NFL Nation: DeDe Dorsey
Biggest surprise: Veteran cornerbacks Dre Bly and Eric King were among six cornerbacks released. The Lions' secondary was hardly exemplary during the preseason, but you figured Bly or King would make the team to provide some level of veteran presence. As it stands now, the Lions' cornerbacks include starters Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade, rookie Aaron Berry and newcomer Alphonso Smith. I'm not saying it was a mistake to cut Bly and King. Just a bit surprising. Defensive tackle Landon Cohen, meanwhile, saw the Lions overhaul his position in the offseason, but seemed to make enough plays in training camp and during the preseason to earn a roster spot. Instead, his spot went to Andre Fluellen. Finally, the Lions chose Aaron Brown over DeDe Dorsey for the final running back spot. Dorsey made two big plays in the preseason finale, but coaches chose Brown's speed and potential special teams contribution.
No-brainers: I give the Lions credit for releasing linebacker Vinny Ciurciu. He entered training camp as a player focused on special teams, but spent most of it filling in for injured middle linebacker DeAndre Levy. Ciurciu hasn't played much linebacker in his career, and unfortunately for him, the extended time revealed that he wouldn't be able to hold down the position should he be called on in a relief role during the season.
What's next: The Lions need to settle their secondary following this weekend of flux. Who is their nickel back? What about the dime? Will rookie Amari Spievey remain at safety or move back to cornerback to provide more depth? The team is also going to need to spend some more time looking for depth at linebacker. It wouldn't be a surprise to see them focus at that position over the next few days.
Cleveland Browns 13, Chicago Bears 10
Preseason record: 0-4
Of interest: The Bears finished the preseason winless for the first time since 1998 and only the second time in the past 33 years. Their offense scored 46 points, their special teams got three punts and a field goal blocked and their defense was almost unrecognizable from its heyday. Good thing the preseason doesn't matter, huh? Thursday night, the defense recovered a fumbled snap on its first play but then went on to allow Cleveland starter Colt McCoy to complete all 13 of his passes for 131 yards. If anything positive emerged, it was that veteran quarterback Todd Collins has caught up enough to be Jay Cutler's Week 1 backup. Collins started in place of Cutler and completed 10 of 15 passes for 139 yards, including a 15-yard scoring strike to tight end Greg Olsen.
Local coverage: Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said there has been some "frustration" but "it's not like we're defeatist," reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times on the Bears' pass defense this preseason: "Outside of poor pass protection, the most alarming trend has been the poor play of a battered secondary that has served up a steady diet of cushion coverage and nondescript play." Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com thinks linebacker Brian Iwuh is solid insurance behind Lance Briggs. Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com: "But is there enough time? And can they flip the proverbial switch?"
Next: Sept. 12 vs. Detroit Lions*
Detroit Lions 28, Buffalo Bills 23
Preseason record: 3-1
Of interest: A majority of first-team players started the game, including quarterback Matthew Stafford. But Stafford threw his worst pass of the preseason on the third play, a telegraphed sideline pass to receiver Calvin Johnson that Drayton Florence intercepted and returned 40 yards for a touchdown. The Lions were down 16-0 in this game before No. 3 quarterback Drew Stanton led a fourth-quarter rally. Of the Lions' bubble players, I thought running back DeDe Dorsey made two plays that will make him a difficult cut. The first was a 25-yard scoring scamper off a short pass from Stanton in the third quarter; the second was a difficult 34-yard reception along the sideline in the fourth quarter.
Local coverage: Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press has seen enough to write: "For the first time in at least three years, the Lions have actual, genuine strengths. ... There are still too many holes to expect greatness, or even goodness, but they have an excellent chance at OKness." Dorsey could still be a victim of the numbers game, writes Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News. The true quality of the Lions' secondary is unknown because of so many preseason injuries, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com. Safeties Louis Delmas and C.C. Brown both sat out Thursday night, while cornerback Jonathan Wade played with a cast on his hand.
Next: Sept. 12 at Chicago Bears*
Kansas City Chiefs 17, Green Bay Packers 13
Preseason record: 2-2
Of interest: In a bit of a surprise, Packers coach Mike McCarthy sat a number of key veterans, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and removed the rest of his starters after one series. The move helped the Chiefs win their first preseason game in two years. Backup quarterback Matt Flynn started in Rodgers' place and threw for 304 yards, although I'm still trying to figure out how his 77-yard pass to a wide-open Brett Swain didn't go for a touchdown; probably a combination of a short throw and Swain's less-than-devastating speed. The Packers worked tailback Kregg Lumpkin hard (11 carries, 36 yards) to give him a final chance to make the roster. Kick returner Jason Chery probably didn't win much confidence after a fumble and no returns longer than 17 yards.
Local coverage: Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel thought Swain and Lumpkin "looked the most like NFLers among a medley of soon-to-be practice squad and indoor football players Thursday night at New Arrowhead Stadium." The Packers are entertaining trade offers for offensive lineman Jason Spitz, the Journal Sentinel reports. Chery "probably did just enough to stay in contention for a roster spot, depending in part on the shaky health of Will Blackmon," reports Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Long-snapper Brett Goode's departure after a big hit left it difficult to measure the Packers' punting competition, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
Next: Sept. 12 at Philadelphia Eagles*
Minnesota Vikings 31, Denver Broncos 24
Preseason record: 3-1
Of interest: The Vikings started 20 backups, including quarterback Tarvaris Jackson -- who concluded a worrisome preseason with a terrible outing. His accuracy-challenged 2-for-8 performance brought his preseason numbers to 12-of-26 for 60 yards. No. 3 quarterback Sage Rosenfels didn’t do much better, completing 1 of 4 passes, but you have to wonder how coach Brad Childress remains so committed to Jackson. Brett Favre hasn’t missed a start in 19 previous seasons, but there have been occasions when he’s left competitive games due to injury. At this point, would you trust Jackson even for a half? Rookie Joe Webb continued to show raw potential, dashing 41 yards against a blitz on one play and tossing a 63-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Javon Walker. With two touchdowns in two preseason appearances, you wonder if Walker hasn’t made the team.
Local coverage: Jackson was booed off the field by the Metrodome crowd, reports Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. But Childress said Jackson will remain the No. 2 quarterback “as it stands right now.” Cornerback Lito Sheppard said “I don't see why not” when asked if he will be a Week 1 starter, writes Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune. Safety Tyrell Johnson took advantage of extended playing time to likely win the strong safety job, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
Next: Thursday at New Orleans Saints*
*And it counts!
Will the Bears wipe out a good bit of their 2009 draft? Defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert, receiver Juaquin Iglesias and defensive lineman Henry Melton were the Bears' top three picks of that draft. They've all been invisible this summer and certainly haven't done anything to earn roster spots. Whether one is reserved for them is another question.
Can the Bears find room for special-teams stud Tim Shaw? He had 30 tackles on special teams last season but isn't much of a factor on defense. But he would qualify as a specialist, and there isn't always room for one on a 53-man roster. Do the Bears feel comfortable using him at linebacker, especially considering preseason injuries to Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Nick Roach? Uncertain.
How many running backs will the Detroit Lions keep? We know that Jahvid Best is the starter, and veteran Kevin Smith would be the likely No. 2 if he were completely healthy. But does Smith's offseason knee surgery make the Lions nervous? And if so, do they keep five backs behind Best -- Smith, Maurice Morris, Aaron Brown, DeDe Dorsey and fullback Jerome Felton -- or does one get released?
If they keep an extra back, could the Lions take a roster spot from the quarterback position? That's not out of the question. The Lions have established Shaun Hill as the long-term backup to starter Matthew Stafford. So is there any reason to keep Drew Stanton on the roster?
Will the Green Bay Packers keep five tight ends? We mentioned the possibility of veteran Donald Lee meeting the end of the line. It's also possible that Tom Crabtree could be sneaked onto the practice squad. But you could make an argument that all five tight ends are among the Packers' top 53 players. General manager Ted Thompson has made odd numerical choices before; last year he kept three fullbacks for what is mostly a one-back offense.
Will both players who entered 2009 competing for the right tackle job be cut? It's very possible that Allen Barbre and Breno Giacomini have played their way off the team. This year's backup tackles are more likely to be Bryan Bulaga and T.J. Lang.
How will the Minnesota Vikings establish more depth at cornerback? Right now, their starters are Antoine Winfield and either Lito Sheppard or Asher Allen. The nonstarter in that group is the likely nickelback, but beyond him the Vikings have no viable candidates for depth. A waiver claim or trade would seem a near-certainty.
How many receivers can the Vikings keep? Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin are locks. You would think Greg Lewis makes the team, along with Greg Camarillo. Will Javon Walker make the Week 1 roster as a No. 5 receiver? Or would the Vikings be wary of guaranteeing his 2010 salary? Signing him back as early as Week 2 would allow them to pay him on a weekly basis.
Earlier: Final-week position battles and players on the bubble.
My official Lions "Camp Confidential" report isn't scheduled to post until Saturday, but the blog will feature heavy Lions emphasis through my Wednesday departure. If there's something you want me to check out, just let me know. Otherwise, you're left to my whims and personal biases.
Ok, enough chit-chat. Here are some first-day impressions from Allen Park:
- Tight end Brandon Pettigrew, activated from the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list Sunday, participated in the less-physical afternoon practice wearing a brace on his knee. Pettigrew looked, well, like a player trying to run with a brace on his knee: Not smooth, but not unexpected. I would be really surprised if he is on the field for Tuesday's full-pads practice.
- The Lions activated defensive end Jared DeVries from the PUP list, and DeVries mostly worked with the second team at left end. Cliff Avril continued getting most of the first-team work there, but I would imagine DeVries will be rotating with Avril before too long.
- I planned to take a look at middle linebacker DeAndre Levy, but he sat out both practices because of what coach Jim Schwartz said was continuing back tightness. Levy's absence emphasized the Lions' shaky depth at the position; special teams player Vinny Ciurciu was the first-team middle linebacker in both practices.
- The morning practice featured an entertaining red-zone session in which the defense more than held its own. But the offense triumphed on one play in particular: Fullback Jerome Felton's steamroll of safety Marquand Manuel at the goal line. Meanwhile, quarterback Matthew Stafford misfired on two red-zone passes. One appeared to be a miscommunication with receiver Calvin Johnson and another pass was a step behind receiver Nate Burleson.
- Running back Kevin Smith (knee) didn't do much in either practice, but I glimpsed at least four other runners getting work with the first team: Maurice Morris, Jahvid Best, Felton and DeDe Dorsey.
- As defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh continued his holdout, Sammie Hill was working alongside expected starter Corey Williams.
- Schwartz indicated he is being extra cautious with safety Louis Delmas, who is recovering from a groin strain. Delmas is a "known quantity," Schwartz said, and the Lions' only goal is to get him healthy -- not back out on the field. Delmas said: "Everybody that I'm playing with, we all got a good understanding of each other. When I get back, I think I'll be able to adjust to them really fast." Schwartz has been rotating safeties during camp, and Monday his first-teammers were Marvin White and C.C. Brown.
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
Biggest surprise: Although I suggested this strategy as a possible solution earlier this week, I was still surprised to see the Bengals take my advice and cut two fullbacks in order to keep both DeDe Dorsey and Brian Leonard. Cincinnati now has four active tailbacks with Dorsey and Leonard to go along with starter Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott. All four have been solid in the preseason. Jeremi Johnson is the only fullback on the roster as the team cut both Chris Pressley and draft pick Fui Vakapuna. But Leonard is versatile and has the ability to be the backup at both fullback and tailback, which factored into the final decision.
No-brainers: Safety Marvin White had some potential, but coming off a major knee injury he got off to a slow start this year and fell behind a deep group of safeties in Cincinnati. Former 2008 draft pick Corey Lynch certainly wasn’t a no-brainer, but it was pretty clear that rookie free-agent safety Tom Nelson beat him out for one of the last roster spots. Receivers such as Freddie Brown and Maurice Purify never had a chance in Cincinnati, because the Bengals are just too deep at that position.
What’s next: With first-round pick Andre Smith recovering from a broken bone in his foot, the Bengals may scan the wires to see if an intriguing prospect or two surfaces on the offensive line, particularly at tackle. Cincinnati also wouldn't mind retaining some of its younger players on the practice squad, such as Vakapuna and Pressley. Otherwise, the Bengals are set at most positions and shouldn’t have a lot of turnover before the start of the regular season.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
CINCINNATI -- At some point this summer, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and his staff will have to sit down and make some tough decisions on the 53-man roster. And several of those tough calls will be at running back.
|Nelson Chenault/US Presswire|
|Cedric Benson is Cincinnati's clear-cut starter, but the pecking order behind him is still unclear.|
Currently there is a crowded field behind starter Cedric Benson, who is one of the few locks at the position to make the team. After Benson, tailbacks such as James Johnson, DeDe Dorsey, Kenny Watson and Bernard Scott all will be vying for carries and roster spots this season.
In addition, Brian Leonard is versatile enough to split time at fullback and tailback to take reps away from the aforementioned group, making for an even tighter competition.
"It's a lot of guys and a lot of competition," Lewis said. "I think it's going to be exciting to watch how it shakes out."
This week's mandatory minicamp will begin to provide some clarity. Not everything can be determined for running backs without pads. But the players who show the most potential on the practice field over this three-day session likely will earn a majority of the early reps entering training camp, as those players will remain fresh on the coaches' minds.
As a team, the Bengals are in need of two things at running back: A home-run hitter and a third-down option. Benson is more of a grinder who averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in 2008.
If Cincinnati can find a quicker, speedy tailback to provide a change of pace and catch consistently out of the backfield, that will add another dimension to the offense.
Watson, an eight-year veteran, showed plenty of that in the past. But he is now 31 and coming off an injury-plagued season. Dorsey also has been unable to stay healthy recently and Johnson and Scott are even more unproven, which is why this summer is so important.
"I think it gives us an opportunity to really take a good look at those guys early in training camp and early in the preseason, and see what guys will end up sticking with us," Lewis added about his running backs.
Benson getting a full season under his belt and the possible development of these backups will be key in Cincinnati's success, as the Bengals are trying to become a more physical team in an ultra-physical AFC North division.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Crocker joined the Bengals last season and helped a defense that was scrappy and finished No. 12 in the NFL. He had 48 tackles and one interception.
"For the whole second half of the season, he was a leader in the locker room as well as on the field," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement.
Dorsey played in four games last season before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury.
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