Chicago Bears: Dominic Raiola

Bears have NFL's oldest starters

May, 22, 2013
5/22/13
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As rosters shake out this summer, you'll hear a fair amount about the "youngest" and "oldest" teams in the NFL. Sometimes those figures and rankings can be skewed by aged kickers or an exceptionally youthful set of reserves, so I like what colleague Mike Sando compiled this week over on the NFC West blog.

Sando has a comprehensive chart ranking teams by the average age of their projected starters, ostensibly the most important 22 players on the roster. (Specialists weren't included, mostly because age isn't as relevant for them.) Naturally, there are some best guesses involved when you're looking at a starting lineup in May, but most teams have provided enough clues either through minicamps or organized team activities (OTAs) to make a reasonable projection.

As it turns out, the Chicago Bears have the NFL's oldest set of starters when viewed in this way. As it stands now, their starting defense includes four players who are at least 30 and two more who are 29. That figure could change if either (or both) of their two rookie linebackers, Jon Bostic (22) and Khaseem Greene (22) win a starting job. But for now, the Bears' starting linebackers are Lance Briggs (32), D.J. Williams (30) and James Anderson (29). They are set to play alongside defensive end Julius Peppers (33), cornerback Charles Tillman (32) and cornerback Tim Jennings (29).

The Detroit Lions rank No. 16 overall largely because their offensive starters are the NFL's sixth-oldest, headed by center Dominic Raiola (34), receiver Nate Burleson (31) and tight end Tony Scheffler (30). For the purposes of this projection, Corey Hilliard (28) is considered the right tackle over Jason Fox (25).

Meanwhile, starters from the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers rank among the NFL's nine youngest.

Making a value judgment here is much harder than compiling the figures. Younger isn't necessarily better, especially at key positions, unless it represents a longer-term fixture at the position. And in some cases, age represents the staying power of an elite player. For 2013, at least, I'm sure the Bears would prefer Briggs over, say, the Lions' DeAndre Levy (26) or the Packers' Nick Perry (23).

NFL team-building can be cyclical, however. What we can say, I think, is that teams with older starters have more urgency to identify and develop their next generation of players. Presumably, those with younger starters have already begun that process.

Related: The Packers and Vikings lead the division, respectively, with draft picks remaining on their roster.

Bears-Lions: 'Hate is such a strong word'

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
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Recent games between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions have not been friendly affairs, and I'm sure there are plenty of people in the Lions organization who would like nothing more than to knock the Bears out of playoff contention with a victory Sunday at Ford Field.

This week, Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton and Lions center Dominic Raiola exchanged public words -- "dirty" and "clown" were the key ones -- and on Sunday morning, Lions defensive end Lawrence Jackson left little doubt about his mindset.

Via Twitter, Jackson said:

About three hours to go. ...

Raiola fires back at Melton: He's a clown

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
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Detroit center Dominic Raiola responded Thursday to assertions made by the Chicago Bears' Henry Melton that the Lions are a dirty team, calling the defensive tackle "a clown" and questioning how he could have been selected to the Pro Bowl.

Read the entire story.

BBAO: Two healthy CBs for Lions

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

After a tough and physical game last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, the Detroit Lions have begun preparations for Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears with only two healthy cornerbacks.

The Lions aren't required to issue an injury report until Thursday at 4 p.m. ET, but as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes, rookie Bill Bentley (shoulder) and veteran Jacob Lacey (concussion) appeared to sit out Wednesday's practice. Both players didn't return after suffering their injuries against the Eagles. That left veteran Chris Houston and rookie Jonte Green as the only healthy cornerbacks on the 53-man roster.

Fellow rookie Chris Greenwood was activated from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list this week but hasn't yet been added to the 53-man roster. It would be asking a lot for him to be ready to play Monday night.

The Bears aren't expected to have their full arsenal of receivers Monday night because of Alshon Jeffery's fractured hand, as ESPNChicago.com's Michael C. Wright notes, but the Lions appear shorthanded for the moment regardless.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Lions center Dominic Raiola on gaining respect in the Lions-Bears rivalry, via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News: "Yeah, we can say that now that we are talented enough to compete. Back in the day the Lions were, you know, bad, and there are some that still feel that way about us -- same old Lions. It's going to be that kind of thing for a while until we can do what we want to do consistently against them."
  • Lions coach Jim Schwartz on defensive tackle Nick Fairley's encouraging performance against the Eagles, via Justin Rogers of Mlive.com: "We expected stuff like that when we drafted him in the first round. I don't want to be giving pats on the back for doing what we expect from you."
  • Bears running back Matt Forte appears fully recovered from last month's ankle sprain, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune: "[I]t is safe to say the Bears failed Chris Williams as much as he failed them."
  • Green Bay Packers running back Alex Green spent a lot of time studying the way Cedric Benson plays, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Packers cornerback Davon House is hoping to regain his starting job, writes Sarah Barshop of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
  • Packers center Jeff Saturday joked that the team will speak in Pig Latin on Sunday to avoid former Packers center Scott Wells providing any insight into their approach against the St. Louis Rams. Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com explains, complete with a Pig Latin headline.
  • There remains "some question" about why the Minnesota Vikings only use receiver Percy Harvin on short passes, writes Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune.
  • The Vikings aren't looking ahead despite a schedule that has them playing two games in five days, notes Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com.
  • Vikings defensive end Brian Robison addresses the Arizona Cardinals' troubles in pass protection with the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Football Outsiders: NFC North needs

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
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Our friends at Football Outsiders have put together a series previewing each NFL team's offseason needs, using their unique statistical analysis to support their assertions. Football Outsiders' work Insider requires an Insiders subscription to view in full, a contradiction that always elicits a giggle from NFC East colleague Dan Graziano. But I'm authorized to provide you a snippet from each of our teams. Herewith:

Chicago Bears: Most everyone has the Bears pegged to pursue wide receivers in free agency and/or the draft, and Outsiders doesn't discount that possibility. But based on its analysis of the Bears' 2011 season, offensive tackle should be the Bears' top priority. Left tackle J'Marcus Webb allowed 10 sacks and was "among the worst [left tackles] in the league." The Bears' running game, meanwhile, was stuffed for a loss or no gain on 24.1 percent of its runs, a "catastrophic" figure blamed mostly on poor run blocking.

Detroit Lions: Like the Bears, Outsiders thinks the Lions need to upgrade their offensive line more than anything else. Based on Outsiders statistics, the Lions had the second-worst run-blocking offensive line in the NFL in 2011. Center Dominic Raiola and right guard Stephen Peterman were particularly to blame. Outsiders' analysis suggested that running backs Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith actually had above-average seasons based on the yardage available to them.

Green Bay Packers: We all know the Packers need more pass rush; Outsiders ranked them last in the NFL in its adjusted sack rate (ASR) in 2011. Outsiders' analysis suggests the pass rush would improve if the Packers focus their upgrade efforts along the defensive line, giving it better push up front but also opening up lanes for linebacker Clay Matthews.

Minnesota Vikings: Perhaps "the worst secondary in the league." That should tell you all you need to know. Here's one of many sobering statistics from 2011: Cornerback Cedric Griffin allowed an average of 10.5 yards on every pass thrown in his direction, and teams had a 38 percent success rate against him. Both totals were among the bottom five of all cornerbacks in Outsiders' statistical study.

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