Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Saturday, November 21, 2009
NFC North weekend mailbag

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

We’ll soon be emerging from what I consider the dog days of the NFL season. The novelty of regular-season games has long worn off, but we seem a little too far from the playoff chase to start making January plans. Thanks for sticking with us during this difficult time.

As always, you can vent, complain, complement and question anything and everything through the mailbag, Facebook or Twitter.

Let’s touch on a few issues in this weekend’s mailbag:

Jon of Thunder Bay, Ontario, writes: Do the Packers get any kind of compensation for having Brian Brohm signed off of their practice squad?

Kevin Seifert: Nope, they sure don’t. That’s the risk of carrying any player on the practice squad, and it should spell out the ambivalent feeling the Packers had about Brohm 18 months after making him the No. 56 overall pick of the 2008 draft.

In fact, Brohm’s departure offers us an avenue to perform an early evaluation of the Packers’ 2008 draft, one in which they traded out of the first round in order to amass three picks in the second round. Suffice it to say, the Packers haven’t gotten much immediate help from this group. Let’s take a look:

Round 2a: Receiver Jordy Nelson
Comment: As a reserve, 44 catches in 22 games

Round 2b: Quarterback Brian Brohm
Comment: Reached bust status in less than two years

Round 2c: Cornerback Pat Lee
Comment: Injuries have limited him to two tackles in five games

Round 3: Tight end Jermichael Finley
Comment: High upside derailed by 2009 knee injury

Round 4a: Linebacker Jeremy Thompson
Comment:
Hasn’t found a position and buried on depth chart

Round 4b: Guard Josh Sitton
Comment: Starting at right guard

Round 5: Tackle Breno Giacomini
Comment: Backup has gotten no turn in revolving door

Round 7a: Quarterback Matt Flynn
Comment: No. 2 status by default thanks to Brohm

Round 7b: Receiver Brett Swain
Comment: Strong on special teams but lost for season (knee)


Keith of Detroit writes: Around here, Calvin Johnson is starting to come under heavy scrutiny. He is consistently dropping passes during the games and is starting to have the look of someone that has been "Lionized." (To be Lionized means you become a soul-less football zombie, you are strictly in survival mode. This occurs to various players and coaches because of the infectious losing and hopeless atmosphere. Other prime examples include Rod Marinelli, Roy Williams, Bobby Ross, Darryl Rogers, James Hall.)

Kevin Seifert: Interesting way of putting it, Keith. I like it. I know it feels like Johnson is “consistently” dropping passes, but in reality we’ve got him with three drops via ESPN Stats & Information. Sometimes I wonder if some of the superior catches and plays he made last season has raised expectations for what should be his baseline play this season.

Also working against Johnson in this regard is his low-key demeanor. I’ve interviewed him a couple of times and found him to be friendly but pretty quiet. He’s not expressive and doesn’t always have much to say.

Does that mean he’s been “Lionized?” I’m not willing to go there yet. Johnson also has been dealing with a knee injury for much of the season. But as we discussed earlier this season, I think being “Lionized” is a real and dangerous condition, one that poses perhaps the biggest challenge that new coach Jim Schwartz will face.


Angry Tom writes: Just so you are aware of it, you can list Jay Cutler is FALLING OFF THE PLANET for all I care. Here is a clue that you are missing. HE IS THE BEARS QB AND WILL BE FOR THE NEXT 10 YEARS. I could care less if he throws FIFTY INT's it is not going to change it. If you want to actually CONTRIBUTE to the discussion why not talk about the lack of help he has from the offensive coaching and the O-line. Here, I think this would be interesting to know. How many times have each of the starting QB's been Hit, Hurried, and Sacked. SHOCKER. I bet that OLD MAN 4 is at the bottom - BY FAR.

Kevin Seifert: Glad to hear from you, AT. It’s been a while. Unfortunately, quarterback hits and hurries aren’t officially tracked and therefore aren’t fair to compare between teams. (Each team’s defensive coaches keep their own statistics in those categories, using their own criteria.) But in terms of sacks, it’s just a fact that Cutler and Favre have taken an equal amount.

Here’s your NFC North starter totals:

Aaron Rodgers: 41
Jay Cutler: 19
Brett Favre: 19
Matthew Stafford: 17 (in seven games)

I don’t doubt that Cutler has faced some jailbreak situations, but I can’t put pass protection high on the list of explanations for his 17 interceptions this season. In fact, I would say the offensive line is more to blame for not giving Cutler a good run-game option than it is for putting him in pressure passing situations.


Craig of Oconomowoc, Wis., writes: Do you think it possible that the Packers and Lions could pull an inter-division trade involving Ernie Sims and Aaron Kampman. Sims is getting outplayed by DeAndre Levy in DET and Kampman isn't the right fit for GB's 3-4 scheme. It could fill a need for both teams. Am I crazy thinking this could actually benefit both teams?

Kevin Seifert: First, I think that should be “intra-division,” but I’m not the best grammarian. Anyone?

Secondly, Kampman would probably fit in better in a 4-3 scheme, which Detroit runs. (Although coach Jim Schwartz’s emphasis on heavier players might make his scheme less than ideal for Kampman.) Would Sims excel as a 3-4 linebacker? I’m not sure.

Regardless, it’s highly unlikely this trade would ever happen. Most division teams measure their own status against that of their rivals. If the Packers make a trade that helps the Lions get better, or vice versa, it’s probably going to be a net loss. That’s why you rarely, if ever, see intra-division trades.


Jeremy of Grand Forks, North Dakota writes: With this season coming to an end soon and Favre being forty and possible not coming back next year, I'm wondering if having him to learn from has had any effect on Jackson or Rosenfels to make you think that when he leaves the Vikings quarterback situation will not go back to what it was before this season?

Kevin Seifert: I’ll stand by what I’ve said before: The Vikings’ next quarterback is not currently on their roster. I personally believe the Tarvaris Jackson experiment has run its course and that he will have an opportunity to leave via free agency this winter. And nothing that happened during training camp convinced me that coach Brad Childress would feel comfortable naming Sage Rosenfels his starter.