NFL Nation: Marcus Harrison
The Panthers hit the waiver wire hard Sunday, claiming five players at positions of need.
The Panthers claimed wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu from San Diego, defensive back Stevie Brown from Oakland, nose tackle Marcus Harrison from Chicago, defensive end George Selvie from St. Louis and defensive back Josh Thomas from Dallas.
To make room for them, the Panthers waived defensive end Everette Brown, guard Bryant Browning, receiver David Clowney and defensive end Thomas Keiser. The Panthers also released veteran safety Kevin Payne.
Stay tuned, because it’s likely the Panthers are not done yet. They still have a big need at right guard after losing Geoff Schwartz and Garry Williams to season-ending injuries. They likely are in the market for a veteran at that position.
Surprise move: The cuts of defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon and safety Kyle McCarthy were unexpected. Jarmon was brought in through a trade from Washington for Jabar Gaffney. He was expected to be part of Denver’s defensive-line rotation. McCarthy was working with the first-team defense for parts of camp. But in the end, 2010 draft picks David Bruton and Darcel McBath were kept over McCarthy.
No-brainers: There was talk that Derrick Harvey could be cut. But the team needs to keep him, especially with Jarmon out. The former No. 8 overall pick from Jacksonville is needed on Denver’s tenuous line. While he probably will never live up to his lofty draft position, Harvey is solid against the run and could help Denver. Also, I’m not shocked that Denver kept only rookie tight ends Julius Thomas and Virgil Green behind starter Daniel Fells. They cut Dante Rosario and Dan Gronkowski. The Broncos really like their three tight ends.
What's next: The Broncos have the No. 2 waiver priority. Expect them to use it often. Denver probably will look at defensive linemen, cornerbacks, offensive linemen and running backs on the waiver wire. The Colts cut defensive tackle Tommie Harris. DT is Denver’s greatest need, but the Broncos might be reluctant to pursue a player who has been cut by the Bears and Colts this year. Recently cut defensive linemen Jacob Ford (Tennessee) and Marcus Harrison (Chicago) could be appealing to Denver.
Item: Bears defensive tackle Marcus Harrison still isn't practicing because he reported to training camp 11 pounds overweight.
Comment: I wonder when the Bears' patience with Harrison will run out. While he works on conditioning, the Bears are looking at a host of defensive linemen who could take his roster spot.
Item: Packers tight end Andrew Quarless (hip flexor) returned to practice.
Comment: Not a moment too soon. A couple of young tight ends, D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor, opened some eyes during the first week of camp.
Item: Packers defensive end Mike Neal participated in his first team drills since major shoulder surgery last fall, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Comment: That should be a welcome sign for all Packers fans who hope he is ready to take over for the departed Cullen Jenkins.
Item: The Detroit Lions used newcomer Stephen Tulloch at outside linebacker in his debut practice Thursday.
Comment: Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com believes Tulloch eventually will be moved inside. I agree. It makes sense to give him a chance to ease into the scheme before giving him play-calling responsibility.
Item: Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he doesn't consider right tackle Phil Loadholt a possible replacement at left tackle.
Comment: That makes sense. Shifting Loadholt would put another position in flux. As it stands, the Vikings are also using Chris DeGeare at right guard while Anthony Herrera continues his recovery from knee surgery. The only way Loadholt should be a possibility is if current starter Charlie Johnson proves he can't handle the job.
Item: Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson is expected to return Friday from a three-day absence. Peterson's fiancÚ gave birth to a son in Houston.
Comment: His return will give the Vikings their full complement of offensive players for the first time this summer.
Enough about me and that. (For now, at least. I’ll put together a post tracking some of the high points of this journey on Monday. And if the Chicago Bears beat the Seattle Seahawks, we’ll have a post or two about the NFC North’s new role as the epicenter of humanity.)
First things first. We just received the official inactive lists from both teams, and I can report there are absolutely no surprises. As expected, Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu (concussion) has been cleared to play and will start.
The Bears, who listed no players on their injury report Friday, had their usual list of inactive players: Quarterback Caleb Hanie, safety Craig Steltz, running back Kahlil Bell, cornerback Joshua Moore, offensive linemen Herman Johnson and Edwin Williams, tight end Desmond Clark and defensive lineman Marcus Harrison.
OK. I'll be joining NFC West colleague Mike Sando and the rest of our crew over at Countdown Live during the game. Please join us.
They are relatively healthy.
Lofa Tatupu starts at middle linebacker one week after suffering a concussion. Coach Pete Carroll said all week he expected Tatupu to play.
Inactive for Seattle: cornerback Josh Pinkard, cornerback Marcus Brown, linebacker Joe Pawelek, guard Lemuel Jeanpierre, guard Paul Fanaika, tackle Breno Giacomini and defensive tackle Amon Gordon. J.P. Losman is the third quarterback.
The Bears' inactive list features safety Craig Steltz, cornerback Joshua Moore, running back Kahlil Bell, guard Herman Johnson, guard/center Edwin Williams, tight end Desmond Clark and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison. Caleb Hanie is the third quarterback.
Clark, who started seven games last season, has faded from prominence over the second half of the season. He was active against Seattle in Week 6, then inactive until Week 17.
Briggs, slowed by an ankle injury recently, was named inactive Sunday. Also, the Bears designated veteran Todd Collins as their third quarterback, leaving Caleb Hanie as the No. 2 behind Jay Cutler. Collins started for the Bears when a concussion sidelined Cutler last week.
Also inactive for the Bears: Major Wright, Joshua Moore, Kahlil Bell, Roberto Garza, Charles Grant and Marcus Harrison.
Those developments lead to a convenient explanation: With his job/career/reputation on the line, Smith has dropped all loyalties and will stop at nothing to produce a season good enough to ensure self-preservation. That was my thought Monday night after Smith made underperforming defensive tackle Tommie Harris a healthy scratch and brushed aside questions about doing the same for receiver Devin Aromashodu. During a 20-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers, Smith also replaced cornerback Zack Bowman with dime back Tim Jennings.
But how much of that answer is true? Has Smith really overhauled his approach on the way to a 3-0 start?
The reality is that, if anything, Smith has amplified his traditional and core beliefs this season. The biggest change is that Smith appears to be more forcefully demanding adherence.
Let's take a look at this issue from three perspectives -- personnel, offense and defense -- to see what we come up with.
Accountability with personnel
The Bears reacquired safety Chris Harris this spring to settle a position that has been troubled since Harris originally departed in 2007. But his injury-plagued training camp led to an admittedly horrible preseason, and by early September, rumors were already circulating that Smith was angling to push rookie Major Wright into Harris' spot. They rotated in the Sept. 12 game against the Detroit Lions, and Wright's likely ascension was halted only by a hamstring injury the following week.
The same goes for Tommie Harris, whose underperformance the Bears have been trying to address for three years. He has been deactivated for one game in each of the past two seasons, and this year, Smith forced him to abandon a partial practice plan aimed at preserving his knees. But after Harris managed one tackle in the first two games, Smith moved quickly to give two other players -- Matt Toeaina and Marcus Harrison -- an opportunity. The move came on the dramatic stage of "Monday Night Football," but it wasn't out of line with previous approaches. It was just a bit more aggressive.
Meanwhile, angst over Aromashodu's plight seems a bit inflated to me. It's true that he caught a team-high five passes in a Week 1 victory over the Lions, but he also dropped a touchdown pass and is hardly one of the Bears' most indispensable players. And the reality is Bowman's mediocre tackling skills weren't a good matchup for a Packers offense that shifted to a short passing game in the second quarter.
Aromashodu told reporters this week that players "walking on egg shells" won't be productive and added that coaches need to realize "you're not going to be perfect on every play." He has a point, but it's one Smith probably doesn't see much upside to. Smith has long been described as a player's coach, and while quick hooks don't go over well with the player involved, they can actually build credibility with the rest of the locker room because appropriate consequences are being applied.
That's how I would classify the decision to fine tight end Brandon Manumaleuna $22,000 over what appeared to be a misunderstanding of the Bears' regular-season meeting schedule. Similar fines occur more often than you might think, but they are usually kept private. Only an excellent job of reporting from ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson brought this one to light.
For his part, Smith told reporters this week that his philosophy has never wavered.
"We hold the players accountable on the football field," he said. "We look at what they do on the field, and we play the guys that give us the best opportunity to win. Go back over the video. That's what I've said from the start, that's what we're saying right now. Players realize that, too."
Offensive staying power
At first blush, you look at an offense coordinated by Mike Martz and quarterbacked by Jay Cutler -- the NFL's third highest-rated passer -- and marvel at the shift from Smith's affinity for the running game. Except, when you look at the numbers, you see it is actually Martz who has made a shift.
While their passing game has far outperformed their running game, it hasn't been for lack of trying. As the first chart shows, the Bears are throwing on 56.6 percent of their plays this season. That's actually a significant drop-off from last season under coordinator Ron Turner and not that much different than the two years prior to that.
It's true that the Bears were closer to a 50-50 split during their Super Bowl season of 2006, but I wonder if that ratio would have been different if they had a 2010 version of Cutler behind center.
(For the purposes of that chart, I put half of quarterback runs into the passing category in an unscientific attempt to include scrambles as passing plays.)
What's more, Martz has found a way to get the tight end involved in the passing game, another mainstay of Smith's previous teams. In fact, Greg Olsen has 10 receptions and two touchdowns already. At that pace, he'll finish with a respectable 50-catch, 10-touchdown season.
Back to the future on defense
Take a look at the second chart. After signing free-agent defensive end Julius Peppers and putting longtime Tampa-2 disciple Rod Marinelli in charge of game-day calls, the Bears have returned to the core tenet of that scheme. For the most part, they are depending on their defensive line to provide pass rush and using their other seven players in coverage.
According to ESPN's Stats & Information, the Bears are using an extra rusher on 24 percent of their defensive snaps, cutting their blitzes by about half of their frequency over the past two seasons. And while they have managed only one sack with their four-man rush, you can't argue with the results from a big-picture perspective. Quarterbacks have a 73.6 passer rating when the Bears don't blitz, the ninth lowest in the league, and have scored only one touchdown in those situations.
The Bears are 3-0 for many reasons. One of them, I think, has been Smith's adherence to his core values -- and not the discovery of a new approach.
Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, a possible starter opposite Tommie Harris, revealed he lost more than 20 pounds during a recent week-long battle with tonsillitis. According to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com, Harrison was limited in Wednesday's practice.
"Before I got sick, the offseason was going great," Harrison said. "I just got to get back used to it. I've been out for a long time, so man, my body just has to get used to it. I lost a lot of weight and stuff, so I just have to get it back.
"I know [defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli] is going to pick it up and make sure I get back to where I need to be. I'm not really concerned about that. I want to get in there and do it. I need to get in there and do it. But coach Marinelli is going to have me ready."
Meanwhile, if you're keeping track of the Bears' search for a left guard: Dickerson reports the Bears were using Josh Beekman strictly at center. That means Kevin Shaffer, Lance Louis and Johan Asiata rotated at left guard.
Green Bay Packers
For those wondering how the Packers plan to stack their cornerback depth, especially considering the shift of Will Blackmon to safety, coach Mike McCarthy heaped effusive praise on second-year player Brandon Underwood.
"I think Brandon Underwood would definitely be a candidate for most improved player from year one to year two so far from what I've seen," McCarthy said. "I think he's really matured in the weight room. He looks very good right now. I know we're only practicing in shorts and helmets, but I think Brandon Underwood is off to an outstanding spring so far. I've been very pleased with what he has shown on film."
Other candidates to back up the initial starting duo of Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams include Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush.
Veteran starter Al Harris, meanwhile, said he had shifted his knee rehabilitation from Florida to Green Bay. Harris wouldn't commit to a return date, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, but said his recovery is on schedule.
"I don't want to give any predictions or anything like that, but I'm going to do my part," Harris said. "So if it's up to me, and it's up to me working to get out there, then I'll be out there. But we've got to go with the protocol and do what's right for the team and what's right for me. I'm going to do my part as far as preparing and working to get better."
CHICAGO -- Cardinals guard Deuce Lutui decked Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris twice before Harris threw the punch resulting in his ejection Sunday.
Lutui's actions were within the rules. Harris' were not.
Harris' ejection following only the fourth play from scrimmage followed this play-by-play sequence:
- The Cardinals threw the ball on first down. Nothing of note happened.
- Lutui shoved Bears defensive lineman Marcus Harrison after the play. Harris and Lutui made no contact. Harris hit Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner legally after Warner threw the ball.
- The Cardinals threw again, this time completing a 23-yard pass to Steve Breaston. Lutui decked Harris during the play, then hit Harris again as the defensive tackle tried to get up. The second hit might have been unnecessary. Any defensive lineman would have been ticked off even though Lutui did not appear to violate rules.
- Lutui quickly pushed Harris at the start of the Cardinals' fourth play, a run. Harris was engaged with center Lyle Sendlein and could not see Lutui. Lutui blocked linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer on the play. Replays did not show what happened immediately next, only Harris' fateful punch to Lutui's facemask while Lutui was down on the ground.
As we review preseason action this summer, I won't pretend to bring you brilliant insight from games I don't cover live. We'll save that kind of thorough analysis for the games that I actually see and conduct interviews at afterwards. (Yes, there was some sarcasm there. Lighten up. It's Sunday morning!)
With that said, it's important to get a feel for every NFC North preseason game in a timely fashion. So while I covered Friday night's Minnesota-Kansas City game, below are some thoughts on the three games that took place Saturday night. I've also included links to the local coverage of reporters who were in attendance as well as some NFL.com video so you can see for yourself.
Chicago 17, New York Giants 3
- Everyone can agree that quarterback Jay Cutler was sharp (8-of-13) and productive (17 points in his first three drives) during his second start of the preseason. He threw well on the run, scrambled once on his own for 12 yards and threw a beautiful touch pass to receiver Devin Aromashodu for 38 yards. Working at times from the no-huddle, the Bears gave their future opponents plenty to think about with their passing performance. Cutler and backup Caleb Hanie combined to complete 18 of 31 passes for 241 yards.
- If you were worried about tailback Matt Forte's hamstring, it didn't look bad Saturday night on a 32-yard touchdown dash up the middle. Overall, Forte finished with 58 yards on nine carries. On the downside, backups Kevin Jones and Garrett Wolfe each lost a fumble.
- Defensive tackle Tommie Harris started but didn't show up in the box score. Fellow defensive linemen Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Dusty Dvoracek and Marcus Harrison all finished the game with a sack.
Cleveland 27, Detroit 10
- Incredibly, the Lions fought among themselves before the game. Defensive end Dewayne White and tight end Carson Butler were the culprits, fighting long enough that they both ended up on the ground. It's always good to be in a "fighting mood" during pregame warm-ups. But actually fighting? Unheard of. I'm guessing Butler, at least, will have his ticket punched out of Detroit soon.
- Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a tough night. Getting a start as he competes with Daunte Culpepper, Stafford threw an interception on his first pass and later overthrew two wide-open receivers (John Standeford and Adam Jennings) on passes downfield. Overall, Stafford completed 5 of 13 passes. Neither he nor Culpepper led the Lions to a score. We go to Week 3 of the preseason with no better idea of who will win the starting job.
- Let's just say it: Saturday night was terrible all around for the Lions. The special teams gave up two touchdown returns to Cleveland's Josh Cribbs, although one was called back by penalty. And Browns quarterback Derek Anderson picked apart the Lions' defense for 130 passing yards.
Green Bay 31, Buffalo 21
- The Packers' top defense held Buffalo scoreless in the first half and continued to swarm the ball. Safety Nick Collins forced an early interception, and Green Bay got some good pass rush out of its 4-3 nickel alignment. Defensive lineman Johnny Jolly finished with two sacks. The Packers led 21-0 when starters left the game. The only downside: Collins left with a rib injury.
- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was locked in, completing 8 of 9 passes for 98 yards and two scores. His 5-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver was an athletic play, and fantasy players everywhere are going to like that he connected multiple times with second-year tight end Jermichael Finley.
- Backup quarterback Brian Brohm got extended playing time because of a shoulder injury to Matt Flynn that isn't deemed serious. But Brohm didn't give anyone reason to believe he can overtake Flynn on the depth chart if everyone is healthy.
Catching up on Monday's happenings around the NFC North....
Green Bay linebacker Nick Barnett, who is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list as he rehabilitates his knee, said he expects to begin practicing in time to play in the third preseason game Aug. 28 at Arizona. Here's more from Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Coach Mike McCarthy said Barnett is due for a status check next week. The Packers also have lost defensive lineman Johnny Jolly (sprained right ankle) for about a week, McCarthy said.
In Chicago, defensive lineman Marcus Harrison said he hopes to begin practicing by this weekend, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Harrison has been on the non-football injury list since reporting to training camp overweight.
Here are Jeff Dickerson's daily Bears notes over on ESPN Chicago. Among the highlights: Tailback Matt Forte got considerably more work in team drills Monday. The Bears seemed to have been protecting him after he was slowed by a hamstring injury in the offseason.
In Detroit, quarterback Matthew Stafford made quick work of the Lions defense during a two-minute drill. Stafford had the advantage of working with the first-team offense. Here are accounts of Stafford's performance from Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com and John Niyo of the Detroit News.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press is running a fan poll on its Web site this week as Minnesota prepares for its matchup Sunday at Jacksonville.
The question: "Whom would you rather have coaching the Vikings?" The choices are current coach Brad Childress and his predecessor, Mike Tice. As of Wednesday morning, Tice was leading the voting 85 percent to 15 percent.
(You have to vote to see the results. I voted once for each to maintain my perfect record of objectivity).
Unscientific as it might be, the poll suggests some fans have come around on Tice's tenure after applauding his firing in 2006. It also speaks to the backup quarterback syndrome, which dictates that fans crave whoever isn't playing quarterback, or coaching, at the time of the question.
Tice, now the Jaguars' assistant head coach/tight ends, had a 33-34 record in four seasons with the Vikings. Childress is 19-23 in Year 3. Speaking this week to the Star Tribune's Mark Craig, Tice said he was proud to have been "competitive each week" given the limitations of working for a franchise that was on the selling block for most of his time as coach.
Tice also said that his admission to scalping 12 Super Bowl tickets in 2006 has blocked his chances of getting another head coaching job.
"I'm absolutely sure the ticket thing will harm me because it harmed me last year with one particular team," Tice said. "The team came out and told my agent that they wouldn't consider me because of that. But you make your bed. You have to sleep in it."
Tice would not identify the team.
Continuing around the NFC North this morning:
- The Vikings never announced it, but according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune, the team has extended the contract of vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski. The agreement occurred during the spring, at about the same time vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman's contract was extended.
- Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune suggests that fans get off the back of defensive coordinator Bob Babich and jump on coach Lovie Smith: "The assumption here is that Smith, not Babich, is really running the defense."
- Could defensive tackles Marcus Harrison and Anthony Adams get more playing time? The Chicago Sun-Times delves into that question in its Two-Minute Drill.
- The Green Bay Packers are three defensive touchdowns away from tying the NFL record of 10, set by the 1998 Seattle Seahawks. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has the story.
- Really good read from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Lori Nickel, who profiles nickel back Tramon Williams, who went to Louisiana Tech to be a full-time student -- working odd jobs to pay his way -- before walking onto the football team.
- Detroit has three consecutive home games coming up, but as Terry Foster of the Detroit News points out, the Lions have been better on the road. Their margin of defeat this season at Ford Field has averaged 20.5 points, while they have lost by an average of 9.3 on the road.
- Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press offers six suggestions for maintaining a winless season. Among them: Continuing to "think inside the box."
With a big assist from ESPN Research, I'm working on an interesting post for later today that will summarize and contextualize most of the inanity from Minnesota's wild 30-27 victory Monday night at New Orleans. For now, let's catch up on postgame reaction from the press box and the Vikings' locker room.
Vikings coach Brad Childress threw punter Chris Kluwe under the bus for kicking twice in the second half to Saints punt returner Reggie Bush, who returned both for touchdowns. According to Childress, Kluwe had been instructed to punt out of bounds both times.
Here's what Childress said about Kluwe, courtesy Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
"Both of those kicks are supposed to be out of bounds, and when you say to somebody kick the ball out of bounds, that's what you expect to happen. That's what I expect to happen with a professional football kicker."
Asked if Kluwe is struggling with directional kicking, Childress -- quite amazingly after such a big victory -- said: "You know what? If he can't do that, I'll find someone that can kick the ball out of bounds."
Meanwhile, receiver Bernard Berrian admitted he ran the wrong route on a 33-yard touchdown reception in which he nearly collided with teammate Aundrae Allison. According to Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune, Berrian was supposed to run a post-corner route but broke off the pattern when he saw the ball in the air.
There were plenty of other heroes for the Vikings. Cornerback Antoine Winfield returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, forced a fumble after sacking Saints quarterback Drew Brees, made three tackles behind the line of scrimmage and batted away a key pass.
Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press had the line of the night, writing: "The Vikings' most consistent play was to say, 'Yes, Mr. Referee, we'll take the penalty.'" That was Powers' way of suggesting the Saints did as much to lose this game as the Vikings did to win it.
Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune praised quarterback Gus Frerotte for saving the Vikings' season.
We'll have more on this game later Tuesday and I'll plan to cover Childress' scheduled news conference at team headquarters.
Surfing around the rest of the NFC North:
- Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette reports the Packers worked out four punters on Monday, including former Pro Bowler Scott Player. The workouts suggest the Packers are close to dumping incumbent Derrick Frost.
- Packers coach Mike McCarthy didn't mince words about the performance of mainstay left tackle Chad Clifton: "Chad didn't have a very good day" Sunday against Atlanta. Coaches are upset with his fundamentals, according to Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- McCarthy also is disappointed in the Packers' run defense, writes Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. "They need to keep the game in order, and it starts with stopping the run, and we're not doing a very good job of it," McCarthy said.
- The Chicago Bears expect defensive tackle Tommie Harris to play Sunday at Atlanta, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Harris returned Monday from a one-game suspension.
- Rookie defensive tackle Marcus Harrison has been a pleasant find, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.
- The Detroit Lions are planning another offensive shift: Coach Rod Marinelli is paring down the playbook. "I feel like we're a little bit scattered right now," Marinelli said Monday. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press has details.
- Marinelli is sensitive to suggestions that he won't use his young players, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News. Marinelli, correctly, attributes that sense to an illogical public outcry for second-year quarterback Drew Stanton.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As we told you in our Friday programming note, we'll be courtside at the Metrodome today for Minnesota's Week 2 matchup with Indianapolis.
Someone mentioned an interesting stat earlier this week that bears passing along: The Vikings are facing a team that hasn't been 0-2 in 10 years. Yes, the last time the Colts lost the first two games of the year was 1998, which also happened to be quarterback Peyton Manning's rookie year. In fact, the Colts have only lost twice in September over the past six seasons, including last week's home defeat to Chicago.
Historically, at least, you expect the Colts to bounce back. But for the record, we like the Vikings in this one.
We'll be heading downtown in a few hours. In the meantime, let's take a jaunt around the rest of the division.
- Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press traces the relationship and similar personalities of Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Colts coach Tony Dungy. According to Frazier, Dungy proved their similarly quiet approach can work in the NFL: "It reinforced my beliefs that you could be who you are and do it the way I wanted to do it, as opposed to the other model that the majority of people recognize as a coach -- a guy who is a screamer, maybe profane in his language. That's how you motivate. Well, to do that, I would have had to change my personality, and I wasn't willing to do that. When I saw that there was a guy who was successful, who was similar to myself, I was very encouraged to stay with what I was doing and the way I was doing it."
- Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune notes that Vikings defensive end Jared Allen will be looking for his first sack of the season against a quarterback in Manning who almost never gets sacked. (To be exact, 3.4 percent of his career pass plays).
- Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com points out Detroit had four losses of 31 points or more last season. In the games that immediately followed, the Lions won three times and lost by one point to Dallas in the other.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press thinks the Lions offense will do everything it can to keep the defense off the field today against Green Bay.
- You might not think of him as nifty, but Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is adding an element of mobility to the position that Brett Favre largely abandoned in his last few years with the team. Rodgers ran for four first downs in the season opener against Minnesota. As Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, Favre hadn't run for more than four first downs in a season since 2002.
- Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette wonders whether the Lions will catch a break thanks to the sore hamstring of Packers tailback Ryan Grant.
- Chicago's matchup with Carolina will feature two of the NFL's most skilled players at causing fumbles, writes Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune. The Panthers' Chris Harris led the NFL with eight last season, while the Bears' Charles Tillman has 12 since the 2003 season.
- The Bears are hoping to get rookie defensive tackle Marcus Harrison more and more playing time, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Several Detroit-area news outlets confirmed this week that Lions first-round draft pick Gosder Cherilus will open the season as a backup to veteran right tackle George Foster. (Cherilus will also back up left tackle Jeff Backus.) (That's a lot of "backs." But, oh well, it's Saturday morning.)
After checking out an Oakland Press story on the topic, we started wondering about the rest of the NFC North draft class. And after taking a quick look around, it appears no more than four drafted rookies are expected to open the regular season as a full-time starter. That amounts to about 11 percent of the 35 players chosen by the four division teams. We don't have numbers from past years, but intuitively that seems a little low.
Here's the breakdown:
Detroit Lions (2 of 9 picks starting)
Cherilus and second-round linebacker Jordon Dizon remain with the second team. But the Lions do have a division-high two drafted rookies in the starting lineup: Third-round tailback Kevin Smith and fifth-round fullback Jerome Felton.
Chicago Bears (1 of 12)
Second-round tailback Matt Forte has been targeted to start from the day he was drafted and hasn't disappointed. The same can't be said for first-round left tackle Chris Williams, who couldn't make it through two training camp practices before suffering a back injury. He is out indefinitely. Third-round receiver Earl Bennett and third-round defensive tackle Marcus Harrison could eventually work into the rotation.
Minnesota Vikings (1 of 5)
Second-round safety Tyrell Johnson will start, but only because veteran Madieu Williams is sidelined by a neck injury. Because of the Jared Allen trade, Johnson was the Vikings' only selection in the first four rounds.
Green Bay Packers (0 of 9)
Second-round receiver Jordy Nelson projects as the No. 4 receiver, but only because of an injury to No. 3 receiver James Jones. Fourth-round pick Josh Sitton was on track to start had he not sprained his knee.
Elsewhere around the NFC North on a 48-degree morning in Minnesota:
- Williams' replacement as the Bears left tackle, John St. Clair, is best known as a utility backup. But he told the Chicago Sun-Times: "I never considered myself anything but a starter in this league."
- Brandon Lloyd will get a chance to resurrect his career because of the Bears' personnel issues at receiver. "I'm prepared," he told the Chicago Tribune. "I've been studying a lot. I'm ready."
- You know you've turned a corner in the expectation battle when members of the local media think the team is ready to win. Here's what Rob Parker of the Detroit News wrote about the Lions: "[Coach Rod] Marinelli, whose team went 4-0 in the preseason, has no excuses."
- Here's one highlight of the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Q&A with coach Mike McCarthy. Speaking about the decision to start Aaron Rodgers with two rookies backing him up, McCarthy said: "I guess I'm going to have to continue answering this question until we reach the point where it's evident to everybody that we made the right move, and I understand that."
- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel conducted a combative Q&A of its own with McCarthy. The highlight might be McCarthy admitting he thought Brett Favre might retire two years ago.
- Minnesota Vikings right tackle Ryan Cook, who faces a potential mismatch Monday night against Green Bay defensive end Aaron Kampman, told the Star Tribune he is working to "take ownership" of the position.
Final Cleveland 26 Atlanta 24 Final Tennessee 24 Philadelphia 43 Final Detroit 9 New England 34 Final Green Bay 24 Minnesota 21 Final Jacksonville 3 Indianapolis 23 Final Cincinnati 22 Houston 13 Postponed New York Buffalo Final Tampa Bay 13 Chicago 21 Final Arizona 3 Seattle 19 Final St. Louis 24 San Diego 27 Final Miami 36 Denver 39 Final Washington 13 San Francisco 17 Final Dallas 31 New York 28
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