NFC North: Kalvin Pearson
Chicago Bears: Offensive lineman Orlando Pace (groin) and linebacker Lance Briggs (knee) are listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against St. Louis. Neither are expected to play.
Detroit Lions: Receiver Eric Fowler (knee) and safety Kalvin Pearson (hamstring) won’t play Sunday against Cincinnati. … Safety Louis Delmas (ankle), guard Daniel Loper (back), linebacker Ernie Sims (hamstring) and defensive end Dewayne White (toe) are all listed as questionable. Loper isn’t expected to play. Delmas and Sims both have a good chance.
Green Bay Packers: There was a frightening situation at the end of practice Friday when linebacker Jeremy Thompson suffered what coach Mike McCarthy termed a “neck stinger.” Thompson remained on the ground and eventually was taken to a hospital. Teammates told reporters that Thompson had movement in his hands and feet. Here is coverage from the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and ESPN Milwaukee. … Rookie offensive lineman T.J. Lang suffered a concussion in Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. That leaves the Packers hoping that starter Chad Clifton (hamstring) will recover in time to start Monday night against Baltimore. Green Bay will release status designations on Saturday.
Minnesota Vikings: I’ve given up trying to guess when cornerback Antoine Winfield (foot) will return. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier acknowledged that Winfield had a setback last week. Although he again made it through a full week of practice, I’ll believe Winfield is returning when I see him on the field. … Right guard Anthony Herrera practiced for the first time since suffering a concussion two weeks ago, but his availability for Sunday night’s game at Arizona is questionable at best. The remainder of the Vikings’ questionable players -- running back Chester Taylor (ribs) and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (ribs) -- are expected to play.
Detroit Lions: What a mess the Lions have at safety. They placed starter Ko Simpson (knee) on injured reserve and declared Kalvin Pearson (hamstring) out of the game. Fellow starter Louis Delmas (ankle) is questionable but likely to play. Still, that leaves Marvin White as the only other safety available on the active roster. White was claimed off waivers from Dallas last month. … Linebacker Ernie Sims (hamstring) has also been declared out for the game, while quarterback Matthew Stafford (shoulder) and defensive end Dwayne White (toe) are doubtful and unlikely to play. … Receiver Calvin Johnson (knee, hand) is questionable but will be limited at best if he plays.
Green Bay Packers: An MRI showed no damage on center Scott Wells’ knee, so it appears he will start Thursday. Wells told Wisconsin reporters that “nothing’s torn” and that the swelling has receded. He’s officially listed as probable. Tailback Ahman Green (groin) and tackle Allen Barbre (ankle) are the only two players the Packers likely won’t have available to them.
As you’re cleaning the bird this afternoon, take a few minutes to anticipate a few talking points for this game:
- The Lions have sold out Ford Field for this game and their fan base is energized after quarterback Matthew Stafford’s heroics in Sunday’s victory over Cleveland. Fans also enjoyed a breakout game from receiver Calvin Johnson, who set a career high with 161 receiving yards. Unfortunately for everyone (except the Packers), Johnson’s status is very iffy because of knee and hand injuries. Stafford will start despite being listed as "doubtful" with a left shoulder injury, the Detroit Free Press reported.
- Fans could miss out on a potential encore performance, and the Lions could wind up playing both of this season’s games against the Packers without their two best players. (Stafford and Johnson missed the Oct. 18 matchup at Lambeau Field, a 26-0 Packers victory.)
- The Packers have tweaked their offensive approach in the past two weeks, but it’s hard to get past the mismatch their passing offense presents for the Lions' defense. After all, this is a group that gave up four touchdown passes to Cleveland quarterback Brady Quinn. The Lions' pass defense has gotten worse as the season has continued, and here are the numbers as of Week 12: Opponents have a 70.4 completion percentage, a 24-6 touchdown-interception ratio and a 110.3 passer rating. And here’s a new twist: Two of the Lions’ top three safeties, Ko Simpson and Kalvin Pearson, haven’t practiced this week because of injuries. If he wants to, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers could have an early Thanksgiving feast in this game.
- The Packers have faced their share of injuries as well in this short practice week. As of Wednesday morning, they’re not sure if center Scott Wells (knee) will be able to play. [Update: Wells is expected to play.] That could force rookie Evan Dietrich-Smith into the starting lineup. And as has been mentioned once or twice, the Packers will have two new starters on defense after losing linebacker Aaron Kampman and cornerback Al Harris to knee injuries. Thursday will mark a transition game for the entire Packers defense.
- A few people have mentioned the Lions’ 11-6-1 record against the Packers on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. Let’s not put too much stock in that mark. Recently, the series has been all Packers. Coach Mike McCarthy has never lost to the Lions in seven games, and overall the Packers have an eight-game winning streak against them. In the bigger picture, the Packers have won 16 of the past 18 in this series. In this decade, the Lions are 2-7 on Thanksgiving Day.
Detroit Lions: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (shoulder) and receiver Calvin Johnson (hand/knee) were among six players who didn’t practice Tuesday. Stafford said he felt “a little sore” but it seems pretty clear that Daunte Culpepper will start in his place Thursday. Johnson’s status is less certain. Coach Jim Schwartz said: “He probably won't do much this whole week, but we'll see when it gets to Thursday, how full speed he's going to be or how much up to speed he'll be or whether he'll be able to go.” Safeties Kalvin Pearson (hamstring) and Ko Simpson (knee), linebacker Ernie Sims (hamstring) and defensive end Dewayne White (toe) also have uphill battles to play Thursday.
Green Bay Packers: Center Scott Wells (knee) didn’t practice and might not be ready to return in a short practice week. If that’s the case, rookie Evan Dietrich-Smith would become the third player to start a game at center for the Packers this season. Running back Ahman Green (groin) and tackle Allen Barbre (ankle) also didn’t practice. Brandon Jackson’s strong performance Sunday against San Francisco gives the Packers every reason to let Green heal fully before returning. Meanwhile, the Packers promoted cornerback Trevor Ford from the practice squad, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Chicago Bears: It looks like the Bears will be without tight end Desmond Clark (neck) and safety Kevin Payne (back) on Sunday night against Philadelphia. Both players are listed as doubtful. … The Bears also placed running back Garrett Wolfe (kidney) on injured reserve and promoted running back Khalil Bell from the practice squad.
Detroit Lions: Right guard Stephen Peterman (ankle) is lost for the season. He was placed on injured reserve Friday and replaced on the roster by practice squad receiver Eric Fowler. … Linebacker Ernie Sims (hamstring) and safety Kalvin Pearson (hamstring) were ruled out for Sunday’s game against Cleveland. Other players who could be sidelined by injury include linebacker Zack Follett (neck), defensive end Dewayne White (toe) and receiver/kick returner Derrick Williams (hip).
Green Bay Packers: Center Scott Wells (concussion) returned to practice Friday and coach Mike McCarthy indicated he will start Sunday against San Francisco. That’s a good thing, because backup center Evan Dietrich-Smith (ankle) didn’t practice and is questionable for Sunday’s game. … Tailback Ahman Green strained his groin in practice Thursday and is questionable. … It looks like tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) will be available. … McCarthy said that Mark Tauscher will start at right tackle but didn’t rule out a rotation with rookie T.J. Lang.
Minnesota Vikings: It doesn’t look good for cornerback Antoine Winfield (foot) to return to the field Sunday against Seattle. He participated in three days of practice this week, but the Vikings listed him as doubtful for the game. A final determination won’t occur until Sunday, but it appears Winfield will miss his fourth consecutive game. He suffered the injury Oct. 18. … The Vikings also listed receiver Bernard Berrian (hamstring) as questionable, but he is expected to play.
Chicago Bears: Center Olin Kreutz (ribs), tight end Desmond Clark (ribs) and safety Kevin Payne (back) did not practice. Coach Lovie Smith told reporters that he believes Kreutz will play Sunday night against Philadelphia.
Detroit Lions: Safety Kalvin Pearson (hamstring), guard Stephen Peterman (ankle), linebacker Ernie Sims (hamstring), defensive end Dewayne White (toe) and receiver Derrick Williams (hip) all sat out practice. According to John Niyo of the Detroit News, White is the most likely of that group to play Sunday against Cleveland.
Green Bay Packers: Tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) practiced for the first time in three weeks. His availability for Sunday’s game against San Francisco remains in question. … Linebacker Aaron Kampman (concussion) returned to practice after missing one game. … Those who sat out practice include: linebacker Desmond Bishop (ankle), defensive end Cullen Jenkins (ankle) and linebacker Brady Poppinga (quadriceps).
Minnesota Vikings: Cornerback Antoine Winfield (foot) participated in practice on a limited basis but said nothing has occurred to suggest he won’t be able to play Sunday against Seattle. A final decision won’t come until Sunday morning, but it appears only a setback will keep Winfield off the field.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
Detroit’s depth at safety dwindled so much this summer that it suddenly became necessary to start shopping for more. That’s why they felt compelled Thursday to acquire Buffalo safety Ko Simpson.
As you might recall, the Lions finished up offseason workouts with five veterans -- Daniel Bullocks, Gerald Alexander, Kalvin Pearson, Marquand Manuel and Stuart Schweigert -- competing with rookie and Louis Delmas. Alexander was traded to Jacksonville to reduce the glut, Bullocks suffered a re-occurrence of an old knee injury and Manuel has been limited by injuries in training camp. Delmas and Pearson have been working with the first team, but Pearson has struggled and Delmas is still learning the NFL game.
Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has been rolling veterans in and out of his building for what amounts to extended tryouts. So I can’t say that Simpson is going to challenge Pearson for his starting job. But it’s pretty clear the Lions depth at the position has dissipated considerably.
|Scott Boehm/Getty Images|
|New Lions coach Jim Schwartz is attempting to change the atmosphere in Detroit.|
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Upon arriving in Detroit to begin offseason workouts, Lions players found their locker room had been painted. Their lockers had been moved around. They had been assigned new parking spaces. Their lifting regimen had been changed. Their uniforms looked different.
Most symbolic, a number of motivational signs were replaced by one that simply read: "National Football League" -- a reminder of the high standards set for everyone who walks into the building.
That approach has extended into training camp, where more than half of the players on Detroit's 80-man roster are newcomers. Schwartz has tweaked his practice plan for every day of camp, both to reinforce the message and provide variety. After taking over the first 0-16 team in NFL history, he really had no other choice.
"You can't stand pat," Schwartz said. "That's something that gives the players a little bit of comfort, that we're not standing pat. ... Every time they come to practice, they're working on a different situation, a little bit different drill, different emphasis of periods and things like that. There's drudgery in walking out of the hotel every morning and going to bed and walking to the next meeting. But when they walk onto the practice field, it's a fresh plan that day. It's not the same old thing."
(Note: Due to circumstances, my stay in Detroit was cut short. But for additional information, make sure you've checked out this practice report posted earlier this week.)
|Mark Cunningham/Getty Images|
|Detroit rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford has played well enough to be the starter.|
I hope it doesn't sound patronizing to praise Daunte Culpepper for losing 30 pounds during the offseason. Culpepper reported to camp at 260 pounds and has never looked lighter in his NFL career. During the practice I attended this week, he was decisive and his passes were sharp.
To be honest, Culpepper probably couldn't have done more thus far to win the Lions' starting job. And he still might not see the field this season.
Rookie Matthew Stafford, whose pre-draft contract agreement ensured he would not miss a day of training camp, has practiced his way into a legitimate opportunity to start the Sept. 13 opener at New Orleans. (Let that be a lesson to all future No. 1 draft picks.) In practice, at least, it's difficult to see much difference between him and Culpepper. If that remains the case, it's hard to imagine Stafford opening the year on the bench.
Stafford still has plenty of work to do, beginning with his anticipated start Saturday night against at Cleveland. But at the very least, it looks like Stafford is going to give Schwartz a very difficult decision.
2. Can the Lions retrofit their defensive line?
You won't find two more dissimilar defensive schemes than when you compare the Lions' 2008 approach with the one Schwartz is implementing now.
"The philosophy here in the past had been small and quick," he said. "The philosophy here now is big and powerful."
That put the Lions' personnel department on a search for larger defensive linemen, while incumbents were required to gain weight in the offseason. Such changes don't occur overnight, and it appears the Lions are about halfway there.
They've added some interior bulk in Grady Jackson (340ish pounds), Shaun Smith (325 pounds) and rookie Sammie Lee Hill (329 pounds). Based on pure size, that trio should be more difficult to drive off the ball than the players Detroit used last year.
On the outside, however, the Lions will miss veteran Jared DeVries, who ruptured his Achilles tendon early in camp and is lost for the season. Their current depth at end -- led by Cliff Avril, Jason Hunter and Dewayne White -- is thin.
3. What impact will the free agent/trade crop have?
The Lions' revolving personnel door has continued into training camp, most recently with Shaun Smith. New veterans are sprinkled all over the field, from Smith and Jackson
to cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Anthony Henry, from linebackers Larry Foote and Julian Peterson to receivers Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt.
Considering the personnel deficit that contributed to last season's record, an influx seemed unavoidable. The Lions decided to pursue the veteran route in hopes of establishing some short-term credibility while building for the long term behind the scenes. In all, it looks like the Lions will have at least 11 new starters when the season opens.
You wonder whether that will last all season or if Henry will eventually make his way to safety. From the outside, he doesn't appear to be a good matchup for the speedy receivers in this division, be it Green Bay's Greg Jennings, Minnesota's Bernard Berrian or Chicago's Devin Hester.
A previous surplus of safeties has been whittled down to the point where this move might make sense, if the Lions can find another cornerback they feel comfortable inserting into the lineup.
During the best portion of his career, Peterson was a pass-rushing, play-making force to be reckoned with. Offenses had to account for him on every play.
At 32, Peterson might be past that prime. But the Lions believe he can still be a disruptive player who will help cover for some pass-rushing deficiency in other areas. His success or failure will play a big role in whether the Lions can improve their takeaway totals from last season.
Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has said he could blitz as often as 40 percent of the time this season. Expect him to lean heavily on Peterson in those situations.
The Lions signed veteran Maurice Morris to back up starting running back Kevin Smith, but you wonder what Morris' role will be if rookie Aaron Brown continues to display big-play capabilities. Brown's speed might make it difficult to keep him off the field. ... When the summer began, the Lions had too many safeties. But their surplus has thinned out considerably after the trade of Gerald Alexander and a season-ending knee injury to Daniel Bullocks. Rookie Louis Delmas and veteran Marquand Manuel have been limited by injuries. When it's all said and done, expect Delmas and Kalvin Pearson to hold starting jobs. ... Receiver Demir Boldin, the brother of Arizona's Anquan Boldin, is a long shot to make the roster but made a number of professional-level catches during the practice I watched. ... Receiver Calvin Johnson has been limited by a thumb injury during much of camp and will miss his second consecutive preseason game Saturday at Cleveland. But Johnson is expected to be healed in time for the regular season. ... Quarterback Drew Stanton appears close to locking down a roster spot after seeming to be on the brink of release during the offseason.
NFC North teams have been issuing their first depth charts this week as preseason games approach. Typically I pay little attention to these documents, which are disclaimed by an "unofficial" title and sometimes contain preposterous fudging that is plainly evident to anyone who has watched one practice.
This winter, however, the NFL clarified its media policy on the issue and now requires the depth chart to be "credible." (The league's word, not mine.) I guess we should see how it plays out. Below, I've listed some of the more interesting nuggets I saw this week. (Links provided where available.)*
- Daunte Culpepper is listed as the No. 1 quarterback ahead of Matthew Stafford
- Kalvin Pearson and Marquand Manuel are listed as first-team safeties.
- Louis Delmas, a likely starter at one of the safety positions, is listed as "injured."
- Phillip Buchanon is the top punt returner.
- Scott Wells is listed as the first-team center.
- Jason Spitz is the first-team right guard.
- Jeremy Thompson is the first-team right outside linebacker, with Clay Matthews behind him.
- Punter Jeremy Kapinos is listed ahead of Durant Brooks.
- The Vikings cheated and listed their No. 1 quarterback as Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels.
- Sidney Rice was listed as a starting receiver opposite Bernard Berrian.
- Percy Harvin was listed as the kickoff returner.
- Jaymar Johnson was listed at punt returner.
*Chicago's depth chart had not been released as of Tuesday morning.
As he prepared to undergo a second back surgery last summer, Green Bay defensive lineman Justin Harrell was told he had a "slim" chance of playing again, according to this story from Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In essence, Harrell revealed, the surgery saved his career. He said he probably should not have played at all in 2008, but the end result is that the former first-round draft pick is competing strongly for a role in the Packers' new 3-4 defense this summer.
Harrell: "I've felt fine, the back isn't an issue in training camp. And every day that's the case, that's a good day for me. I try not to focus on it, I try to go out there and play football. I'm just going out there trying to get better, trying to keep these injuries in the back of my head, just think the back is OK, that it's going to hold up."
It's not clear what role Harrell will have once rookie B.J. Raji is signed and assuming that Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly are healthy and available. Harrell is learning to play defensive end for the first time as well. But based on this story, the Packers are lucky to have him on the field at all.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Packers receiver Greg Jennings took his conditioning goals to another level after working out with Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the offseason, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Chicago has had a changing of the guard at tight end, where Greg Olsen has officially replaced Desmond Clark as the starter. David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune checks in with Clark on the change.
- Bears left tackle Orlando Pace is in excellent shape, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Tailback Matt Forte, who had been limited earlier in camp, had this to say about his condition: "One, zero, zero. 100 percent." Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald explains.
- Detroit is trying to figure out exactly what they have in rookie defensive tackle Sammie Hill, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Kalvin Pearson is getting the first chance to win the Lions' safety job opposite rookie Louis Delmas, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
- Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press refuses to believe the Brett Favre saga is over.
- Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune traces how Minnesota is hoping to rebuild its special teams.
|AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh|
|Quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears will need a young receiver to step up in camp.|
Training camp site: Olivet Nazarene University (Bourbonnais, Ill.)
The only Bears receiver with a guaranteed job is Devin Hester. Otherwise, the position is wide open. Veterans Earl Bennett and Rashied Davis will compete with rookies Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox for the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 receiver positions. If general manager Jerry Angelo doesn't like what he sees, the Bears could pursue a proven veteran later this summer.
The free safety position is also wide open as the Bears replace the departed Mike Brown. Craig Steltz ended spring practice atop the depth chart, but he'll have to battle converted cornerback Corey Graham. Former New Orleans starter Josh Bullocks is also on the roster as a third, if distant, option.
Although the Bears hope it never matters, they'll have to sort out their depth behind new quarterback Jay Cutler. Unproven Caleb Hanie is set to battle free agent Brett Basanez in a competition that, like receiver, could ultimately give way to a veteran from outside the organization. Hanie, however, is a favorite of coach Lovie Smith and will get every opportunity to win the job.
Camp will be a downer if ...
... the Bears realize this summer that they haven't given Cutler enough weapons. While young players don't always develop on a convenient timetable, it should be pretty clear by mid-August if the Bears have enough mature depth at the receiver position. Adding a veteran at the end of the summer is an imperfect solution and would limit his chances to develop a rapport with the new quarterback.
The best-case scenario is if Bennett can parlay his familiarity with Cutler -- they were college teammates at Vanderbilt -- into a quick claim on the No. 2 job. That would lessen the pressure on the rookies and relieve the need to rely on Davis, who isn't a starting-caliber receiver. But if Bennett stumbles, the domino effect could significantly diminish the Bears' passing attack early in the season.
Camp will be a success if ...
... Smith can lay the groundwork for a revived defense. Smith has taken over as the de facto defensive coordinator and will call most defensive signals during games. He'll need to restore the Bears' core values -- producing a pass rush with the front four and making big plays in the secondary -- in order to meet the standard his defenses set earlier this decade.
It might be difficult to judge the success of this venture during camp and even in the preseason; Smith isn't likely to give away too much from a schematic standpoint before the regular season begins. But make no mistake: The origin of any improvement must come during technique and drill work in training camp.
Quietly, the Bears shook up 60 percent of their offensive line this offseason. Center Olin Kreutz and right guard Roberto Garza are the only returning starters. Chicago is hoping that left tackle Orlando Pace, left guard Frank Omiyale and right tackle Chris Williams can breathe some life into a group that grew stale last season.
Pace is the short-term key. Injuries have caused him to miss 25 games over the past three seasons. His health and conditioning will be monitored carefully in training camp. It will be interesting to see if the Bears also work Williams at left tackle -- his natural position -- as a contingency should Pace suffer another injury.
Training camp site: Team facility in Allen Park, Mich.
|Rashaun Rucker/zuma/Icon SMI|
|The Lions would like Daunte Culpepper to earn the starting quarterback job ahead of Matthew Stafford to start the season.|
No Black and Blue battle will be more scrutinized than the competition between Lions quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford. Conventional wisdom suggests Culpepper will win the job as long as he maintains his offseason conditioning level. But coach Jim Schwartz has said Stafford will start as soon as he meets two criteria: when he is ready and when he surpasses Culpepper as the team's best option.
Stafford's status as an underclassman suggests he faces a steep learning curve this season. That, along with Culpepper's familiarity with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's scheme, imposes a two-pronged challenge for Stafford to win the job in training camp.
Another rookie, safety Louis Delmas, appears to be one of the few locks to start in the secondary. You would assume Phillip Buchanon will win one cornerback spot, but the other two starting roles seem wide open.
Anthony Henry could start at cornerback, or he could move to safety. Other safety candidates include Daniel Bullocks, Marquand Manuel, Kalvin Pearson and Stuart Schweigert. The competition will be wide open as the Lions look for defensive backs who are aggressive and eager for contact.
Camp will be a downer if ...
... every player on the roster suffers a season-ending injury on the first day of camp. Otherwise, there is nowhere to go but up for a team that went 0-16 last season.
Seriously, there is one position where Detroit is keeping its fingers crossed. The Lions signed 36-year-old nose tackle Grady Jackson to help tighten their run defense and also keep offensive linemen off their talented trio of linebackers. But Jackson missed all of spring practice after undergoing knee surgery in February. Jackson is as important as any player the Lions acquired this winter and he needs to get at least some practice time in training camp to ensure he will be ready for the season.
Camp will be a success if ...
... Culpepper can win the job outright, rather than become the starter simply because Stafford isn't ready. If Culpepper can recapture some of his previous magic with Linehan, the Lions will have a much better chance to be credible in Schwartz's first season.
And despite the protestations of modern-day thinkers, Stafford can only benefit from some time on the sidelines. That doesn't mean he should sit for three years. But rare is the quarterback who can start -- and succeed -- on day one. A rejuvenated Culpepper is the first step in the Lions' rebuilding project.
Through trade and free agency, the Lions have put together a competent group of linebackers in Julian Peterson, Larry Foote and Ernie Sims. It will be interesting to watch defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham experiment with ways to utilize their playmaking skills.
Cunningham has said he plans to blitz 40 percent of the time this season. Peterson could make some big plays if he has maintained the athletic skills of his prime. The same goes for Foote. We'll get a good idea of how much each player has left in the tank this summer.
The Lions shipped Alexander to Jacksonville and managed to get a player that can probably help them this season. Receiver Dennis Northcutt isn't a Pro Bowl player, but like most of the Lions' offseason acquisitions, he is a serviceable veteran who can bring more credibility to his position. Detroit's receiving corps looks a bit more respectable with Bryant Johnson, Ronald Curry and now Northcutt competing for time opposite Calvin Johnson.
Alexander has recovered from a neck injury that limited him to five games last season, but he turned out to be the odd man out from a group that includes rookie Louis Delmas along with veterans Kalvin Pearson, Daniel Bullocks, Marquand Manuel and Stuart Schweigert. Delmas almost certainly will start at one of the safety positions, leaving the other four veterans to compete for the second role.
It's worth noting that Lions senior personnel executive James Harris signed Northcutt as a free agent in 2007 when Harris was the Jaguars' vice president of player personnel.
Thanks to everyone for bearing with us through a mailbag software conversion that might have deleted a few of your questions around midweek. Remember, you can always contact me through our still-searing Facebook page. Sources also told me this week that Twitter offers a reply function. (Welcome to the second quarter of 2009, I know.)
First place goes to the reader who develops software to synch Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds into one window on my browser. That is all.
Now, let's get on with it:
Via that blazing aforementioned Facebook site, Mike asks for my take on The Sporting News' coaching rankings. The list notably placed Chicago coach Lovie Smith at No. 20 of 32.
Kevin Seifert: This list is like any other you see in the media: It's an opinion, in this case subjectively based on ability. That's certainly one way to rank coaches. My take on evaluating coaches is almost exclusively based on performance. What is his win-loss record? And how many championships as he won and/or played for?
Some circumstances are beyond a coach's control, including injuries and the cooperation/competence of the front office. But over time, a coach's résumé is his record. So, if I were ranking NFC North coaches, here's how I would do it:
- Chicago's Lovie Smith: 45-35 career record in five seasons, including one Super Bowl appearance
- Green Bay's Mike McCarthy: 27-21, one NFC Championship appearance
- Minnesota's Brad Childress: 24-24, one playoff appearance
- Detroit's Jim Schwartz: 0-0
You could view that as a diplomatic answer for someone who covers all four teams. But I truly believe in a merit-based ranking. Smith has won games at better clip over a longer period of time than anyone else in the NFC North. McCarthy has an almost identical winning percentage (.563 for Smith versus .5625 for McCarthy), but he hasn't taken a team to the Super Bowl.
Talent is also another variable that you could take into consideration. But I don't think there has been enough of a talent gap between Chicago, Green Bay or Minnesota in recent years to make me change my thinking.
Jason of Michigan writes: I've heard that Jeremy Thompson is supposed to be looking good in OTA's. I know OTA's aren't always a great idea of how people will play in the regular season, but do you see him starting over Clay Matthews and Brady Poppinga?
Kevin Seifert: You're right -- it's hard to put too much stock in how players perform while running around in shorts during ostensibly contact-free drills. The best athletes usually look great, and Thompson is nothing if not a really good athlete.
There does seem to be a general agreement that Thompson is one player who will benefit from the change to a 3-4 defense. At around 255 pounds, he was a bit small even for a 4-3 defensive end. But he seems to have the necessary athletic skills to be an outside linebacker in the 3-4. Those skills are going to be especially noticeable in an OTA environment. This week, coach Mike McCarthy called Thompson "a natural fit" for this defense.
I have learned over the years not to read much into OTA depth charts. It's the time of year when coaches truly experiment with position changes and lineup combinations. The Packers want to see what they have in Thompson, and giving him maximum repetitions with the first team is the best way to find out. If they don't like what they see on tape, they have plenty of time to come up an alternative.
Finally, remember that Matthews has been sidelined by a hamstring injury for much of the spring. There's no telling what sort of rotation the Packers might have used had he been healthy for the entire time.
With all that said, I don't think it's out of the question that Thompson could win the opening-day starting job. But I have a hard time believing Matthews won't eventually crack the lineup. I don't think the Packers didn't trade up to draft him in the first round last April so that he could spend the year on special teams. Do you?
Chris of Chicago, Ill., writes: I'm interested in the situation with Chad Greenway. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm under the impression that he's in the final year of his rookie contract. This guy is a stud and really stepped up last year with EJ Henderson out. Don't you think the Vikings should've attempted to re-sign him to a long term deal before he hits free agency? Someone of his ability at linebacker would warrant a large sum of money that the Vikings may not want to dish out, or risk losing to another team (i.e. Matt Birk to the Ravens).
Kevin Seifert: Ah, finally an easy one. Greenway actually signed a five-year contract when the Vikings drafted him in 2006, so he has two years remaining on the deal. If the Vikings follow their current policies, they'll re-sign Greenway after the 2009 season. I suppose it's possible they could approach him before then, but it's probably in Greenway's best interest to play out this season and see if he can raise his value by making he Pro Bowl.
Bunny of Flint, Mich., writes: What's your take on the Lions' safety situation? It already seems crowded and now there's talk of Anthony Henry position-swapping. Is there any chance of a safety actually making the jump to nickel or dime corner?
Kevin Seifert: Sure. The Lions will do what most NFL teams do: Put their best five defensive backs on the field in nickel situations. Provided he has decent coverage skills, a safety -- and the Lions have many -- could absolutely play in the nickel.
The Lions have five safeties who have either started for them or another team in their NFL careers: Gerald Alexander, Daniel Bullocks, Marquand Manuel, Kalvin Pearson and Stuart Schweigert. And you can add rookie Louis Delmas to that list because he is going to challenge for a starting job right away.
If one of those players can demonstrate a proficiency in the nickel, he'll greatly increase his in terms of a roster spot. As for Henry, he could play safety but I really think the Lions will give him a chance to play cornerback f
irst. A cornerback is much harder to find, and the Lions must find out if he can still play the position.
DETROIT -- Greetings from a hushed Ford Field. We have a few of lineup changes to bring you as players start warming up:
- Artis Hicks will return as Minnesota's right tackle this week. Backup Ryan Cook is active but won't start. Anthony Herrera, whose status was uncertain following the death of his brother, will start at right guard.
- Detroit receiver John Standeford will replace Shaun McDonald in the starting lineup. McDonald is inactive Sunday.
- Ikaika Alama-Francis will start in place of rookie Andre Fluellen at left end.
- Kalvin Pearson will start in place of Dwight Smith at free safety.
It doesn't appear the Detroit Lions are interested in safety John Lynch, who left the Denver Broncos earlier this week. The Lions have been among a handful of teams mentioned as a possible landing point for Lynch because of his close relationship with coach Rod Marinelli dating back to their years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"We're not looking right now," Marinelli told reporters Thursday at the Lions' training camp.