NFC North: Darius Reynaud

Wrap-up: Titans 44, Lions 41 (OT)

September, 23, 2012
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A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' wild overtime loss Sunday to the Tennessee Titans:

What it means: The Lions fell to 1-2 amid game-long chaos and an injury to quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Lions became the first NFL team to score two touchdowns in the final 18 seconds of regulation to force overtime, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They were also the first team in history to give up five touchdowns of at least 60 yards in one game. And in the end, neither of those facts impacted what happened in overtime to give the Titans victory.

StaffordWatch: Stafford departed because of a strained leg muscle suffered as the Titans' Alterraun Verner returned a fumble 72 yards for a touchdown with one minute, 32 seconds remaining in regulation. He told reporters afterward that he wasn't sure if the injury was to his hamstring or glut muscle. Regardless, he couldn't finish the game and his status is uncertain.

Long scores: In addition to Verner's return, the Titans also scored on a trick-play 65-yard punt return by Tommie Campbell, a 105-yard kickoff return by Darius Reynaud and touchdown passes of 71 and 61 yards by Jake Locker to Nate Washington and Jared Cook, respectively.

HillWatch: Backup Shaun Hill proved how valuable he is, completing 10 of 14 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns from that point. His 46-yard Hail Mary pass that landed in receiver Titus Young's hands sent the game to overtime.

"A miscommunication": That's what Lions coach Jim Schwartz called the final play, one in which Hill surprisingly tried a quarterback sneak at fourth-and-1 from the Titans' 7-yard line. A chip field goal would have tied the game and extended overtime. Schwartz said the Lions were trying to draw the Titans offside and were planning to kick if the Titans stayed onside. Apparently, center Dominic Raiola didn't get the message and snapped the ball. To me, it was a foolish decision. With the game literally on the line, don't get cute. Make the kick and continue playing.

Leshoure debuts: Tailback Mikel Leshoure gained 100 yards on 26 carries in his NFL debut. The Lions clearly wanted to focus on him in the first half to help open things up in the second. Leshoure had 17 carries and receiver Calvin Johnson had only one catch at halftime.

Injury report: In addition to Stafford, the Lions also lost punter Ben Graham, who suffered a calf injury on Campbell's punt return. Place-kicker Jason Hanson punted three times for a 36-yard average.

What's next: The Lions will host the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday at Ford Field.
Some NFC North teams will continue tweaking their rosters over the next 24 hours, but for the most part, what you see is what you're going to get for Week 1 games. In that vein, let's take a look at some random but interesting (to me) trends we're seeing. Some of the observations are mine, and I've given credit to those who came up with the others:
  1. Of the 53 players on the Bears' roster, only 23 of them were drafted by the team over the past seven years. Seven drafts should form the foundation of any team, but for the Bears it represents only 43 percent of the roster. (Source: Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune)
  2. The Bears did bring back 2009 draft pick Juaquin Iglesias to the practice squad. The same could not be said for defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert.
  3. The Green Bay Packers have more fullbacks (three) than tailbacks (two) on their roster. I can only assume that John Kuhn, Korey Hall and Quinn Johnson will participate heavily in special teams. The Packers had hoped to bring back Kregg Lumpkin on their practice squad to serve as a quasi-No. 3 runner, but Lumpkin was claimed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  4. [+] EnlargeDelmas
    Andrew Weber/US PresswireSafety Louis Delmas is the only Lions defensive back who was on the roster last season.
  5. By reaching an injury settlement with Will Blackmon and releasing Jason Chery, the Packers left themselves with no obvious kick returners. If that's their biggest problem, I'm not too worried about it. But in the short term, it looks like Jordy Nelson or possibly Brandon Jackson could fill the role. *Update: Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that Tramon Williams and Greg Jennings are options at punt returner.
  6. The Detroit Lions have turned over their entire secondary with the exception of safety Louis Delmas. Every other defensive back is new to the team this year. (Source: Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.)
  7. To put a bow on a couple of trades: The Minnesota Vikings received a 2011 fifth-round pick and a conditional 2012 seventh-round draft pick from the New York Giants in return for quarterback Sage Rosenfels and kick returner Darius Reynaud. Meanwhile, the Lions and Denver Broncos exchanged undisclosed draft 2011 picks to complete the Alphonso Smith-Dan Gronkowski trade.
  8. In announcing their waiver claim of former Green Bay tight end/linebacker Spencer Havner, the Lions listed him as a linebacker. That makes perfect sense considering the Lions' strong depth at tight end and thin situation at linebacker.
  9. The Lions currently have five players listed as cornerbacks on their roster: Smith, Chris Houston, Jonathan Wade, Aaron Berry and Amari Spievey. But Spievey has been working at safety the past few weeks, and Berry is a rookie who missed much of training camp because of a hamstring pull. Your guess is as good as mine right now about who will fill the nickel and dime roles.
  10. The Vikings are in a similar situation. They have three cornerbacks on their active roster, and even if they bring someone in over the next day or so, it's hard to imagine him participating Thursday night at New Orleans. You figure Antoine Winfield, Lito Sheppard and Asher Allen will make up the nickel package. But who will the Vikings play if they need a sixth defensive back? At this point, it will have to be one of their backup safeties.

Minnesota Vikings cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
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Check here for a full list of Minnesota's roster moves.

Biggest surprise: Veteran receiver Javon Walker had a difficult task: proving he was back to his playmaking self after three years of relative inactivity. Two touchdowns in two preseason games suggested he was on his way, but ultimately the Vikings weren't willing to risk a roster spot -- and, because he is a vested veteran, guarantee his base salary for the season. If nothing else, Walker seemed likely to make the team as a No. 5 receiver. But the move leaves the Vikings with four receivers on their 53-man roster. For me, it was also a minor surprise that the Vikings apparently will keep cornerback Cedric Griffin on the active roster, rather than place him on the physically unable to perform list. Griffin hasn't practiced since the end of last season because of a knee injury, but he must be close to returning. For now, he counts against their 53-man limit. Finally, the Vikings kept rookie Mickey Shuler among four tight ends. But that could be an attempt to pass him through waivers on a delayed basis for the purposes of getting him on the practice squad.

No-brainers: Kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd didn't have a touchback until the fourth preseason game, and his roster spot was simply too valuable. The only reason to keep a kickoff specialist is if he consistently puts the ball into the end zone. Lloyd didn't do that, and give some credit to the Vikings for eating the $200,000 bonus they gave him this spring. No sense throwing good money after bad. Ryan Longwell isn't the NFL's leading kickoff man, but he is good enough to prevent the Vikings from forcing this issue.

What's next: You have to assume the Vikings will add a cornerback, either through waivers or via trade. Cutting DeAndre Wright and Marcus Sherels leaves the team with three healthy cornerbacks. It's almost mandatory that the Vikings find at least one more. Walker's departure makes you wonder if the Vikings have another receiver targeted, but it's also possible they will keep four until Sidney Rice returns at midseason. Finally, Friday's trade of Darius Reynaud to the New York Giants means the Vikings need to identify a punt returner.
The Sidney Rice situation never passed the smell test. Guy has a breakout year in 2009, skips most of the offseason program amid low-level rumors he wants a contract extension and then fully participates in a required June minicamp. Then, a month before training camp, his agent reveals he has had a hip injury since January that should be healed in time for the start of the regular season.

Now, 16 days before the start of the Minnesota Vikings' regular season, Rice has undergone significant surgery that could keep him out until November.

Something smells rotten, but unfortunately we might never know the hows and whys and the true timetable of how this went down. What we do know is this: The Vikings will play perhaps half of their season -- a span that includes games against the New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots -- without their top receiver.

The Vikings, in fact, are suddenly down to one reliable and productive veteran receiver. Bernard Berrian has been injury-free this summer, but Rice never got on the practice field and No. 3 receiver Percy Harvin has been sidelined for most of the summer by migraines. As we discussed last week, Harvin's status will be game-to-game for the rest of his career until he can get the issue under control.

As it stands now, veteran Greg Lewis is the Vikings' No. 2 receiver. Check out the chart that accompanies this post and tell me who you think should be the No. 3. Jaymar Johnson was placed on injured reserve last week, and you wonder whether the Vikings would consider moving return man Darius Reynaud back to receiver after a summer experiment at running back.

We would be remiss if we didn't mention tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who is back and healthy after catching 55 passes last season. But there is no way around it: The Vikings are dangerously thin at receiver in an offense that skewed heavily toward the passing game last season. And I'm sorry, that won't change when and if washed-up veteran Javon Walker is added to the mix.

It will be interesting to see if the Vikings pursue a trade over the next few weeks. San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson is available, but his looming three-game NFL suspension would make him unavailable for at least part of the time Rice is absent. I could be wrong, but I don't see that happening as an emergency measure.

I've considered the Packers to be the NFC North's top team since the spring, and this news does nothing but reinforce my thoughts on that matter.

video
We're Black and Blue All Over:

How big of an impact will Julius Peppers make on the Chicago Bears this season?

How about Michael Strahan big?

That's right. Hope springs eternal in NFL training camps, and so it appears Peppers isn't shying away from questions about breaking Strahan's single-season record for sacks (22.5). Bears general manager Jerry Angelo recently said he was looking for an "MVP year" from the newly signed free agent, and when asked if the record is out of reach, here's what Peppers told Michael Wright of ESPNChicago.com:

"I don't think so. I'm not gonna sit here and say I'm shooting for it. I'm not gonna say that I'm not shooting for it, either. It's been done before, and can be done again. That's what records are there for ... to be broken."

Peppers' career-high sack total came in 2008, when he notched 14.5. We'll see.

Continuing 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's stadium negotiations have continued to grow more interesting, if not more successful, this week. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf held a closed-door meeting with 20 state legislators Tuesday, and on Wednesday Gov. Tim Pawlenty did not rule out the possibility that public financing for a new stadium could be approved in the next month.

Pawlenty called that prospect "unlikely but possible," which actually is more optimistic than any public statements I've seen or heard him make. This report from the Star Tribune details a number of financing proposals under consideration to replace the Metrodome, including one that would require a less expensive design. The current price tag is $870 million.

The story suggests that, at the very least, a bill will be introduced before the end of the legislative session. The Vikings' Metrodome lease expires after the 2011 season. Stay tuned.

Continuing around the NFC North with the draft one week out:

  • Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe on the new Wrangler jeans quarterback Brett Favre donated to his teammates: "They're very nice. I might need to break them in a little bit, though. They're kind of stiff. ... Maybe drag them behind my car for a couple miles." Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com has more.
  • The Vikings moved receiver Darius Reynaud to running back after he played the role of New Orleans tailback Reggie Bush on the scout team prior to the NFC Championship Game, writes Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune.
  • Actor Dan Lauria will play former Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi in an upcoming Broadway show.
  • The Packers hosted Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton on a visit Wednesday, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • New Detroit cornerback Chris Houston is lobbying the Lions to draft Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh next month, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch will play primarily on the right side, according to Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
  • Newly retired Lions tight end Casey FitzSimmons is still feeling the effects of his last concussion, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
  • Chicago's contract with linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is worth $875,000, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Here are the fifth- and fourth-round installments of ESPN.com's best-ever draft series.
This week was just too darn slow. Maybe it was the comedown from Super Bowl XLIV, or perhaps the realization that we won't have real football for another seven months. (And by "real football," I don't mean "preseason games.")

So let's spice it up a bit and devote our weekend mailbag to one of the most volatile debates we had this season. (But first the obligatory shout-out: You can contact me through the mailbag application, on Facebook or on Twitter.)

On with it...

Via Facebook, Matt writes: In the beginning of the football season you ranked the NFCN receivers. It would be cool if you revisited that and redid the rankings now that the season is over.

Kevin Seifert: Ah, Matt, you are referring to this Have at It, spurred by a sentence in this August feature. As the debate evolved -- or devolved, as you may believe -- we argued whether Minnesota or Green Bay had the deepest receiving corps.

Ultimately, I published a comparison between each receiver position on the two teams. The chart accompanying this post shows how it all worked out.



Here's what I would say on the issue:
  • Before the season, I thought Minnesota had better depth, but acknowledged Green Bay had a more top-heavy depth chart. That remains my assessment.
  • The best receiver in the division this season was the Vikings' Sidney Rice. Greg Jennings out-produced the Vikings' Bernard Berrian, and Percy Harvin outplayed Green Bay's No. 3 receiver, James Jones.
  • Jordy Nelson had three times the catches of the Vikings' Greg Lewis, but Lewis made the best catch of the season on his game-winning touchdown reception against San Francisco.
  • Neither team's No. 5 receivers this season factored into play.

So if I were to suggest a combined ranking of the Vikings' and Packers' receivers now that the season is over, it would go like this:

1. Sidney Rice
2. Greg Jennings
3. Donald Driver
4. Percy Harvin
5. Bernard Berrian
6. James Jones
7. Jordy Nelson
8. Greg Lewis

That gives the Packers two of the top three receivers in the division, while the Vikings have three of the top five. I think a decent argument could be made for Harvin to supplant Driver if and when we do a 2010 preseason ranking, but that's how I would list them based on 2009 performances.

How about you?
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Rarely do you see such a fluid news story 48 hours before a conference championship game. But I can tell you with utter sincerity that no one knows whether Percy Harvin -- Minnesota’s second-leading receiver, the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl kick returner -- will be available to play Sunday at New Orleans.

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireNobody knows if Percy Harvin will be available to play this Sunday.
Frankly, it’s not even clear whether Harvin will be able to board the team’s charter flight Saturday afternoon. He spent Friday at home while suffering through a second day of migraine headaches, and the Vikings can do nothing but wait for the symptoms to subside. Will that happen tonight? Tomorrow morning? Sunday? Next week? There is absolutely no way to predict it.

Friday, coach Brad Childress said Harvin’s previous dealings with migraines have all varied in terms of intensity and time period. He acknowledged that travel “could” exacerbate the symptoms, but that’s assuming they subside first. If his symptoms this time are as debilitating as they were earlier this season -- forcing him to remain in bed with the lights turned off for several days -- it’s hard to imagine him traveling Saturday.

NFL coaches are often intentionally vague on the status of their injured players, but I think Childress was being entirely truthful when he said: “[W]e’ll just have to see how he comes along. It’s less than ideal, but he’s played under the same circumstances this year.”

By that, Childress meant Harvin missed practice time earlier this season before recovering in time for a game. But he also missed a game because of them last month against Cincinnati.

Without him, the Vikings would have to compensate in a number of ways. Darius Reynaud would take over as their kickoff returner, and Reynaud would probably share time with veteran Greg Lewis in Harvin’s role as the slot receiver.

But at this point, quarterback Brett Favre said, it’s too late to make many schematic or game-planning adjustments.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Favre said. “We hope he plays. But we have to prepare as we’ve been doing, like Percy’s playing. And if Percy’s not playing, we still go on and play it the same way as if he were going to play.”

A few of you thought I was being dramatic last month when I suggested that Percy Harvin’s ongoing battle with migraine headaches presented an “ominous” sign for the future. To me, the incurable and unpredictable nature of the affliction made it one of Minnesota’s top obstacles in making a Super Bowl run.

Harvin
Why? For the potential of the exact circumstance the Vikings encountered Thursday. Four days before the NFC Championship Game, Harvin -- the Vikings’ second-leading receiver and top third-down target -- was at home dealing with a sudden onset of migraines. Coach Brad Childress said the Vikings are trying to “slow the onsets” but acknowledged that nothing but time will cure this or any other round.

Harvin has dealt with the issue throughout his rookie season and missed one game, a Dec. 13 victory over Cincinnati. He visited the Mayo Clinic for help, but Childress said it was unrealistic to expect the problem could be so quickly solved.

It’s no one’s fault and there are no easy answers. Those who suffer from migraines know there aren’t many (legal) options for symptom relief. The Vikings will simply have to wait for this episode to run its course -- and hope it does so before Sunday.

If Harvin can’t play, the Vikings will lose one of quarterback Brett Favre’s favorite targets -- his 60 receptions trailed only Sidney Rice among Vikings receivers -- and a Pro Bowl kickoff returner.

You could expect Darius Reynaud to replace him on kickoffs, while veteran Greg Lewis likely would see more time in Harvin’s slot receiver position. Stay tuned. This situation might not be resolved until Sunday afternoon.

Pushoff 2010: Harvin vs. Buehler

January, 16, 2010
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If you’re into special teams matchups, there will be a fascinating dynamic in play Sunday at the Metrodome.

Minnesota rookie Percy Harvin made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner this season, but he was almost a non-factor during the second half of the season as opponents intentionally kicked away from him via squibs or short, high kicks. Here is how Harvin’s season broke down:

Games 1-8: 30.7-yard average on 28 returns, two touchdowns
Games 9-16: 21.1-yard average on 14 returns, no touchdowns

The Vikings have had eight kickoffs returned by blockers over that stretch, including five by tight end Jeff Dugan. Lately, they’ve been using punt returner Darius Reynaud as an upback to give them a more explosive alternative.

On the other hand, the Cowboys employ kickoff specialist David Buehler, who has one of the strongest legs in the NFL. Buehler led the league with 29 touchbacks during the regular season and had three last week in the Cowboys’ wild-card playoff victory over Philadelphia.

I, for one, will be interested to see if the Cowboys will let Buehler kick deep or if they’ll join previous Vikings opponents and keep the ball away from Harvin. I bet the Vikings would be more than willing to let Harvin return the ball from relatively deep in the end zone.

Speaking to Minnesota reporters this week, special teams coordinator Brian Murphy said Harvin will use the lettering of Vikings logo in the end zone as a “warning track” for returning the ball. But Harvin has also been told to judge whether a deep kick is still returnable based on hang time and trajectory.

“Not all of them are going to be touchbacks,” Murphy said. “We need to take advantage of it when it is a returnable ball.”

Just another nugget to consider with the opening kickoff 27 hours away.

Time to see these NFC North faces

December, 15, 2009
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And down the stretch they come. Faster than you can say "Black and Blue," we’re heading into the final three weeks of the 2009 regular season. We have one team qualified for the playoffs (Minnesota), another on the doorstep (Green Bay) and two who have been eliminated (Chicago and Detroit).

As we move into this period of diverse goals and different directions, I think we can all agree there are some players we’d like to see more of before closing the book on 2009. My choices are below, but by all means, feel free to add to this list in the comments section.

I kept in mind that the Vikings and Packers must have winning foremost on their agenda, while the Bears and Lions have a bit more flexibility.

Aromashodu
Aromashodu
Player: Chicago receiver Devin Aromashodu
What we’ve seen so far:
An 8-catch performance Sunday against Green Bay in his first extended action of the season, including a touchdown over Packers cornerback Charles Woodson. In six other appearances, Aromashodu had two catches.
Why we should see more:
Aromashodu established a connection with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in training camp and Cutler has lobbied for him to play all season. I don’t think we’re looking at the second coming of Brandon Marshall, but at 6-2 and 201 pounds, Aromashodu offers a bigger target than the rest of the Bears receivers. A strong December showing would give us reason to believe he could contribute regularly next season, perhaps as a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver.

Adams
Adams
Player: Chicago defensive end Gaines Adams
What we’ve seen so far: Nada. Nothing. El zip. In seven games this season, Adams has four tackles and no sacks.
Why we should see more: Normally, I would be fine with Chicago burying him on the depth chart. But lest you forget, the Bears gave up their 2010 second-round pick to acquire Adams from Tampa Bay. As of right now, that pick would be No. 41 overall. The Bears can’t afford to give up on him. Even if they’ve decided Adams needs an offseason to bulk up, as many believe, they should still throw him on the field and let him work on the technique he’s ostensibly learning from defensive line guru Rod Marinelli.

Gilbert
Gilbert
Player: Chicago defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert
What we’ve seen so far: Even less than Adams. Two games. No tackles. No sacks.
Why we should see more: The Bears need to play Adams, but they also need to get Gilbert some action so to hedge against Adams flaming out. The Bears’ top 2009 draft choice, Gilbert has practiced at end and tackle. If the Bears part ways with Tommie Harris this offseason, Gilbert would be a candidate to replace him as well. It would be nice to have some idea if Gilbert is miles away or just far away from making a consistent impact.

Brown
Brown
Player: Detroit running back Aaron Brown
What we’ve seen so far: Elite speed and some glimpses of big-time playmaking ability. Some of it came in the preseason, but Brown did score on a 26-yard screen pass against Cleveland last month. Not surprisingly, he has made his share of rookie decisions and earned a trip to the bench as recently as Sunday at Baltimore.
Why we should see more: If the Lions refused to play everyone who made mental mistakes, they would have trouble fielding a team. Brown is a playmaker on a team that can put only a few others in that category. With starter Kevin Smith lost for the season, I know I’d much rather see what Brown can do with extended playing time than watch veteran Maurice Morris carry the load.

Raji
Raji
Player: Green Bay defensive lineman B.J. Raji
What we’ve seen so far: Steady improvement after overcoming a holdout and a number of leg injuries. Raji remains somewhat hobbled, but like many Packers defensive players, he has been getting the hang of the team’s 3-4 scheme. In 11 games, he has 19 tackles and one sack.
Why we should see more: Veteran nose tackle Ryan Pickett has been slowed by a hamstring injury, giving the Packers a perfect opportunity to transition Raji into that role. While Pickett has been a big part of the Packers’ strong run defense this season, Raji has superior quickness and greater ability to make game-changing plays in the backfield. Oftentimes, rookie defensive linemen emerge as forces in the latter part of a season and/or in the playoffs. Raji should get his opportunity to do so.

Reynaud
Reynaud
Player: Minnesota returner/receiver Darius Reynaud
What we have seen so far: Excellent open-field running ability, both in the preseason and regular season. He’s averaged 11.2 yards on 20 punt returns and filled in nicely for Percy Harvin on kickoff returns last Sunday.
Why we should see more: Harvin’s migraine issue makes his status uncertain. Reynaud can’t match Harvin’s rare skills, but he can give the Vikings a decent alternative on both special teams and offense. I’d rather see Reynaud working in the slot than veteran Greg Lewis, who is a better outside receiver.

Taylor
Taylor
Player: Minnesota tailback Chester Taylor
What we have seen so far: His usual ability to make defenders miss on third-down receptions, along with fresh legs when he gives Adrian Peterson a breather.
Why we should see more: Many of us are expecting the Vikings to return to their roots as the playoffs approach, which means more power running and less downfield passing. It only makes sense to incorporate Taylor into the mix more often if that’s the case. The Vikings could also bust up some tendencies if they run more often with Taylor in the game rather than have him signal that a pass is on the way.

Avril won't play for Detroit

November, 15, 2009
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Detroit linebacker Larry Foote and Minnesota receiver Bernard Berrian are both active and will play Sunday at the Metrodome, but the Lions offered one surprise among their list of eight deactivated players.

Defensive end Cliff Avril, arguably the Lions’ best pass rusher, will not play. Avril has only 2.5 sacks this season, but it’s still a surprise that he’s, in essence, a healthy scratch. We’ll keep you updated if there is more to the story.

One minor change for Minnesota: Receiver/punt returner Darius Reynaud is active for the first time in five games. As a result, receiver Jaymar Johnson is inactive.

NFC North Friday injury report

November, 13, 2009
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Detroit Lions: Linebacker Ernie Sims (hamstring) was ruled out of Sunday’s game against Minnesota. He’s likely to be replaced by rookie DeAndre Levy. Middle linebacker Larry Foote (knee), linebacker Jordon Dizon (neck) and defensive lineman Dewayne White (toe) are questionable. Foote, however, returned to practice Friday and said he plans to play.

Green Bay Packers: Four players have been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Dallas: Tight end Jermichael Finley (knee), linebacker Aaron Kampman (concussion), linebacker Brady Poppinga (quadriceps) and tackle Mark Tauscher (knee). Linebacker Brandon Chillar (hand) is questionable but wouldn’t have a big role if he does play Sunday. All other players will be available. Coach Mike McCarthy told Wisconsin reporters that rookie Brad Jones would start in place of Kampman and that rookie T.J. Lang would start for Tauscher.

Minnesota Vikings: As expected, cornerback Antoine Winfield (foot) is at least a week away from returning. The Vikings ruled him out on their injury report. They should have no other injury-related absences Sunday. Punt returner Darius Reynaud will be available but might not be active based on other rosters decisions.

NFC North at night

November, 11, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

Chicago Bears: Safety Kevin Payne (back) was ruled out of Thursday night’s game at San Francisco and fellow safety Al Afalava (shoulder) is questionable. That could leave the Bears choosing between Craig Steltz and Josh Bullocks as their starter opposite Danieal Manning.

Detroit Lions: Linebackers Larry Foote (knee) and Ernie Sims (hamstring) did not practice. If neither can play, the Lions would likely use rookie DeAndre Levy at middle linebacker and Jordon Dizon in Sims’ spot on the weak side.

Green Bay Packers: Injuries have depleted the Packers’ outside linebacker position. Aaron Kampman (concussion) missed Wednesday’s practice, and Brady Poppinga came up with a quadriceps injury Tuesday and had an MRI on Wednesday. That leaves Brad Jones and Jeremy Thompson on the depth chart, and Jones took most of the snaps Wednesday. Tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) appears to be at least a week away. Right tackles Mark Tauscher (knee) and Allen Barbre (concussion) didn’t practice, leaving rookie T.J. Lang to work at right tackle.

Minnesota Vikings: Cornerback Antoine Winfield (sprain) was on the field working with defensive backs at the beginning of practice. Officially, his particiation was “limited.” Receiver Darius Reynaud (hamstring) had full participation for the first time since Week 3.

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