Chicago Bears: Nate Burleson

Eight in the Box: Offseason regret

July, 12, 2013
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NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at the one move each team in the NFC North needed to make but didn't.

Chicago Bears: General manager Phil Emery approached the draft with hopes of selecting a quarterback, and there were reports of the Bears privately working out North Carolina State's Mike Glennon. The plan made sense for a number of reasons. First, the team was bidding farewell to 2012 backup Jason Campbell. Second, new coach Marc Trestman is known as a quarterback guru and the Bears could benefit from having him develop a rookie. Third, starter Jay Cutler is entering the final year of his contract. Ultimately, however, the Bears couldn't justify using any of their six selections on a quarterback. For now, 2012 third-stringer Josh McCown is penciled in as Cutler's backup.

Detroit Lions: It sounded greedy, but a need at wide receiver existed all offseason. After releasing Titus Young and shepherding Ryan Broyles through his second ACL rehabilitation in as many years, the Lions don't have many sure things behind receiver Calvin Johnson. Veteran Nate Burleson participated in offseason practice but suffered a major leg injury last season. Mike Thomas remains on the roster after being acquired last year from the Jacksonville Jaguars, and several players have talked up the potential of first-year player Pat Edwards. The Lions tried to supplement via free agency, pursuing Darrius Heyward-Bey, among others, but in the end, they added no one of experience and drafted no one with major potential.

Green Bay Packers: Did the Packers do enough from a personnel standpoint to improve their defense against the type of run-heavy offenses that gave them trouble last season? We all know they worked hard on developing a better approach and scheme, even sending their defensive coaching staff to a college coaching clinic at Texas A&M. But they added only one notable player, first-round draft pick Datone Jones, to their front seven. They also hope that 2012 first-rounder Nick Perry can establish himself as an outside linebacker. The Packers are hoping to play a different way with largely the same players.

Minnesota Vikings: It's true that the Vikings chose a cornerback, Xavier Rhodes, with one of their three first-round draft choices, but it's still fair to question whether the team did enough to make up for the departure of slot cornerback Antoine Winfield in the offseason. Winfield had an excellent season in 2012 and was one of the underdiscussed reasons why the Vikings finished 10-6. The Vikings have what appears on paper to be a promising young core of cornerbacks, with Rhodes, Chris Cook and Josh Robinson. But none of them has played the nickel role that Winfield excelled at last season, and Cook has never been able to stay on the field.

Bears have NFL's oldest starters

May, 22, 2013
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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.

Post-draft storylines in the NFC North

April, 29, 2013
4/29/13
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Brian Urlacher, Marshall Newhouse, Josh McCownGetty ImagesFollowing the 2013 NFL draft, the futures for Brian Urlacher, Marshall Newhouse and Josh McCown appear unclear.
NFC North teams added dozens of intriguing young players over the weekend. They filled glaring holes and added to already-established strengths. Some areas remain weak, of course, while other selections created new storylines we hadn't anticipated.

So here's my post-draft plan. We'll use this post to lay out the unfilled holes and new storylines and then circle back over the next days and weeks as needed. I'll also sprinkle in some interesting and/or offbeat stories that emerged from the draft but would have been buried if I had posted them over the weekend.

Issue: The Green Bay Packers continued signaling potential change at left tackle.
Analysis: Coach Mike McCarthy said in March that the team needed better play from its left tackle position, manned last season by Marshall Newhouse. Then the Packers went out and drafted Colorado's David Bakhtiari and Cornell's J.C. Tretter in the fourth round. Bakhtiari has played left and right tackle; Tretter played tackle as well but might project as a guard. Saturday, McCarthy left all options open at the position -- including moving right tackle Bryan Bulaga back to the position he played at Iowa. McCarthy also said he is "really counting" on Derek Sherrod, the Packers' top pick in 2011 who hasn't played since breaking his leg late that season, to compete for the job. Don Barclay, who started four games last season at right tackle (plus another two in the playoffs), is also in the mix. Suddenly, the Packers have six legitimate possibilities to compete for the left and right tackle spots if they want. Moving Bulaga isn't as easy as it sounds, and there is something to be said for leaving him at a position he has excelled at. But it's telling that the Packers are even considering it.

Issue: The Packers drafted 11 players, but none of them were safeties.
Analysis: General manager Ted Thompson said afterwards that he has faith in incumbents M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian, who will compete to play alongside Morgan Burnett. We'll see if the Packers feel compelled to kick the tires on a veteran. Among those available are Quintin Mikell, Kerry Rhodes and Gerald Sensabaugh. Historically, the Packers' approach has been to evaluate younger incumbents first before seeking veteran replacements elsewhere.

Issue: None of the Minnesota Vikings' nine draft choices play middle linebacker.
Analysis: We should note that the Vikings used a seventh-round pick on Penn State's Michael Mauti, who has been projected as a middle/inside linebacker by some. But Mauti is recovering from his third career ACL tear and can't be counted on to fill any sort of significant role. Internal candidates include Erin Henderson, the strong-side linebacker whom the Vikings have said could play inside if needed, and 2012 seventh-round pick Audie Cole. The elephant in the room is veteran Brian Urlacher, who was reported at one point this spring to have had conversations with Vikings officials. Urlacher isn't anything close to the profile of the player general manager Rick Spielman typically brings in, but this is an extenuating circumstance. Remember, the Vikings used their nickel defense on 58.9 percent of their snaps last season. Whomever plays middle linebacker for the Vikings could be off the field for two of every five snaps.

Issue: The Vikings used a fifth-round pick to make Jeff Locke the first punter drafted.
Analysis: In the past five years, four punters have been selected with a fifth-round pick or higher. All four became their team's primary punters in their rookie seasons. There is every reason to believe the Vikings plan for Locke to replace veteran Chris Kluwe, perhaps as soon as they get a look at him during their rookie minicamp this summer. I know that Spielman said Locke was brought in "to compete" for the job, but that competition will be short and one-sided. NFL teams don't use draft picks on specialists unless they are certain they want to make a change.

Issue: The Detroit Lions didn't draft an offensive tackle after the departure of both 2012 starters.
Analysis: Riley Reiff, the Lions' top draft choice in 2012, will start at left tackle. The Lions' right tackle could be Jason Fox or Corey Hilliard. That still leaves the Lions thin along the line, especially at right guard if rookie Larry Warford isn't ready to step in right away. Regardless, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew made clear the Lions need to add more depth. "We're really young there so we'll look at some veteran guys there I think over the next few weeks."

Issue: The Lions didn't draft a receiver until the sixth round (Virginia Tech's Corey Fuller), but they almost….
Analysis: According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Lions told Michigan's Denard Robinson that they planned to draft him with the No. 136 overall pick. Mayhew had spoken before the draft about Robinson's potential as a "slash" player from the backfield and/or slot receiver position. Robinson, however, was selected at No. 135 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Eventually the Lions used the No. 166 overall pick to select Notre Dame's Theo Riddick, who is not as explosive as Robinson but is a good receiver out of the backfield in his own right. Ultimately, the Lions finished this draft thin at the traditional receiver position given the injury rehabilitations of Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles.

Issue: The Chicago Bears did not draft a quarterback, seemingly leaving Josh McCown as the primary backup to Jay Cutler.
Analysis: The Bears figured to be a candidate to draft a quarterback in part because of coach Marc Trestman's expertise in developing them and in part to end the cycle of searching for a veteran backup each year. In the end, the Bears couldn't justify drafting one given their limited number of picks. (They started with five and through trades finished with six.) Said general manager Phil Emery: "Things would have to line up perfect to take a quarterback with five picks." McCown was relatively impressive during a two-start stint to end the 2011 season, but overall he has played in a total of six games over the past five seasons. I wouldn't call this the Bears' most pressing need, and the Bears signaled as much with their draft results.

Issue: The Bears feel better about their tight end situation than most draft pundits.
Analysis: Many draft analysts thought the Bears would draft Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert if they had a chance, but they passed him up Thursday night in favor of offensive lineman Kyle Long. Eifert went one pick later to the Cincinnati Bengals. It's true that Eifert would have been a luxury pick given the free-agent acquisition of tight end Martellus Bennett, but in the larger sense he would have been another weapon for quarterback Jay Cutler's make-or-break season.

Civil tone hovers over contentious rivalry

October, 20, 2012
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The on-field incidents belie the weeklong muzzle job performed by the players in the buildup to a showdown on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

While the teams claimed mutual respect, it's clear they're not fond of one another, a sentiment expected to manifest itself on the field like it has so many other times in recent meetings.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastNdamukong Suh snapped off Jay Cutler's helmet last November in a game that featured $62,500 in fines.
"Just because games are chippy doesn't mean the teams don't respect each other and don't want the emphasis to be the play on the field," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "There are a lot of great players that are going to play in this game on both sides of the ball, and I think these guys know each other very well. The schemes are well known. We have a good idea what they're going to do. They have a good idea what we're going to do. The more you know somebody, probably the better opportunity there is for guys to push and shove a little bit."

There has been opportunity aplenty in this series for sure.

Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh snapped off Jay Cutler's helmet during a 37-13 Bears win at Soldier Field in November. That was a game in which six players received fines totaling $62,500, including quarterback Matthew Stafford ($7,500) and cornerback D.J. Moore ($15,000) who were involved in an incident that led to an on-field brawl between the teams. Officials also flagged Lance Briggs for a crushing hit on Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, but the linebacker didn't receive a fine.

During the first meeting between the teams last season -- a 24-13 Lions win at Ford Field on Oct. 10 -- former Bears safety Brandon Meriweather received a $25,000 fine for a vicious hit on receiver Nate Burleson, while cornerback Charles Tillman was docked $7,500 for a horse-collar tackle on Jahvid Best.

Rewind to two years ago, and there's the incident in which Suh shoved Cutler hard in the back during a 24-20 Bears win, drawing a $15,000 fine from the league.


"They're a tough defense, they play hard," Cutler said. "They tackle hard, they rush the passer hard. They do everything full speed, so it's a challenge. With anybody in our division, we're not going to like them and they're not going to like us."

But Bears coach Lovie Smith made it clear that respect is there.

"With today's technology, you don't have to remind guys [about] an awful lot," Smith said. "It's not like I have to bring out the George Halas pep talk to get them ready to play Detroit. We realize what's at stake. We know about the rivalry we have with them, but it's still going to be decided on the football field."

(Read full post)

Burleson has Chicago TD 'tribute' planned

October, 19, 2012
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Detroit Lions receiver Nate Burleson plans to tone down his celebration if he scores a touchdown against the Chicago Bears on Monday, but he denies his celebration on Sunday violated league rules and plans to appeal his $10,000 fine.

Read the entire story.

NFC North 'is up for anybody who wants it'

April, 13, 2012
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I typically put my best virtual stiff arm on all attempts to project the division finish until at least after the draft, if not once after training camp. It's a fun debate whenever we have it, but I figure we should at least have a strong sense of the makeup of each roster before diving in.

Burleson
Burleson
So consider this post a preview to that inevitable discussion, spurred by an interesting analogy from Detroit Lions receiver Nate Burleson during an appearance this week on the NFL Network. (Video here.)

Burleson was asked if the Lions are ready to win the division. His full response:
"I think so. I don't want to sit here and tell you what we're going to do. Obviously I'm confident in the team. We lost a couple close games to Green Bay, split with Chicago, and had a good showing against Minnesota last year.

"But from an outside perspective, I think everybody looks at it like this: Green Bay is driving the car. Up front in the passenger seat is Chicago. In the back, you've got the Vikings and you've got the Lions. We're sitting there begging them, asking them, 'Are we there yet, are we there yet?'

"It's time for us to get out of the car and see who wants to drive. The division is up for anybody who wants it. We've got a tough division, and I like it."

Why are the Bears in the front seat and why are the Lions still in the restless kids' area? Perhaps Burleson was recognizing -- fairly, I think -- that the Bears had a step on the Lions last season until quarterback Jay Cutler's fractured thumb changed the outlook. Would the Lions have been a playoff team if Cutler stayed healthy? Fair question.

The Packers, who won the Super Bowl in 2010 and were 15-1 last season, will get the benefit of the doubt in most national discussions. But if the point of Burleson's response was to suggest this is a three-team race (sorry, Vikings), then I'm on board. The Lions did enough last season to be rightfully included in the discussion with the Packers and Bears. Let's see if anyone's draft changes the parameters of this debate.

The Detroit Lions' great equalizers

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
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Jahvid BestLeon Halip/Getty ImagesJahvid Best's 88-yard touchdown gave the Lions an 11-point lead late in the third quarter.
DETROIT -- Make no mistake: The Detroit Lions gave their city a first-in-a-generation scene Monday night.

Michael Buffer bellowed the pregame introductions. Barry Sanders took the field as an honorary captain. A record crowd at Ford Field induced nine false-start penalties and later emptied into the streets as if the French Quarter had been transported north. Detroit's burgeoning cadre of celebrity fans, including pop stars Kid Rock and Uncle Kracker, held court in the Lions' postgame locker room.

It's a sight I won't soon forget. Neither will the 67,861 in attendance nor the Lions' still-gestating roster. But to me, the takeaway memory of the Lions' 24-13 victory over the Chicago Bears was the evidence that Monday night won't be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

The Bears matched up well against the Lions, largely stifling their offense and moving the ball decently against their defense. At halftime, the Bears led 10-7. But no matter how the Lions play, they have a critical ingredient that helps any good team navigate dips in efficiency: the ability to score easy touchdowns. In the NFL, that attribute is known as "explosiveness," and for the Lions, it is the ultimate equalizer.

The Lions won Monday night largely because of three huge plays:

  1. Receiver Calvin Johnson's 73-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
  2. Running back Jahvid Best's 88-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
  3. Best's 43-yard run in the fourth quarter, which put the Lions in position for a game-clinching field goal.

Those three plays totaled 204 yards, or 51.6 percent of the Lions' total offensive output Monday night. They had 191 yards on their other 43 plays, an average of 4.3 yards per pop.

"Our playmakers answered the bell tonight for us," receiver Nate Burleson said. "We knew we were going to need that."

It probably didn't surprise the national television audience when quarterback Matthew Stafford caught the Bears trying to defend Johnson with a single-high safety in the second quarter. Johnson blew past strong safety Chris Harris, and free safety Brandon Meriweather was too late providing help.

But Best was another story. He had averaged 3.2 yards per carry over the Lions' first four games and hadn't produced a run longer than 19 yards. Most of us had written off both him and the Lions' running game, but the mistake was forgetting what Best can do when he gets in the open field.

Crushing blocks from right guard Stephen Peterman and right tackle Gosder Cherilus opened a crease at the 12-yard line in the third quarter, and Best said: "I figure if I get in the open field, nobody should catch me. I knew nobody was going to catch me from behind."

It sounds simple, but not every NFL team has one player like Johnson or Best, someone who can turn a relatively simple play into a game-changing touchdown.

It's true that the Bears have been vulnerable to the kind of runs Best broke. Entering Week 5, they were allowing 5.3 yards per rush between the tackles, the NFL's third-worst mark. And some of you might like Best to provide more of a consistent threat.

Since joining the Lions last season, Best has five carries that have totaled 229 yards. He has averaged 2.9 yards on his other 238 carries. But what he did Monday night helped win a key NFC North game and, more importantly, will have ramifications for the rest of the season -- even if he never comes close to replicating it.

"When you have a quarterback like we have, when you have a receiver like we have, you're probably not going to be a team that's going to run the ball 40 times a game," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "So we're going to do what it takes to win the game, and we have a lot of explosiveness in our pass game. You saw the way it was able to be effective. We ran the ball well enough to be able to set it up."

Indeed, the Lions' third touchdown came on a play-action fake to Best. That's how tight end Brandon Pettigrew got wide open for an 18-yard touchdown reception. On Monday night, Stafford completed all five of his play-action passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Hereafter, Lions opponents who overlook Best, or lose track of him, will do so at their own peril. NFL teams fear players who can score on their own and build game plans around them. The Lions have two great equalizers in their arsenal, and that's the scene I'll remember from Monday night.

"I don't think we proved anything," Stafford said. "We go out ... expecting to win every game."

With big-play weapons such as Johnson and Best, the Lions have every right to feel that way. I don't know where this magical season will take them. But they've shown us they have the ingredients to continue winning well into January.

Now, wouldn't that be a scene to remember?

BBAO: Jordy Nelson catches on

September, 23, 2011
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

Here's something that might catch you by surprise: Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson is on an extraordinarily productive run dating back to Week 16 of last season.

As Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, Nelson has caught 34 passes for 610 yards and five touchdowns over the Packers' past eight games, including the playoffs. Greg Jennings is the only receiver who has caught more passes for more yards over that span, but Nelson has him beat by a touchdown.

Consider this development another example of where the Packers' purported starting lineup doesn't necessarily correlate to playing time or production. Already, backup tailback James Starks is getting substantially more playing time than starter Ryan Grant. And by the numbers, at least, Nelson is the Packers' No. 2 receiver next to Jennings.

Nelson isn't getting more playing time than other receivers; according to Dunne, he was on the field for 33 of 58 plays last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. But he is capitalizing on the opportunities he does get, and opposing defenses would be well advised to catch on.

Continuing around the NFC North:

Briggs won't guarantee victory

December, 2, 2010
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago downplayed the guarantee made Monday by Detroit receiver Nate Burleson, who on his radio show ensured a Lions victory over the Bears in Sunday's showdown at Ford Field.

Read the entire story.

Burleson says Lions will be better in 2010

September, 7, 2010
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Detroit Lions receiver Nate Burleson tried his best Tuesday to be as diplomatic as possible about facing the Chicago Bears on Sunday, but Burleson had to be masking some optimism after posting his best game of the season last year against the Bears.


Read the entire story.

NFC North breakdown: Lions

July, 8, 2010
7/08/10
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Ndamukong SuhLeon Halip/US PresswireThe Lions are expecting big things out of rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
John Niyo of the Detroit News takes a little time out to discuss the Detroit Lions for Day 3 of our NFC North beat reporters series.

We’ve already covered the Vikings, and Packers, and plan on getting to the Bears on Friday.

Five things the Lions need to worry about

1. The secondary: It’s still a huge question mark. Another offseason overhaul means three new starters among the defensive backs. Although they have upgraded speed at the corners, are these guys really going to be able to play more press coverage? And is anybody capable of filling that starting strong safety spot next to Louis Delmas? Trust me, opponents are going to test them to find out.

2. Middle linebacker: Revamping the D-line was a primary goal this offseason, and there's no doubt they did that by adding Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch. But for the moment, it's a second-year guy, Deandre Levy, starting at middle linebacker. Another of last year's rookies, Zack Follett, a guy who started 2009 on the practice squad, is starting on the weak side. You can cover up a linebacker easier than some other positions, but obviously they're putting a lot of trust in Levy.

[+] EnlargeStafford
Andrew Weber/US PresswireMatthew Stafford missed some time last year due to injury and he's been limited in early workouts this offseason.
3. Matthew Stafford: Can Stafford stay healthy? He went down with a dislocated kneecap in Week 4 as a rookie, and then went down for the count with a separated shoulder late in the season. He looks to be healthy again this offseason, but without him -- and honestly, Shaun Hill's an upgrade over last year at the backup quarterback spot -- the Lions' offense isn't going anywhere.

4. Offensive line depth: A bad offensive line isn't what got Stafford beat up last season. But an o-line that's probably average at best did get beat up by injuries, and an offense that couldn't generate enough big plays. They've added weapons like Jahvid Best and Tony Scheffler and Nate Burleson to try to solve that last part. But the O-line depth remains a big concern.

5. Possible slow start: It's hard to look at the Lions' schedule and find a lot of wins. This is a team that's 3-37 the last two-plus seasons. But after an offseason that has people thinking optimistically again, an 0-4 start would be tough to handle. Still, they start with three division games and Philly, and three of those first four are on the road.

Five things not to worry about

1. Scoring: This offense is going to score some points. Stafford's struggles as a rookie -- and really, his numbers were nearly identical to Mark Sanchez's as a rookie -- had as much to do with the lack of talent around him as much as his own mistakes last season. Receivers couldn't get open and running backs couldn't break off big gains -- they had just five runs of 20-plus yards all season. But they've added a big-play back in Jahvid Best, who they can get creative with, a No. 2 receiver in Burleson, who can take some pressure off Calvin Johnson, and maybe most important, another big pass-catching tight end in Scheffler. Expect to see a lot of two-tight end sets with Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew. Then watch them move Best all over the place to create some mismatches.

2. Ndamukong Suh: He won’t be a bust. Sure, rookie defensive tackles historically struggle in the NFL, and many haven't proven worthy of their draft status. Almost any scout will tell you Suh is a rare specimen. And maybe one of the more underrated offseason moves -- the Lions' trade for Corey Williams -- should give the No. 2 pick a pretty good tag-team partner inside.

3. Free-agent addition Vanden Bosch: He won’t be a bust, either. A lot of people seem to think Vanden Bosch can't get it done anymore. But there's a reason coach Jim Schwartz showed up on his doorstep at the stroke of midnight the first day of free agency. He knows he's got a right-side anchor who knows this scheme, and a guy who will bring it every play, which is what this team has lacked for too long.

4. Calvin Johnson: He’s going to make the Pro Bowl this season, provided he stays healthy, which I suppose might be something to worry about. Johnson and Stafford barely got to know each other on the field last season due to their injuries. But they've had a full offseason together, and I'll be shocked if it doesn't show on Sundays. Burleson is a guy who can play the role Bryant Johnson couldn't last season, and with teams forced to respect Best's speed out of the backfield, Johnson's going to get his chances to shine. Finally.

5. The fans: After all they've been through, they're still here. This franchise has gone 33-111 since the start of Matt Millen's reign of terror, and this city and state have gotten clobbered economically. Yet I'll be surprised if the Lions don't sell out all but a couple of games this season. I don't know that they'll get a winner this year -- I'm thinking 5-11 or 6-10 -- but they certainly deserve one.

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