NFC North: Garrett Mills

NFC North weekend mailbag

June, 26, 2010
6/26/10
12:00
PM ET
Verse No. 2 from a tune reflecting our pending shift from offseason to training camp mode -- and other looming transitions:

Six o'clock TV hour, don't get caught in foreign towers
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn
Locking in, uniforming, book-burning, blood-letting
Every motive escalate, automotive incinerate
Light a candle, light a votive, step down step down
Watch your heel, crush, crushed uh-oh this means
No fear cavalier, renegade, steer clear
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
And I decline


It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine


Some of us University of Virginia types would argue the transcription of line seven, but Michael Stipe couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Like the rest of you, he can hit the mailbag portal, Facebook or Twitter to contact me.

Onward...

Corey of Evans, Ga., wants us to revisit our 2009 discussion on the NFC North's skilled group of tight ends.

Kevin Seifert: Last year, we followed the progress of the four promising (and starting) tight ends in this division: Greg Olsen, Brandon Pettigrew, Jermichael Finley and Visanthe Shiancoe. Corey's question intrigues me because it helps illustrate how much depth NFC North teams have assembled behind those starters this offseason.

Check out the chart below.


The Bears signed Brandon Manumaleuna to a substantial free-agent contract. The Lions traded for Tony Scheffler to help them navigate Pettigrew's knee rehabilitation, while the Packers drafted talented pass-catcher Andrew Quarless from Penn State. The Vikings drafted Quarless' backup, Mickey Shuler, but at this point I don't think he ranks higher than No. 5 on the Vikings' depth chart.

It's going to be fun to watch this group's progress in 2010 and find out how the new additions will impact the incumbents. Olsen, for instance, has been dropped into an offense that traditionally hasn't made much use of pass-catching tight ends. Manumaleuna has played for Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz and is known for his blocking prowess, but he has disappointed some people with his slow recovery from offseason knee surgery.

In Detroit, it's not totally clear when Pettigrew will be cleared to return after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament last November. Even when he does play, Scheffler is too good of a receiver to leave on the bench. Finally, I'm wondering what Quarless' arrival will mean for veteran Donald Lee in Green Bay. Assuming Quarless is good enough to make the team, and that Spencer Havner's versatility remains valued, would Lee lose his roster spot? Do the Packers need four tight ends?

Those questions are among the issues we will be following this summer and fall.


Yukonjack of Carrington, N.D., writes: With all the rumors flying around up here about Adrian [Peterson] not attending minicamp, do you think it could be as simple as the Vikings embarrassed him on the NFL Network with running backs coach Eric Bieniemy constantly getting after him in that film study? Adrian's answers kept getting shorter and by the end, he was not answering at all!! What's your take??

Kevin Seifert: Interesting point, Yuk. I don't think the video itself is what caused Peterson's absence, especially considering it didn't hit the airwaves until after minicamp. (If you haven't watched it yet, by all means do so.)

But I'm also not ready to brush aside the video as a non-issue, either. Bieniemy is always blunt and a straight shooter, but I'm wondering if Peterson knew he was going to be so harsh with the cameras rolling. I agree with your assessment. It got pretty uncomfortable watching Peterson's reaction, especially because you could tell he knew the cameras were seeking his reaction.

That's not to say Bieniemy's analysis was wrong or undeserved. But there is a big difference between delivering it in the private sanctity of an NFL film room and in front of NFL Network cameras. By the end, Peterson looked like he wanted it to be over. Not many players, superstar or otherwise, prefer to be dressed down by their coaches in front of a camera.

And I was especially interested to note that none of the (aired) conversation was about Peterson's fumbling issue. It was about Bieniemy's belief that Peterson left 200-300 yards on the field last season through fundamental lapses and impatience.

Keep in mind that this was one of the few (if only) film sessions Peterson had with a Vikings coach all offseason. I'm not sure how productive it was.


Thatkuhlkid of Madison, Wis., writes: What will happen with the Packers if there is an owners lockout? They are a publicly-traded company and I can't imagine the stock holders/team president wanting to lock them out. Is there a scenario that the Packers would have the opportunity to take the field at all?

Kevin Seifert: I've gotten this question from more than a few people. It's true from a technical standpoint that some 112,000 shareholders own the franchise through voting stock. But the reality is the Packers don't operate their daily business in that regard. Their Executive Committee and CEO/president Mark Murphy are empowered to make the organization's decisions.

Given Murphy's role on the NFL's Management Council Executive Committee, which will negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement on behalf of owners, it's safe to assume he will involve the Packers in a lockout if one comes to pass. And if he didn't, who would the Packers play?


Mike of Raleigh, N.C. writes: I've heard a lot about how Rob Sims should help anchor the Lions' line, now that we have a quality LG. I've repeated it myself to friends without really thinking too much about it. In unrelated articles however, I've read about how it's relatively easy for coaches to mask deficiencies in the interior of the line. If that is the case, how much improvement should we really see with Sims in there? Is it the case that he is so vastly superior, or is more wishful thinking from Lions fans?

Kevin Seifert: No, I think this is a big deal -- if for no other reason than having continuity at the position. A team might be able to compensate for a weaker offensive lineman, but there is no way to cover for constantly changing personnel. If Sims can lock down the position, developing some chemistry with left tackle Jeff Backus and center Dominic Raiola, then the Lions will have made a significant upgrade regardless of his skill level.

Practice squad extravaganza: Vikings

September, 6, 2009
9/06/09
4:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


Minnesota managed to get quarterback John David Booty through waivers and onto its practice squad Sunday. It would have been a surprise had someone claimed him, but stranger things have happened.

For what it’s worth, we now have three NFC North teams with a quarterback on their practice squad. Booty joins Brian Brohm in Green Bay and Brett Basanez in Chicago; in the latter two cases, the maneuver allows the team to use only two active roster spots on quarterbacks. Given the relative rarity of a No. 3 quarterback actually playing in a game, it’s definitely the preferred scenario.

Tight end Garrett Mills, a strong pass-catcher who spent most of the past two seasons with the Vikings, also signed back to their practice squad. The remainder of Minnesota’s list:

Vikings: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
7:28
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


Check here for a full list of Minnesota’s roster moves.

Biggest surprise: There weren’t many, but it was a bit startling to see the Vikings part ways with tight end Garrett Mills. He’s always demonstrated soft hands and seemed to be an offensive playmaker in the waiting. The Vikings carried him on their roster for two years hoping that would be the case, but this year they decided to go heavier at the receiver position. They kept three tight ends -- Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan -- along with six receivers. Essentially, No. 6 receiver Darius Reynaud beat out Mills.

No brainers: There will be some hand-wringing over the decision to release quarterback John David Booty, especially if he is claimed by another team. I don’t deny that he’s in the middle of his development, but to this point I’ve never seen anything to suggest he’ll be any better than a No. 3 quarterback. The Vikings have three passers on their roster who are better than him. I don’t think there are many people in the NFL who consider Booty the Vikings’ quarterback of the future. It’ll be OK.

What’s next: Minnesota will have to determine whether Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels will be the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Brett Favre. I’m guessing it’s Jackson. Coach Brad Childress loathes interceptions, and Rosenfels threw a bad one Friday night against Dallas. I’ll also be interested to see if some of the Vikings’ roster decisions help improve their coverage units. Linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Kenny Onatolu, along with defensive backs Jamarca Sanford and Karl Paymah, made the team based almost exclusively on special teams.

Friday NFC North injuries that matter

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
5:35
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

I haven't heard an outcry since the dissolution of our Friday "Revealed" feature. But just so you know our thinking, it seemed like re-printing the entire Friday injury report was more confusing than helpful. So we've streamlined things a bit and will now tell you, as my NFC West colleague Mike Sando would say, about the "injuries that matter."

So here you go:

Chicago: Receiver Marty Booker (knee) has been declared out of Sunday's game at St. Louis. It will be interesting to see if the injury opens an opportunity for rookie Earl Bennett. ... The Bears also ruled out linebacker Darrell McClover (hamstring) and tackle Fred Miller (shoulder). Everyone else should be available.

Detroit: Receiver Mike Furrey (concussion), center Dominic Raiola (hand), cornerback Keith Smith (hand) and defensive end Dewayne White (calf) all will miss Sunday's game against Tampa Bay. ... Safety Dwight Smith (foot) and guard Edwin Mulitalo (knee) are questionable. Their status will be determined Sunday.

Green Bay: The Packers still have one more day of practice before Monday night's game at New Orleans, but the big question is whether receiver James Jones (knee) will play. Jones was added to the injury report Friday and is listed as questionable. He appeared to re-injure his knee last week against Chicago. ... Cornerback Jarrett Bush (ankle) hasn't practiced all week.

Minnesota: Tailback Adrian Peterson returned to practice, was removed from the injury report and will start Sunday at Jacksonville. Peterson was wearing a wrap on his right knee, but coach Brad Childress said it was nothing out of the ordinary. ... Defensive end Jared Allen (shoulder) was limited in practice but should play. Tight end Garrett Mills (ankle) is doubtful and isn't expected to be in uniform.

Vikings: Cutdown analysis

August, 30, 2008
8/30/08
6:07
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

View the Vikings' official list of cuts here, where you can also access their 53-man roster as it stands now.

Biggest surprise: There were no shockers among the releases. Probably the biggest surprise was the release of receiver Martin Nance, who had a productive preseason. Ultimately, however, it was going to be hard for him to beat out Aundrae Allison or Robert Ferguson. Otherwise, there were some mild surprises among the players the Vikings kept - at least for now. Tight end Garrett Mills was a summer disappointment because of a leg injury but he remains one of four tight ends on the roster. The other surprise was safety Michael Boulware going on injured reserve. Boulware played in the preseason finale Thursday at Dallas and was not a part of the post-game injury report.

No-brainers: Quarterback Brooks Bollinger was destined to be a roster casualty as soon as the Vikings drafted John David Booty in the fifth round. Booty didn't have an impressive summer, but he would have had to fall on his face for the Vikings to keep Bollinger another year. Meanwhile, linebacker Rufus Alexander wasn't the same this summer as he attempted to return from major knee surgery.

What's next: Several young players made the final 53-man roster but could ultimately become practice squad material. By making them part of their initial roster, the Vikings will avoid exposing them to the first round of waivers. That list includes linebackers David Herron and Erin Henderson, as well as cornerback Husain Abdullah. They could be the first to go if the Vikings sign any veterans or make any waiver claims this weekend.

Vikings position battles

July, 24, 2008
7/24/08
10:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The Minnesota Vikings' starting lineup is virtually locked up, but there will be some competition for playing time in a few areas during training camp. Here are two:

Tight end: Visanthe Shiancoe vs. Jim Kleinsasser

Shiancoe is trying to rebound from a tough debut season with the Vikings in which he dropped three touchdown passes and never seemed comfortable in the offense. Coaches have lauded his progress and demeanor, not to mention weight loss, during the offseason. But Shiancoe will have to prove he can catch the ball consistently this summer in order to retain his role as the primary tight end.

Kleinsasser is a strong veteran blocker who has rarely been asked to participate much in the passing game. But his playing time increased last season as Shiancoe struggled, and the Vikings won't be afraid to use him -- or veterans Jeff Dugan and Garrett Mills -- in place of Shiancoe if necessary.

With tailback Adrian Peterson in the backfield, the tight end should be a powerful weapon in this offense, especially in play-action.

Intensity index: Mild

Nickel back: Marcus McCauley vs. Charles Gordon vs. Tyrell Johnson

Ah, the all-important nickel battle. If this ranks in a team's top two personnel questions, you know you're in decent shape.

That said, the Vikings spent plenty of time in their nickel pass defense last season as teams abandoned the run against them. There's no reason to expect anything different this season, meaning that, in reality, their nickel back will have the prominence of a starting corner.

Gordon and McCauley shared the role last season, with Gordon enjoying more success. But the Vikings will be looking for ways to get Johnson -- considered a steal in the second round -- on the field.

In the end, the team could create several different personnel packages and use Johnson in "big nickel" situations against opposing tight ends and slot receivers. Gordon has the best one-on-one cover ability of the three and is the favorite for the traditional nickel role.

Intensity index: Hot

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