Vikings Thursday practice report

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
3:40
PM ET
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Some observations from the Minnesota Vikings' practice Thursday afternoon:
  • Peterson
    Peterson
    The Vikings were still without running back Adrian Peterson, who missed practice again Thursday after being gone for personal reasons Wednesday. Peterson wasn't going to play in Saturday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs but is expected to travel to the game with the team. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who is still recovering from a bullet wound to his left calf, and linebacker Brandon Watts, who is out with a leg injury, weren't seen at practice. Cornerback Jabari Price and linebacker Gerald Hodges were on the field but were not participating.
  • Much of the Vikings' work again consisted of scout-team offensive snaps against the first-string defense, which meant another busy day for Christian Ponder. The third-string quarterback went 7-for-12, throwing one interception in 11-on-11 work. Matt Cassel hit 11 of his 15 throws and Teddy Bridgewater went 5-for-7. Cassel didn't divulge the Vikings' game plan for Saturday night but said he "expect(s) to play a lot" against the Chiefs.
  • Blair Walsh has hit 47 of 50 kicks in team periods since the Vikings started training camp, according to special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who said he wasn't concerned about a pair of Walsh misses from beyond 50 yards in the Vikings' first two preseason games. "I think he may have missed one from 50, or maybe none, in practice," Priefer said. "If it was one of those deals where he was shanking the ball, I'd be concerned. But he's hitting the ball well. There's a couple things he needs to do with his follow-through, to straighten that out. We've already gone back and looked at a couple game tapes from his rookie year and last year. It's one of those things he's just got to continue to focus on his follow-through and the other little small attributes that make him such a great kicker, compared to other kickers in this league."
  • Priefer said the Vikings used 42 different players on special teams in last Saturday's preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals as coaches try to evaluate whose special-teams contributions should help them win a roster spot. The Vikings will start to use more consistent special-teams units on Saturday against Kansas City as they prepare for the start of the regular season. They'll also try to get Cordarrelle Patterson a kickoff return or two, Priefer said.
  • The moment of the day in practice came when Chad Greenway dropped an interception and angrily kicked the ball into the trees just east of the Vikings' practice field. The ball got stuck in a tree, and several minutes later, Greenway walked into the woods with another football in his hand to perform the old throw-one-ball-into-the-tree-to-knock-the-other-one-down trick. "Didn't you guys do this as a kid?" Greenway said. Seconds later, he emerged with both footballs, proclaiming it'd only taken him one shot to dislodge the one he'd kicked into the tree.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Michael Williams is trying to think less. It might sound odd as he is in the midst of transitioning from tight end to offensive tackle, but understand his logic.

He was a processor at Alabama, needing to understand everything he saw and then making calls and decisions off those reads. As he moved to tackle, he discovered he no longer had to make the calls.

He still had to recognize the actual calls so he could understand and adjust his assignment, but the decisions no longer rested with him.

[+] EnlargeMichael Williams
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsMichael Williams, drafted as a tight end in 2013, is "going to play tackle in the NFL," according to Detroit Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn.
"I’ve always been a player to actually think about stuff while I’m doing it," Williams said. "But I think I have to retool my mind to just go."

So far, he has. Williams initially made the position switch prior to spring workouts to elongate his career, now in its second season with the Detroit Lions. He saw more long-term stability at tackle, didn’t mind the blocking much to begin with and had a body that could add weight while not losing his speed.

Even with the weight gain, his footwork has apparently remained. While he is still in his infancy of playing offensive line, the way he made the move impressed his coaches with his movement and ability to take contact.

"That one is unique in itself," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "Offensive linemen and defensive linemen, I think you have to go through a psychological metamorphosis to go in there and play from where you’ve been previously, particularly if you were outside those particular areas.

"This guy has done it and he’s done a nice job within it and he’s getting better every week."

Whether that progression continues in Detroit might depend a lot on what happens over the next two weeks. Williams missed almost a week of the preseason because of injury, yet when he returned, he ended up as a second-team tackle against Oakland last Friday.

He had a positive grade from Pro Football Focus against the Raiders, including one of the highest pass-protection grades on the team.

The transition has been hardest in protecting Detroit’s quarterbacks. Run blocking as a tight end is similar to run blocking as an offensive lineman. But on pass plays before, he would be running routes, not staying in trying to keep defensive ends from annihilating his quarterback.

Pass protection movements are less instinctual than mauling an opponent against the run. It requires more balance and leverage, which has been tricky.

"Anyone can kick back and do it and make it look good," Williams said. "But when you get to the top of that set and you have a 300-pound man rushing you, you kind of have to have some kind of balance to punch him, so as long as you are doing that and have balance at the top of your sets, you’re doing pretty good.

"It just takes a while to get that, and I’m trying to get it."

It is something that takes linemen years to master, and Williams is trying to accelerate the process enough to have a chance at a roster spot. With the balance and pass-protection movements, he is still "50-50 on that," when it comes to how natural it is.

This is expected and why, if Williams does not make the roster and clears waivers, he could be a strong candidate for a spot on the Lions' practice squad to see if he can continue to develop as a tackle.

"He’s going to play tackle in the NFL. He is, at some point. I don’t know when, but he will," Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn said. "There’s just not a lot of tackles out there with his kind of speed and balance.

"He’s going to continue to get technique and Bobby Johnson has been working with him a lot, with his pass-pro technique. I’m excited to see what happens to him."

Where that happens is the question.

Packers Camp Report: Day 18

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
2:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • Fans and reporters got their first look at what coach Mike McCarthy's new day-before-a-game practice looks like under his revamped weekly schedule. The session lasted just 58 minutes and featured 54 plays from scrimmage during designated 11-on-11 team periods. It also included a special teams period and individual drills. The entire practice was conducted without pads or shells -- just helmets, jerseys and shorts. McCarthy plans to continue this practice all season. It's the first time in his nine years as head coach that the Packers have practiced the day before a game. In the past, the final session wrapped up about 48 hours before kickoff. The six periods in the practice were: stretching, ball drills, last eight plays of the game, no-huddle, game situations and a 30-minute team period that was cut short with 8:32 still left on the clock.
  • During the game-situations period, a scenario had the Packers trailing 26-24 with 22 seconds left on third-and-7 at the defense's 35-yard line. After Aaron Rodgers threw an incomplete pass, Mason Crosby came on for a 53-yard field goal that he missed wide left. In all, Crosby was just 2-of-4 in the period. His other miss was from 38 yards wide left. He was good from 33 and 43 yards. After starting camp by making 28 of his first 30 kicks (93.3 percent), Crosby has made 17 of his past 22 (77.3 percent) in practice, giving him a camp-long mark of 45-for-52 (86.5 percent). He also has made all three of his field goals in preseason games.
  • Neither McCarthy nor the players were available to the media after practice, so there were no injury updates. However, cornerback Casey Hayward did not participate for the second straight session. After sitting out Tuesday's practice, a day off on Wednesday apparently was not enough to get him back on the field. All McCarthy has said about Hayward is that the team was being smart with him, given his past injury history. Hayward missed all but three games last season because of recurring hamstring problems.
  • Others who did not practice and appear unlikely to play on Friday against the Oakland Raiders were: running back Rajion Neal (knee), center Jordan McCray (shoulder), linebacker Joe Thomas (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), tight end Brandon Bostick (lower leg) and defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring).
  • Rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, who was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, had his salary officially reduced to $303,000, according to ESPN Stats & Information salary data. Had Lyela made the team, his salary would have been $420,000, but he had what was called a split salary in his contract that calls for his pay to be reduced in the event he landed on injured reserve. That is common among undrafted rookie contracts.
  • After Friday's game against the Raiders (7 p.m. local time at Lambeau Field), there will be only be only two more training camp practices open to the public. They are Monday (11:45 a.m.) and Wednesday (10:15 a.m.)
As part of our NFL Confidential survey, players were asked who among their peers would they least like to end up in a fight with.

Considering a season ago, Ndamukong Suh was named the most feared player in the NFL for what he does on the field, that the Detroit Lions defensive tackle is now the players guys in the league would not like to fight is of little surprise.

Suh
Suh received 18 percent of the vote from 82 players polled, followed by Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, with 11. They were the only two players to receive more than 10 percent of the vote.

If you think about it, though, would anyone really want to fight Suh? That has nothing to do with his demeanor, either. He is a physical specimen at 6-foot-4 and around 300 pounds. By itself, that's intimidating. Then realize most of that is finely tuned muscle, including massive arms and a torso that if he was able to get a punch around on you, there probably wouldn't be a second one.

He also trains relentlessly and works to add muscle and cut body fat -- he is not someone even professional boxers would probably really want to get in a ring with.

Never mind if you don't have any fighting experience.

 

 
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- How good do the voters in ESPN’s #NFLRank feel about Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb?

How's this for a sign: He missed 10 games last season yet slipped only two spots from last year. In our second annual rankings, Cobb checked in at No. 66 among all NFL offensive players when Nos. 61-70 were revealed on Thursday.

Perhaps the lingering memory of Cobb was his game-winning, NFC North-winning 48-yard touchdown catch on fourth down with 46 seconds left in the regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears. It came in Cobb's first game back after breaking his tibia and landing on the temporary injured reserve list.

Cobb was on his way to a big season before his injury.

He has become one of Aaron Rodgers' most reliable receivers. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cobb caught 78 percent of his targets in 2012, second best among wide receivers (Brandon Stokley, 79 percent) that season.

Cobb is the fourth Packers player to make one of the lists. Nos. 51-60 will be revealed on Friday, followed by the rest next week.

Here's a look at the Packers in the rankings so far:

Defense
No. 95: CB Sam Shields
No. 81: DT B.J. Raji

Offense
No. 77: G Josh Sitton
No. 66: WR Randall Cobb
GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a two-series appearance in last Saturday's preseason game at St. Louis, several things stood out from the Green Bay Packers’ starting offense.

Most marveled over quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had only two incompletions in 13 attempts with 128 yards and one touchdown pass (plus another that was recalled by a penalty); or Eddie Lacy, who averaged 5.0 yards per carry; or receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, who each caught touchdown passes (although Nelson's was the one wiped out); or the precision of the no-huddle offense.

Perhaps what jumped off the film the most was the play of the right tackle.

Bulaga
In 24 snaps against the Rams, Bryan Bulaga did not allow a sack, hit or hurry, according to ProFootballFocus.com. It was exactly the same in an eight-snap appearance in the previous week’s preseason opener at Tennessee.

That's an impressive stat line for any NFL tackle, let alone one who went 634 days between game appearances. Before Bulaga played in the preseason opener at Tennessee, his last game came on Nov. 4, 2012, when his season ended because of a hip injury. He never made it to the 2013 preseason opener because of a knee injury that required ACL reconstruction last year.

"You've got a darn good football player back and a guy that works extremely hard, is very professional -- just his presence out there, he's a strong man that moves very well," said Packers offensive line coach James Campen, when asked about Bulaga's impact on the offense. "It obviously is a plus having him out there."

And Bulaga, 25, does not even feel like he's quite back in form yet. He has had to adjust to playing right tackle again after moving to the left side last offseason and get in sync with right guard T.J. Lang after lining up next to Josh Sitton for most of his career.

Three times in an answer to one question, Bulaga talked about the need to get his confidence back, something that he said remains a work in progress.

"I'm getting more and more comfortable, especially every game rep I get," Bulaga said.

The best part, in Bulaga’s mind, is that he has been able to work on that every day in practice. It was his goal while he rehabbed his knee and trained throughout last season to come to training camp without limitations. To do so, he rebuilt his physique, first by losing weight, and then building back up to his playing weight of between 315 and 320 pounds.

Before his ACL tear, Bulaga was on track to becoming one of the NFC's top tackles.

How close is the fifth-year pro to being that again?

"That's a long time ago; it's hard to say that," Campen said. "What I do know is since Day 1 that we put the pads on, as we've progressed, he's gotten better and better."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – With the No. 2 quarterback spot still up for grabs, Jordan Palmer will be the first quarterback off the bench to replace starter Jay Cutler when the Chicago Bears travel to Seattle on Friday night to face the Seattle Seahawks.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced on Wednesday he planned to switch the quarterback rotation after Jimmy Clausen relieved Cutler last week at Soldier Field against Jacksonville.

Palmer
Clausen went 11-of-15 for 94 yards and one interception before giving way to Palmer, who completed 6 of 9 throws for 73 yards and one touchdown.

“Jay will work certainly into the second quarter and we'll make a decision during the second quarter what we're going to do with him,” Trestman said. “That will be dependent on a number of different things. And then after that we'll have Jordan, so expect Jordan to play the third quarter and Jimmy to play the fourth. We'll continue to rotate these guys around. We've got another week after this one and that's the way we'll operate this week.”

Trestman hinted the quarterback competition might run through the final preseason game next Thursday in Cleveland. NFL rosters must be trimmed to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 30. It’s unclear if the Bears plan to keep both Clausen and Palmer on the final 53-man roster. One might have to go if the Bears decide to keep just two quarterbacks, and perhaps rookie David Fales could make the 10-man practice squad if the rookie clears waivers.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- A few observations from the Minnesota Vikings' practice on Wednesday afternoon:
  • With Chad Greenway sitting out of team drills because of an injury to his right wrist, Michael Mauti got most of the work with the first team in Greenway's spot. Greenway had a brace on his wrist, but said he hoped to be back at practice on Thursday. The linebacker also will be in charge of the Vikings' huddle this season, coach Mike Zimmer confirmed on Wednesday; the job typically falls to a middle linebacker, but since Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole aren't likely to be on the field on passing downs, the Vikings gave the job of relaying defensive calls to Greenway because he figures to be on the field most of the time.
  • The Vikings continued looking at several safeties next to Harrison Smith, giving Robert Blanton, Chris Crocker and Kurt Coleman work with the first team on Wednesday. They'll continue their audition process on Saturday night in Kansas City, with Blanton -- who missed the Vikings' first two preseason games because of a hamstring injury -- receiving a fair share of the work so the Vikings can evaluate him.
  • On a day where the Vikings spent plenty of time with their scout teams on the field, Christian Ponder got much of the work at quarterback, facing the first-team defense for good chunks of the practice. Ponder threw one interception, when Harrison Smith picked off a pass underthrown into double coverage, but made some nice throws the rest of the day. "I think that Christian has improved a lot since we have had him," Zimmer said. "I still like a lot of things that he does, his athletic ability, his intelligence. I keep seeing that he doesn’t have a good arm -- that’s wrong, too. He’s got a good arm. He throws the ball beautifully, he just didn’t make as many plays during the OTAs as some of the other guys did."
  • As the Vikings get closer to special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer's suspension at the beginning of the regular season, interim special-teams coach Joe Marciano has spent his time working with Priefer and assistant special-teams coach Ryan Ficken to mold his system into the Vikings' way of doing things. "His system and Mike's system are very similar," Zimmer said. "He’s obviously in all the meetings and everything in with Mike all the time. He’s trying to learn the same terminology that Mike is using that so when we do go to St. Louis (for the season opener) it’s all the same."
  • Wide receiver Kain Colter left with trainer Eric Sugarman in the middle of practice, and appeared to have an injury to his right hand.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Nearly five months since undergoing shoulder surgery, Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte will make his preseason debut Friday night against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

“I feel good. I’m excited to go out there and play,” Conte said Wednesday. “I can’t wait to get back out there on the field and play football.”

Conrath
Conte
Conte, along with fellow safety Craig Steltz, were activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 10, but both sat out against Jacksonville. Safety remains unsettled, although Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray have started in each of the two previous preseason games. Veteran Adrian Wilson is another candidate in the mix, but no final decision can be reached at safety until the Bears determine if Conte can bounce back from a difficult 2013.

Conte has been a mainstay in the Bears’ secondary the last three seasons, recording 230 tackles, six interceptions and one forced fumble in 40 career starts.

“Chris had a good week of practice,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “He's running around. He's involved in terms of what we're doing. So we'll see. He's going to play. It looks certainly that he's going to play. And we haven't decided how much yet. But he'll be out there and he'll be competing and he's back in it to try to show us what he can do and we're excited to have him back.”

Barring a setback, Steltz is also expected to play on Friday, along with wide receiver/kick returner Chris Williams, who seems to be recovered from a hamstring injury that he suffered in the preseason opener.

The Bears held five players out of Wednesday’s practice: cornerback Kyle Fuller (ankle), guard Eben Britton (hamstring), center/guard Brian de la Puente (knee), cornerback Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Mundy (excused).
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It appears another member of the Minnesota Vikings' four Super Bowl teams could be on his way to Canton.

Former Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff, who made six Pro Bowls and was named to the All-Pro first team five times, was named the lone nominee for the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class by the Hall of Fame Senior Committee, which met in Canton, Ohio, on Wednesday. Tingelhoff, who played for the Vikings from 1962-78 and shifted from linebacker to center after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent, started 240 consecutive games, which was the second-longest streak in the NFL behind former teammate Jim Marshall at the time of Tingelhoff's retirement.

He is automatically a finalist for enshrinement, and while he will need 80 percent of the vote when the full nominating committee meets in Glendale, Arizona, before Super Bowl 49, Tingelhoff's nomination from the Senior Committee gives him a strong chance to reach the Hall.

"He was very happy -- not as happy as his wife was, but this is a great day in Vikings history," said former Vikings trainer Fred Zamberletti, who called Tingelhoff to give him the news while the former center was vacationing in South Dakota. "I felt he should have been in there before."

Tingelhoff, whose No. 53 was retired by the Vikings, would be the 13th Hall of Famer who spent a significant part of his career in Minnesota and the 19th who played, coached or worked for the Vikings overall. Coach Bud Grant's Super Bowl teams from the 1970s are responsible for seven of those Hall of Famers, including the coach himself. Tingelhoff, whose perseverance and pain tolerance made him an icon of Grant's teams, would be the eighth.

"We went to training camps that were very hard and brutal. He would be the only center there," Zamberletti said. "We'd line up for full contact at 2 in the afternoon, and go full scrimmage for two-and-a-half hours. Tingelhoff would be the only center; we'd bring in other centers to back him up, and they were always hurt.

"He was a good leader. He led by example. He was everything you'd ever want in a player. He can get lost in the shadows because of those (four) Super Bowl losses. (But) at that time, (Vince) Lombardi recognized Tingelhoff. When you've got him saying nice things about you, that meant a lot."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Santonio Holmes expects to see action in some spots Friday night when the Chicago Bears face the Seattle Seahawks, but the staff wants to make sure to put the receiver into positions he’s comfortable with as he learns the new offense.

Holmes
“I’d like him to dress,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to him and see where he is. As I said yesterday, we want to get him in there as quickly as possible. We also want to respect him and do the right thing.”

While Chicago’s offense is very similar to what Holmes executed as a New York Jet, the terminology is substantially different, he said. So the Bears want to make sure to use Holmes in situations that will allow him to excel.

“We don’t want to put him in a situation where he can hurt himself or hurt our football team,” Trestman said. “We’ll have that talk. I’ll talk to [receivers coach] Mike Groh about it, and I’ll talk to Santonio about it, and see how he feels about getting some playing time on Friday night.”

Holmes welcomes the opportunity, and said he respects Groh and Trestman’s handling of the current situation as he continues to learn Chicago’s playbook.

A ninth-year veteran and MVP of Super Bowl XLIII, Holmes has caught 381 passes for 5,963 yards in eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2006-09) and New York Jets (2010-13).
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the Seattle Seahawks think they have the Green Bay Packers' no-huddle offense figured out from watching Aaron Rodgers run it last Saturday at the St. Louis Rams, they should think again.

According to several Packers' players and coaches, the hand signals they are using in the preseason are nothing like what they will use to combat the noise when the regular season opens in the Pacific Northwest on Sept. 4.

"It's really geared towards our first game," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "So you don't want to show a whole lot. I think our players, particularly, on offense have done a great job with communication. No-huddle is a big part of what we do. To have a set of signals for preseason and a whole different set for the regular season, this is really the first year we've done that. So, we just have a lot more going on."

The reason for the different hand signals is two-fold:

1. The Packers want to keep the Seahawks guessing.

2. They believe several of the players they cut in their roster reduction at the end of camp may be picked up by other teams on their schedule.

"It's tough, especially when you play in a no-huddle situation," quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. "You have 90 guys in camp but 53 are going to be around so, obviously, some people aren't going to be here. You try to have the second group of signals ready to go. Use the ones we use in camp then say, 'All right, guys, let's wipe the slate and here's the new set.' That's part of dealing with crowd noise is having the ability to change signals. Maybe one week the signal is 'this,' and the next week the same signal becomes the double move off of that. Just try to keep the defense guessing."

While much of the talk this offseason has been about what new wrinkles defensive coordinator Dom Capers may throw at the Seahawks that they have never seen from the Packers before, there's also plenty McCarthy wants to be a surprise from Rodgers & Co. That's why at the start of practice, when the defense is outside going through its pre-practice walk-through, the offense works behind the closed doors of the Don Hutson Center.

"It's the same offense; it's just different plays," receiver Jordy Nelson said. "It's nothing difficult. It's just plays that, as I said, us older guys have seen every play in the book. There's just plays that we'll probably run more throughout the season than what we'll run in the preseason. Preseason games are very vanilla and watered down. We're just getting more into those plays that might be deeper in the playbook. It's nothing difficult."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Josh Sitton is no longer an unknown commodity around the NFL.

Last season, the Green Bay Packers left guard was named to the Associated Press' All-Pro second team.

And now the seventh-year veteran has cracked the ESPN #NFLRank project, which picks the top 100 players on each side of the ball. When players 71-80 were revealed on Wednesday, Sitton popped up at No. 77.

He's the third Packers’ player to show up in the rankings so far, but the first on the offensive side of the ball.

ESPN Stats & Information has come up with nuggets about each player selected and had this to say about Sitton:

"Sitton and the Packers' offensive line allowed their running game to average 2.9 yards before contact per rush last season, fifth best in the NFL. Sitton played more offensive snaps than any other Packer last season.”

Packers in the rankings so far:

Defense
No. 95: CB Sam Shields
No. 81: DT B.J. Raji

Offense
No. 77: G Josh Sitton
Joseph
Houston
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A Chicago Bears defender finally made the cut in our NFLRank project, which commenced with Day 3 on Wednesday as ESPN continued to rank the top 100 players on offense and defense, with defensive end Lamarr Houston checking in at No. 80.

The latest rankings grouped players between Nos. 80 through 71. Bears tight end Martellus Bennett made the list on Tuesday with a No. 82 ranking.

Read more on Bennett and his ranking, here.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Oakland Raiders posted a sack on 7 percent of pass attempts with Houston on the field, compared with 4.5 percent of attempts when he wasn’t on the field. Perhaps that’s why the Bears made Houston the jewel of their class of free agents, signing him in March to a five-year deal worth $35 million.

Bears general manager Phil Emery believes Houston is starting to come into his prime as a defender.

“Obviously watching tape of him, Lamarr has matured into a very versatile, powerful, tough, physical, productive player, and we’re very happy to have him as a member of the Chicago Bears,” Emery said after the signing.

A fifth-year veteran, Houston is coming off a 2013 season in which he racked up a career-high six sacks for 52 yards in losses. Houston led Oakland’s defensive linemen last season with 71 tackles, forced two fumbles and collected 10 tackles for lost yardage.

Matthew Stafford ranked No. 71

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
12:20
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The ESPN #NFLRank project continues to roll on, and the second Detroit Lions player has made an appearance.

Reggie Bush popped up on Monday at No. 98 among offensive players. Now his quarterback, Matthew Stafford, has shown up on the list.

Stafford was ranked as the No. 71 offensive player in the league in a poll of 90 ESPN writers and analysts.

This is actually a big jump for Stafford, which is somewhat surprising considering the second half of his 2013 season, when he threw as many touchdowns as interceptions (13). Stafford was ranked No. 94 in last year's poll.

He is also considered the No. 4 quarterback in fantasy entering the season and is expected to put up big numbers in new coordinator Joe Lombardi's offense.

So far, as written about Tuesday, Stafford has looked extremely sharp this preseason.

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