NFC North: Derek Anderson
According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears will interview Chudzinski over the next 24 hours. Chudzinski was San Diego’s assistant head coach/tight ends last season after spending the previous two years as Cleveland’s offensive coordinator.
In 2007, the Browns ranked eighth in the NFL in both scoring and yards per game. Quarterback Derek Anderson made the Pro Bowl that season as well.
Chudzinski wouldn’t be a bad hire if the Bears can convince him to leave a relatively secure situation in San Diego -- coach Norv Turner just received a three-year contract extension -- to come to Chicago.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
Monday, we noted the potential for a mismatch between Chicago’s injury-plagued pass defense and Green Bay’s locked-in passing game. ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson has some perspective on who might play where for the Bears, and let’s just say it won’t allay any fears.
Cornerback Charles Tillman gave himself a “50-50” chance of playing against the Packers after sitting out the summer while recovering from back surgery. I’m guessing that’s just a veteran playing coy, but it does serve as a reminder about where Tillman probably stands as far as conditioning and rustiness.
Dickerson also indicates that Kevin Payne and rookie Al Afalava are likely to be the starting safeties, with Danieal Manning (hamstring) playing in the nickel. Zack Bowman could start opposite Tillman at cornerback, joining Afalava in making his first NFL start.
The Bears’ unofficial depth chart lists Nate Vasher and Trumaine McBride as the starting cornerbacks. If that happens, writes Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald, the Bears will lose by four touchdowns.
We’ll monitor the situation throughout the week. For now, let’s take a morning spin around the NFC North:
- Bears tight end Desmond Clark is unhappy with the condition of the grass at Soldier Field, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel interprets the words of Packers coach Mike McCarthy to mean linebacker Nick Barnett (knee) will start Sunday night against the Bears.
- Backup quarterback Matt Flynn (shoulder) resumed throwing Monday and said he will be ready to play, if needed, Sunday night, writes Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Matthew Stafford’s unflappable nature is one reason why he was named Detroit’s starting quarterback, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
- Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News on the Stafford decision: “I can't shriek that the Lions perpetrated a horrible injustice and Daunte Culpepper would have sprung the upset in the opener at New Orleans. But I wouldn't have done this, and it has nothing to do with Stafford's talent (immense) or his readiness (debatable). The Lions need one measly victory in a bad, bad way, and the experienced Culpepper gives them a better chance, period.”
- Minnesota coach Brad Childress won’t say whether Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels will be the No. 2 quarterback Sunday at Cleveland, writes Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune.
- The Vikings don’t know whether they’ll be facing Browns quarterback Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson, notes my AFC North colleague James Walker.
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.
Lots of issues to delve into after a week at the NFL owners' meeting. Let's get right to it.
Talha of St. Paul writes: Hey Kevin, I am a Packers fan and this may surprise you because I live in Minnesota. I just wanted to get your thoughts on the signing of Duke Preston. How would you rate hi, as a player and also do you see him starting for the Pack this year? Thanks.
Kevin Seifert: Actually, there are so many Packers fans in Minnesota it's really amazing. No surprise to me at all. Anyway, I think Preston is a borderline starter/backup who won't embarrass you if he gets into the game. I doubt the Packers are planning to pencil him in as a starter on the first day of training camp. He provides depth at all three positions and could play anywhere if needed.
Brandon of Huntington Beach, Calif., writes: What are you thoughts on the offensive lineman "trade" the Bears made with the Browns? Did the Bears get the better deal with that or was it basically a wash? Also, do you think this changes the draft strategy back to a receiver in the first round?
Kevin Seifert: My biggest reaction is that it's always interesting how NFL teams sometimes value other teams' players more than their own. The Bears had John St. Clair for four years and have a pretty good sense for what kind of player he is. They made a financial offer to him in accordance with that evaluation, but the Browns doubled it. I'd trust the Bears' evaluation over the Browns' in this one. Unfortunately for Chicago, it leaves them with a player the Browns didn't want to continue with. The Bears' contract for Kevin Shaffer was a bit lower in value than St. Clair's. It's basically a wash, but at least the Bears paid a slightly lower figure. And I don't think this changes the Bears' need for a long-term answer at right tackle. St. Clair and Shaffer are both journeymen and short-term answers.
Ben of Iowa City writes: What do you think about the Packers taking Andre Smith at the 9th spot? They desperately need an OT, and Smith was a monster 3 straight years at Alabama. I'm willing to forgive his combine mishap. Is Ted Thompson? In my opinion, the Packers have to take him, do you agree?
Kevin Seifert: I think that's going to be one of the NFC North's questions as we head down the home stretch before the draft. The Packers' short- and long-term needs at tackle have been well-documented, with Chad Clifton seemingly nearing the end of his career and Mark Tauscher's left knee a question mark. I'm sure Thompson would like to add a big-time pass-rusher for the 3-4 defense, but everyone agrees Smith is immensely talented. If all things were equal, he'd be off the board by No. 9. I know there are concerns about his departure from the combine, but to me the biggest concern is that he was still in pretty average shape for his pro day. The Packers have a really, really difficult decision to make here.
Gerald of Jennings, La., writes: Hey Kevin, I'm not a big Lions fan, but I love to see a team that's been down succeed the following season. My concern is that everyone seems focus on the Lions taking Matthew Stafford, but I think with there position it would be a huge mistake picking a quarterback with their first pick. Its pretty obvious that after going winless they have a lot of areas to work on, but with Daunte Culpepper as quarterback it seems they have something to work with in that position for now. I believe the Lions should take the safe course like the Dolphins did last year and maybe draft an OT like Jason Smith or any other OT or maybe an LB like Aaron Curry. And with their other pick in the first pick maybe Sanchez or some OT or LB will also be available, but I'm not sure using the first pick on Stafford is a good idea. What is your take on this?
Kevin Seifert: I am still in the camp that the Lions are best off solidifying their line and other positions unless their scouts believe Stafford is a once-in-a-generation prospect. He's definitely the top quarterback in the draft, but that doesn't necessarily make him the best player overall. You also have to wonder how Stafford would develop on a team that has so many other issues from a personnel standpoint. I reserve the right to change my mind, but that's where I'm coming from now.
K. of Wisconsin writes: TE Tony Gonzalez has said that he wants out of KC. Last year he showed interest to the Packers but the organization was unwilling to give up a 2nd or 3rd rd draft pick. Should the Packers try to go at it again to try to compensate something from FA or do you think they will do well with Finley and Lee at those positions?
Kevin Seifert: To this point, we've heard nothing to suggest the Packers still have interest in Gonzalez, but the Chiefs have also said they have no plans to trade him. I think they have high hopes for Jermichael Finley at the position, even though he seemed pretty immature last year. I don't know that you make a decision on Gonzalez one way or the other because of Finley, but I don't sense the Packers consider it a primary goal right now.
Marc of Minneapolis writes: A lot of discussions are had regarding a draftee's Wonderlic test scores before and after the draft. My question is, do teams ever get players' high school and college transcripts? It seems as though finding out a prospect's class load and grades would help just as much, if not more than any other measure as to whether or not they have the ability to learn complex offensive and defensive schemes in the NFL. Thanks!
Kevin Seifert: I suppose the transcripts are available if needed. But I don't know if I'd want to base any judgments on an athlete's class load. Who knows what goes into picking the classes a player takes? To me, it's better just to judge the results of that education. You can debate whether the Wonderlic is the best way to determine that, but I like it better than a transcript review.
Wisconsin writes: Will the Vikings sign Antoine Winfield to a longer contract? I know he is going to be 32. He is still very productive.
Kevin Seifert: They're definitely working on it. It might not be imminent, but I think it's pretty likely something will happen before the regular season begins.
Steven writes: If the packers sign Duke Preston at 326 lbs, do you think that signals a move away from their mediocre version of the zone blocking scheme?
Kevin Seifert: Well, they did sign Preston after you sent this note. But I don't think it necessarily means they'll stop using the zone-blocking scheme. Mike McCarthy has talked about wanting to get bigger on the offensive line, but there are plenty of teams that zone block with bigger guys. It's not mandatory at all to be undersized when it comes to zone blocking. That's just the way Denver did it.
Kevin Seifert: For the same reason they haven't tried to get anyone else of that magnitude: Brad Childress has strong faith that Tarvaris Jackson will develop into their long-term starter.
Shawn writes: Great blog. I read your post about the Vikings stadium problem and the L.A. stadium push to maybe get the Vikes there. My question is how the fan base of our rivals in the NFC North might feel about the Vikings moving? As a Viking fan I hate the Packers and the Bears but look forward twice a year to play them. I couldn't see anyone else in the north.
Kevin Seifert: It would definitely take some getting used to. I saw one bit of speculation that the Vikings and St. Louis could switch divisions if Minnesota lost its team. I wonder whether Bears, Packers and Lions fans would want to see the Rams twice a year.
Kevin of Marshfield writes: Why are the Packers dragging their feet on signing Greg Jennings & now Nick Collins to contracts? Aaron Kampman's is coming up too. Are the Packers going to pull a Brewers and not pay there players there dew and just keep on signing cheep ones now? I am huge Packer fan but hate how the front office does their business sometimes.
Kevin Seifert: I don't think we've reached dragging-their-feet-status yet. This is the time of year when negotiations typically begin. As long as it happens before the season starts, there usually isn't much acrimony. In Collins' case, I think it's more about the Packers showing no interest in even starting talks. That will eventually subside. He knows that the longer he keeps playing well, the more his price will go up.
Noah of St. Paul writes: Why are the Vikings so reluctant to sign or retain a pro bowl caliber fullback? Although Adrian Peterson may prefer to run without a lead blocker, few would argue that the loss of Tony Richardson wasn't a significant blow to the Vikes' ground game in 2008. Now, faced with a mere $350k premium on Leonard Weaver over resigning the mediocre Naufahu Tahi, they balk again. What gives?
Kevin Seifert: I don't think they balked at Weaver's price. From what I understand, it was the other way around. Weaver didn't want to play for them.
Extra! Extra! THE DETROIT LIONS ARE 3-0 IN THE PRESEASON!
You might not be moved to spit out your morning coffee -- or your midmorning iced tea, since we're posting a bit later than usual. But the fact of the matter is the Lions haven't opened the preseason with three consecutive victories since 1995. (They made the playoffs that season with a 10-6 record, behind Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Scott Mitchell and the rest of the gang.)
We're not suggesting the Lions' sharp preseason means they'll earn a postseason berth in 2008. But it's nevertheless added to the growing optimism around their chances this season. After a 26-6 victory Saturday over the Cleveland Browns, in fact, Detroit News columnist Bob Wojnowski wrote: "The Lions have a chance to show more progress than we anticipated." That's about as optimistic as things can get this time of year in Detroit.
The primary reason for excitement has been the play of quarterback Jon Kitna, who completed nine of 11 passes against the Browns and has a 150.5 passer rating this preseason.
In addition to Kitna, however, the Lions got a 35-yard touchdown run Saturday night from rookie running back Kevin Smith and their defense held the Derek Anderson-less Brown offense to three plays in each of its first three series.
The running game has been a point of emphasis all summer long as coach Rod Marinelli tries to mold the team closer to his tough-guy image. So it was fun to read his comments Sunday morning in the Detroit Free Press. It sounded like a guy who smells blood and is going for more. (That was kind of a mixed metaphor, but it works.)
"It's got to get better," Marinelli said of the running game, according to the Free Press. "It's got to be more consistent. We had a couple that broke, which is good. But what I want is a punishment. I want to punish a defense. I want to take their legs out of them so they can't rush. That's what I'm trying to do. Will we run for 2,000 yards? I don't know. But I want to be physical."
Elsewhere around the NFC North:
- Chicago Bears running back Kevin Jones appears no worse for the wear after making his preseason debut last Thursday against San Francisco. Jones ran three times for 30 yards less than nine months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. If all goes well, he will enter the season as a change-of-pace option for starter Matt Forte while continuing to build strength.
- Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson wouldn't reveal the severity of rookie guard Josh Sitton's knee injury and it's not clear how much time Sitton will miss. He was the odds-on favorite to start at right guard, and with center Scott Wells sidelined by a lower back injury, the Packers' line remains in flux. One opening night possibility could be Jason Spitz at center, with Daryn Colledge and Allen Barbre at guards.
- We brought you the highlights Saturday night of the Minnesota Vikings' 12-10 loss to Pittsburgh, but here's one more story to add: Defensive end Kenechi Udeze was released from the hospital about three weeks ago after undergoing bone-marrow transplant surgery to combat leukemia. He will have to wear a mask for three months whenever he leaves his home to guard against infection.