NFC North: Albert Young

BBAO: Favre investigation takes turn

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
7:15
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

We've seen a significant shift in the continuing story surrounding the NFL's investigation into Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. For the first time this week, a spokesman for former New York Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger has made clear she believes she was a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. If true, Favre would be in violation of the league's personal conduct policy and subject to discipline.

Until this point, manager Phil Reese and attorney Joseph Conway had portrayed Sterger in neutral terms, indicating she was merely cooperating with league investigators who are trying to determine whether Favre sent racy photographs to Sterger via text message in 2008. This week, however, Reese has characterized the situation differently.

Most recently, he told the Associated Press: "We're of the belief that when you see [the evidence Sterger provided] that it'll be crystal clear that he overstepped his bounds." Earlier, Reese told Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal: "The NFL has assured us the whole time that commissioner [Roger] Goodell was committed to holding players accountable for their actions and would take a stand against sexual harassment in the workplace."

As you recall, the NFL started its investigation when Deadspin.com posted the photographs. The website made clear they were obtained through a third party. That route left unclear whether Sterger was positioned as an accuser or a person with information. There seems to be no more ambiguity in that regard.

I'll let you decide why Reese has changed his public stance. Motives at this point are pure speculation.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier received a raise as part of his new title, reports Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
  • The Vikings placed tailback Albert Young on injured reserve to clear roster space for new tailback Lorenzo Booker, notes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
  • Frazier said in a radio interview that he hopes Favre, who has a sprained SC joint near his right shoulder, can practice Thursday.
  • Red-hot quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jay Cutler will meet at Soldier Field on Sunday, writes ESPNChicago.com's Michael C. Wright.
  • Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher believes the team will beat the New England Patriots this Sunday. Urlacher, via Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune: "Remember, we have them at home ... the same like Philly. When we played Philly, everybody was saying they were the best, right? It's the same situation, and hopefully the same result. New England is the best team in the NFL, record-wise. But I feel like we're the best team, period. That's why I say record-wise. They have the best quarterback, numbers-wise. And everybody likes to go by numbers, right?''
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune offers some insight into the 360-pound offensive lineman the Bears signed Tuesday.
  • Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has gone 177 passes without an interception, the second-best mark in team history. Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more.
  • Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com goes behind the scenes with Packers center Scott Wells.
  • The Packers unveiled a plan to install two new video boards and an improved sound system at Lambeau Field, according to Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel.
  • Make sure you catch this video of Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh moonwalking on "SportsCenter." Suh was born in 1987, four years after Michael Jackson first performed the move.
  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com offers film review of the Lions' 24-20 loss to the Bears, including an examination of a sack that set back a fourth-quarter drive.

Final Word: NFC North

December, 3, 2010
12/03/10
4:00
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 13:

[+] EnlargeDrew Stanton
AP Photo/Paul JasienskiLions quarterback Drew Stanton will be making his second NFL start Sunday against Chicago.
Bad combination: The Chicago Bears are tied for the NFL lead with 26 takeaways this season. In the Detroit Lions' Drew Stanton, they'll face a quarterback who has thrown seven interceptions in 104 career attempts while also losing two fumbles. That's nine turnovers in one start and eight relief appearances. If the Lions are going to take any pressure off Stanton, it will have to be with a running game likely to feature No. 3 tailback Maurice Morris. I don't like Stanton's chances of navigating the Bears' defense mistake-free, which is what he'll have to do in order to win this game. The Bears have 16 interceptions this season, 13 of which have come against their standard four-man pass rush. That means they'll be sitting back in coverage Sunday, simply waiting for Stanton to make a bad decision or an inaccurate throw.

History in the making? The Lions haven't won an NFC North game since defeating the Bears in Week 8 of the 2007 season. Since then, they're 0-18 against the Bears, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Overall since that 16-7 victory against the Bears, the Lions have lost 46 of 51 games. Only one of their five victories over that stretch has been against a team with a winning record at the time, their Week 8 victory against the Washington Redskins this season. For those hoping or believing the Lions will win Sunday, I present these facts without comment to provide context for how historic such a victory would be.

Loving Lambeau: How big of a late-season home-field advantage is Lambeau Field? Beginning in 1992, the Packers are 34-6 in regular-season home games played in December or January, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That .850 winning percentage is by far the best in the NFL over that span. (The New England Patriots are No. 2 at .789.) The 18-year trend has spanned multiple coaching tenures, from Mike Holmgren (13-1) to Mike Sherman (13-2) to Mike McCarthy (7-2). And if you're keeping track, it's been even longer since the Packers lost a regular-season game -- at any point in the season -- to the San Francisco 49ers. The last time was in 1990, and the Packers have since won eight consecutive games against the 49ers. I realize every game stands on its own merit, but from a pregame perspective, this is a pretty good matchup for the Packers.

Brown and Blue all over: You might not recognize the Packers on Sunday when they first trot onto the field. They'll be wearing throwback uniforms from the 1929 "Acme" Packers team that won the franchise's first world championship. In those days, the Packers wore blue jerseys, brown pants and brown (logo-free) helmets. So that's what they'll be wearing Sunday. If you're interested, Packers.com published a photo gallery this week of staff members putting the final touches on said uniforms. I'm no style maven, so I'll let you be the judge.

Mettle testing: With a quarterback who committed 22 turnovers in the first 10 games of the season, Minnesota Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier wants his team focused on the running game. That sentiment makes especially good sense for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, who are giving up significantly more yards rushing per game than any other NFL team. Opponents are averaging 167.4 yards per game against them. The next worst rush defense is the Arizona Cardinals, who are giving up 146.5. This matchup is good timing for the Vikings, who at best will have a gimpy Adrian Peterson (ankle) on the field. Whether or not Peterson plays, you can expect significant doses of rookie Toby Gerhart and possibly No. 3 tailback Albert Young as well.
For those of you asking, it appears the initial diagnosis on Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson was accurate: He has a sprained right ankle, but tests have revealed nothing more.

Interim coach Leslie Frazier confirmed the information Tuesday during an interview with ESPN 1500 Twin Cities. (Audio available through the same link.)

"We don't think it's any more than an ankle sprain," Frazier said. "Now it's just a matter of what he can or can't do. ... We'll know a little more [Wednesday] as he tries to put some weight on it and move around. We're anxious to find out how he comes along."

Peterson has played in 51 consecutive games and has a substantial pain threshold, but it's tough for any running back to excel with a sprained ankle. At the very least, you can expect rookie Toby Gerhart to take some or all of the first-team repetitions in practice this week and for third-string tailback Albert Young to be active for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.

Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

November, 29, 2010
11/29/10
2:45
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After the Minnesota Vikings' 17-13 victory against the Washington Redskins, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Head Exam
    Kevin SeifertThe Minnesota Vikings take their turn in the examination room after beating Washington.

  1. The secret is out. Interim coach Leslie Frazier wants to pull back on the passing game and re-emphasize the run. That approach was clearly evident during Sunday's game, as the Vikings ran a season-high 38 times, even giving rookie tailback Toby Gerhart 22 carries after Adrian Peterson departed with an ankle injury. Monday, Frazier said he wants to have a "dominant run defense" and a "dominant run offense," the original tenets of former coach Brad Childress. "We lost our identity along the way," Frazier said. In reality, the Vikings transformed themselves because of the remarkable success quarterback Brett Favre had as a passer last season. But this is a different year. And more than anything, I think Frazier recognized that he needed to limit Favre's impact after committing 22 turnovers in their first 11 games. This is a passing league, but the Vikings have proved this season that they couldn't be a passing team.
  2. It sounds like the Vikings are still gathering information on Peterson's sprained ankle. Frazier said he wants to see what, if anything, Peterson can do in practice on Wednesday. But you're talking about a running back with an ankle injury significant enough that the Vikings' medical staff wouldn't let him back into the game Sunday. Peterson has missed only two games in his career, both in 2007 when he tore the lateral collateral ligament in his knee, and has an enormous pain threshold. But at the very least, you would think the Vikings will have more depth available to them Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. Backups Gerhart and Albert Young should both be on alert.
  3. It didn't necessarily show up in the box score, but defensive tackle Kevin Williams had what Frazier termed his best game of the season. Williams knocked down three passes, but more importantly, he spearheaded a defense that limited the Redskins to 29 yards rushing on 13 carries, none that went for longer than four yards. I realize the Redskins were playing without Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain, but those are the types of numbers the Vikings put up during their consecutive NFC North titles runs. And it's obviously something Frazier wants to resurrect during his tenure.
And here is one issue I don't get:
When we watch the Vikings over this final stretch, how much of what they do will be emblematic of Frazier's long-term vision? And how much will just be his attempt to win games with the infrastructure he inherited? It's an important distinction. It was prudent to pull back on Favre this week. But is Frazier a conservative, run-first coach? Or does he just see it as the best path for this team? At some point, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf will make an evaluation of Frazier's performance and determine if it's worthy of the permanent job. Will he get what he sees? Or will he get a pragmatist? Either option is fine. It's just important to know.
NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a player who gave his team a significant boost in Week 6.

During the course of Sunday's 24-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings lined up Percy Harvin as an outside receiver, in the slot, as a tailback and as their kickoff returner.

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesWill more playing time help keep star WR Percy Harvin happy in Minnesota?
In a preview of how the Vikings might utilize him moving forward, Harvin caught three passes for 21 yards, rushed twice for 18 yards and returned a kickoff 95 yards for a game-changing touchdown to open the second half.

Harvin said that coaches approached him last week about their plan to diversify his contributions, motivated in part by a lack of production behind tailback Adrian Peterson. He gained 11 yards to convert a second-and-10 on one rush, and on the other, he went 7 yards on second-and-8.

"I was able to take the push off AP and give him some breaks," Harvin said. "It worked out pretty good, so hopefully we'll see more of it."

The Vikings haven't had much luck replacing backup tailback Chester Taylor. Toby Gerhart and Albert Young have combined for 35 yards on 13 carries this season. There has been some discussion about adding punt return duties to Harvin's task list, but you wonder if he'll emerge as their primary change-of-pace behind Peterson in the backfield as well.

Clarifying Minnesota's inactive list

October, 17, 2010
10/17/10
3:36
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MINNEAPOLIS -- We need to clarify the Minnesota Vikings' pregame inactive list after an inaccurate list was distributed in the press box.

Cornerback Chris Cook, who wasn't expected to play because of a knee injury, is in fact inactive.

Tailback Toby Gerhart is also active and will back up Adrian Peterson along with Albert Young.
The Minnesota Vikings' final injury report of the week contained one eyebrow-raising nugget.

Griffin
Griffin
Cornerback Cedric Griffin, who resumed practicing three days ago after nearly eight months of rehabilitation from major knee surgery, is listed as questionable for Sunday's game at the New Orleans Saints. The Vikings have only three healthy cornerbacks on their roster, and coaches have refused to rule out Griffin as a possibility for emergency depth. But it still seems pretty unlikely given his short practice stint. If the Vikings decide they want a fourth cornerback Thursday night, they're expected to use safety Husain Abdullah in that role and/or activate rookie Marcus Sherels from the practice squad.

Rookie tailback Toby Gerhart, who has practiced on a limited basis this week because of a knee injury, is also listed as questionable. Gerhart has been discussed as a candidate to be the Vikings' third-down back, but for the time being it appears starter Adrian Peterson will fill that role when needed with some assistance from Albert Young.

Meanwhile, cornerback Chris Cook (knee) and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (knee) are out of the game. All other injured players, including center John Sullivan (calf) are probable. That news could mean Sullivan will resume his role as the starting center, suggests Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
As we enter the final week of the preseason, position battles and depth chart competition should be nearing their conclusion. No clear answers generally means trouble. So with that timing in mind, let's take a look at the key summer issues in each NFC North locale:

Chicago Bears
Unsettled positions:
Both safeties and strongside linebacker
Comment: The safety issue will come down to how quickly rookie Major Wright can return from a fractured finger. If it's soon, he could be the free safety with Chris Harris at strong. If not, the Bears might have to patch the position together with Harris at free safety and Danieal Manning or Craig Steltz on the strong side. Meanwhile, Nick Roach seemed to have the linebacker job won before having knee surgery. Can Pisa Tinoisamoa hold him off?

Detroit Lions
Unsettled positions:
No. 2 cornerback, strong safety
Comment: Jonathan Wade held down the cornerback job in camp until a finger injury knocked him from the lineup. Eric King or Dre' Bly could be his short- and/or long-term replacement. C.C. Brown was the first-team strong safety for most of camp, but his hand was in a cast last week. Randy Phillips has been the primary replacement, but fellow rookie Amari Spievey was moved from cornerback to safety last week.

Green Bay Packers
Unsettled positions:
Left guard and punter
Comment: Daryn Colledge won the left guard job by default after a hip flexor slowed rookie Bryan Bulaga. Tim Masthay appears to have an edge on Chris Bryan in the punting battle, but the Packers will take the competition through the end of the week.

Minnesota Vikings
Unsettled positions:
No. 2 cornerback, strong safety, center, third-down back
Comment: Rookie Chris Cook appears on the brink of beating out Lito Sheppard and Asher Allen for the right cornerback job. Tyrell Johnson is trying to hold off Jamarca Sanford at safety. That battle is too close to call. The Vikings are worried that center John Sullivan's calf injury has put him too far behind to be ready for the Sept. 9 season opener at New Orleans, leaving them to decide whether to play backup Jon Cooper or move over right guard Anthony Herrera. The Vikings have rotated Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart and Albert Young in the third-down role and might use a combination when the season begins.

BBAO: Cutdown days approaching

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
7:00
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Hello. Hopefully everyone had a great weekend as preseason Week 3 came and went. The NFC North's biggest postgame news was the Green Bay Packers' decision to award Daryn Colledge the starting left guard job he never lost; so in other words it a was a quiet Sunday in these parts.

We're approaching some busier times, however. Many of you have asked about roster cutdown dates, and it's possible that our teams could start paring down from the current 80-man limit at any moment. But the NFL requires all teams to cut their rosters to 75 by Tuesday and to 53 by Saturday.

We'll be watching the waiver wire each day for your convenience. For now, let's take a spin around the division:

BBAO: Shuffle in Lions secondary

August, 9, 2010
8/09/10
9:36
AM ET
We're Black and Blue all over:

As you probably noticed, we opened the second week of NFC North training camps a bit out of order. Our first Monday post was the formal Green Bay Packers Camp Confidential, and now we're following up with our daily trek around the division. Hope we didn't throw anyone off. I don't often throw my changeup.

We start with the Detroit Lions, where starting cornerback Chris Houston was (temporarily, I presume) demoted to the second-team defense after receiver Calvin Johnson beat him for a big play Sunday. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham barked at Houston, according to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press, and put Eric King into Houston's spot. Dre Bly moved up to nickel.

As we discussed in the Lions Camp Confidential, Houston is drawing Johnson often in practice coverage. That's almost not fair. Based on what I saw, I would be really surprised if Houston isn't one of the Lions' starting cornerbacks Sept. 12 at Chicago. But it's clear that very few Lions players are guaranteed starting roles.

I'll be reporting from the final stop of our training camp tour -- Mankato, Minn. -- in a few hours. For now, let's continue around the NFC North:
I'm resisting the urge to place the kind of significance that I'd love to put on the Minnesota Vikings' decision to sign veteran running back Ryan Moats, a move that came days after All-Pro starter Adrian Peterson skipped veteran minicamp to attend a hometown parade in his honor.

Moats

Moats

Timing is one reason to be intrigued by this signing. Here's another: Moats played for then-Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress when both were with the Eagles in 2005. The Philadelphia connection has always been significant as it relates to player moves under Childress.

As much as Moats' arrival might bolster theories that there is more to the Peterson issue, I'm not going there yet. Here's the more likely explanation: The departure of veteran Chester Taylor left the Vikings with no experienced runners behind Peterson. Albert Young got 12 mop-up carries as a first-year player last season, Darius Reynaud is a converted receiver and Toby Gerhart is a rookie.

Moats, 27, rushed for a career-high 390 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Houston Texans, where he was a primary backup to starter Steve Slaton. Regardless of Peterson's status, it makes sense to have at least one experienced hand for depth purposes. It's not uncommon for teams to use organized team activities and minicamps to test young players and then fill in perceived roster gaps afterward.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it ... for now.

Minnesota minicamp observations

June, 11, 2010
6/11/10
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- I did my best to keep an eye on your preferred targets during the Minnesota Vikings' opening practice of mandatory minicamp. I'll get to as many topics as I have information on, but naturally we'll start with coach Brad Childress' surprising rebuke of All-Pro tailback Adrian Peterson:

    [+] EnlargePercy Harvin
    AP Photo/Andy KingPercy Harvin reported to camp weighing more than 200 pounds.
  • I fully expected Childress to downplay Peterson's absence and was prepared to call his presumed hypocrisy. (Like most coaches, Childress has always stressed the importance of offseason attendance.) So I was surprised when Childress mocked the significance of Adrian Peterson Day in Palestine, Texas. In addition, Childress refused to rule out discipline and made clear he wasn't happy with Peterson's decision. Childress occasionally criticizes players in a public forum, but I can't recall him targeting one nearly as prominent as Peterson. If I had to guess, I would think Childress is sensitive to any perception that the exceptions he has made for quarterback Brett Favre are available to any other player. I'll explore this topic deeper next week.
  • The Vikings could fine Peterson nearly $10,000 for missing minicamp, according to the collective bargaining agreement. It's the team's option. That type of discipline, while justified and certainly not unprecedented, would take this issue to another level. Do the Vikings really want to brawl with one of their best players?
  • As expected, defensive end Ray Edwards did not attend. Edwards is a restricted free agent who hasn't signed his tender, meaning he can't be fined for missing camp. Childress did not appear concerned about Edwards' absence. "It's just the nature of the business," Childress said. Brian Robison worked with the first team in Edwards' absence.
  • I was stunned to see middle linebacker E.J. Henderson participating in individual drills less than seven months after fracturing his left femur. Henderson ran at slow speeds and moved deliberately, but it was still a far cry from his complete immobility of a few months ago. "I wish I could tell you that it surprised me," Childress said. "But the way he has attacked this thing is amazing." It's still hard to imagine Henderson being ready to play when the season begins in September, but his progress to this point is far beyond schedule.
  • Receiver Percy Harvin has spent the offseason working out on his own in Gainesville, Fla. He returned to the Twin Cities this week weighing, he said, 205 pounds. He was 188 pounds last year at this time. The extra weight was well-proportioned -- "I don't think it's big and fat," Childress said -- but Harvin said he plans to report to training camp at 200 pounds. Harvin admitted he has continued to suffer from migraine-like headaches during the offseason but said it was "nothing that stopped me from having a workout or anything."
  • The weight didn't appear to have taken any of Harvin's speed. He got behind the defense on a seam pattern during team drills, but quarterback Tarvaris Jackson's throw was too short. It hit linebacker Ben Leber in the chest as he turned to look for the ball while trailing the play.
  • Receiver Sidney Rice, another player who has been working out on his own this year, said he has put on seven or eight pounds of upper-body muscle since the end of the season.
  • With Peterson absent, Albert Young and rookie Toby Gerhart split repetitions with the first team. Many of you asked about Gerhart. It's hard to draw any conclusions from a non-contact practice, but I can tell you he was pretty morose afterward while discussing a fumble during team drills. "It was going well and then I put the ball on the ground," Gerhart said. "Got to get used to holding on to it." Gerhart will participate in both practices Saturday and then walk in his graduation ceremony at Stanford on Sunday. He'll return to the Twin Cities on a red-eye flight Sunday night to spend several more days with the rest of the Vikings' rookie class.
  • Rookie cornerback Chris Cook, the Vikings' first pick of the 2010 draft, didn't participate and instead watched from the sideline. I'm assuming he suffered some kind of injury but Childress wouldn't reveal any information. Childress also said he didn't know why linebacker Chad Greenway left the field after the early portion of practice. Erin Henderson took his place with the first team.
  • Left guard Steve Hutchinson, who had offseason shoulder surgery, didn't participate after stretching. The Vikings used Ryan Cook at his position during team drills.
My reaction to Minnesota's swing-and-miss with running back LaDainian Tomlinson is the same as when Chester Taylor jumped to Chicago. The Vikings' backup running back job is an important but ultimately secondary role as long as starter Adrian Peterson plays a full season, and it should be viewed accordingly.

Tomlinson
Tomlinson
Taylor
Taylor
I couldn't get worked up about Taylor's departure, and I really don't consider it a crisis now that Tomlinson has agreed to terms with the New York Jets. Over the past two seasons, Taylor touched the ball 284 times via rushing or pass plays. That averages out to 8.88 touches per game, or about 14 percent of the Vikings' offensive plays over that span. That's not a big enough number to lose sleep over, in my opinion.

Peterson is the focus of the Vikings' running game, and you're kidding yourself if you think they will pull back on his carries because of continuing fumble problems. Tomlinson no doubt had several reasons for signing with the Jets, but I'm sure this undeniable fact was one of them: He's going to be more involved in the Jets offense (current starter: Shonn Greene) than he would have been in the Vikings'.

From Minnesota's perspective, it made sense to pursue a future Hall of Famer. If he wanted to gear down his career to that extent, bully for the Vikings. But it's not surprising he chose the other option.

Discussion will naturally turn to veteran Brian Westbrook, who played under Vikings coach Brad Childress when Childress was Philadelphia's offensive coordinator. Childress has always had great respect for Westbrook, but it's only fair to note the Vikings have yet to show interest. Westbrook's history of concussions makes him a risk for any team he might sign with.

Without Taylor or Tomlinson, the Vikings wouldn't have an experienced back to take over if Peterson is sidelined for an extended period of time. But for now, it will be interesting to see if the Vikings give second-year player Albert Young at least an offseason look at the role.

Childress talked up Young during a radio interview last week. It's also possible to find immediate running back help in the draft.

The Vikings would have done well to sign Tomlinson, but I don't think his decision qualifies as a blow. It just adds a little pressure on their depth chart and draft preparations.

NFC North weekend mailbag

March, 13, 2010
3/13/10
11:05
AM ET
Yes! The weekend mailbag, mourned by at least three people last week, returns after a brief hiatus. Remember, you can reach me through the mailbag portal, our massive Facebook following or via Twitter.

Let's get to it.

Responding to our post about Detroit's possibilities if St. Louis selects Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh at No. 1 overall, Facebook friend Dowveido suggests the Lions take Tennessee safety Eric Berry: He is to me the best player in the draft period.

Kevin Seifert: Our original post focused on the disappointing bench press of Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and the clear signs that Suh had passed McCoy as the consensus best prospect in the draft. Public conversation has centered around St. Louis taking Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford at No. 1 overall, leaving the Lions to draft Suh.

But what if the Rams pass on Bradford and take Suh? Would it still be a no-brainer to take McCoy at No. 2? Dowveido, for one, votes for Berry.

We've all see how an elite safety can impact a defense, from the intimidation of Ronnie Lott to the playmaking of Ed Reed. But on average, it just seems to be an NFL maxim that safeties are rarely taken at the top of the draft. Like it or not, the position is behind at least five others in terms of typical NFL ratings.

Taking a safety at No. 2 overall would be quite a luxury for the Lions, who already have an up-and-coming player at the position in Louis Delmas. When you go back in the history of recent drafts, you'll only find one safety taken No. 2 overall: Eric Turner by Cleveland in 1991.

With all that said, I'm going to stick with what I came to believe last year about Detroit's drafting policy. The Lions aren't going to discriminate among positions. That's what led them to take tight end Brandon Pettigrew with the No. 20 overall pick last year, despite greater needs at other spots. If their talent evaluators determine Berry is the best player in the draft after Suh, then I believe they'll take him take him based on that scenario.

That's a big 'if,' of course. A week bench press alone shouldn't be enough to alter a team's perception of a potentially elite player like McCoy. If I had to guess, I would say it would be an upset for Berry to supplant McCoy in Detroit's eyes.


Mbearased of Clayton, Ind., writes: If your team has no first or second round draft pick, does that mean they can not sign a restricted free agent with a first or second round compensation?

Kevin Seifert: Correct. As my colleague Mike Sando notes, the collective bargaining agreement explicitly requires a team to have possession of the necessary draft pick in order to sign an RFA to an offer sheet.

Conceivably, however, there is a way around that rule. Here's how it work, using fake names that of course have no reflection in reality:
1. RFA receiver Landon Farshall signs his tender offer extended by his original team, the Donkos.
2. The Donkos trade Farshall to the Dears for first- and third-round picks in the 2011 draft.
3. The Dears sign Farshall to a long-term contract extension.
4. And all of Rhicago rejoices.

Mark of Denver offers this brain twister: I was just reading the conversation between Mike Sando and John Clayton about the new proposed overtime rules, and I had a question that was not asked. What if, under the new rule, a team has to kick off, but they opt for an onside kick and recover. Then, said team then goes down and scores a FG. Technically, the game should be over, seeing as how the other team had a chance to have possession, but they were thwarted. (Don't they consider onside kicks turnovers?). Or, suppose a team scores a field goal, then they onside kick and recover, again, you would assume they would win, right?

Kevin Seifert: Ultimately, this would have to be explicitly explained in the wording of the rule. But just my opinion, and Mike shares it as well: I would hope that a failed kickoff recovery wouldn't count as a possession. That would defeat the purpose of the rule by allowing a team to lose by an overtime field goal before its offense gets on the field.

I'm also not certain how often a team would try the onside-kick strategy. If the other team recovers, it has a short field to drive for a touchdown to win it, or a field goal to put serious pressure on the offense. It might not be the wise move, regardless.


On Minnesota's backup running back situation, Noah of St. Paul writes: As a University of Iowa alum, I have to put in a good word for former Hawkeye Albert Young. I tend to think Ian Johnson would be better in this position, though, given how he was used as more of all-purpose back at Boise State. What are your thoughts on this? Is it that specialized of a role that we need to put a premium on LaDainian Tomlinson's proven ability (and risk that he's worn out)? Or are fresh legs equally important on third down? I see this potential signing as more of hype-generating tactic than an actual personnel strategy.

Kevin Seifert: Interesting take, Noah. Pursuing Tomlinson has certainly generated hype, but I do think he has a lot to offer in the role the Vikings have mapped out for him. Remember, Chester Taylor got 94 carries last season behind Adrian Peterson. That's an average of less than six per game. I think Tomlinson has six decent carries per game in him.

On third downs, the most important word is "reliable." The third-down back must be able to pick up blitzes, and he must have good hands. Making people miss and breaking big plays is secondary. As a veteran, Tomlinson is a more than competent pass-protector and his hands are trustworthy.

I would have some reservations about putting an unproven player like Ian Johnson in charge of protecting Brett Favre on third downs, assuming Favre plays in 2010. (Johnson spent last season on the Vikings' practice squad.) But with that said, there are a lot of people -- including Favre himself -- who think Albert Young could be ready for the job.

During his recent visit with coach Brad Childress, Favre mentioned Young's name several times. Said Childress: "Albert Young is a guy that has developed here tremendously in the last two years. As a matter of fact, Brett Favre and I had a long conversation about him when we were down south and he believes he's got a chance to be a good back in this league."

So I understand why the Vikings have pursued Tomlinson. But if it doesn't work out, Young could be the guy.

Daily Mailbag: Harvin as a RB?

March, 8, 2010
3/08/10
1:40
PM ET
As the pace of free agency slows, we’ll get a chance to consider more closely the costs and repercussions of recent activity. Tim of Stoughton, Wis., gets credit for a question many of asked after tailback Chester Taylor jumped from Minnesota to Chicago:

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesGiving Percy Harvin more carries could actually reduce his overall effectiveness.
Would the Vikings ever consider Percy Harvin as [Adrian] Peterson’s backup? RB is his natural position and he would get more touches per game.

My short answer: ARGGGHHHHHHHH.

OK, I’ll try again: Thank you, Tim, for your thoughtful and well-received suggestion. I respectfully posit that it might not represent the best use of Harvin’s skills.

I understand where Tim and others are coming from. Harvin is electric in the open field, he was a game-breaker from the backfield in college and there is no easier way to get him the ball than to thrust it into his stomach.

But to me, making Harvin a more-than-occasional running back would reduce his overall impact. Every play that starts with him in the backfield is one less play where he is pressuring defenses downfield or at least taking attention away from somewhere else.

Even making Harvin the third-down back is problematic. I wouldn’t want him picking up a blitz; I would want him catching a conversion pass against the blitz.

No one is quite sure yet how the Vikings will replace Taylor. We’ve discussed free agents Brian Westbrook and LaDainian Tomlinson. There are some who believe former Iowa running back Albert Young, who has spent two years in development, could get a shot at the role. But let’s just say it’s my opinion that Harvin shouldn’t be one of the possibilities.

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