NFC North: Marcus McNeil

We're Black and Blue All Over:

As an unrestricted free agent, tight end Kellen Davis had a chance to test his market value. He did just that, and after a trip to visit the Dallas Cowboys, Davis returned to the Chicago Bears with a two-year deal that will pave the way for him to become a significant factor in their passing offense.

The Bears have vowed to use the position more under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, and coach Lovie Smith has been singing Davis' praises for years. Now, barring the Bears making an unexpected play at another veteran tight end, Davis has a great opportunity to prove he can be the two-way blocking-receiving tight end the Bears envision he could be.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • The Bears think they can provide the right environment for receiver Brandon Marshall to succeed, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
  • They're also hoping his story about Sunday's altercation in New York City holds up, writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune spoke with Rasheedah Watley, Marshall's high school sweetheart who has a civil lawsuit pending against him. Watley: "Brandon thinks he can bash people and get away with it because he has gotten away with it so I don't see why he'd think he can't get away with it again."
  • Bears general manager Phil Emery has put his reputation on the line in this trade, writes Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com.
  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press on the Detroit Lions' monster contract agreement with receiver Calvin Johnson: "The Lions stood at the stake blindfolded, hoping the execution would be quick and painless. Guaranteeing $60 million for a wide receiver is a pretty big bullet, but the Lions had to take the hit. It would have been worse had they let these renegotiations linger, further bloating their salary cap while risking the ire of their lone genuine superstar and their long-suffering fans, who finally can see a little light after decades of darkness."
  • The Lions will host former San Diego Chargers left tackle Marcus McNeil on a visit beginning Thursday, according to Tim Twentyman of the team's website. They have also hosted receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and will host former Indianapolis Colts cornerback Jacob Lacey.
  • Johnson never considered walking away, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
  • The receiver market has grown nicely for Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings, who has one year remaining on his contract. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains.
  • Jennings is currently on a trip to Africa, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
  • There is no word on center Scott Wells' status with the Tennessee Titans, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • The felony strangulation case against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook has gone to the jury, notes Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune.
  • There is no standing offer to bring back Vikings linebackers Erin Henderson or E.J. Henderson, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
  • The Vikings persuaded new tight end John Carlson to leave Kansas City before taking a visit with the Chiefs, writes Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
You're probably aware that Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen grabbed two more sacks last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, bringing his NFL-leading total to 11.5 through seven games. If you care to project, you know that Allen remains on pace to break the NFL single-season sack record.

So let's review one aspect of his dominance this season that you might not have noticed. I know I didn't until it was pointed out by ESPN Stats & Information.

All of Allen's sacks have come when lined up as a right defensive end, ostensibly facing the opponent's left tackle. That's more than double the next-highest total among NFL pass rushers; the San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith has 5.5 sacks when lined up across the opponent's left side.

Allen primarily plays the right end position, but like most teams, the Vikings move him around on occasion for matchup or stunt purposes. Generally speaking, an opponent's left tackle is its best pass blocker and is best equipped to compete with an elite pass rusher. As the discrepancy beween Allen and Smith shows, most of the NFL's top pass rushers generate at least some of their success elsewhere.

It's fair to point out that Allen hasn't played against many of the NFL's top left tackles. The Packers' Chad Clifton missed last weekend's game and was replaced by Marshall Newhouse. Allen had two sacks against the Packers, three against the Detroit Lions (Jeff Backus), and another two against the Kansas City Chiefs (Branden Albert) and the Arizona Cardinals (Levi Brown). He managed a half sack against the San Diego Chargers' Marcus McNeil, a two-time Pro Bowler.

Each team uses different blocking schemes, and sometimes the left tackle isn't assigned to block Allen -- at least not alone. But at the very least, however, we can say that Allen's elite-level success is coming exclusively against opponents' best pass blockers. No one else in the NFL can support that statement.

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