Wednesday, December 15, 2010
How I See It: NFC North Stock Watch
By Kevin Seifert
Chester Taylor rushed just three times for 1 yard Sunday against New England.
1. Chester Taylor, Chicago Bears tailback: I've been on board with the Bears consistently utilizing their running game this season, if for no other reason than to set up their play-action passes. But it must be noted that Taylor is on pace for one of the least productive seasons for a running back since the 1970 merger. After netting 41 yards on his past 29 carries, Taylor is now averaging 2.63 yards per carry on 94 attempts this season. According to the excellent database over on pro-football-reference.com, there have been only five instances over the past 40 years where a running back has finished a season with 100 or more carries but less than 2.64 yards per attempt. The last time was Chris Perry of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008. If you don't like the decimal distinction, keep this bigger picture in mind: There have been 51 running backs since 1970 who have had 100 or more carries in a season and less than 3.0 yards per carry. That's a little bit more than one per season.
2. Green Bay Packers' offensive line: Even before left guard Daryn Colledge departed because of injury, the Packers were getting manhandled by an active but injury-diminished Detroit Lions defensive line this past Sunday at Ford Field. The Packers allowed four sacks to three reserves and/or replacement starters, and as an offense, they managed only 66 rushing yards against a team that has given up almost twice as much on average this season. We haven't heard too much about the Packers' offensive line this season, which is usually a good thing. They are in the middle of the NFL pack in allowing sacks (29). Sunday, however, they were beaten physically by an inspired but undermanned opponent.
3. Sliding skills: Hopefully, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler saw a replay of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffering a concussion while diving for extra yardage at the end of an 18-yard scramble last Sunday. The toughness of both Rodgers and Cutler is undeniable, but Cutler has proved even less willing to slide this season than Rodgers. We all saw what happened to the Bears offense when Cutler suffered his first concussion this season; backup Todd Collins threw four interceptions in a victory over the Carolina Panthers. Extra yardage is nice, but availability is much more important.
1. Distractions in the Minnesota stadium debate: When the Metrodome roof collapsed Sunday, the popular consensus was that it would raise the urgency for state legislators to approve new stadium construction. I don't buy it. From my vantage point, only the most extreme stadium opponents believe the Metrodome is a sustainable NFL facility. Even its current landlord, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, agrees it is nearing the end of its lifespan. The only relevant debate on this issue is who will play for a new stadium and how -- not whether one is actually needed. It doesn't matter how many roof panels fall or what other malady strikes. There won't be a replacement until someone volunteers to pay for it.
2. Detroit Lions' running game: The Lions rushed for a season-high 190 yards Sunday against the Packers, getting some lively runs from Maurice Morris (51 yards on 11 carries), more than a couple misdirection plays from kick returner/running back Stefan Logan (30 yards on five carries) and a full-game's effort from rookie Jahvid Best (38 yards on 13 carries). Some of that production can be attributed to the mobility of quarterback Drew Stanton, who gained 44 yards of his own and must be respected as a threat to run -- via scramble or by design -- on any play.
3. The urgency to find new quarterbacks in Minnesota: One three-hour span Monday night demonstrated all you need to know about the state of this position for the Vikings. Starter Brett Favre sat out because of injury and appears headed for retirement. Backup Tarvaris Jackson demonstrated once again that he is too inconsistent and injury-prone to be counted on as a long-term starter. And the Vikings thought so highly of rookie No. 3 quarterback Joe Webb that they were in the process of moving him to receiver this month before Favre's injury forced him back to quarterback. The Vikings will need multiple layers of new quarterbacks next season: Perhaps one to start and one to be developed as the future starter, unless their final record puts them in position to draft a blue-chip prospect who can be both.