NFC North: Michael Floyd

Reggie Bush and Carson PalmerGetty ImagesReggie Bush and Carson Palmer have given their respective teams major upgrades on offense.

A lot has happened since the Detroit Lions' most recent trip to University of Phoenix Stadium, last December.

The Arizona Cardinals hired an entirely new coaching staff and enlisted a veteran quarterback to bolster the offense. The Lions, meanwhile, added a shifty new running back by the name of Reggie Bush. In last year’s meeting, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford played poorly, and it allowed the Cardinals to break a nine-game losing streak.

My, how times have changed. The Lions are flying high off a season-opening victory against NFC North rival Minnesota, while the Cardinals are still trying to find their footing in 2013.

Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and Lions reporter Michael Rothstein discuss Sunday’s matchup.

Josh Weinfuss: A lot has been made of offseason additions on both sides. How has the Lions' offense changed by adding Bush?

Michael Rothstein: It has definitely become much more dynamic. You'll see a lot more screen passes and short passes to get Bush in space and allow him to create. The perfect example came on the 77-yard screen that went for a touchdown against the Vikings. Not sure the Lions had anyone with that kind of speed out of the backfield last season. Add to that Bush's ability to run between the tackles when he needs to, and it creates another dimension for defenses to be concerned about. No longer is it pay attention to Calvin Johnson and make Detroit's other pieces find a way to win. If teams do that, Bush will force them to abandon that strategy.

Sticking with offense, has the addition of Carson Palmer aided the passing game for both Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd?

Josh Weinfuss: Without a doubt. Palmer has brought not only stability to a position that's been a hurricane in the three seasons since Kurt Warner retired, but also talent. The proof of that came Sunday when Palmer and Fitzgerald connected for two touchdowns -- one on a 4-yard fade to the back left corner, the other on a 25-yard beauty that dropped into Fitzgerald's hands. Last season, Cardinals quarterbacks targeted Fitzgerald nine times in the red zone and didn't complete any. Palmer is already 2-for-3 in the red zone to Fitzgerald. Floyd also will benefit from Palmer's accuracy. With Floyd being a larger target than Fitzgerald, Palmer can get a little more creative with where he throws the ball, an issue all four Arizona quarterbacks had last season.

Let's switch sides of the ball. After his incident against the Vikings, is Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh becoming a distraction already this season?

Michael Rothstein: Distraction? No. The reason I say that is most people around the Lions have been around this situation before with Suh. If his teammates are telling the truth and indeed accepted his apology, it should be a nonissue for most in the locker room -- for now. Where it becomes a problem, perhaps, is if Suh does something like this again. It should become a distraction or an issue only if he were to be suspended in the future.

Since you asked about Suh, how does Arizona's offensive line deal with him, Nick Fairley and the rest of Detroit's deep, talented defensive line?

Josh Weinfuss: This is a different situation from Week 1, when the Cardinals focused on stopping two very strong outside rushers. With Suh and Fairley coming up the gut, Arizona will have to rely on its guards and center more -- which could be an issue, considering that right guard Paul Fanaika played in his first game in almost two years Sunday. Don't expect the Cardinals to overload the box with blockers. Palmer said he'd rather have less time to throw and more options downfield, but the Cardinals more than likely will keep a running back home to pick up that inside rush and a tight end on the outside to allow the tackle to cheat over and help the guard.

Speaking of the offense, has any team figured out how to slow down Johnson, because stopping him is unlikely -- and if anyone has slowed the stud receiver, how'd they do it?

Michael Rothstein: Kind of, Josh. Kind of. Johnson had four catches for 37 yards against Minnesota on Sunday. While he was targeted nine times -- and missed two touchdowns by not much -- the addition of Bush to the Lions' offense has taken some pressure off Johnson. When Minnesota chose to try to take away Johnson, Detroit focused on letting Bush operate. While I don't think teams will ever take Johnson out of the game while he is in his prime, it wouldn't shock me if he has some games in which Detroit looks to Bush more instead of always featuring Johnson. That, of course, just makes the Lions' offense much more difficult to stop.

I'll wrap it up with a question to you. How much is Patrick Peterson going to be involved in the offense? And can he be a true two-way player, be it this week or beyond?

Josh Weinfuss: Ideally, Peterson would play a prominent role in the offense. And the Cardinals have planned for that, installing a package specifically for him that was, at last check, 60 plays deep. They want him out there, so much so that on cut day, coach Bruce Arians said Peterson would be considered the Cardinals’ fifth receiver. But with all the hype, he played only three offensive snaps. Granted, Peterson’s involvement will always be dictated by the situation, but I think a lot of people were expecting more in Week 1. As to your second question, that’s tough to answer. Peterson is already playing nearly every down on defense and is the Cards’ primary punt returner. He’s young -- 23 in July -- so his body can handle it, but I don’t know whether there’s anyone these days getting significant time in all three facets. He’s more likely to get hurt on offense, but if he can make an impact on defense, special teams and offense, you’re looking at a potential MVP.

Sport Science: Michael Floyd

April, 21, 2012
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video
Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd grew up in Minnesota and there are plenty of Chicago Bears fans who would like to see their team maneuver to draft him in the first round of Thursday's NFL draft. So that makes this Sport Science video especially notable for at least half of our blog community. In this video, Floyd demonstrates both his range and his ability to catch the ball in traffic -- made up of a college cheerleading squad.

My NFC South colleague Pat Yasinskas has posted the list of all 26 players who have confirmed plans to attend the NFL draft April 26-28. It includes most every imaginable pick the Minnesota Vikings could make if they stay at No. 3 and a number of possibilities if they move down.

USC left tackle Matt Kalil, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne will all be in attendance. So will a number of receivers we have discussed in connection with the Chicago Bears, from Notre Dame's Michael Floyd to Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill to Baylor's Kendall Wright and LSU's Rueben Randle. North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, who would be a pretty good value pick at the Bears' No 19 pick if he falls that far, will also be in New York.

ESPN analyst Todd McShay used his most recent mock draft to steer South Carolina cornerback Stephen Gilmore to the Bears, but many Detroit Lions fans are hoping he is still available at No. 23 overall. Gilmore will be in New York as well. (Here is a clip of Gilmore's recent appearance on "NFL Live.")

Barring a trade, my feeling remains that the Vikings will and should pick Kalil. In the NFL32 overtime video above, ESPN's Chris Mortensen said the Kalil pick is widely assumed in league circles and that if the Vikings look elsewhere, "we won't be talking nicely about them."
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Good Monday morning. Hopefully everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. We're pretty much full speed ahead toward the NFL draft, which opens in just 17 days, and have plenty of ground left to cover. But first, let's ease back into the football routine with a tour around the NFC North:
ESPN.com's Mel Kiper Jr. has produced a two-round mock draft this week. Let's dive in, knowing that the entire file Insider requires an Insider subscription and that you should be eternally grateful to me for lifting the NFC North-relevant information for you.

3. Minnesota Vikings
Mel's picks:
USC offensive lineman Matt Kalil. Second round: Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith
Seifert comment: Smith is a borderline first-round pick. Getting a starting safety at the top of the second round would be nice value. As for Kalil, Mel remains in the camp that refuses to overthink the Vikings' choice at No. 3.

19. Chicago Bears
Mel's picks:
Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus. Second round: LSU receiver Rueben Randle
Seifert comment: Most mockers have dropped away from the idea of the Bears selecting a receiver in the first round, partially because Notre Dame's Michael Floyd figures to be long gone by No. 19. A lineman for either side of the ball seems reasonable, and getting Randle in the bottom third of the second round seems like a good value.

23. Detroit Lions
Mel's picks:
Stanford offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. Second round: Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson
Seifert comment: Both players make sense as far as needs go. Johnson has gotten a lot of publicity in this draft despite playing at Montana. You would think he would have an immediate chance to start. Martin would get a year behind Jeff Backus.

28. Green Bay Packers
Mel's picks:
USC linebacker Nick Perry. Second round: Nebraska defensive lineman Jared Crick
Seifert comment: Defense, defense, defense. It's also notable that Mel didn't feel compelled to draft Wisconsin center Peter Konz for the Packers. I agree on that one.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

On Tuesday, we downplayed the individual impact of three incidents Detroit Lions players have had with marijuana in the past three months. They are mostly misdemeanors and aren't likely to have lasting consequences from a legal perspective. If anything, they seem more significant when bunched together as a reflection of the organization.

Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press takes a different tack, writing the Lions should release defensive tackle Nick Fairley and running back Mikel Leshoure. They don't need "another ticking time bomb," Sharp writes. He adds: "Just because marijuana usage is perceived as more casual than other drugs doesn't mean the punitive measures should be equally nonchalant."

The timing of these incidents, which also include offensive lineman Johnny Culbreath, suggests the Lions will have to create a more effective internal deterrent. But parting ways with these players would be an awfully harsh, and probably unrealistic, punishment. I think Sharp was trying to snap people out of downplaying the significance of NFL players using marijuana, and the message was heard.

Continuing around the NFC North:
Not interested in Peyton Manning's next move? Unenthused by a free-agent market that lost 21 players to the franchise tag? Then come along for the third set of mock drafts this offseason from ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Insider and Todd McShay Insider. You'll need an Insider subscription to see the entire file, but as always, I'll sneak you an NFC North peak.

3. Minnesota Vikings
Kiper's pick:
USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil
McShay's pick: Kalil
Seifert comment: This has been a league-wide consensus since the combine, despite general manager Rick Spielman's suggestions that he might value an offensive playmaker higher. The reality is there is no playmaker, offensive or defensive, who measures up to Kalil's overall value, and it's rare for someone to trade up to the top of the draft for a left tackle. The only way this doesn't happen is if the St. Louis Rams draft Kalil at No. 2. But the Rams are widely expected to trade the pick to a team seeking Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.

19. Chicago Bears
Kiper's pick:
Ohio State offensive lineman Mike Adams
McShay's pick: Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd
Seifert comment: Floyd went earlier in Kiper's mock, leaving the talented but underachieving Adams for the Bears. General manager Phil Emery hasn't established his priorities publicly, but the need for a big receiver is acute and No. 19 overall isn't a bad spot to draft one.

23. Detroit Lions
Kiper's pick:
South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore
McShay's pick: Adams
Seifert comment: Gilmore would fit a big need. There are concerns about Adams' intensity, but in the end general manager Martin Mayhew won't allow need to trump talent. If he likes Adams' talent, he'll be willing to pass over the best cornerback remaining on the board.

28. Green Bay Packers
Kiper's pick:
USC linebacker Nick Perry
McShay's pick: Clemson defensive end Andre Branch
Seifert comment: Most mock drafters have the Packers choosing a player who could enhance their pass rush, be it a defensive end or linebacker. It's just a matter of who.

BBAO: Saturday morning update

February, 25, 2012
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

INDIANAPOLIS — Good morning on what will be a less intense third day at the NFL combine. All four NFC North coaches and three general managers have conducted their media availability, and we'll hash through those interviews in the coming days while also focusing on the on-field workouts that will begin in earnest.

Until that gets started, let's catch up on local coverage around the division:

NFC North combine primer

February, 22, 2012
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The NFL's annual scouting combine opens Wednesday and will conclude next Tuesday. I wouldn't miss it for the world. Media interviews begin Thursday morning and continue through Sunday, and I'll be on hand for an access schedule that should net us time with the general manager and/or coach of every NFC North team over the next few days.

Although we don't have access to most of the workouts themselves, dozens of players should be available for interviews. I'll feed the blog with zeal, of course, but to help sharpen our focus, let's consider a few important NFC North storylines to follow. If you have other ideas, hit the mailbag.

[+] EnlargeMatt Kalil
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireWill USC left tackle Matt Kalil be available for Minnesota to draft with the No. 3 pick in April?
The value of the No. 3 position: Historically, the combine has helped solidify the top of the draft. We don't always leave Indianapolis knowing the order of the top few picks, but we generally know which players will comprise that pool -- knowledge that should help the Minnesota Vikings determine who they'll have to choose from at No. 3 and how intense trade interest will be.

We should know, for example, if USC's Matt Kalil is unquestionably the draft's top left tackle, or if there are any lingering doubts about his status. Is Kalil good enough that the St. Louis Rams will consider him at No. 2 overall? We'll get a better idea of interest in Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Would the Rams trade out of No. 2 with a Griffin-infatuated team?

Finally, what other options would the Vikings have if they neither draft Kalil nor trade out of the spot? Is LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne a top-3 pick? What about Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon or Alabama running back Trent Richardson?

That Mega-contract: The Detroit Lions' tight salary cap situation has been one of our top offseason storylines, and presumed relief would begin with extending the contract of receiver Calvin Johnson. As it stands, Johnson is scheduled to have a cap number of around $22 million in 2012 and, if unaddressed, would be eligible for a franchise tag of around $26 million in 2013. The proximity of agents and team executives at the combine often fosters productive negotiations, and it's safe to assume that Lions president Tom Lewand will have some talks with Johnson's agent, Bus Cook.

The Lions aren't yet in crunch time with Johnson, but reducing his cap number by March 5 would make it easier for them to use the franchise tag on defensive end Cliff Avril, as they reportedly plan to do. Johnson has most of the leverage in this situation and figures to emerge, eventually, as the NFL's highest-paid receiver and possibly the best-paid non-quarterback in the league.

Second-tier pass rushers: The Green Bay Packers certainly will spend time negotiating with their free agents, from tight end Jermichael Finley to center Scott Wells to special teams ace Jarrett Bush. But it's also safe to assume they'll focus on prioritizing the pool of pass rushers who could be available to them at the bottom of the first round, or possibly in a trade to move up in the second round.

Elite pass rushers usually don't get past the top half of the first round, putting the Packers in a race to find the next Brooks Reed, the Houston Texans' second-round pick in 2011 who started 11 games and had six sacks as a rookie. Scouts Inc. currently has two defensive ends with grades that would give them value at the end of the first round: Syracuse's Chandler Jones and USC's Nick Perry.

Secondary help: To varying degrees, all four NFC North teams could use an influx of defensive backs. Given the league-wide passing explosion in recent years, it's fair to say there are plenty of other teams on that list as well. That means searching far and wide for talent, and to that end, Scouts Inc.'s Kevin Weidl offers a list of 12 small-school defensive backs Insider who should get attention.

You'll need an Insider subscription to see the entire list, but it's topped by former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who spent last season at North Alabama. It also includes Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson and Coastal Carolina cornerback Josh Norman.

WR depth: If new Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery takes to heart a suggestion from his quarterback, he'll have an interesting group of big receivers to evaluate this week. "Anyone really over 6-2 at this point is going to look good," Jay Cutler said this week on ESPN 1000.

It's safe to assume that Blackmon won't be available when the Bears draft at No. 19 overall. The rest of ESPN anlayst Mel Kiper's list top five receivers Insider looks like this: Baylor's Kendall Wright, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, LSU's Rueben Randle and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery. Wright is a 5-10 speedster, so if the Bears truly focus on big receivers, our combine focus will be on Floyd (6-3), Randle (6-4) and Jeffery (6-4).

Related: For those interested, here is a comprehensive schedule for the players invited to Indianapolis, beginning with medical testing for three position groups who will arrive Wednesday.

DraftWatch: Mel Kiper mock 2.0

February, 15, 2012
2/15/12
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Checking in on Mel Kiper's second mock draft Insider of the mock draft season:

3. Minnesota Vikings
Kiper's pick:
USC offensive lineman Matt Kalil
Seifert comment: That's assuming the St. Louis Rams don't take Kalil at No. 2, as ESPN analyst Todd McShay has suggested they might. It also presumes the Vikings don't trade the pick to a team hoping to land Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.

19. Chicago Bears
Kiper's pick:
Ohio State offensive lineman Mike Adams
Seifert comment: In this version, Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd is already off the board. Kiper reasons that the Bears' promotion of offensive line coach Mike Tice to offensive coordinator means they will prioritize the offensive line.

23. Detroit Lions
Kiper's pick:
North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins
Seifert comment: This pick would give us plenty to write and talk about here on the blog. Jenkins is an elite-level cornerback whose drug-related departure from Florida last year naturally has raised flags. But there is little doubt he could help the Lions on the field.

28. Green Bay Packers
Kiper's pick:
Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith
Seifert comment: The Packers figure to know the future of Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins by the time the draft comes. Smith would make plenty of sense if doctors haven't cleared Collins to return by then.

Todd McShay mock draft 2.0

February, 6, 2012
2/06/12
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Let's catch up on Todd McShay's latest mock draft Insider, one that shakes up the conventional thinking for a couple NFC North teams and points us squarely toward the offseason now that the NFL's 2011 season is fully complete. You'll need an Insider subscription to see the entire draft, but I can offer you a division-centric glimpse:

3. Minnesota Vikings
McShay pick:
Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff
Seifert comment: In this scenario, USC tackle Matt Kalil is already off the board. Mocks don't typically account for trades, which I'm guessing the Vikings would pursue if they can't draft Kalil and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is still on the board. Otherwise, the Vikings would have to determine if the draft's second-best left tackle is a better option than its top cornerback (LSU's Morris Claiborne) or best receiver (Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon).

19. Chicago Bears
McShay pick:
Baylor receiver Kendall Wright
Seifert comment: McShay thinks Wright is "on the rise" and chose him over Notre Dame's Michael Floyd. Wright will be one of the fastest receivers available in the draft but at 5-foot-10, he wouldn't qualify as a so-called "big" receiver.

23. Detroit Lions
McShay pick:
Georgia guard Cordy Glenn
Seifert comment: This pick would fall under the "best available player" category. The Lions seem set with Rob Sims at left guard and Stephen Peterman on the right side, and McShay thinks that Glenn could develop into a right tackle. Regardless, if the Lions have a need at offensive line, it's at left tackle, where starter Jeff Backus is approaching his 35th birthday and is a pending free agent.

28. Green Bay Packers
McShay pick:
Oklahoma linebacker Ronnell Lewis
Seifert comment: Mock drafters are going to keep assigning pass rushers to the Packers until they finally take one.

Mel Kiper's debut 2012 mock draft

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
2:50
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As a former colleague of mine liked to say, it's time to mock 'till you drop.

Yes, the 2012 NFL mock draft season is officially upon us now that ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr., has dropped his first mock Insider like it's hot. (And you thought I wasn't up on the 2004 hip-hop scene.)

You'll need an insider subscription to see all 32 picks, but I am authorized to bring you Mel's choices for the NFC North. The insightful comments are mine.

3. Minnesota Vikings
Kiper's pick:
USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil
Seifert comment: Kalil is available because Kiper has the St. Louis Rams taking Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon at No. 2. The guess is the Vikings would have an opportunity to trade down in this scenario, especially if a team is hot after Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the Vikings need a left tackle, and it's hard to find a good one later in the draft.

19. Chicago Bears
Kiper's pick:
Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd
Seifert comment: Everyone has the idea that the Bears will take Floyd, and it sure sounds good. But without a general manager in place yet, and with offensive coordinator Mike Tice now a head coaching candidate in Oakland, it's only a guess.

23. Detroit Lions
Kiper's pick:
North Carolina linebacker Zack Brown
Seifert comment: One thing we've learned about Lions general manager Martin Mayhew is that his board is not arranged by need. If it were, defensive lineman Nick Fairley would be somewhere else. Whoever Mayhew takes at No. 23 will be the best player left on his board, regardless of position.

28. Green Bay Packers
Kiper's pick:
Illinois linebacker Whitney Mercilus
Seifert comment: We've been speculating for upwards of three years that general manager Ted Thompson will seek out more pass rushers for the Packers' 3-4 scheme. Maybe this is the year.

Related: ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay dropped his first mock last month.

Inspecting McShay Mock 1.0

December, 21, 2011
12/21/11
2:30
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You've been waiting for it since April, and now it's arrived. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay offered his first 2012 mock draft Insider Wednesday, with a draft order that projected the Minnesota Vikings at No. 3, the Chicago Bears at No. 19, the Detroit Lions at No. 25 and the Green Bay Packers at No. 32.

You'll need an Insider subscription to view the entire draft, but here's a look at McShay's suggestions for the four NFC North teams. The comments are mine.

3. Minnesota Vikings
Player:
LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne
Seifert Comment: In the midst of a historically bad season of pass defense, it would be hard to argue against drafting the top cornerback available. I'm guessing USC tackle Matt Kalil would have been the choice if the Vikings were at No. 2.

19. Chicago Bears
Player:
Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd
Comment:
I thought the Bears settled their need for a "big receiver" by signing Roy Williams, but maybe that's just me. Seriously, it's fair to say the Bears could use another weapon in the passing game. But I can't say it's their top need at this point, if you're a draft-for-need type.

25. Detroit Lions
Player:
Virginia Tech running back David Wilson
Comment: The Lions used a first-round pick in 2010 to take Jahvid Best and a second-rounder in 2011 on Mikel Leshoure, but serious injuries to both players leave their 2012 status in the air. Their offense has functioned well with heavy emphasis on the pass, but I'm sure they would like to balance it out a bit.

32. Green Bay Packers
Player:
Oklahoma linebacker Ronnell Lewis
Comment: Taking another swing at finding a pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews. Sounds like a good idea, if Lewis turns pro.

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