Four Downs: NFC North

Four Downs: NFC North
Four Downs: NFC North
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Ned Macey

Chicago Bears

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Wide Receiver

The Bears had little opportunity to remake their team in the draft. Their first-round pick was sent to Denver to acquire Jay Cutler, and their second-round pick was sent to Tampa Bay for the late Gaines Adams. With none of their late-round picks did they add a weapon to help Jay Cutler rebound from his horrible first season in Chicago.

Quite simply, the Bears’ fortunes over the next several seasons are tied to whether Cutler emerges as the above-average quarterback he was in Denver. Despite the massive investment in Cutler that the Bears made via both draft picks and salary, they have surrounded him with arguably the worst wide receiving corps outside of St. Louis. Devin Hester, Devin Aromashodu, Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox, and Rashied Davis simply put no fear into an opposing defense. They can usually be covered one-on-one on anything more complicated than a go route, tightening the throwing lanes Cutler faces and allowing opposing safeties to gamble. The result is numerous opportunities for an interception-prone quarterback to throw interceptions.

Perhaps the strangest example of Chicago's desperate need for receivers is the excitement being built up in the media over Aromashodu. This is a player who has only seen the field in two of his four NFL seasons. Two years ago, he was behind Aaron Moorehead on the Indianapolis depth chart. Even his big end-season breakout last year had only average value according to FO's play-by-play breakdown.

The Bears have grounds for optimism on two levels. First, the receivers are all young, so it is possible that someone emerges as a legitimate number one receiver. Second, offensive coordinator Mike Martz once turned Mike Furrey into a 1,000 yard receiver, and Furrey would fit comfortably with the mediocrities the Bears currently employ at the position.

Important Undrafted Free Agents

With only five draft picks, the Bears had to be active in the rookie free agent market, eventually adding 13. Among the more interesting ones are Bowling Green receiver Freddie Barnes who had an amazing statistical senior year, amassing an NCAA-record 155 receptions and 19 touchdowns. Michigan running back Brandon Minor is a talented player who battled injuries in college, including a torn rotator cuff as a senior. In the interest of providing equal time, I’ll note the Bears added Ohio State defensive end Lawrence Wilson, who was a huge recruit out of high school and played basketball with LeBron James. No word on whether Wilson competing for a spot to make the practice squad in Chicago increases LeBron’s chances of joining the Bulls.

Detroit Lions

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Cornerback

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz oversaw a dominant defense in Tennessee that started seventh-round pick Cortland Finnegan and veteran undrafted free agent Nick Harper at corner. The key to the defense was a dominant defensive line. Schwartz is attempting to replicate that success in Detroit. He spent much of the offseason building the defensive line, adding Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams, and Ndamukong Suh. At cornerback, however, a talentless void saw only tinkering at the margins.

Before the draft, the Lions acquired Chris Houston in a trade from Atlanta. Houston immediately became the Lions top cornerback -- which is extremely troubling. According to our game charting project, Houston was among the worst cornerbacks in football. He had the fifth lowest success rate among cornerbacks who were targeted at least 40 times. The one spot of hope is that highly-drafted corners like Houston often blossom in their fourth season, which happens to be the year Houston is entering.

In the draft, the Lions finally got to cornerback in the third round, selecting Amari Spievey, a physical corner and an interesting prospect. In Detroit, unfortunately, he will likely be a starter from Day One. To show their desperation, the Lions this week added C.C. Brown, who was a horrible safety in New York last year but will "battle" with Rams' washout Jonathan Wade for the nickel back position. The Lions defensive line is decidedly better, but unless they get to the quarterback immediately, opposing quarterbacks will have plenty of room to make big plays.

Important Undrafted Free Agents

Every undrafted free agent must wait eagerly for a phone call from Detroit, the least talented team in the league. Twelve lucky men got that call, and anyone who plays defense or offensive line has a legitimate chance to stick. Perhaps the most intriguing prospect is Pitt cornerback Aaron Berry, who has speed and real upside. The biggest name may be linebacker Ryan Stamper, a defensive captain at Florida. Stamper is a step slow, but on a weak defense, his ability to play smart could endear him to the Lions coaching staff. Finally, offensive lineman Mike Hicks out of Connecticut could make the roster as a reserve guard.

Green Bay Packers

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Cornerback

The Packers' season collapsed in a series of secondary breakdowns that allowed opponents to march up and down the field. These failures occurred despite cornerback Charles Woodson having a career year at the advanced age of 33. Woodson's running mate, Al Harris, suffered a season-ending ACL injury and is 35 years old. Even with the age of their supposed starters, the Packers were content to make no major additions at cornerback in free agency or the draft.

The Packers are left with Woodson, Harris, and Tramon Williams as their top three cornerbacks. Williams was below average in our primary game charting statistics (46th out of 82 corners in success rate, 55th in yards per pass) despite spending much of the year as the nickel back covering lesser receivers. Harris, even before the injury, was showing marked signs of decline. His physical style has allowed him to age gracefully, but he appeared to lose some first-step quickness. which exacerbated his long-declining straight-line speed. Jarrett Bush is the fourth cornerback, but in limited time he showed a propensity to be beaten deep. .

The Packers have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, but the team has serious potential for a disaster with its cornerbacks. Any contribution from Harris will be a bonus, and the Packers cannot assume that Woodson will either remain healthy or reach last year's level. Unless Williams and Bush take major strides forward, the Packers will have to win a lot of shootouts.

Important Undrafted Free Agents

One intriguing rookie free agent the Packers added was Tim Knicky out of Stephen F. Austin. Knicky was a defensive end in college, but the Packers project him as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. Cornerback Sammy Shields out of Miami is an exceptional athlete who could compete for a job as a returner, but his value is limited based on how raw he is as a cornerback. He has to be clearly the team’s best option as a return man to make the roster. Nick McDonald is a tackle from Grand Valley State who has impressive talent. Given the Packers age at tackle, he would be a good candidate to land on the practice squad.

Minnesota Vikings

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Safety

The Vikings have arguably the best pass rush in football. They have, undoubtedly, the best run defense in football. Playing safety for the Vikings should be a breeze. You are free to play pass defense, facing opposing quarterbacks who are forced to rush their passes. It was therefore more than a little disappointing that starting safeties Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams totaled one combined interception.
Interceptions are obviously not the only measure of a defensive back’s ability, and plenty of good defenders have not very many interceptions. In this case, however, it represents an overall lack of aggression on the part of Johnson and Williams. They both too often let plays develop in front of them. Despite these flaws, Johnson is probably an average to above-average starting safety. Williams, however, rarely challenged opposing pass catchers and too often allowed deep completions despite contributing little if anything in run defense.
If both players stay healthy, the Vikings defense will be fine, but the Vikings have no proven depth at the position. The top backup is Jamarca Sanford, a seventh-round pick a season ago. Sanford showed flashes of talent in limited opportunities, but he is far from a proven commodity or a finished product. If Johnson in particular were to be injured, the back-end of the Vikings defense would become a very inviting target for opposing offenses.

Important Undrafted Free Agents

The Vikings seem to be set for returners (Percy Harvin and Darius Reynaud), but they signed three speedy wide receivers who could potentially return kicks: Aaron Rhea of Stephen F. Austin, Ray Small from Ohio State, and Kelton Tindal of Newberry. Tindal may be the most intriguing because he has ridiculous speed, and playing for a small school (Newberry has an enrollment of 1,025 people) means his true ability is uncertain. Keep your eye on safety Terrell Skinner from Maryland who is 6-2 but only has average speed.


45 comments, Last at 04 Jun 2010, 3:55pm

1 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Interesting observations on the Vikings safties. I wondered last year if scheme or talent held these two back. While you comment on Johnson being the above-average safety, it was he who was benched last year in favour of Sanford.
I'm interested as to what extent scheme plays a factor in safety perfomance for this team. Don't have to go to far (Darren Sharper) to see someone excel (at least in playing center field) in a different scheme after leaving the Vikings.

3 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Even as a Saints fan, I want to temper a little bit that last statement. Sharper excelled because DC Williams sent good/creative blitzes, encouraging young (Stafford, Kolb, & Sanchez in the 1st four weeks) QB's to go to their hot read--which Sharper, as a (wily) veteran could anticipate and pick off. However, in pass defense, he definitely played a great CF/deep safety. Have to wait to see the numbers, but I don't remember him getting beat on a deep pass. (As the last defender in run support, well, that's a different story.)

9 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

DeShaun Jackson beat him in the Philly game. and then other stuff happened...

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

2 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

"To show their desperation, the Lions this week added C.C. Brown, who was a horrible safety in New York last year but will 'battle' with Rams' washout Jonathan Wade for the nickel back position."


"Despite the massive investment in Cutler that the Bears made via both draft picks and salary, they have surrounded him with arguably the worst wide receiving corps outside of St. Louis."

So what does that say about their offensive line?

6 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

True, but even though much of the o-line's success in pass protection depends on the quarterback, it was always said that the line (notably an aginn Orlando Pace) played pretty bad last year. At least in the Ron Turner Era.

26 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The OL played better, which is not to say that it played well. Unless the Bears significantly upgrade the OL, adding WR talent is like putting racing slicks on a Yugo.

4 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

In the five years that Frazier has been a def coordinator his defences have averaged only 14.4 ints a year. His safeties have only topped 4 ints in a season once; that being his first year in Minnesota where two veterans Sharper and D. Smith combined for 8. Smith was cut and Sharper wasn't resigned the next year. There were numerous reports that Sharper didn't like the conservative scheme. Of course he went on to lead the league with 9 ints in NO.

I think it's clear that Frazier doesn't want his safeties taking many chances. So I'm not sure you can judge the play of Williams and Johnson on that basis.

7 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I think there are a number of teams with receiving corps (corpse?) comparable or worse than the Bears. The Browns, Titans, Jaguars and Buccaneers receivers don't really scare anyone.

The offensive line really worries me though.

11 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Kelton Tindal Was released by the Vikings over a week before the date of this story. Who does your research? Unfortunately I was directed to this story by; I stopped visiting footballoutsiders a couple of years ago.

13 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Article was originally posted on ESPN May 12:

Kelton Tindal was cut May 21:

If you haven't been reading these you probably would not know that they are posted on ESPN before appearing on FO, but that is most likely the reason.

45 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The simple solution to this is to just add an "originally posted" line and possibly link to these. It took me awhile to figure out that it was originally Insider content that was re-posted once it was 'stale'. It would help eliminate the confused comments and would allow users to question the author if he hits or misses on some of the speculation.

Just a thought. :)

14 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

And, yet, here you are, Mr. Sherban.

FO writes these articles well before they go up on FO, it's a criticism that ends up getting rehashed in every 4 Downs thread. And it's always exciting and informative!

25 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Does FO's contract with ESPN prohibit it from editing for factual errors before re-posting on its own site? If so, FO might consider a different lawyer.

29 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

No, they just don't re-write it. I think the idea MIGHT be, if you want this info when it's still fresh, you should pay money to subscribe to the ESPN service for which it was written.

12 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

"In the interest of providing equal time, I’ll note the Bears added Ohio State defensive end Lawrence Wilson, who was a huge recruit out of high school and played basketball with LeBron James. No word on whether Wilson competing for a spot to make the practice squad in Chicago increases LeBron’s chances of joining the Bulls."

Wilson was released last week, so I don't think he'll have any impact on whether or not LeBron comes to the Bulls.

15 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Still so sad eh.
You'd think the guy could play.

16 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Jarrett Bush, GB's #4 CB? Please. This was the CB depth chart Gb entered training camp with last season (based somewhat on my subjective opinion of how things would have ended up if not for injury):

Charles Woodson
Al Harris
Tramon Williams
Will Blackmon
Pat Lee
Jarrett Bush

Lee was hurt in training camp. From what I remember it was supposed to be a 5-6 week (maybe 6-8 week injury), and he was placed on IR because GB could not afford to tie up a roster spot for a month with an injured #5 CB. It's hard to say exactly what he would have contributed since he was also IR'd his previous rookie season (for a broken wrist that likewise a starter might have been kept on the roster and allowed to come back), but he did see playing time and almost certainly could have beaten out Bush at CB depth.

Will Blackmon was hurt early on in the season, and Al Harris was lost at midseason. All CBs should be back this season, so Bush should again take his rightful spot at #6, assuming he makes the roster (he is mainly kept around for special teams play, although he manages to commit a lot of penalties that somewhat negate his contributions).

The Packers pass defense broke down last season mainly because they needed at least 6 serviceable CBs, and only had 5 at best, eventually forcing Bush into the Nickel position due to the injuries. If the Packers simply stay a bit healthier this season they could be fine. Of course, with the ages of Woodson and Harris and the injury histories of Blackmon and Lee that is a fairly big if.

19 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Actually, GB's depth at CB is:

Charles Woodson
Al Harris
Tramon Williams
Pat Lee
Brandon Underwood
Josh Bell
Jarrett Bush
Trevor Ford

Will Blackmon has been moved to S.

CMON, FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS! At least do your basic homework before posting crap about GB's CB depth! At least know the depth chart, as it is! Don't just take it from NFL.COM. Read what's going on in OTAs!!!!!

20 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

In reply to by PAckersRS (not verified)

I think the Packers properly diagnosed their greater problem in pass defense - poor safety play - and at least tried to address it with the drafting of Burnett. Pittsburgh and Arizona both killed them right up the middle, in part because Capers seemed to be overprotecting the CBs. Inconsistent pass rush also played a part. Personally, I'm more worried about whether Brad Jones can develop into a pass-rusher than I am about the CBs.

24 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Right, I had listed what I thought would have been the depth chart entering last season. From what I remembered Bell and Ford were non-factors at that point (practice squad or free agents?), and I wasn't sure what Underwood's exact status entering training camp was.

I had forgotten about Blackmon being moved to safety, though I'm taking a wait and see approach with that considering that the Packers have tried moving Bush and even briefly Woodson to safety and the changes didn't stick. In any case, I'm pretty sure that Blackmon would get moved back to CB if injuries deplete the position before the Pack voluntarily lets Bush resume the Nickelback position again.

35 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

This is exactly why 4 down continues to be, by far, the most useless set or articles on this site. NFC North is the only one I ever read, to see if it has gotten any better, and every time there is a similarly egregious error (last year it was the assertion that Tony Moll was at the top of the RT depth chart). I assume the info for all other teams is similarly flawed.

41 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Completely disagree - the journalistic excellence may be lacking at times, but the readers of this site do more than enough to correct and fill in the holes. I love the Four Downs series as a whole (article and reader input) because it gives a quick and reasonably in depth perspective the teams in the league all in one place. It is great during the off-season, and I wish that during the regular season FO had a similar feature, either weekly or every four weeks.

17 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Ryan Stamper never made it to the Lions, back issues I do believe (plus the Lions actually have decent depth at LBer).

18 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I can't make my mind up about this division. Conventional wisdom seems to be that the Pack and the Vikings are both head and shoulders above the rest of the division. Generally the Bears and the Lions are simply viewed as making up the numbers, turning up at the appointed times to be ceremonially dispatched by their green or purple brethren. A great deal of this seems to be driven by the (fairly idiotic) assumption that next season will be just like the last one, despite that fact that both Chicago and Detroit have made potentially important improvements to their teams while the Vikes and the Pack have both pretty much stood still.

I think it is all a lot closer together than that. In division play there isn't a single offensive line that should easily block the front sevens it will meet from the other three teams. Having said that the NFC North has a bewildering array of talented skill position players on offense and every team has some kind of question mark over their secondaries. This all seems very unpredictable and that is before the random nature of injuries kicks in.

Anyone think they have a better grasp of this than I do? Where is FOA '10 already?

21 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Unless Favre finally breaks down, I see the Vikings as the clear favorites.

I'm not that high on the Packers. Rodgers takes too many sacks, and Ryan Grant is not nearly as good as his numbers, and that defense seems to be smoke and mirrors. I'm also not a fan of McCarthy as a head coach.

As for the Lions they're starting at such a low point, they need really massive improvements just to be competitive. I could see them improving to mediocre this year, somewhere from 5-11 to 8-8.

The Bears are the hardest to predict, IMO. The defense was missing half it's starters at the end of last year, compared to week 17, there are 7 new starters I believe. On offense it comes down to how well Cutler can gel with the receivers. There were obvious issues last year when we didn't have a comparable receiver to Marshall. Could Aromashadu be that guy? Will Cutler just get used to playing with small speedsters? Will Olsen finally fulfill his potential?

22 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Do you think that Favre can possibly have another career year with INT's? That's my concern - and that Vikings team is loaded with players who turn the ball over (as we saw in the playoffs.) I think a little bit of Favre regression to the mean with INT's (or if he, say, plays with an injury more serious than he lets anyone know) and Peterson coughing it up at the same rate he always has and you could very well have a team that doesn't look so dissimilar from last year's Bears team - a finely tuned turnover machine that it always playing itself out of games.

With the Packers, I think Rodgers is great - the whole is question is their defense. Is it the squad that excelled in FO's numbers all year or the one that was utterly useless in the playoffs?

Detroit will be Detroit. Their defense still looks terrible and while they might have an offense that can get them to 6-10 or 7-9, they're no threat for the division. I think they're on year 2 of a 3 year plan at best...

23 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I think even if Favre regresses on picks, the Vikings are still the favorites.

However, he has to remain good on the passes he isn't throwing picks on. Last year I predicted he was finally over the hill and would suck, I was so wrong I refuse to try to predict what he'll do.

30 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Yeah, Favre being such a wildcard is what makes me hesitant to label them the out-and-out favorite. If he plays "Favre-esque" this year, then that's a lot of turnovers for one team to endure. Similarly, if he hits some kind of injury or age wall, then the team will struggle. Both of those things seem possible, maybe even likely - he's thrown a ton of picks as recently as three seasons ago and struggled with injuries two seasons ago... but he could just as easily come out and blow people up like last year. I just don't know.

I like the Packers because it's pretty clear what you're going to get with them. Teams built around a solid young QB and a solid defense are pretty good bets to have success. Rodgers has his problem but there's no reason to think he's going to suddenly get worse - and whatever his problems, he was pretty darn good last year.

But, yeah, the Bears could throw everything off. Because of his college, I'm an unabashed Cutler apologist, so I truly believe he and Favre could switch positions (as far as their production) in 2010. And defensive health will be huge for them - missing a lot of people from one unit kills teams in a way that I think is easy to under-estimate: having 2 backups on the field at once from one unit (like missing two starting LB's) is exponentially more detrimental than missing say one starting LB and one starting DT.

32 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

As Jimmy argues above, a lot of the offensive questions concern the lines. Your points about Rodgers and Grant both touch on the Packers' line, which has a bad rep but was very good in the run game last year. If Brian Bulaga shows anything at all, and if there were some kind of week-to-week consistency in who started at what position, the unit could be a strength. That won't cure all of Rodgers' problems in reacting to pressure, but it's worth noting that he only took 9 sacks in the last seven regular-season games of 2009 — so it's too early to dismiss him as Rob Johnson II.

The Vikings Pro Bowl linemen had a down year. Was it a blip? They're not getting any younger. Will the real Phil Loadholt make himself known? Was it the technically sound Phil of the first half of the season, or the sloppy Phil that replaced him? Question marks. Also, the Vikings were scarily healthy.

I didn't think the Bears' line was as bad as it was made out to be, at least not in the divisional games I watched. Is Matt Forte as bad as his numbers? He wouldn't be the first Bears RB to have a promising rookie season and then fall off the face of the earth. As for the interceptions, a regression to the mean would be expected in any system apart from Mike Martz's (or maybe Ron Turner's).

Apart from the issues raised in the article, the big question for the Packers is: can they win without getting a host of picks? When they forced fewer than three takeaways in 2009, the Packers were an unimpressive 3-6 and gave up an average of 31.4 points. But they had an unlikely-to-be-repeated league-best eight games with 3+ takeaways, and won them all, conceding an average of 8.1 points.

37 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I think the big argument in Forte's favor is that he actually had top-level broken tackle numbers, meaning that he was breaking tackles last year just to get a yard or two. The under-rated aspect of Forte is that he's shown real ability as a pass-catching back and that seems like a good match-up with Martz...

39 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I actually thought when they hired Martz that Forte might be pretty similar to Faulk at this point in both careers, since Faulk similarly struggled early (and similarly the line may have been largely to blame), so I ran through the numbers to see.

Matt Forte 2008-9: 574 carries, 2167 rushing yards (3.78 ypc), -37 rushing DYAR, -11.6% rushing DVOA, 148 targets, 120 catches (81% catch rate), 948 receiving yards (7.90 ypr, 6.41 yards/target), 246 receiving DYAR, 16.4% receiving DVOA

Marshall Faulk 1994-5: 603 carries, 2360 rushing yards (3.91 ypc), 2 rushing DYAR, -9.3% rushing DVOA, 148 targets, 108 catches (73% catch rate), 997 receiving yards (9.23 ypr, 6.73 yards/target), 275 receiving DYAR, 21.4% receiving DVOA

Faulk had a nightmare season in 1996 (and of course did not hook up with Martz until 1999), so maybe the numbers actually bode well for Forte's future.

40 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Wow - those receiving numbers bode even better for Forte than my un-researched inkling had me believing. I still doubt he'll be Faulk on the ground but... damn, thems favorable stats.

34 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I would definitely agree that the Bears are the hardest team to get a read on. The defense could be completely different to last year with Urlacher and Peppers as the high profile changes but having a guy like Nick Roach playing SLB as opposed to MLB and trying (and failing) to call the plays coming through the headset may have as big an impact. The defense seems quite deep when you think about it (maybe other than at corner, but even there it isn't that bad) and the front seven has some excellent players in it. The offense is in a similarly odd position in that just about every skill position player is very well suited to Martz's scheme (OK maybe not Olsen but we will have to wait and see on that one) despite Martz's scheme requiring totally different players to Ron Turner's.

As for Cutler having to get used to small receivers, he will have absolutely no choice. Martz is going to run his scheme and if Cutler doesn't buy in then chances are everyone gets fired at the end of the year. If Cutler does start to trust the scheme he could be fantastic in it and there is more than enough speed to bend zones out of shape which should either open up spaces and seams underneath the safeties or leave opportunities to go down the field. I do at least have confidence that Martz knows how to attack a pro defense (lets face it, none of us gave Turner that much credit).

27 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The Bears need a WR like the Elephant Man needed a pinkie ring.

33 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

If you gave the Bears three more WRs they would have eight that they would want to keep and end up cutting three of them. Which would all be rather pointless.

42 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The Packers lost 3 CB's on injured reserve last season and all three will be returning. Two of them were not even mentioned in this write up.

Even if Harris is not there for the start of the season, the Packers need is a minor one.

As for the vikings and their hole at Safety it is a big one. Since the Tampa 2 they play puts the emphasis on Safety play you would think they would have wanted to keep a good one like Darren Sharper who was second in the league in INT's. Not only did their Safeties combine for 1 INT the entire team was 28th in the league in INT's.

Compare where the Packers and vikings secondaries finished in the league last season:

Packers 5th Opponents Yards/Completion vikings 20th
Packers 5th Opponents Passing Yards/Game vikings 19th
Packers 2nd in completion % against vikings 25th
Packers 4th Opp QB rating vikings 27th
Packers 1st INT's vikings 28th (tie)
Packers 8th Passing 1st downs given up vikings 19th

The Packers have far fewer secondary worries than the vikings.

43 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I don't know if its just me, but I think Peterson has peaked. That line isn't helping him, he's taken a lot of hits. I expect him to put up numbers that seem okay on the surface but troubling to stats like we have here on FO. Its just a feeling I get from him. He'd already morphed more into a boom or bust runner, but all those hits behind the line of scrimmage are taking their toll.

I think their loss of Birk was their biggest mistake (far more than letting Sharper go) and their biggest concern for me is their line. I know they held up okay in pass blocking, but their run blocking declined so dramatically I was almost wondering if Favre had something to do with it....

44 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Seems to me that basically every RB that gets a lot of touches their rookie season is going to peak in year 2-3. It's not like other positions where you're going to become a crafty old vet. Running is running. Yeah you may get coached up a bit, or figure out how to set up your blocks better, make tiny improvements but you're not going to suddenly be a better runner at 25 than you were age 18-24. You just can't compare the position to something like WR or QB where the mental part of the game is so much bigger.