Four Downs: NFC North

by Ryan Wilson

Chicago Bears

Draft Recap

Because the Bears front office appeared to take off the months of February, March, and most of April, there was very little offseason maneuvering to report prior to the draft. The biggest news of free agency were the signings of Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd to "bolster" the wide receiver corps. Those moves, coupled with re-upping Rex Grossman for another season ... well, you can probably guess how this movie will end.

After deciding that Alan Faneca wasn't worth pursuing, Chicago used their first-round pick on Vanderbilt left tackle Chris Williams. He will be given every opportunity to win the job, which will allow John Tait to move to right tackle, a position he played well in Kansas City. The club also drafted two more linemen in the seventh round: Georgia guard Chester Adams and Ohio State tackle Kirk Barton. Adams has a chance to make the roster simply because there isn't much quality in front of him, while Barton could end up on the practice squad.

Speculation had the Bears using the 14th overall pick on a running back -- either Jonathan Stewart or Rashard Mendenhall -- but the club wisely went offensive line before going after a rusher. Tulane's Matt Forte made his money at the Senior Bowl, and when Chicago selected him 44th overall, it unofficially marked the end of the Cedric Benson experiment. Following the bizarre events surrounding Benson's arrest in Texas earlier this month, head coach Lovie Smith announced that Benson would be the team's starter heading into 2008. Benson then promptly missed the team's organized workout without explanation.

Chicago got around to adding a wide receiver in the third round. Vandy's Earl Bennett has been compared to Hines Ward in terms of toughness and willingness to block, but he struggles to get open, which is more important in this offense than most. The Bears added Michigan State tight end Kellen Davis two rounds later. Physically, Davis is a specimen, but his lack of production will keep him on the bench behind Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark.

Arkansas defensive tackle Marcus Harrison (third round) could make the biggest non-special teams impact. He was considered a first-round talent, but a knee injury and the dreaded off-field issues (2007 arrest) saw his stock drop. LSU safety Craig Steltz (fourth round) will only see time in the secondary if there are a run on injuries (which isn't entirely out of the question given the unit's health history), but he's more likely to make his living on the league's best special teams unit.

Remaining Needs

Quarterback is the obvious answer, but the organization made it clear early in the offseason that Grossman and Kyle Orton would duke it out for the right to start. Williams immediately improves an average unit, but the Bears' left guard spot is still up for grabs. Terrence Metcalf and Josh Beekman are the frontrunners, but neither player was able to win a starting job outright last season.

Rookie Free Agents

Chicago finally got around to adding a quarterback -- two of them, actually, signing Southern Illinois' Nick Hall and Colorado State's Caleb Hanie. Obviously, both players come with questions, but the Bears are a favorite destination for rookie free agent quarterbacks. Florida's Chris Leak signed with the team a year ago, but failed to stick; with only two quarterbacks on the roster, Hall or Hanie may see a different fate. Marcus Stone was N.C. State's starting quarterback in 2005 before moving to tight end.

Detroit Lions

Draft Recap

Lions president Matt Millen overcame his unquenchable thirst for first-round wide receivers and opted to address a legitimate team need: offensive line. Unfortunately, it looks like Millen picked the wrong guy in Boston College right tackle Gosder Cherilus. To be fair, the four best prospects -- Jake Long, Ryan Clady, Branden Albert and Chris Williams -- were all off the board, and if nothing else, Millen's heart was in the right place.

Of course, offensive line wasn't the team's only need, and some wondered why the Lions, also looking for a running back to replace Kevin Jones, didn't take Rashard Mendenhall. Selecting Mendenhall, the best running back in the draft according to some pundits, would've made sense, except that Detroit would still have a gaping hole on the right side of their line. Chicken, cart, meet egg, horse.

Detroit used their second-round pick on linebacker Jordan Dizon, an extremely productive college player whose best days could be behind him. The biggest question about the former Colorado star: Can a linebacker with the size of a safety and the speed of a defensive end really be productive in the NFL?

The Lions traded up in the third round to get a running back -- UCF's Kevin Smith -- and used the pick they received from the Browns for Shaun Rogers to draft Rogers' replacement on the roster: Florida State's Andre Fluellen. The team used its final third-round selection on Purdue linebacker/end Cliff Avril, who, like Fluellen, was more impressive at the NFL Combine than at any point in his collegiate career.

The club used its late-round picks to mine for special teams help, and safety Caleb Campbell, selected 218th overall, is the most intriguing of the bunch. The West Point grad is a 6-foot-2, 229-pound safety who could add some weight and eventually make the move to linebacker (although he currently weighs the same as Dizon).

Remaining Needs

Heading into the draft, Detroit had needs along the offensive and defensive lines, at linebacker, and at running back. They added depth at each position, even if the selections didn't do much to excite large swaths of the fan base. Detroit also used free agency (and the Shaun Rogers trade) to improve the secondary, landing Dwight Smith, Brian Kelly, and Leigh Bodden.

Warm bodies now litter the roster, and on paper, the Lions don't have any glaring deficiencies. That may change when offensive coordinator Jim Colletto tries to implement his "running game" with little success. Until then, though, lightly pencil this team in for 10 wins.

Rookie Free Agents

Detroit signed six rookie free agents, and N.C. State wideout Darrell Blackmon might have a shot to make the 53-man roster as a returner. Bethune Cookman safety Bobbie Williams could also sneak onto the team if Campbell doesn't pan out or is moved to linebacker.

Green Bay Packers

Draft Recap

The Packers had no immediate needs heading into the draft. Cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris are both in their 30s, and with Bubba Franks gone, Donald Lee was the only tight end on the roster with any experience. But virtually every starter from last year's 13-win team returns. (The players who did leave will be conspicuous by their absence. For example, it will be odd to see Packers games with no Corey Williams.) Consequently, Green Bay didn't hesitate to trade out of the first round so the Jets could move up and select tight end Dustin Keller.

The Packers drafted wide receiver Jordy Nelson with the 36th overall pick. Nelson joined Kansas State as a walk-on safety before moving to wideout during his sophomore season. He was named a consensus All-American as a senior. At 6-foot-3, 217, Nelson is a big target, but some scouts don't think he possesses the speed to be a deep threat (Aqib Talib, Tampa Bay's first-round pick, disagrees). As he continues to learn the nuances of setting up defensive backs, reading coverages, and running routes, Nelson will be a valuable option behind Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and James Jones. If Woodson decides he's not up for punt return duty, Nelson could be a dark horse candidate for the job; in five chances last season, he totaled 264 yards and two touchdowns, including a 92-yard effort against Baylor.

Twenty picks after taking Nelson, the Packers selected quarterback Brian Brohm, the player many people tabbed last fall as the likely first overall pick. As it turned out, injuries, a mediocre Louisville team, and a solid season from Matt Ryan caused Brohm to slide. He would be the third quarterback drafted after Ryan (No. 3) and Joe Flacco (No. 18).

The choice to use a second-round pick on a quarterback might seem like a commentary on the current uncertainty at the position following Brett Favre's (alleged) retirement. Instead, it speaks more to the fact that Green Bay quarterbacks have a whopping zero NFL starts among them (and if you include Craig Nall, who the team decided not to re-sign earlier this season ... it's still a big, fat goose egg). Similar to the running-back-by-committee approach most teams are now employing, having at least two quality quarterbacks is also becoming trendy.

With their third second-rounder, Green Bay drafted the eventual Woodson/Harris replacement, Auburn's Patrick Lee. Lee only managed a 4.53 40 time at the Combine, but NFL Network's Mike Mayock gushed over his physicality and ball skills. Given the Packers' fondness for press coverage, Lee seems like a logical fit.

Jermichael Finley surprised may people at the University of Texas when he declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore. He'll get a chance to win the backup tight end job with the Packers, but will probably spend his first NFL season adding muscle to his 6-5, 243-pound frame and learning how to block.

In the fourth round, general manager Ted Thompson traded up 11 spots to select Wake Forest defensive end Jeremy Thompson. This is noteworthy for two reasons: It was the first time Thompson had traded up in nine years; and Thompson's brother, Orrin, is a Packers offensive lineman.

Central Florida offensive tackle Josh Sitton (fourth round) has impressed coaches during the shorts and t-shirts part of the offseason schedule, and LSU quarterback Matt Flynn (seventh round) will reprise his role as backup (prior to his senior year, he was JaMarcus Russell's understudy).

Remaining Needs

When the biggest concern (other than Rodgers) heading into training camp is whether outside linebacker Brady Poppinga will ever improve in pass coverage, the roster is in pretty good shape. Green Bay didn't draft a linebacker, but Brandon Chillar, signed in March from the Rams, will battle Poppinga for playing time.

Rookie Free Agents

The Packers may not have drafted Poppinga's competition, but they signed two linebackers as rookie free agents: Connecticut's Danny Lansanah and Fresno State's Marcus Riley. Both face long odds, and conventional wisdom suggests their best chance of making the club will be on special teams. Tight end Joey Haynos (Maryland) is an imposing target at 6-8, 260, and tight end Mike Peterson (Northwest Missouri State) is 25 years old and a converted running back and a strong blocker.

Minnesota Vikings

Draft Recap

The Vikings only had five picks on draft weekend and just one selection prior to the fifth round, but the team made its big offseason move in the days leading up to the draft. Minnesota sent a fifth-rounder and two third-rounders to Kansas City for Jared Allen. At first glance, the price might seem steep, but the Vikings were in dire need of a pass rushing defensive end (Kenechi Udeze was diagnosed with leukemia and will miss the 2008 season, and Erasmus James is recovering -- again -- from left knee surgery). As Ned Macey pointed out in the AFC West Four Downs, in historical terms, the three picks sent the Chiefs' way (Nos. 15, 73, and 82) have historically yielded a mixed bag of NFL talent. With Allen, the Vikings know what they're getting and when they're getting it. For a team looking to make a postseason run, it was a heady move.

The club drafted Arkansas State's Tyrell Johnson in Round 2. Like the Bear's Forte, Johnson's Senior Bowl performance caused his draft stock to take off. Minnesota had him as the 17th-best player on their draft board ahead of Kenny Phillips. Darren Sharper and offseason acquisition Madieu Williams are entrenched at safety, but if Johnson is as good as the Vikings thing he will be, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will find ways to get him on the field.

Trading a first and two thirds for Allen signaled that the team was relatively happy with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. In the fifth round, however, they selected USC's John David Booty. NFL Network's Adam Schefter writes that some in the league believe Booty could be the starter before the season is out. That seems like a stretch, especially since Booty's stocked slipped because of suspect arm strength and questionable decision making. That said, Jackson has much to prove and it's conceivable that a rocky start to the season could hasten a change.

Florida State defensive tackle Letroy Guion (fifth round) is a project. He started eight games last season only because Andre Fluellen, the Lions' third-round pick, was injured. Notre Dame center John Sullivan (sixth round) could eventually succeed Matt Birk, who is entering the last year of his contract. If Jackson State wide receiver Jaymar Johnson (sixth round), the Vikings' final selection, makes the team, it will likely be as a returner.

Remaining Needs

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie was arrested on a felony assault charge earlier this spring, and there's a possibility he could be suspended for violating the NFL's conduct policy. Marcus Johnson and Artis Hicks would be short-term replacements, but hopefully it won't come to that. Allen immediately improves the Vikings' pass rush, but with Udeze out and James' return uncertain, depth at defensive end might be a problem behind Ray Edwards and Brian Robison.

Rookie Free Agents

The Vikings signed USC offensive tackle Drew Radovich to a three-year deal that included a $23,000 signing bonus, which should portend good things for his future. considered Maryland linebacker Erin Henderson (brother of the Vikings' E.J.) a second- or third-round pick; he went undrafted, possibly because of persistent knee troubles and struggles in pass coverage. Miami quarterback Kyle Wright has the physical tools but, like most undrafted free agents, lacks consistency. Unless he's able to beat out Booty, Wright will be a developmental project on the practice squad in '08. Texas safety Michael Griffin is the twin brother of Michael, the Titans' first-round pick a year ago.


77 comments, Last at 19 Jun 2008, 9:18pm

1 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

This division is a complete mystery, because, if for no other reason, there is little reason to think that three of the four teams will have decent qb play, and the qb with the most consistent track record in the division plays on a team with plenty of other problems, and has a new offensive coordinator.

Obviously, if the Packers or Vikings get decent qb play, they might win 11 games. They also might win 7 if the qb play sucks, which it might do. If the Bears are counting on a rookie to join their offense, and perform adequately at left ot, they seem to be dreaming to me. This ain't exactly Ugoh joining a talent-rich Colts offense. As mentioned above, the Lions have plenty of problems.

Who know what will happen? Not me, and I still may be crazy, but if the price for Jason Taylor has dropped as reported, the Vikings should try hard to get him, and go into next season extremely strong at the 2nd most important position on the field.

2 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

What's the problem with relying on a rookie to contribute at left tackle? Many teams have used rookies at the spot recently and were asking the rooks to protect far more valuable commodities than Grossman/Orton. They don't need him to be great they just need him to be as good or better than John Tait was last year. Tait was adequate nothing more. Hopefully a move back to the right side is what he needs, and even if it isn't adequate is a lot better than Fred Miller was last year. Still don't know if anyone can catch the ball other than the tight ends but if the D bounces back to 2006 form they'll win the division.

3 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

If you trade for Jason Taylor, who do you move to LDE, Taylor or Allen? They both seem more suited to RDE.

4 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Erasmus James was released by the Vikings last week, so he's no longer in competition there.

On the Packers front, I've never seen Jermichael Finley listed at over 236, and most I've seen have him in the 220s. (He looks a lot more like 220, too - google images.) He's got a long way to go before he becomes more than a momentary obstruction to a typical defensive end.

5 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

And now, evidently Erasmus James is a Redskin. Link in the name.

6 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

As with other recent 4 Downs (AFCS in particular, which had Dylan Gandy still on the Colts a couple weeks after being cut) this should be updated just before press-time. Erasmus James is no longer in the picture.

I know it's book-time and it takes a while to get these articles done, and further, that they're probably initially set-up right after the draft, but still, having someone read them for last-minute cuts and trades makes sense.... no?

/pissy fit

I think this could be a really fun, competitive division to watch this year (if you don't have a stake in it), mainly because of the QB play. Will Purple Jesus take over? Will the Pack roll on? Will Rex ever get it? Will Millen be vindicated somehow, some day? Much as I love the Colts and the AFCS, I can see how others might find it boring and a more-or-less foregone conclusion. But the NFCN is anything but, IMO. If T-Jack can put together a decent season, Minny has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.

The downside is, if no team really rises up to the occasion, it could be like the NFCW the past few years--so weak that somebody has to win it, but most people scoff at the teams and nobody really pays serious attention. (Seattle has a very quiet 5-year playoff streak despite the fact that it includes a SB appearance--and some might say they should have won it!)

7 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

After deciding that Alan Faneca wasn’t worth pursuing, Chicago used their first-round pick on Vanderbilt left tackle Chris Williams.
Such a big chance to report what the 2 are making the next seasons...

8 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

"Chicken, cart, meet egg, horse."
sorry, maar wat zei je daar?

9 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

#2, AmbientDonkey

I would disagree with your assessment of Tait's performance last year, I thought he played pretty well, the problems on the left side were mainly at LG where Brown tried to play out most of the year unable to use his right arm properly, and Metcalf was poor when pressed into action. Unfortunately the Bears didn't add any competition for the spot in the offseason, but that may be because they plan on using St Clair at that spot - he played well there in the last two games of the season. Everyone is assuming it will be Metcalf or Beekman, but I think St Clair will be the dark horse candidate come training camp.

#1, Will Allen

Obviously playing a rookie at a position as important as LT isn't ideal, but that need may well be the reason the Bears went with Williams over Albert in the draft. Williams was a four year starter in the SEC, the last two at LT and last year allowed only one sack in over 850 plays. His record in college was very strong and I for one am hoping that he can have a similar impact as a rookie as the last SEC LT with a comparable resume, Marcus McNeil. Unfortunately he will need to as he plays against the following DREs next year in the following order - Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, Gaines Adams, Trent Cole, Alama-Francis, John Abraham, Jared Allen, Alama-Francis, Kyle Vandenbosch, KGB, Chris Long, Jared Allen, Derrick Harvey, Will Smith and last but certainly not least Mario Williams. Talk about a trial by fire, if he doesn't sink without a trace then he is a keeper. Having said that I am not sure there are more than six or seven LTs in football who are going to be able to cope without help against that lot.

10 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Re 8:

There is an old saying "what came first the chicken or the egg?" and a similar one about a cart and a horse. I think Ryan is trying to say is did the Lions running game suck because the line sucked, or did the line look bad because the backs sucked?

11 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Re: 7

I don't think anybody knows (yet) what Williams is going to make next year.

12 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Sorry to double post, but is anyone able to cast any light on how serious the charges McKinnie is facing are?

In the UK smacking someone over the head with a metal pole would probably get you charged with aggravated assault. First offence you might get an inordinate amount of community service if you were lucky, but you are probably looking at a short jail term. I would imagine that Florida is likely to have harsher punishments than the UK.

Anyway my question really relates to how much (if any) of the upcoming season is McKinnie going to be away for. Does anyone have any ideas?

13 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Re 6:

It's even crazier when you consider this fact, the Bears swept the Packers, who swept the Lions and Vikings, who both swept the Bears. Madness.

14 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Lions will be intersting. I think they will be terrible, but thats the cynic in me. I still think the Lions should say screw it and run a spread offense. But they will keep 2 talented WRs off the field and put 2 below average TEs out there instead.

15 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

As #4 has already pointed out, Erasmus James is no longer with the Vikings. He failed a physical last week, and has now been traded to the Redskins for a conditional seventh-round pick, which is contingent on him not getting cut during training camp. He doesn't belong in a discussion about the defensive end rotation in Minnesota any more than Troy Williamson belongs in a discussion about the current receiver-corps. Let's forget the 2005 draft and move on.

16 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Chicago : Sure that Kellen Davis will be used as a TE ? He can also play DE.

Too much hate on Detroit : Cliff Avril, Kevin Smith and Fluellen were very solid picks.

Vikings : T.Johnson had a tremendous combine, and a good college career. I don't even recall him playing in the Senior Bowl, so I'm quite surprised to see that it was his performance there that got him drafted.

17 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

RE: 11

In America, money rules. Athletes have money and anything short of a federal crime (murder, dogfighting, drug distribution, etc.) can basically be paid out of. You buy some expensive lawyer who will argue that the pole you hit the guy with was basically no different from a paper clip and that the guy more or less ran into the pole. The judge gets pressured into sentencing a large fine (to put into the state/city coffers) instead of jail time. And suddenly, some crime a normal person would get plenty of jail time for becomes probation and an easily payable (for a professional athlete) fine.

18 Re: Four Downs: NFC North


The Bears only had two TEs on the roster, adding a big guy who can block was one of the needs the Bears wanted to fill. By contrast they have about six guys who can play DE, most of whom are pretty good.

19 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Problem with the metaphor is that nobody knows which came first, the chicken or the egg, but I think most people agree that the horse is supposed to be in front of the cart...

20 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Wait, so according to the last sentence of the article, the Twin Griffin brothers are named Michael and Michael?

21 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

#18: True, but which do you buy first, the cart or the horse?

22 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The horse, because it's still an asset even without the cart.

Detroit also used free agency (and the Shaun Rogers trade) to improve the secondary, landing Dwight Smith, Brian Kelly, and Leigh Bodden.

Don't forget SS Kalvin Pearson, who was subsequently arrested in what might be the worst part of Tampa for choking his pregnant girlfriend.

23 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The problem with starting a rookie at left ot is the same as starting a rookie anywhere; rookies often suck, even when highly drafted. Add on that left ot is one of the more technical positions, and requires a great deal of coordination with the other linemen, and starting a rookie there is problematic. Yes, some teams have gotten away with it. More have not. Frankly, any projection for any team which assumes a decent performance by any rookie is pretty doubtful.

The rationale that says it is more tolerable to start a marginal left ot when your qb is marginal is a little dubious. Marginal qbs enter the realm of pure, 100%, awfulness when their left ots don't perform. Run the tape of Grossman under pressure over the last few years.

24 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Regarding McKinnie, the fact that he can afford the best legal defense is very helpful, of course, but depending on the prosecutor and evidence, maybe not as much as one might think. Mike Tyson went to jail, remember.

I don't know the facts, and wouldn't presume that what one has read in the media is wholly accurate. If there is any evidence which could be interprted as a possible argument for self defense or provocation (I read one report which stated that the bouncer initiated physical contact), it become riskier for the prosecution to take the hardest line, and not offer some sort of deal to a defendent who can afford jury selection experts, along with all the other finest legal defense trimmings. The defendent's risk in going to trial is huge, however.

Thus, there is motivation on both sides to reach an accomadation, without considering the possibility of the alleged victim being offered considerable inducement to become less vocal in his testimony. I suspect Mckinnie's team is holding out for a misdemeanor plea, and without knowing what evidence the lawyers are looking at, there is no way to know how likely that is to be forthcoming.

My gut says that McKinnie is looking at a suspension of between two and eight games. Two games would be manageable for the Vikings, but eight would be a major, major, problem, I think. If I'm wrong, and McKinnie gets a full year suspension, a six, or, gulp, five win season is a possibility.

25 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Is there a team in the league that doesn't need a rookie to perform well somewhere?

26 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I know that we fans of this site are often nit-picky about the facts in these articles, but I think we hold this site to a higher standard than the ESPN type rubbish out there. That being said, the Vikings-Chiefs trade of Allen involved the #17, NOT #15 overall pick. The Chiefs subsequently traded with Detroit to get the 15.

27 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

While we're fixing errors, apparently Benson's single missed practice(he was there for days 2 and 3) was because he was meeting with his lawyer in Austin and the Bears were fully aware of his reason for not being there.

28 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Well, there are teams which are not dependent on a rookie starting and performing well, especially at a critical position like left ot. Most teams which advance deep into the playoffs, I'd guess, do not have rookies starting or playing a significant number of plays. Yes, there are exceptions.

29 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

6 - Bobman, I was stumped so I asked my Magic 8 Ball (R) for answers to your questions.
Will Purple Jesus take over? A distinct possibility.
Will the Pack roll on? Indications say yes.
Will Rex ever get it? Ask again later.
Will Millen be vindicated somehow, some day? You've got to be f***ing kidding me.

30 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

justanothersteve, that's some foul-mouthed Magic 8-Ball you have. Where can I buy one?

Will Allen, not contradicting what you say about money and defense attorneys, but Tyson spent 3 years (I think) in jail. How much time would he have spent there, including all the "minor" scuffles he's had with the law before and after, if he wasn't as wealthy and famous as he once was? My conservative guess is 10+ years. If only Cus D'Amato were still alive..... but that's a sad tale for another thread.

Hell, without Cus, we'd never have heard his name and he'd be 20 years into a life sentence for murder.

31 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

This has to be my favorite division in the NFL, because year-after-year, these teams do more strange stuff than any other four teams. The real question here is which team will be the first to use three QBs, and not because of injury.

32 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Re: 24

I've got no idea who the Vikes have behind McKinnie, but I can't believe whoever it is is so bad that he costs the Vikes 4 or 5 wins. Left tackle is an important spot but teams with talent at other spots (and the Vikes certainly fit that description) can scheme to cover it if they have to. It's not like the Vikes are going to be throwing 40 passes a game anyway. And while they would miss McKinnie in the running game, I don't think his absence would be catastrophic.

This is a team that will rely on defense and their running game to get their wins.

33 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I've got to agree with folks saying this is an interesting division to observe. It looks to me like either Minnesota or GB will get good enough QB to be on top and there is a good chance both will be in the playoffs. The Bears still have huge issues on the offensive side of the ball. Their defense and special teams will win them some games but not enough to threaten for the playoffs. The Lions, well, it's hard not to look at the Lions and see a team that's starting it's rebuilding effort two years too late. Part of that is of course related to hiring/firing Martz. As noted in #14, they still have the Martz personell not the folks to run the kind of offense they want to install. But even on the defensive side they are still unloading guys (Edwards, Rogers) that you would think should have been moved as soon as Marinelli arrived. This could be a really tough year for them.

34 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I think the Pack are going to be an interesting team to watch next year, mainly because they seem to be returning all of their starters on offense apart from their QB. It is almost like an experiment to see which is more important, QBs or the cast around them. It could be that they carry on as though #4 is still there. I can just as easily see the wheels falling off the bus without the other worldly skills of Favre making everyone else shine.

35 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

#32, mawbrew

The problem the Vikes have if McKinnie is unavailable is that their offensive line is very good from LT to C and a bit poor at RG and RT. Last season they were able to maul teams on the left side which forced teams to over commit defensively and created cutback lanes on the right side. If they lose Mckinnie for too long they may struggle to recreate last years heroics in the running game. Obviously not having your LT will not help your young QB either.

Also Matt Birk is pissed at not being offered a new deal after having a fantastic season last year and now being forced to play out the last year of his current deal. He is one of the leaders on an offense that could probably use some direction. Having said that I expect him to report on time, but it might be wiser to have a happy locker room. I don't really understand why they don't just pay him, they (as usual) have mountains of cap room and he has been one of their stalwart players for years.

36 Re: Four Downs: NFC North


The sad thing is that Kalimba could have been gone right away, but Maranelli and Donnie Henderson had to have him (the Browns were on the verge of signing him) so we re-signed him to a nice contract.

Shaun Rogers is a player they had to keep though, he has the potential to be the most dominant DT in the game and the thought process is that if Maranelli was able to harness A-holes like Sapp and Rice, then pushing a guy like Rogers will be easier. The first year was a wash, this year he still struggled with his conditioning and he still had 7 sacks as a DT.

37 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

17: You obviously know nothing about how the criminal justice system works.

12: If it's a felony, it's at least a year of jail time. In Illinois (my only reference), it'd be two to five years.

38 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Headline on ProFootballTalk


Will - what did you do?

39 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

mawbrew, losing Mckinnie for the year will reinforce every bad trait Tavaris Jackson has, along with harming the running game in the way detailed above, which is it is so potentially catastrophic. The Vikings don't have depth at offensive tackle.

Jimm, I can neither confirm or deny anything.

40 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Athletes have money and anything short of a federal crime (murder, dogfighting, drug distribution, etc.) can basically be paid out of.

Interestingly, none of those are federal crimes (unless the drug distribution crosses state lines.)

The federal charges brought against Vick were "Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate
Commerce in Aid of Unlawful

41 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The Rodgers experiment might be the key to this division. Packer fans are incredibly - unrealistically - optimistic that the offense won't miss a beat without Favre.

I tried to find similar scenarios to the one facing Rodgers (see link). Namely:
- A QB with next-to-no NFL experience, but who is not in his first year with his team;
- An offense ranked in the top five the previous season;
- The QB was a first-day draft choice;
- Designated as starter during the offseason (ie has training camp with the first unit).

The names I came up with were: Steve Young in San Francisco; Daunte Culpepper in Minnesota; Bobby Hoying in Philly. But there were important differences with the Rodgers situation in each case.

Could anyone devise similarity scores to predict Rodgers' first season?

42 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

It would be far more accurate to say that extremely wealthy people lose most, and sometimes nearly all of their advantage if it is the Federal Government bringing charges. The prosecutor of nearly limitless resources can wear down even the wealthiest accused, or at least match them. Why even a billionaire like Martha Stewart would agree to be interviewed by FBI agents is unimaginable. If the Feds come knocking, the response should always be that absent a Grand Jury subpeona, nothing will be said, and even then the only thing said will be an invocation of the Fifth Amendment.

43 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Re: 36

That Edwards contract was a big mistake. And I understand the desire to see if Marinelli could get Rogers motivated, but you've got to be able to figure that out within a year. If they had traded both of these guys last year when they unloaded Dre Bly, they would be way ahead of where there are now.

44 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

#31 - More importantly, who will be the first to use 3 quarterbacks in a single formation. My money is on Tampa Bay.

#41 - You might have to do some digging, but it probably was not that uncommon at one time. Sonny Jurgensen had 5 starts as a rookie in '57 in Philly, sat for several seasons afterwards without a start behind Van Brocklin, and then took over the offense as starter in the early sixties after Van Brocklin retired and performed well. Not the most similar situation to Rodgers, but more similar circumstances than say, Steve Young, who had a couple seasons of pro starting experience under his belt by the time he joined Frisco.

45 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

If nothing else, the Rodgers situation should be a pretty good indicator of whether or not you actually learn anything on the bench or if you're better off just playing your hotshot rookie quarterback as soon as he has a decent grasp of the playbook.

46 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

#25 - I don't think the Chargers, to use one example, are counting on any of their rookies to start this year (their first round CB draft choice Antoine Cason may play nickel back, but that doesn't really count).

Some elite teams do have rookies playing and being relied on, but I think that's usually when their performance is such that they seize the starting job, not because they were forced into the role.

Chicken and egg again? Or Horse and cart

47 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The Chargers are more of an exception than a rule, and I think you can make a fairly convincing argument that the nickel corner is a starter. I wouldn't worry about the Bears offense because they need 1 rookie to make a significant contribution, I worry about it because they probably need 3 rookies to make significant contributions. Or alternatively Cedric could have a good season and Mark Bradley could manage to remain ambulatory for 16 games. I have more confidence in in the 3 rookies.

48 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

And I understand the desire to see if Marinelli could get Rogers motivated, but you’ve got to be able to figure that out within a year. If they had traded both of these guys last year when they unloaded Dre Bly, they would be way ahead of where there are now.

Maybe, but by waiting 'til this year, they were able to scoop up Leigh Bodden as part of the trade. His value was lower because he's coming off a bad year, so they might be better off for having waited.

Am I the only who thinks Minnesota should have went after Joey Harrington in the offseason? As crazy as this might sound to some people, I think he was probably the best free agent quarterback available.

49 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

#48 - With that line in Minny, Harrington might have done well, if he could find somebody to throw to. But then again, when has he ever had anyone to throw to?

50 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Re 47:

If Bradley is healthy, I doubt any rookie is above 4th on the depth chart. The top 3 are going to be Booker, Bradley, and Hester.

51 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

#41 - Phillip Rivers succeeded under those conditions. The Jets weren't a Top-5 offense, but they had a solid group that got hit by age & injuries the year before Pennington started.

52 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Bradley is already scheduled to miss the beginning of training camp recovering from knee surgery, Lloyd and Davis have proven their uselessness. So I think a rookie has a good shot to be number 3.

53 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I'm not positive Davis won't be given more playing time than the rookies. The coaches seem to like him, and last year was such a mess I'm ready to give most of the skill position players a pass.

54 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Am I the only who thinks Minnesota should have went after Joey Harrington in the offseason? As crazy as this might sound to some people, I think he was probably the best free agent quarterback available.

No, you're not the only one. The Vikings had a chance at picking up a mediocre passer for next to nothing, and instead they elected to go through another year with Tarvaris "replacement level" Jackson under center. He probably was the best free agent QB, because above average QBs don't usually reach free agency.

Now, Harrington's nothing special as a QB, but in Minnesota, he wouldn't have to be. All he'd have to do is hit open receivers when there are 8 or 9 guys in the box, and things would be fine. I think he's plenty able to do that.

55 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Kellen Davis' lack of production for my Spartans is almost entirely due to him playing in John L. Smith's spread offense for three years, which didn't use the TE much. As a senior under Mark Dantonio he had 32 catches for 513 yards and 6 TDs. He's certainly got the physcial tools to show something for the Bears, although he has the dread character concerns due to a dispute at a party during his junior season, which he settled by holding a fellow student's head underwater in the Red Cedar River.

I really like the idea of the Lions' draft this year. We'll see how it works in reality. Cherilious only needs to be adequete to be an improvement at right tackle. The Cliff Avril pick is the one I'm iffiest on, although Marinelli has said he thinks Avril can bulk up.

56 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I think the idea behind the chicken/egg metaphor is that if you have a bad running game and only one draft pick to improve it, what do you pick: a lineman (so you have no RBs to run behind him) or a back (so you have no linemen to block for him)?

The cart-before-the-horse metaphor (saying "Don't put the cart before the horse" suggests that someone's trying to do something that relies on something else; in this case, drafting a RB when there aren't enough good OL to block for him) is particularly apt if you believe that a team should build its line before its backfield. (It is true that you could always end up drafting a horseless carriage, but I'd guess the odds of Detroit drafting another Barry are pretty slim.)

Honestly, the Lions haven't had glaring deficiencies on paper for a number of years. The problem is that the players rarely played up to expectations. It was usually some form of "If A, B, C, D, X, Y, and Z all play to their ability, the Lions can contend," and of course none of them would. Good riddance to Rogers. Let some other team try to figure out which 8 games will be the ones where he goes all out.

In my dream world, the Lions have been slowly cleaning house because Marinelli has been gradually showing Millen where he made mistakes with respect to judging talent. Aside from not knowing who was responsible for what, I fear that's not a likely scenario. What's more likely is that Millen still believes all those players are going to become great ones and they will all come back to dominate against the Lions, so Marinelli can only talk him into dumping a few each year.

I am so glad it's hockey season.

I can understand why teams would try rookies at key positions: if they feel the incumbents aren't going to be any better than they are now, they might as well try someone newer (and usually cheaper). A worst-case scenario is that they get atrocious performance and have to juggle linemen or search for mid-season free agents, but I think these teams would be willing to make that gamble.

57 Re: Four Downs: NFC North


As a Spartans fan can you shed any light on Davis abilities as an in-line blocker? He clearly has the frame, but has he demonstrated the ability on game day?

58 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I think people are underestimating the Bear's defense. This is basically the same personable from 2005 and 2006. Only three starters have been lost, Chris Harris (trading him was one of Angelo's bigger mistakes IMO), Ian Scott, and Tank Johnson. Plus, two players who are old enough they may be leaving their prime in Urlacher and Ogunleye. However, linebackers generally age gracefully, and Ogunleye is coming off his best year as a Bear. Tommie Harris is starting the year healthy, and if reverts to 2006 form, I think he is in the running for defensive player of the year.

Also, I think Urlachers problems last year were the shitty DTs in front of him, rather than his back. At the end of the year, when Matt Toeaina and Baba Oshinowo were playing instead of Garay, Adams, gimpy Harris, and gimpy Walker, suddenly our defense, and Urlacher in particular were looking a lot better. With the addition of Dusty Dvorchek and Marcus Harrison, the defensive line should be a lot better. If we can just stay healthy (come on Mike Brown, I know you at least one healthy season left in you), the defense can carry the team into the playoffs, with or without a QB.

59 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Alex, Jackson can hit the open man with nine guys in the box, as evidenced by multiple Troy Williamson drops. The problem last year was that the Vikings didn't have receivers who usually could get open against nine in the box. I suspect Berrian will make things at least a little better, and Sydney Rice should also be a little better in his 2nd year, if he stays healthy. I have no idea if this wil be enough, but there was little reason to think that Harrington would be better than Jackson, in Jackson's third year, and that is no endorsement of Jackson.

60 Re: Four Downs: NFC North


Please admit that you are Joey Harrington's agent.

61 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I have no idea if this wil be enough, but there was little reason to think that Harrington would be better than Jackson, in Jackson’s third year, and that is no endorsement of Jackson.

Harrington has had a better DPAR/DVOA than Jackson each of the last two years, by a fairly significant amount. And while Jackson's DPAR did improve substantially from 2006 to 2007, Harrington's actually improved more, and started at a higher level. I really see very little evidence that Jackson would be as good or better than Harrington, and that's no endorsement of Harrington.


Please admit that you are Joey Harrington’s agent.

I seriously doubt that man needs an agent; he's already been overpaid quite enough for one NFL career.

Really, the only reason Harrington comes up in these discussions is that he's about the best QB in free agency this year, and he's the only QB available for very little money who has recently shown that he can play at or near league average. Last year Garcia was the best QB in free agency, and the Vikings would've been much better off with him starting (although he might've just not wanted to play there, and he's obviously not a long-term solution at 37 years old), and the year before it was an injured Drew Brees. The fact that Harrington's about the best QB available says more about the importance NFL teams place on good QBs than it does about Harrington's abilities. Still, he's above replacement, and that would likely be an improvement for Minnesota. Of course, they should have just taken Brohm or Henne in the second round, but that's neither here nor there.

62 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Harrington re-signed already with the Falcons.

The Vikings should have pulled the deal to grab Rosenfels from the Texans if they really wanted to challenge Tarvaris.

63 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Actually, the guy I'm really curious the Vikings didn't go after is A.J. Feeley. He's likely to be the emergency quarterback with the Eagles, so it's pretty safe that he'd be available. And I doubt it'd take a second round pick like before, since everyone pretty much knows he's a below-average starter.

64 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Really, the only reason Harrington comes up in these discussions is that he’s about the best QB in free agency this year, and he’s the only QB available for very little money who has recently shown that he can play at or near league average.

I'll disagree. Quinn Gray had nearly as much DPAR (counting stat) in much less playing time last year and a much higher DVOA. He's the same age as Harrington without the track record of mediocrity. Granted he's got no track record, but he had flashes of adequacy last year. He signed as a backup at Houston, a team that already had the vaunted Sage Rosenfels. I'd even take him over Rosenfels. If we're gonna allow time travel to sign Harrington the Vikes should do it and sign Gray instead.

65 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The Bears' free agent QB is Nick Hill, not Hall

66 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Harrington re-signed already with the Falcons.

He signed a two year, $6 million contract. The Vikings easily could've beaten that money without making a dent in their salary cap. They could've gotten Harrington pretty easily - they just chose not to.

Quinn Gray had nearly as much DPAR (counting stat) in much less playing time last year and a much higher DVOA. He’s the same age as Harrington without the track record of mediocrity. Granted he’s got no track record, but he had flashes of adequacy last year.

I see your point, but what I meant was that with Harrington, you know you're getting a mediocre passer. Harrington's thrown more than 2500 passes in his career, so he's much more of a proven commodity. So, if mediocre passing is all you need, you're set. With Gray, there's way more uncertainty, because he's only thrown 180 passes in his entire career. There's a possibility that he'll be really good, as we've seen from those "flashes of adequacy", but there's also a distinct possibility that he'll suck really, really badly. Gray's got a higher ceiling, but he's also got a much lower floor, and really, the Vikings already have someone filling the "high upside, low chance of reaching it" role. Not that getting Gray wouldn't be a good idea for the Vikings, but I just don't think we can say with any confidence at this point that he's better than Harrington.

Actually, the guy I’m really curious the Vikings didn’t go after is A.J. Feeley.
The Vikings should have pulled the deal to grab Rosenfels from the Texans if they really wanted to challenge Tarvaris.
If we’re gonna allow time travel to sign Harrington the Vikes should do it and sign Gray instead.

All valid ideas. And I'm sure Brad Childress looked around his office, considering each of those possibilities in turn, and said to himself, "No, we can win 10 games next year with the QBs on our roster right now."

And strangely, he might even be right.

67 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

57: I'd say, honestly, not as good as he should be with his size and strength. He was often notable for not blocking well previously, but improved as a senior. I remember him being pretty solid last year, not bouncing off his man, or failing to get his hat on someone

You can say that Davis started trying or that he finally got some good coaching.

68 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Alex, Harrington would suck beyond belief if he wasn't better than Jackson, during Jackson's first fifteen or so starts, after Jackson came out of Division 1-AA. If Romo had started about half of his games in his first two years in the NFL, I'm sure Harrington would have been better than Romo as well. No, I'm not saying Jackson is Romo. I'm saying that compiling better stats than a guy who played at Alabama State, during the Alabama Sate guy's first 32 games on an NFL roster, is meaningless. If Harrington hadn't, he'd be Ryan Leaf bad.

69 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

64,66, others: I don't know if Harrington is better than Gray or vice versa but DVOA and such stats are fairly useless for this comparison as that should be called an offensive total or a passing offense measure. The QB is the most important player, but only one of 11 (plus the OC) who all contribute to the passing offense.

70 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

No, I’m not saying Jackson is Romo. I’m saying that compiling better stats than a guy who played at Alabama State, during the Alabama Sate guy’s first 32 games on an NFL roster, is meaningless. If Harrington hadn’t, he’d be Ryan Leaf bad.

Fine, but I never said that Jackson wouldn't ever be as good as Harrington. I just don't think he's as good right now. I think he's probably still going to need a year or two before he reaches or exceeds Harrington's level.

I get that Jackson was young and inexperienced in the last two seasons, but he's still fairly young and inexperienced now, so I don't see any reason to think he's suddenly going to be an average or better QB next year. He might get there at some point in his career, but I don't think it'll be this year.

71 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Alex, the point is that predicting exactly when a young qb will make a marked improvement is impossible, especially when you see a qb as infrequently as fans like you and I do. On the other hand, the odds of Harrington ever being above average are vanishingly small.

72 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

predicting exactly when a young qb will make a marked improvement is impossible, especially when you see a qb as infrequently as fans like you and I do. On the other hand, the odds of Harrington ever being above average are vanishingly small.

I agree, predicting when a young QB will make a marked improvement is impossible, so there's no way to know whether Jackson will do so next year. And, while the odds of Harrington being above average are extremely small, the chances of him being truly awful are also quite small.

My point isn't that the Vikings should keep Harrington over Jackson for the long term. I'd even be willing to agree that Jackson will likely be better than Harrington eventually. But getting Harrington for the next year or two would provide a higher floor for their QB performance. Right now, the Vikings QB performance has a very low floor and a high ceiling. Adding Harrington, if only as a backup, would change that to a mediocre floor and a high ceiling. I don't see why you wouldn't want that, especially for a team that really only needs mediocre QB performance to reach the playoffs.

73 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Tarvaris Jackson played much better in the final seven games of last year than he did in his first five starts, and his two starts in 06.

In his final seven starts last year, Jackson threw 7 TDs & 7 INTs, completed 65% of his passes for 1311 yards (avg 187 per game) , and had a QB rating of about 83. If Jackson can improve on this just a bit, the Vikings will be fine at QB.

74 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

As a Packer fan I'd like to think the team can roll again, but as a gambler my money is on minnesota after they acquired one of the league's top 3 DEs. I have some other non-rodgers concerns about the pack:
1) Justin Harrell is injured again, can we count on harell/jolly to come off injuries and make up for losing C.Williams? Will we get killed when rotating out Pickett?
2) Harris/Woodson were both healthy last year - what are the odds that happens again?
3) KGB is out til camp after knee surgery - will jenkins/KGB be able to provide enough pressure from the back-side?
4) Clifton and Tausch are both getting on in years, if one of them goes down who goes in? Moll? Barbre? Are we at all comfortable with either of them?

Injuries are always hugely important, and obviously every team has these types of concerns, but I think we have higher risks of injury at the critical positions of DT, DE, CB, and OT.

75 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Well Quinn Gray is back on the market (quickly) after not being able to pick up the Texans offense at all.

76 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I have two words for Minnesota: Byron Leftwich. You have a huge amount of money invested in an offensive line, why not go for a great quarterback who has one problem that you've already solved? Leftwich's MLB-esque windup wouldn't matter if he was behind Minnesota's O line.

77 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

talking about the LT Williams of the bears. LT takes on speed rushers every week. Williams weakness is blocking speed rushers. Quick fix put TE over on his side to chip speed rusher. Williams forte is in golfing DE when he gets his hands on them. So I see the bears putting the TE over on his side until he adjusts too the NFL.