NFC North: Junius Coston
Here's an interesting tidbit from David Birkett of the Oakland Press: Detroit has discussed the possibility of moving left tackle Jeff Backus to guard, a scenario that Backus apparently is considering.
It's way too early to project the Lions' starting lineup. But if nothing else, this discussion gives Detroit's new regime some flexibility as it proceeds through free agency and the draft. If the Lions fall in love with, say, Alabama tackle Andre Smith, they know they can make room for him by shifting Backus over one spot. (It's presumed that newly signed Stephen Peterman will start at right guard.)
On the other hand, if the Lions are better able to acquire a guard through free agency or the draft, they can still leave Backus at left tackle.
Update: Backus downplayed the issue Wednesday in an interview with Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press. Backus said his only conversation about it was a brief exchange with general manager Martin Mayhew last fall.
One conclusion you can probably make from this: General manager Martin Mayhew doesn't consider Backus an elite left tackle. Left tackles play one of the game's most difficult positions, and they don't usually get moved if they're doing a great job. And the Lions probably wouldn't have approached Backus about the possibility if there was only a fleeting chance of it occurring.
As we've noted, few players from an 0-16 team should feel secure in their roles. Backus, who has been a starter since 2001, is no different.
Reading between the lines, it sounds as if New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin won't go overboard with his veterans Sunday at the Metrodome.
This will come as good news to Minnesota, who need a victory over the Giants to clinch the NFC North, and bad news to Chicago. The Bears are hoping for a Giants victory, combined with a win of their own at Houston, to grab the NFC North division title for themselves.
But if you read my colleague Matt Mosley's take over on the NFC East blog, you'll see Coughlin talking about "medical people" and doing "the best thing for our football team."
Coughlin insists that "we play every game to win" and that "we have always believed at this time of the year it is important to be playing your best football." But ultimately, Coughlin said: "We would like to continue to do that but we will do the right thing and the smart thing [for] our team."
It's not as if the absence of a few Giants starters would guarantee a Vikings victory. But the mentality of sitting or limiting starters tends to permeate the rest of a roster. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bears coach Lovie Smith made it clear he hopes the Giants play a normal game but added:
''We shouldn't have to think about what someone else is doing or hope someone does something to help us.''
This will be a topic of conversation all week, but I think it's pretty clear we'll see the likes of quarterback Eli Manning, tailback Brandon Jacobs and defensive end Justin Tuck on the sidelines pretty early Sunday at the Metrodome.
Continuing a look around the NFC North on Christmas Eve morning:
- Smith had a few choice words for his team as it trailed 14-3 at halftime Monday night, writes Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald.
- Minnesota tight end Visanthe Shiancoe has more receiving yards and touchdowns this season than he had in his first five NFL seasons combined, notes Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Vikings defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams each stood to receive a $400,000 bonus if they kept their weight at or below a prescribed figure this season, according to Chris Miller and Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy does not blame his line for the block of Mason Crosby's 38-yard field goal attempt Monday night. "It was a poor kick," McCarthy said Tuesday, according to Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- The Packers are trying to figure out why they have lost so many close games, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. The tally: Seven losses by four points or less.
- The Detroit Lions certainly haven't given up on the personnel end of things. They placed guard Edwin Mulitalo and linebacker Jordon Dizon on injured reserve Tuesday so they could sign receiver Chris Hannon and offensive lineman Junius Coston, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Lions tailback Kevin Smith needs 116 yards to reach 1,000 for the season, notes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.