 1:23pm

That analysis of the Bears really left a lot to be desired. The Bears' biggest hole is at safety (specifically, free safety), not wide receiver. Most knowledgeable Bears fans would agree, although some might say offensive line (specifically LG or RT) is their biggest hole. Safety and OL are the Bears' biggest areas of need by far. They also need depth at cornerback.

The Bears will be fine at wide receiver with what they have. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Devin Aromashodu will have a big year if he stays healthy. His performance in the last two games wouldn't have seemed fluky if he had played the full year. He clearly was Cutler's favorite WR target in training camp and during the preseason. But he got dinged up just before the season started and missed a number of games (several more than he should have; from what I've seen and read, he was healthy for a while before the Bears put him back on the field). Once he returned, you could see what a difference he made in the Bears' offense. If he stays healthy, I think he will have at least 1000 yards and about 10 TDs this year.

As for the possibility of Manumaleuna playing H-back, Lovie said yesterday that Olsen will serve in that role this year in addition to playing tight end.

"Vasher will not be replaced by Jennings, at best a nickel back, and the Bears will go with Zack Bowman as the second starter."

Bowman already was the second starter since early last season. Vasher hardly played at all last year; he was that bad. Jennings probably will play a lot more than Vasher did.

8
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 1:33pm

I totally agree about Vasher, I loved him as a young player, he had great technique and was outstanding when the ball was in the air. However, last year he looked like a baby deer caught in oncoming headlights while standing on ice. He was indecisive and seemed unable to plant and drive to the ball, a real pity for the Bears.

9
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 1:35pm

Agreed about FS being a bigger hole than WR. Some Bears receiver had the analysts excited all year last year; it was just never the same one. One of those guys ought to improve enough to give Cutler some help.

Tim Jennings, however, is not an NFL cornerback, not even a little. Anyone watch the Super Bowl? where he played 10 yards off Marques Colston on 2nd and 6 and backed off at the snap? And then still nearly missed the tackle? Tim Jennings should not have a job. Seriously, hire Jason David if you must have a former Colt.

37
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 8:51pm

I just looked up Tim Jennings stats and wow they are terrible. 36% and 38% stop rates the past two years. He's allowed 8.5 and 7.9 yards per pass the past two years, his stop rate on completions was 17% last year. On a team that plays Tampa 2. I hope he is really good at special teams.

45
by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 12:01pm

I didn't actually look them up (I should have), but I've watched the Colts (every time I can, in California) and he's just a joke out there. He doesn't even try to cover, just plays 5 yards past the receiver and tackles them if he can after they catch the ball.

What was really unforgivable was him doing that when the Colts were -behind- in the Super Bowl, though. I don't know who on the Colts staff should have been telling him to press (ar at least get up on the line)... and I don't know who had a guy who's 5'9" covering Colston anyway... but that was just painful to watch.

10
by Marko :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 1:44pm

As for the Vikings, the biggest hole is in the head of whoever was responsible for having 12 men in the huddle after a timeout.

11
by Nathan :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 1:44pm

Biggest hole on the Vikings is the hole in Childress' hairline

14
by jmaron :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 2:06pm

I'm not sure I agree that the Vikings offensive line really regressed last year. While it's true the run blocking was weaker the pass blocking was much better last year than is was in 2008.

Yes they had a better QB and players like Peterson were quite a bit better at pass blocking, but on the whole I thought the offensive line was far better as a pass blocking unit than it was in 2008. At times they were downright dominant in that regard (the GB games were good examples).

By the way - has anyone noticed just how horrible Shiancoe was run blocking last year? I really hadn't watched him much in that regard in previous seasons but he was pathetic in the run game in 2009.

15
by andrew :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 2:11pm

Kleinsasser is the blocking TE, and he's getting up in years...

17
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 2:32pm

However, he still has one of the best, toughest-sounding names in the NFL.

31
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 8:36pm

I'm not sure I agree that the Vikings offensive line really regressed last year. While it's true the run blocking was weaker the pass blocking was much better last year than is was in 2008.

Favre plays for the Packers, their o-line looks good at pass blocking. He goes to the Jets, their line looks good at pass blocking. He goes to the Vikings, their line looks good at pass blocking.

44
by justanothersteve :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 11:49am

Exactly. Favre has one of the quickest releases in the league - still - and he made the Pack OL look better than it really was his last couple years there. Say all you will about his Jethro Bodine-like brain farts, but the last 10 years or so he's developed unbelievable pocket awareness.

53
by jmaron :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 4:46pm

not that it's much of a sample but Jackson who was sacked at a 8% plus rate in 08 was not sacked in 21 attempts he made in mop up duty.

I watched every game - Favre makes a difference but the line blocked far better against the pass than it did in 2008.

59
by jimbohead :: Sat, 03/27/2010 - 6:00pm

I'm going to call both sample size and sample bias on that one. When you have Jackson playing mop up duty, he's doing it in a game situation where its already over. That's phenomenally different than 21 passes randomly dispersed through the season.

Also, the probability that a player/line combination with a true sack rate of 8% posts 0 sacks in 21 attempts is about 20%, and 30% for 1 sack. So Jackson's sack number is really not meaningful in any sense in settling the argument.

62
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 03/28/2010 - 5:31pm

I watched every game, too, and I vehemently disagree that they pass blocked better in 2009, compared to 2008.. Mckinnie was worse, Hutchinson was worse, and Sullivan is not as good as Birk. Herrera was about the same, and Loadholdt was better than Cook. Peterson blocked a little better.

The challenge in pass blocking for Tavaris Jackson, ol' brain lock, cannot be compared to the challenge in pass blocking for Brett Favre.

63
by jmaron :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 2:09pm

Well if you are right and I am wrong then the offence went from -5.8% DVOA on offence to 15.2% even though the offensive line was worse in both run blocking and pass blocking.

I think that is highly unlikely.

64
by jimbohead :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 2:24pm

I think you may be underestimating the difference between a healthy Brett Favre and Travaris Jackson. Also, Percy Harvin. We sometimes overemphasize the impact of a line in reaction to mainstream media drooling over skill players, but sometimes they do make that big a difference.

65
by jmaron :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 2:47pm

I agree Favre and Harvin make a big difference, but I really doubt your offensive line could actually play worse all around and have that big a gain.

I also saw many games where it wasn't just Favre - there were several games including the two against GB where the offensive line gave him all day to throw the ball.

66
by tuluse :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 4:57pm

Sidney Rice also got healthy and played all 16 games as well as kept maturing as a player. This was his 3rd season which is usually the breakout season for a receiving.

So you had essentially, a new QB, 2 new receivers, all the skill players other than Favre were young and got better.

21
by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 4:41pm

I'm not sure I agree with the "FO Commenter consensus" that the Bears WRs will be fine. I think a Kevin Curtis signing would do a lot of good for the team.

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

22
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 4:48pm

I can understand the lack of enthusiasm for the curent Bears' receivers. However, if Kevin Curtis is the answer then I have no idea what the question is.

24
by Nathan :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 4:52pm

I'm with Ninja. Assuming Curtis hasn't lost two steps from 2007 (which is entirely possible since he went from 29 to 31, had a hernia and knee surgery), he's pretty much as good or better than any WR on Chicago's roster. Worth a workout.

25
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 5:21pm

After Jackson and Maclin the Eagles have Avant and Baskett yet they released Curtis. If he's so good why didn't the Eagles keep him. I think Bennett, Hester and Knox will be decent for the Bears, they have real speed and should improve. I do see the point in Holt, 800 yards for last years Jags is pretty good and he'd at least show the young Bearcubs how to play in Martz's scheme.

26
by Nathan :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 5:27pm

Cause Baskett is a 6' 4" former high jumper red zone threat and Avant has great hands and is a reliable 3rd down target... and both offer ST value. Curtis is a aging speed receiver and they already have Maclin and Jackson who do that only better. And return kicks. Washed up or not, the Eagles had no use for Curtis the moment that Maclin proved he can play in the NFL.

27
by Nathan :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 5:30pm

I can see you making a point that the Bears, too, have speed receivers and so also don't need Curtis, but don't forget he also knows the Martz offense and can mentor those guys. Anyway, at the very least he's worth a workout don't you think?

51
by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 3:27pm

It may not have been a performance issue - Curtis had a lot of money due this season, and that's always an issue with the Eagles.

52
by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 4:28pm

More a personnel issue. Curtis is a decent #2 receiver and a very OK #3, or was if he's still as good as he was in 2006-2007. But Jeremy Maclin is a younger, cheaper, and better #2, and even if you don't count Brent Celek, Avant is a better #3 (especially for the Eagles who already have speed guys Jackson and Maclin on the outside).

Curtis is just the odd man out in the Eagles receiver set. He was a decent guy for them when they had nothing at the position, but he's only a decent guy for them when they have an abundance of riches today. And worse, he's the wrong sort of decent guy.

That said... he would probably instantly become the best receiver on the Bears.

55
by tuluse :: Sat, 03/27/2010 - 3:52am

That said... he would probably instantly become the best receiver on the Bears.

Are you sure about that? I mean he just got replaced by Maclin and Jackson. Wouldn't you say they remind you a little of Hester and Knox?

56
by justanothersteve :: Sat, 03/27/2010 - 2:28pm

Only in that they are all speed receievers. However, Curtis actual can run pretty precise routes - or at least he did in St Louis. Martz is big on making sure receivers run very exact routes. I don't know much about Knox, but Hester is not known as a great route person. Chicago may be the best fit for Curtis.

60
by commissionerleaf :: Sat, 03/27/2010 - 7:06pm

Absolutely. Hester and Knox are exactly like Maclin and Jackson, only without any actual skills as wide receivers. Curtis can, you know, run routes. And catch the football when thrown it. Devin Hester, WR Chicago... is a very good former punt returner.

23
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 4:48pm

If you really think the Bears biggest hole is WR, I don't know what to say. Their offensive line is leagues worse than their receivers.

29
by Eddo :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 6:03pm

Agreed. The cause for some optimism is that Chris Williams continues his progression into a good left tackle.

The other four line positions, however, are dire.

32
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 8:38pm

Garza is average at guard, but other than those two I don't see much.

38
by Jimmy :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 10:13pm

I guess I think more of the current line than you two. I think Omiyale may actually be a decent RT but if not then Schaffer isn't terrible. I also think Kreutz has some gas left in his tank should he avoid the injury bug this year but I may be in a small minority on that one. Garza isn't about to break out and become a dominant player but he is steady and durable; there are worse things to have in a guard. Beekman doesn't seem to have much power but doesn't make many mistakes and from the statistics I have seen seems to be a decent pass blocker (I can't remember him making any egregious errors, certainly not on a regualar basis). I think the line could be OK (to a limited value of 'OK') but it could do with some serious reinforcing and I suspect the only help it will get will be a third round pick and maybe a seventh which won't go far. If Omiyale works out they might be OK at tackle but that is about it. A couple of injuries and they might be in a major bind.

40
by tuluse :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 2:35am

Well if you're right, than the line last year was far less than the sum of it's parts. Kreutz was bad least year, he could bounce back, but if he plays like he did last year we're in trouble. Omiyale looked completely lost at guard, like "what is this football business all about?" lost. I have no expectations of him contributing in a positive manor. I actually like Beekman, but feel the coaches won't play him for whatever reason.

42
by Jimmy :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 10:25am

OK (to a limited value of OK) with no depth is a fairly left handed complement.

I think the whole team was less than the sum of its parts. Kreutz had a poor stretch in the middle of the season with back trouble but had some decent games too. If I am wrong then the Bears are in real trouble as there isn't much behind some fairly mediocre starters.

Brad Biggs is currently reporting that the Bears are trying to trade Alex Brown. Which doesn't make a lot of sense as who the hell is going to start opposite Peppers. Maybe Peppers has said he wants to play RE and that wouldn't leave enough snaps for Brown. Not sure I beleive it.

46
by Marko :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 12:17pm

When I saw the story this morning about Alex Brown being on the trade block, one of my first thoughts is that it probably had to do with money rather than Brown's performance. After reading a couple of articles about this, it appears that is indeed the case. One story said it was fallout from the deal with Peppers. Brown is due to make $5 million this year and next year, and the Bears apparently want to get rid of his salary. If they can't trade him, the rumor is that they probably will release him.

I guess we should have seen this coming after Lovie's comments the other day about moving Idonije to DE rather than having him bounce around between DE and DT. The Bears typically rely on a three man rotation at DE, and they foolishly maintain high hopes for Mark Anderson. (I think the only thing you can rely on Anderson for is to be out of position on running plays.)

With Peppers, Brown, Idonije and Anderson, that is four DEs for three spots. So it looks like Idonije and Peppers will start, with Anderson as the third DE. Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton apparently will focus on DT. And Brown will be gone. The Bears will be sorry, just as they were in 2007 when they made Anderson the starter over Brown at RDE.

49
by Jimmy :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 1:59pm

The only way trading Brown makes sense is if they swap him for Otogwe. Neither team particularly wants to spend the money the player they currently have is going to get and both could do with the upgrade. If we could combine that with signing Little cheap that sould be a bonus.

54
by TomC :: Fri, 03/26/2010 - 5:11pm

If the Bears release Brown (or trade him for a mid-to-late pick), I am going to blow a fricking gasket. Forget for a moment that Brown has done everything right since getting drafted and has been the best all-around defensive lineman on the team for years and that unceremoniously dumping him would be a terrible for P.R. and team morale. From a cold-hearted, on-the-field standpoint, what is the point of upgrading one DE position if you're going to downgrade the other by nearly the same amount? Does anyone outside of Halas Hall believe Mark Anderson will magically become a football player this year? And Idonije is a nice, versatile player, but he's never been a regular DE in his life. Lovie says: "I'd like to see him lock in and be more of a defensive end and see how good he can become." Yeah, and I think I might be able to turn my kitchen mixer into a race car, but just in case that doesn't pan out, I think I'm going to keep my regular car around so I can get to work every day.

33
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 8:38pm

double post.

28
by Phoenix138 :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 5:33pm

The Packers have other needs, interior offensive line and outside linebacker to name two

Was interior offensive line a typo? Tackle is a concern, but I don't see the interior as a problem.

57
by Flounder :: Sat, 03/27/2010 - 2:42pm

I'd like to assume it's a typo, but who knows. Last year at this time we were told Tony Moll was the most likely starter at RT, when any average packer fan knew damn well he was far more likely to get cut than be a starter (he wound up being traded for backup safety / ST player Derick Martin). Off-season 4-downs is simply not one of the stronger features of FO.

58
by Pat F. :: Sat, 03/27/2010 - 5:00pm

I disagree. Clifton and Tauscher/Lang are at least "pretty good," as long as they're healthy. College/Sitton/Wells/Spitz are all very mediocre. Interior O-line is probably priority #3, after defensive backs and long-term LT (in either order).

I'd actually say the "outside linebacker" bit is the less-defensible "need" from that line. Clay Matthews is obviously a strength at one side, and Brad Jones was pretty solid at the other at the end of the year, plus Chillar (who was excellent early last year) and Poppinga are still hanging around.

61
by ppabich :: Sun, 03/28/2010 - 12:26pm

sitton is simply one of the best young guards in the league right now, wells is average, and some metrics have college being pretty good at LG last year (it was his time at tackle that made him look bad. But they are all young, replace the old guys first, then turn back inside. O-line is the only place on the football field that you build outside in.

30
by Lou :: Thu, 03/25/2010 - 8:23pm

i completely agree with the other FO commentators that the Bears biggest needs are FS and O-Line. The receivers are good enough to survive another year, and i wouldnt be at all surprised if one of them developed into a legit #1.

67
by Frank (not verified) :: Thu, 04/01/2010 - 3:17pm

I took a hiatus from this site for about a year because the quality of the content had gotten so bad. I'm bored at work today and decided to give you guys another shot, and this is the first article I read. All I've got to say is, "See ya next year!"

68
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 04/05/2010 - 12:23pm

Dewayne White was signed when the Lions had one of the worst GMs in the history of professional sports, the same guy who figured that it was fine to hire a lifetime defensive line coach as head coach and then let him just coach the defensive line.

I don't think it makes sense to be concerned about anything that Mayhew and Schwartz do simply because Millen and Head Coach X did something similar that failed. (Aside from the obvious problem, that it would rule out doing anything ever.) Besides, as mentioned in the article, Vanden Bosch is an upgrade anyway.

This is like Dombrowski and Leyland with the Tigers: most free agents aren't going to think twice about Detroit (cold winters, losing record, lack of talent), so they're going to have to overpay to get the first few guys to come. Eventually, they should be able to rebuild the team to the point that they can seek a wider group of players.

Cornerback is definitely a position of need, but to be fair, I think the Lions need talent at every position except kicker, and even that will only last another year or two. (Trivia bits: Hanson holds the NFL record for most points scored in a career spent with only one team. The next active player in that category is ... Sebastian Janikowski. Yes, really.)