Thursday, March 24, 2011
Draft Watch: NFC North
By Kevin Seifert
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Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: schemes and themes.
As they look for offensive linemen, particularly tackles and even tight ends, the Bears need to make sure those players are quick enough to handle most one-one-one situations that come their way. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme emphasizes the number of players in pass routes and relatively rarely gives offensive linemen help against the pass rush. Running backs need to have receiving ability, and wide receivers need to have precise route-running skills. Defensively, the Bears' "Tampa-2" scheme puts a premium on active interior linemen who might be on the small side but can use quickness and technique to overpower opponents. Cornerbacks on the bigger side are also sought after so they can be physical with receivers of the line.
The Lions are continuing to transition from a former emphasis on smaller defensive players to ones with size. Their starting defensive tackles, for example, now weight 320 (Corey Williams) and 307 pounds (Ndamukong Suh), respectively. Backup Sammie Lee Hill is listed at 329 pounds. That philosophy will no doubt guide their search for outside linebackers and perhaps cornerbacks as well. Lions coach Jim Schwartz likes linebackers who can play multiple positions. Offensively, the Lions run a multiple scheme that puts an emphasis on pass-catching tight ends and multi-purpose running backs.
Green Bay Packers
As a 3-4 team, the Packers have to take special care that their outside linebackers are big enough to play on the line of scrimmage and their defensive ends are stout enough to play inside the tackle. For a 3-4 linebacker, pass rush takes precedent over coverage skills. Many 3-4 NFL linebackers played defensive end in a 4-3 at some point during their college careers. Offensively, the Packers like to zone block, and they look for offensive linemen who can play multiple positions and flip between both sides of the line. If you have trouble catching the ball, you're not going to get on the field much at any skill position -- including tight end and fullback -- in Packers coach Mike McCarthy's system.
New Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave won't finalize their offensive scheme until they find out who their quarterback will be this season and moving forward. Musgrave plans to incorporate aspects of the team's West Coast scheme, but the Vikings won't be shopping for any particular body type or skill set. Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman has hit big on a number of attempts to draft playmakers in recent years, from running back Adrian Peterson to receiver Sidney Rice to receiver Percy Harvin. Defensively, the Vikings will be looking for safeties who can cover the deep half of the field and for interior linemen who can stuff the run.