Black and Blue all over: Coordinators in spotlight

September, 13, 2008
9/13/08
9:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

David Haugh's column today on Chicago offensive coordinator Ron Turner got us thinking. (Very dangerous thing, especially early on a Saturday morning, but we digress.)

Bears fans, of course, were ready to run Turner out of town after last season's offensive debacle. But as Haugh points out in the Chicago Tribune, Turner didn't do much differently Sunday night at Indianapolis on the way to 319 offensive yards and 20 points (the defense accounted for nine). Turner did benefit from some players, quarterback Kyle Orton and tailback Matt Forte among them, who might be better fits for his system than their predecessors.

Turner isn't the only NFC North coordinator under the spotlight this season. Here is a look at a few others:

Detroit offensive coordinator Jim Colletto: Last season's offensive line coach, Colletto has been charged with transitioning the team to a more balanced offense this season. It's a tough task on many levels. First, Colletto must teach his lineman and running backs how to function in a zone-blocking scheme that can be jarring for a newcomer. Second, he can't ignore his two biggest weapons -- receivers Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson -- while doing so.

Detroit defensive coordinator Joe Barry: Colletto has gotten plenty of attention because of the Lions' offensive changes, but Barry probably faces more pressure: He must improve the Lions' defense without the benefit of a scheme change. Yes, coach Rod Marinelli brought the "Tampa-2" scheme to Detroit, but Barry has day-to-day responsibilities for a group that allowed 318 rushing yards in the opener. If the defense doesn't make significant improvement, it will be interesting to see whether Lions fans and media hold Barry responsible or direct the blame toward Marinelli.

Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders: You don't hear much about Sanders, a 32-year coaching veteran, but he has an important and specific task this year: Improving a pass rush  and overall pass defense that struggled in the NFC championship game. There was plenty of offseason discussion about increased blitzes and more creative employment of coverages, but the frequency of both remains to be seen.

Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier: He maintained the NFL's top rushing defense last season, but Frazier fell short in attempts to reverse the Vikings' long-standing deficiencies against the pass. As with Turner and the Bears, the Vikings are hoping personnel -- defensive end Jared Allen, safety Madieu Williams -- can improve results. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers managed a 115.5 rating against them in Week 1, but it's a long season.

Elsewhere around the NFC North:

  • Forte on his late addition to the Bears' injury report: "I'll be ready."
  • Packers tailback Ryan Grant participated in all of practice Friday and is hopeful of playing a significant role Sunday at Detroit, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press offers some suggestions for getting the ball more often to Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson: Employing him as a kickoff returner, splitting him out as a receiver and directing more passes his way out of the backfield.
  • Three of Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield's 18 career interceptions have come against Indianapolis' Peyton Manning, according to Chip Scoggins and Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune. Winfield will have a chance for a fourth Sunday at the Metrodome.
  • Lions running back Rudi Johnson likely is expected to play a bigger role Sunday against the Packers than he did last week against Atlanta.
  • Lions quarterback Jon Kitna was miffed that the Falcons were throwing the ball at the end of the first half last week. Kitna considered it a show of disrespect to the Lions offense, believing it meant the Falcons weren't concerned about leaving the Lions some time to mount a 2-minute drill if their own drive failed.

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