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Saturday, February 6, 2010
NFC North weekend mailbag

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- We took our show on the road this week, blogging from the site of Super Bowl XLIV. The NFC North continued to push forward, of course, from the staff changes in Chicago to more Pro Bowl fallout from Minnesota left tackle Bryant McKinnie.

I also shook things up a bit with a non-NFC North on the inspiring story of New Orleans defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove.

Remember, you can reach me all sorts of ways: Through the mailbag, via Facebook or on Twitter. @Bvluke41 asked on Twitter if I actually read all of your questions. The answer is yes, but the multiple platforms make it difficult for me to respond to them individually. Facebook friend Perry has passed along some ideas for streamlining the process. Until then….

James of Albany, N.Y., writes: I'm sure this might be tossed around in Halas Hall but now that Mike Martz is on board, a lot of speculation about Greg Olsen's position has come about. Great TE, but might not be a great fit with Martz’s offensive scheme. What do you think the chances are of Bears trading Olsen for Brandon Marshall? I would think since Marshall is on his way out that this might be a possibility.

Kevin Seifert: It’s an interesting proposal, James. And we all know that Chicago and Denver have come together on a big-time trade before. Here’s what I’ll say: The Bears should do one of two things. Either Martz should tweak his offense to make better use of the tight end or Olsen should be converted into an asset more valuable to his scheme. (Which is a nice way of saying they should trade him.)



Take a look at the chart. In 10 years as either an NFL coordinator or head coach, Martz has never had a tight end catch more than 38 passes. That’s about 40 percent less production than what Olsen put together in 2009.

I would think there should be a role for a player like Olsen in any scheme, whether the coordinator is Martz or someone else. A good coach should be able to incorporate Olsen’s size and athletic ability into his offense, not minimize him because he doesn’t fit a pre-determined set of guidelines. If the Bears trade Olsen, it will be an acknowledgement that Martz either isn’t able or willing to do that.


Derek of Warner Robins, Ga., writes: In your article on Darren Sharper, you highlight that his talents were not fully utilized in a cover-2 scheme. Couldn't this be said of many safeties, as any team that uses cover-2 puts their safeties at a so-called disadvantage by using them as deep cover? Also, can you think of any safeties that excelled in cover-2, or does this scheme just generally limit safety play-making opportunities, thus minimizing the safety's statistical performance?

Kevin Seifert: I don’t think the Cover 2 limits a safety’s playmaking opportunities as a rule. There have been safeties who have made noise in the scheme, from John Lynch in Tampa Bay to Mike Brown in Chicago.

But as Rod Woodson said in the post you referenced, the Cover 2 minimizes Sharper’s particular skill set. Sharper makes plays by jumping routes, reading the quarterback’s eyes and playing a bit of an educated guessing game. That approach simply doesn’t work with the Cover 2. The ways that Lynch and Brown made plays, most notably through hard hitting, aren’t strengths that Sharper possesses.


Via Twitter, @SueinChitown notes that the NFL named Scott Green as the referee for Super Bowl XLIV and asks: I am sorry but can they go any lower than using Scott Green??

Kevin Seifert: Green was the referee for Green Bay’s 51-45 loss in the divisional playoffs last month at Arizona. As we discussed at the time, he was standing within a few yards of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers on two controversial non-calls in overtime: A blow to Rodgers’ head followed by an apparent face mask tug on the final play, which ended with Karlos Dansby’s fumble return for the game-winning touchdown.

Green flat-out missed the blow to Rodgers’ head, but I understood why he didn’t see the face mask. When the ball came loose, Green’s top priority was to determine if it was a fumble or a pass, and then to follow its path for a potential change of possession occurs. It’s a pretty tough to expect Green to follow the ball and also watch Rodgers for signs of roughness.

I understand the frustration of Packers fans with that sequence. But I don’t know that it should have kept Green out of the Super Bowl. As with everyone, the NFL judged him on his body of work. He’s been a respected official for a long time.


Dave of Rochester, N.Y., writes: Since Aaron Kampman is probably going to be hitting the free agent market, what do you think the chances are that he winds up with the Lions? Clearly Kampman wants to play in a traditional 4-3 defense and Detroit desperately needs to generate a pass rush with their front four, so it seems like a fit as long as Kampman is willing to play for a bad team (though he would do a lot to help that defense which will be infused with some young talent after the draft, as well as an inconsistent but possible star in Cliff Avril.)

Kevin Seifert: As we’ve discussed before, I’m not sure if anyone knows when Kampman’s knee will be healthy. That’s the big obstacle to him signing with the Lions or anyone else. Someone will either take a risk or else they’ll wait until closer to training camp so they can test his knee and conditioning.

If he’s healthy and the Packers don’t re-sign him, I think Kampman will have his pick of teams to sign with. The Lions would be one of them, but there are no connections that I’m aware of that would make Detroit his likely landing spot.


Matt of Chicago writes: There is a lot of talk about the effectiveness of Vikings running backs coach Eric Bieniemy. … His documented confrontational style of coaching with Adrian Peterson is clearly not improving AP's play in a number of areas. AP is just not responding to his coaching. Can you do some investigating or write an article about this?

Would Robert Smith consider coaching AP? Robert Smith was a premed student at Ohio State and a very smart analytical player. I believe he would be a great coach for AP, very cerebral.

Kevin Seifert: Let’s start with your second question. Robert Smith has never coached on any level, and I’ve never heard him express any interest in doing it. He’s got his hands in a lot of other areas, and I really doubt he would be a good match for the running backs job in Minnesota or anywhere else.

As for Bieniemy, I too wondered if he would be a fall guy for Peterson’s fumbles and struggles in the second half of the season. But if it were going to happen, it almost certainly would have happened by now. Brad Childress has been very loyal to his original staff in Minnesota, and he’s fired only one coach in four years. In the end, I don’t disagree with retaining Bieniemy. Based on what I know, he has been emphasizing ball security with Peterson for years. I think the responsibility falls with Peterson more than Bieniemy. It’s up to him to protect the ball.