NFC North: Adam Jennings
We’ve touched a bit on the potential changes if the NFL goes to an uncapped system in 2010. One is that players would need six years of experience to become unrestricted free agents instead of four. Below you’ll see a list of NFC North players who would be unrestricted in the current system but would become restricted in an uncapped year. Remember, restricted free agents can shop for contracts with other teams but can have those offers matched or else require compensation to depart.
Chicago Bears: Defensive end Mark Anderson, safety Josh Bullocks, defensive end Dusty Dvoracek, safety Danieal Manning and linebacker Jamar Williams.
Detroit Lions: Safety Daniel Bullocks, center Dylan Gandy, defensive end Jason Hunter, receiver Adam Jennings, guard Daniel Loper, safety Ko Simpson and linebacker Cody Spencer.
Green Bay Packers: Safety Atari Bigby, cornerback Will Blackmon, guard Daryn Colledge, safety Nick Collins, defensive end Johnny Jolly, fullback John Kuhn, safety Derrick Martin and center Jason Spitz.
Minnesota Vikings: Tackle Ryan Cook, defensive end Ray Edwards, nose tackle Fred Evans, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, cornerback Karl Paymah and fullback Naufahu Tahi.
As we review preseason action this summer, I won't pretend to bring you brilliant insight from games I don't cover live. We'll save that kind of thorough analysis for the games that I actually see and conduct interviews at afterwards. (Yes, there was some sarcasm there. Lighten up. It's Sunday morning!)
With that said, it's important to get a feel for every NFC North preseason game in a timely fashion. So while I covered Friday night's Minnesota-Kansas City game, below are some thoughts on the three games that took place Saturday night. I've also included links to the local coverage of reporters who were in attendance as well as some NFL.com video so you can see for yourself.
Chicago 17, New York Giants 3
- Everyone can agree that quarterback Jay Cutler was sharp (8-of-13) and productive (17 points in his first three drives) during his second start of the preseason. He threw well on the run, scrambled once on his own for 12 yards and threw a beautiful touch pass to receiver Devin Aromashodu for 38 yards. Working at times from the no-huddle, the Bears gave their future opponents plenty to think about with their passing performance. Cutler and backup Caleb Hanie combined to complete 18 of 31 passes for 241 yards.
- If you were worried about tailback Matt Forte's hamstring, it didn't look bad Saturday night on a 32-yard touchdown dash up the middle. Overall, Forte finished with 58 yards on nine carries. On the downside, backups Kevin Jones and Garrett Wolfe each lost a fumble.
- Defensive tackle Tommie Harris started but didn't show up in the box score. Fellow defensive linemen Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Dusty Dvoracek and Marcus Harrison all finished the game with a sack.
Cleveland 27, Detroit 10
- Incredibly, the Lions fought among themselves before the game. Defensive end Dewayne White and tight end Carson Butler were the culprits, fighting long enough that they both ended up on the ground. It's always good to be in a "fighting mood" during pregame warm-ups. But actually fighting? Unheard of. I'm guessing Butler, at least, will have his ticket punched out of Detroit soon.
- Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a tough night. Getting a start as he competes with Daunte Culpepper, Stafford threw an interception on his first pass and later overthrew two wide-open receivers (John Standeford and Adam Jennings) on passes downfield. Overall, Stafford completed 5 of 13 passes. Neither he nor Culpepper led the Lions to a score. We go to Week 3 of the preseason with no better idea of who will win the starting job.
- Let's just say it: Saturday night was terrible all around for the Lions. The special teams gave up two touchdown returns to Cleveland's Josh Cribbs, although one was called back by penalty. And Browns quarterback Derek Anderson picked apart the Lions' defense for 130 passing yards.
Green Bay 31, Buffalo 21
- The Packers' top defense held Buffalo scoreless in the first half and continued to swarm the ball. Safety Nick Collins forced an early interception, and Green Bay got some good pass rush out of its 4-3 nickel alignment. Defensive lineman Johnny Jolly finished with two sacks. The Packers led 21-0 when starters left the game. The only downside: Collins left with a rib injury.
- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was locked in, completing 8 of 9 passes for 98 yards and two scores. His 5-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver was an athletic play, and fantasy players everywhere are going to like that he connected multiple times with second-year tight end Jermichael Finley.
- Backup quarterback Brian Brohm got extended playing time because of a shoulder injury to Matt Flynn that isn't deemed serious. But Brohm didn't give anyone reason to believe he can overtake Flynn on the depth chart if everyone is healthy.
As some of you know, I was standing on the sideline at Detroit's practice when news broke of Brett Favre's contract agreement with Minnesota. I managed to jot down a page of practice notes and spend some time with Lions coach Jim Schwartz before I left, and I want to bring you some thoughts before they fade or become irrelevant.
|Matthew Emmons/US Presswire|
|Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford has looked impressive in the first few weeks of camp.|
(Keep in mind that a full Lions Camp Confidential will appear on a day to be determined in this space.)
As I matched up numbers on the field to names on the roster, it was jarring to realize how many prominent players were sitting out because of injuries.
First-round draft pick Brandon Pettigrew (thigh) was moving around with a notable limp. The Lions' best player last season, placekicker Jason Hanson, was sidelined after having a minor procedure on his knee. Defensive lineman Grady Jackson, receiver Calvin Johnson and receiver Dennis Northcutt were limited. Schwartz, however, said the Lions' long injury list is a function of a caution-first approach as much as anything.
"Our philosophy is to err on the side of caution in [organized team activities] and training camp," he said. "If this were a regular-season game, there would be a lot of urgency to get a guy back. But one thing we don't want to do is turn a minor injury into a major one, or turn an injury with a fairly set timetable into a nagging season-long thing because we're worried about getting him back for one more practice in training camp. There's an urgency to get back on the field, but we don't want to cross the line in setting guys back and making the situation worse than it is."
With that said, it's not a great sign that Pettigrew has only practiced sporadically this summer and has now stepped into more of a long-term recovery process from a quadriceps injury. Schwartz said the injury wasn't responding as hoped, and now the goal is to try to get him healthy in time to have a productive regular season.
I caught a glimpse of one-on-one pass drills and was particularly interested to watch the matchup of right tackle Gosder Cherilus and defensive end Cliff Avril. Cherilus, of course, was the Lions' top draft pick last season and had a pretty up-and-down rookie year. He's penciled in as the starter this season and appears to be holding off veteran Jon Jansen for the job.
Avril, meanwhile, offers the Lions perhaps their best chance for an outside pass rush after notching five sacks in limited playing time as a rookie.
For the rep I watched, at least, there was no contest. Cherilus rode Avril wide around the pocket. And when Avril tried a spin move to get inside, Cherilus capitalized on the momentary lack of balance and shoved Avril to the ground. That's how you keep a pass-rusher away from the quarterback.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
If you're hoping to leave Lambeau Field on Saturday night with a strong sense of Green Bay's new 3-4 defense, you might be disappointed. As Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal writes, the Packers might not use even 40 percent of their defensive playbook in the preseason opener against Cleveland.
Coach Mike McCarthy said the volume target is 33 percent to 40 percent. According to Wilde, the Packers have more than 100 plays in Dom Capers' new 3-4 scheme. Doing the math, you'll see about 35 of those looks Saturday night.
Capers: "I think there's a balance there. There's certain things you'd rather not play, rather not show, but you want to see your package and execute some of your package, too."
That balance will be noteworthy throughout the preseason as the Packers continue to unveil the new scheme.
Moving around the NFC North:
- Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at the strong summer performance of linebacker Brandon Chillar.
- Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette is eager to see how the Packers' offensive line performs against Cleveland.
- As Detroit rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford prepares for his preseason debut, Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press checks in with Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan about playing as a rookie.
- The Lions' third preseason game could decide their quarterback derby, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
- The Lions likely will start Keary Colbert and Adam Jennings at receiver Saturday night against Atlanta, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Chicago could flip-flop at safety Saturday at Buffalo, with Kevin Payne moving to free safety and rookie Al Afalava working at strong safety, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Buffalo's second-round draft pick, Jairus Byrd, is the son of Chicago assistant coach Gil Byrd. But Jairus Byrd won't play Saturday because of a sports hernia, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago.
- Minnesota owner Zygi Wilf toured Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday to glean ideas for a stadium he hopes to build in downtown Minneapolis, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
This will be the last time we mention Helmetgate. Really. We promise.
Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson addressed the issue Wednesday during a conference call with Tampa Bay-area reporters, saying he was caught up in the emotion of Sunday's 28-27 victory over Green Bay when he removed his helmet on the field. NFL vice president Mike Pereira has said that Peterson should have been penalized for the act.
It's only fair to give Peterson an opportunity to explain himself. Here's how he put it:
"I was just really caught up in the moment. Especially after having the fumble and then coming back out with the mentality I had on the last drive. For me, it was more emotional because I had just fumbled to put us in a bad situation that could've cost us the game, and then in the last drive when we needed it, turned it around and got into the end zone. I was sitting on the sidelines and just really having faith, telling myself and telling the guys, 'Hey, we're going to win, we're going to pull it out.' Needing a career drive, having the faith it was really going to happen. I was just caught up in the moment. I wasn't trying to celebrate."
Again, Peterson's intent shouldn't have anything to do with whether officials flag him. By rule, he should have been penalized.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press profiles cornerback Benny Sapp, who figures to take over the nickel position following the season-ending ankle injury to Charles Gordon. Sapp is known for his aggressive attempts to make big plays.
- Green Bay linebacker A.J. Hawk on sliding to the "Mike" position to replace the injured Nick Barnett: "When it comes down to it, it's all just still football." Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel breaks down the transition.
- Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on all the practice time he's missed this season: "If you're not working on the fundamentals every day, there's potential for those to drop off a little bit. I'm going to continue to work hard and as I get to do more in practice, I don't expect that to be an issue at all." Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette addresses the issue.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune can't decide what will play a more significant role Sunday: The tension in the Bears' locker room or some chippy attitudes displayed by the Packers during Wednesday conference calls.
- Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times takes a look at the quiet season of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who has had five tackles or fewer in four of the past five games.
- Detroit waived quarterback Drew Henson on Wednesday to make room for receiver Adam Jennings, whom they claimed on waivers, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News. For now, that means quarterback Dan Orlovsky will remain on the active roster despite a significant hand injury.