Saturday, August 21, 2010
NFC North Weekend Mailbag
By Kevin Seifert
The NFL's summer schedule has put the weekend mailbag on ice recently, and the events of this wild week had me going all Gorilla Monsoon in my head. Pandemonium was most definitely breaking out this week in the NFC North, but all seemed calm by week's end.
Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lakes
From the hills
From the sky
All is well,
God is nigh.
Remember, I'm available for your comments, praise and savagery via the mailbag portal, our booming Facebook page and Twitter.
On with it....
After a migraine episode left Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin unresponsive at practice Thursday, Natalie of Denver, Col., wrote: Don't you think there might be a reason Percy tested positive at the combine for marijuana? To help with the migraines. It's long been proven to help. ... I bet if someone asked him point blank, he would admit that it helped. Bet you MONEY. Ask him, Kevin. Then thank me later for giving you the scoop of the year.
Kevin Seifert: Natalie, I can't tell you how many people have sent along their ideas, theories and recommendations for how Harvin can beat his migraines. Marijuana is at the top of the list. I don't really want to get into the legalization issue on a football blog, but I chose your question because I had a similar thought last year.
I figured Harvin might have chosen the stigma of a positive marijuana test over not being able to participate at all in the combine. Who knows how far his draft stock would have fallen if migraines had forced him to miss the combine altogether.
But Harvin actually has been asked that question, point-blank. ESPN.com's Elizabeth Merrill included it in this profile. Here's what Merrill wrote on that topic:
He didn't do it for medicinal purposes. Harvin will confirm that he does suffer from severe migraines, with pain so intense at times that it makes him vomit and impairs his vision, but says he didn't smoke pot to alleviate any headache. He didn't do it to escape financial stresses, either. In a few months, Harvin was projected to be a top-10 draft pick.
"I didn't look at it and think of all the stuff or all the people that I might've let down at the time," Harvin says. "Of course, I thought about it afterwards. I was disappointed with myself. I had let myself down, my family down, the University of Florida down. So it was probably one of the worst days of my life."
Has Harvin ever taken marijuana to help his migraines? I don't know the answer to that question. But based on their frequency of late, nothing he is trying has worked.
Doug of Falls Church, Va., writes: How come out of all of the articles I have read on the Chicago Bears' first preseason game, no one has highlighted how terrible the O-line played? I believe this is the #1 Achilles heel (secondary is #2) to why the Bears' season won't exceed mediocrity ... and the Bears have done NOTHING to address this talent shortfall beyond bringing in a strong coach.
Kevin Seifert: "Terrible" might be a bit extreme, and in all honesty I think we have to view the offensive line as a work in progress. A few days before that game, line coach Mike Tice and offensive coordinator Mike Martz established the five players they want to start: tackles Chris Williams and Frank Omiyale; guards Roberto Garza and Lance Louis; and center Olin Kreutz. A fair way to judge them is to compare last Saturday's performance with how they play in the fourth preseason game (assuming they do play).
You might view this as an excuse, but nothing substitutes for time when it comes to cohesion on an offensive line. I happen to think the Bears did the right thing by establishing their starters before the preseason to give them the maximum opportunity to develop chemistry before the regular season begins.
If they're still playing the same way by mid-September, the Bears could have problems. But we're not at that point yet.
Jason of Albany, N.Y., writes: I know I could probably figure this out myself, but I don't feel like doing all the work. In the past, did the teams that had a dominating defense during the regular season also have an amazing defense in that same year's pre-season (at least for the starters)? This is directly related to Green Bay's defense playing pretty bad during week 1 of preseason.
Kevin Seifert: I'll save us both the work. Never, ever, ever try to apply the statistics of a preseason game -- wins, losses, yards, points, first downs or anything else -- to the regular season. I've been tricked by every possibility out there. I've seen offenses that look smooth and then stumble when the season begins. I've written off field goal kickers who appear to be a mess but get it together when the games start counting. I've watched defenses that can't stop the run suddenly become a stone wall when the season starts.
You'll hit on a lasting trend maybe on one out of every 10 "observations." Look no further than the Packers' offense last preseason. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn't sacked, and we all thought their offensive line reconfiguration would be a resounding success. Then we were all "shocked" when the Packers gave up 36 sacks in the first eight games of the regular season. The bottom line is that the Packers' offensive line simply wasn't tested in those preseason games.
As for the Packers' defense this summer, keep in mind that they're not blitzing nearly as often as they did in the 2009 preseason -- when defensive coordinator Dom Capers was trying to establish a tempo for his scheme. If I'm watching the Packers' defense, I'm looking for micro-signs of problems: Poor tackling, cornerbacks unable to run with receivers, defensive linemen failing to defeat 1-on-1 matchups. Final numbers are of secondary importance.
Scott of Chicago writes: I have read multiple times that Jahvid Best is not an every-down running back, mainly because of his 5'10, 201 lbs. size. Can you please explain the logic behind this theory, especially given the fact that Chris Johnson is listed at 5'11, 190 lbs. and seems to do ok. Does it have something to do with Best's running style or what?
Kevin Seifert: From the top, I'll say I don't buy it. But the people who think Best is a "specialty back" envision him as a player who can use speed and open-field running ability to surprise defenses for big plays in certain situations. They don't see him as a tough-enough runner to grind out a consistent four or five yards every time he touches the ball.
I do agree that size, speed and open-field running ability don't make you a complete every-down running back. There is something to be said for instincts -- knowing where to run, when to cut back and when to accelerate -- that helps explain Johnson's success.
Does Best have elite instincts? We'll find out soon enough. But even if he doesn't, I know a lot of coaches who would be happy with 15 runs of three yards if the 16th goes for 60 and a touchdown.
Terry of Rapid City, S.D., writes: I like your reporting but I'm always amazed that sports reporters including yourself seemed miffed that players and coaches don't confide in you guys more than they do. The Favre situation is a prime example. You guys will know of his decision after he informs his coach and his teammates, ironically the same time we regular joe public finds out. Nothing to have hurt feelings about, but the days of getting a scoop are a thing of the past. Just my take!
Kevin Seifert: Thanks Terry. I assume you're referring to this post about the pair of news conferences the Vikings held amid reports that three players had visited Brett Favre at his Mississippi home and were bringing him back to the Vikings. I know what you're saying, but I can tell you my consternation that day didn't center around the Vikings' refusal to confirm Favre's return.
It was the decision to have offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and special teams coordinator Brian Murphy misrepresent where the trio of players were; Bevell and Murphy claimed that defensive end Jared Allen, guard Steve Hutchinson and place-kicker Ryan Longwellwere working out indoors. It was a weak attempt to cover up the desperate and unusual measures they were taking to secure Favre's services.
Coach Brad Childress later apologized for the stunt.
It would be great if we could trust sports teams to tell us what is happening in a timely fashion. Reporters would have a lot less gray hair if they didn't have to chase the news. But this incident explains that you can't trust teams to tell you what is going on.