Cleat Geeks

Vikings Game Recap: I Don’t Know How to Feel

Before the game Sunday, I had a feeling in my stomach. A certain name popped into my head for no apparent reason. It was Daniel Carlson, and I had a bad feeling in my stomach. I said out loud to myself, “I wish they had kept Kai Forbath, I would never trust a rookie kicker” Well, whaddya know? Daniel Carlson had a chance to win this game for the Vikes TWICE and blew it. Both times. But, the Vikes also did not lose this game. Thanks to a furious 4th quarter rally, and a miracle pass that somehow slipped through two Packers’ defender’s hands, the Vikes tied the game up. And the game ended in that final score, 29-29. So, I’m not sure how to feel. I guess unhappy because our kicker blew the game, but, technically we are still undefeated. Regardless, we experienced a roller coaster of emotions Sunday. Let’s review:

The first half ended 17-7 in favor of the Packers. Despite a TD catch by Laquon Treadwell, the Vikes looked rather lifeless, to be frank. The second half is where things really pick up. Stefon Diggs played a huge role, catching two critical TD passes and a two-point conversion. Late in the 4th quarter, Kirk Cousins appeared to be intercepted, but it was called back due to a Clay Matthews roughing the passer call. This was a questionable call, as it could have gone both ways. If I were the ref, I probably would not have called it, but hey, I’ll certainly take it. Cousins made them pay, driving the Vikes down and scoring, thanks to a one Mr. Stefon Diggs. He also caught the two-point conversion which made it 29-29. With 37 seconds left, Aaron Rodgers (the Magician) drove the Packers into field goal range (where’s the defense??). It was a 52-yard field goal and the Vikes iced Mason Crosby. It worked, the second time he missed wide left.

The Vikes got the first possession in overtime and quickly drove into field goal range. The drive stalled out, and Mr. Carlson came into the game for a 49-yard field goal. Can you guess what happened? Yep, he missed. Taking over, the Magician took the Pack into Vikes territory, but a huge sack took them out of field goal range. The final possession of the 10 minute overtime belonged to the Vikings. They score, they win. Period. Methodically, they drove into Packers territory. Thanks to two Laquon Treadwell drops, the drive ended. With four seconds to go, on trotted Daniel Carlson for a makeable 35-yard field goal. The Packers iced him. The guy absolutely shanked it. Completely wide right. The game ended in a tie. Such an anti-climactic ending to a great game. Some final quick notes:

+ Laquon Treadwell had some key drops in this game, his days in Minnesota are numbered.

+ Kirk Cousins played like an $84 million guaranteed QB, throwing for over 400 yards and three touchdowns. Convinced me.

+ Hasta la vista, Daniel Carlson.

+ The NFL needs to change the OT rules to college football rules. It would be much more fun and exciting. Nobody likes a tie, except the Cleveland Browns.

+ Next week, we have the Buffalo Bills at US Bank. Let’s go and take care of business.

Bear Down; Defense Records First Victory Of The 2018 Season

The Chicago Bears have defeated the Seattle Seahawks 24-17 at Soldier Field for their first win of the season. It was also Matt Nagy’s first NFL win as a head coach. This win certainly helped Bears fans wash a bit of that sour taste in their mouths after the heartbreaking loss to Green Bay the week before.

As Chicago Bears tradition goes, the story of the success was the defense. Khalil Mack got a roaring ovation from the crowd in Chicago as he took the field as a Bear for the first time at Soldier Field. The defense sacked Russell Wilson five times in the first half and held the Seahawks to a field goal in the first 30 minutes. Biggest play of the night came from Prince Amukamara in the fourth quarter when he picked off Wilson and ran into the endzone for six, making it 24-10. Bears on the next Seahawks drive recovered a Wilson fumble, creating two turnovers on back-to-back defensive drives. Seahawks found the endzone in the last half-minute of the game in “garbage time.”

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Photo by; The Chicago Tribune

In total the Bears recorded six sacks, a pick-six and held Wilson to under 250 yards. Danny Trevathan had two of the sacks and rookie Roquan Smith had seven solo tackles, which led the team. Khalil Mack recorded a sack and four solo tackles.

Mitch Trubsiky and the offense was on and off. The first offensive drive of the game was incredible and led to a Trubisky to Trey Burton shovel pass for a touchdown. They did not find the endzone again until the fourth quarter when Trubisky rolled out to his left and fired a 10-yard pass to rookie Anthony Miller. Overall the young QB went 25/34 with two touchdown passes, two interceptions and 200 yards. A number of his passes were off the mark, but he also made some very nice throws in the scoring drives. Still plenty of work to do with him, but hopefully he can build on it.

A nice thing for Bears fan to see was the energy at Soldier Field. There has not been a lot to cheer about on the shores of Lake Michigan the past few years, but the crowd was in the game the entire way and very loud. Bears fans will likely show up in droves next week in Arizona as they take on the Cardinals.

The Roar: Lions Look to Rebound in San Francisco

Game Information:

The Detroit Lions (0-1) are on the West Coast to pay a visit to the San Francisco 49ers (0-1) @ Levi’s Stadium. You can catch the action on Fox 2 or on WJR-AM 760 in Motown.

Kickoff is set for 4:05 PM ET.

Briefing:

Monday Night Football was disastrous in Detroit, at least for one side. Matt Patricia’s Lions certainly didn’t start the season on the right foot.

The 49ers didn’t win either, but they didn’t walk away from the stadium that night with their tails between their legs.

Matthew Stafford is coming off the worst performance of his career as he completed 27-of-46 passes for 286 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

Not to mention, No. 9’s signs and signals were being picked all night long.

That cannot happen.

With it being a shortened week, for Detroit’s sake, hopefully offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and Stafford have things figured out.

On San Francisco’s side of the field, they gave the Vikings a run last Sunday in Minnesota, but Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t all that great in the losing effort.

The 26-year-old quarterback was 15-of-33 for 261 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.

He’ll have to clean it up a bit as well.

Though, it will be interesting because Detroit’s defense allowed a rookie in Sam Darnold to have a rather strong debut in their own building. Garoppolo, who is familiar with Patricia’s defensive ways from their days in New England together, has more experience than Darnold.

Getting to him in the backfield would help, but that’s been a struggle for the Lions in recent times.

It might not get any easier this time around.

You can make the case that San Francisco is stronger with protection up front than the New York Jets, but they’re battling a few injuries.

Potentially evening that out, if Ziggy Ansah can’t dress due to his shoulder injury, it could be a low pressure afternoon for Garoppolo.

Garoppolo won’t have Marquise Goodwin to throw to as he’s out with a quad injury.

Last Sunday, he connected with tight end George Kittle on five occasions. You can expect a similar nine targets in his direction.

Detroit’s offense will be without T.J. Lang up front and could potentially be without LeGarrette Blount as well. Both guys are nursing back issues.

At least five of San Francisco’s defensive players missed time at practice this week due to ailing injuries. Only two are listed as questionable for the matchup, safety Adrian Colbert and linebacker Malcom Smith.

Prediction:

Matthew Stafford puts together a solid day, but the Lions fall short, 27-24. Robbie Gould with a 49-yard field goal to win it in the waning moments.

The Roar: Lions Bullied by Jets at Home

20 seconds into the game, the Lions had a lead and Ford Field was rockin’.

Quandre Diggs’ pick-six delivered by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold had the city feeling good about its chances on Monday Night Football.

Then, SOL happened.

Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions, Matt Prater missed a 44-yard attempt, Detroit’s running backs combined for 39 yards on the ground while Ziggy Ansah and T.J. Lang left with injuries.

Final score: Jets 48, Lions 17

Detroit’s first offensive drive looked far too familiar as they went three-and-out.

The Jets responded quickly as they flew down the field and found the end zone on the fifth play of their drive.

On third down on the pursuing drive, Matthew Stafford threw his first of four interceptions.

New York’s kicker Jason Myers chipped in a 35-yarder to make it 10-7 to start the second quarter.

Shortly after, Robby Anderson reeled in a pass from Darnold and took it to the house for a 41-yard touchdown.

Prater brought Detroit back within a score before halftime as he notched a 21-yard field goal after a 10-play drive.

The Lions were the receiving team to open up the second half.

Golden Tate tied things up with a 24-yard touchdown, concluding a four-play, 75-yard drive.

It was a game, until it wasn’t.

It wasn’t long before the Jets stormed down the field, left and right.

Nothing was going right for Detroit.

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In fact, when the opposing team knows just about everything you’re about to do, chances are, things aren’t going to go your way.

“We were calling out their plays as he was getting up to the line”, said Darron Lee, New York’s 23-year-old linebacker. “We knew his signals, we knew everything.”

After a shotty preseason, last night’s performance was an absolute nightmare that came true in the worst way possible, in front of a national audience.

Week 1, an absolute kick to the groin.

 

The Roar: Lions Host Jets for Monday Night Football

Game Information: 

The New York Jets visit the Detroit Lions for Monday Night Football @ Ford Field in Detroit, MI. You can catch the action on ESPN or on WJR-AM 760 in the Motor City.

Kickoff is set for 7:10 PM ET.

Briefing:

After cringe worthy preseasons out of the Jets and Lions which led to 1-3 records, both football teams are chomping at the bit to get off to a good start in the regular season.

Matt Patricia is entering his first season as head coach of the Lions and will be presenting a different running back combination this fall with LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson. Blount signed a one-year deal with Detroit back in March, about a month before the Lions drafted the 21-year-old Johnson 43rd overall out of Auburn University.

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That duo is presumably the best one Detroit has had in the backfield in a while and should be expected to be an aid against New York’s defense tonight.

The Jets are rolling with the 21-year-old quarterback out of the University of Southern California, Sam Darnold, who was drafted third overall this past April. Darnold is set to become the youngest quarterback to start a Week 1 game during the Super Bowl era.

Prediction: 

Crowd plays a factor, Darius Slay and Glover Quin with interceptions as Lions defend the den, win 28-17.

 

 

Bear Down; Looking at 2018 With Cautious Optimism

The Chicago Bears will begin their 2018 season on their biggest rival’s turf in Green Bay Sunday evening. Many eyes will be on first-year head coach Matt Nagy, as well as quarterback Mitch Trubisky, newcomer OLB Khalil Mack and many others. A match-up between Mack and Aaron Rodgers is something football fans will certainly want to watch.

The new-look Bears had no doubt the most productive off-season of any NFL team. In addition to hiring a new coaching staff and trading for Mack, they acquired free agent talent in receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel as well as signing former Eagles TE Trey Burton, re-signing CB Kyle Fuller and drafting LB Roquan Smith in the first round…just to briefly sum it up. Many holes were filled around the young core of Trubisky, Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson and Akiem Hicks. There is a lot to be excited about for Bears fans for the future.Image result for mitch trubisky bears

What about 2018 itself? Can this team with all the new talent make a huge leap forward and be playoff contenders? It is certainly not out of possibility, but at the same time there are reasons to be cautious about the upcoming seasons. This is not to say that I do not believe in what GM Ryan Pace has done, he has made great moves and it will eventually pay off, but 2018 may still be a step in the staircase towards playoff contention.

Unknowns and growing pains

There are many promising, yet unknown pieces on this team. The Bears are dealing with a first-year head coach with a quarterback that only has 12 NFL games under his belt in Trubisky. Last year he threw for 2,193 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was greatly handcuffed by the conservative John Fox offense and no reliable targets to throw to, but he showed promise. Trubisky is a great athlete with a good arm and ability to use his legs. With a full season coming and an offensive minded coach like Nagy and talented targets for him to throw to, he can play at a very good level. Promise is there, but we need to see it consistently. A number of players and personnel fall into this category, but Trubisky is by far the most important asset on the team.

Speaking of Nagy, he is in his first year as an NFL head coach. There are a lot of positive things to say about him so far, but again we need to see results in regular season games. With him coaching a lot of young guys with not much experience/guys in new roles (Trey Burton being the anchor tight end for example), there will probably be some ups and downs early on. That is just how it goes with teams building up with young talent and a new staff.

NFC North

One of the most difficult parts of this rebuild is the division itself. It is looking early on as one of, if not the most competitive division in the NFL. Obviously the biggest roadblock has been and probably will be Aaron Rodgers. The Bears have just two wins against the Packers since 2011 and they are finally looking to turn the tide. While Green Bay has shown great weaknesses on the team over the past few years, a healthy Rodgers makes them Super Bowl contenders year in and year out. Chicago is going to have to beat Rodgers if they want to go on a run, not easy by any means.

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With all of that being said we still have to get to the favorites to win the North, the Minnesota Vikings. Even with Rodgers on the field for the Packers, the Vikings with their elite defense and newcomer QB Kirk Cousins make them very likely candidates to repeat as division champs. Beating that defense is going to be the toughest part and one big test for Trubisky who is 0-2 against the Vikings so far in his career. The Bears have one win against the Vikings the past three seasons.

It also is worth mentioning the Detroit Lions and Matt Stafford, who has been a thorn in the Bears side the past several years. They may not be favorites to win the division, but certainly not an easy win. Bears defense playing well will be key in beating the Lions.

“Safe” predictions?

This Bears team can go in several directions; a reasonable prediction would be around the 8-8 mark. That is a prediction I will personally stick with as the season begins.

While there are a lot of unknowns on the team, there is no doubt enough for this team to at least be competitive. Biggest questions are if they can beat their division opponents and how they matchup against teams like the Patriots and Rams. Established players like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Jordan Howard are definitely should be enough to get you wins against lesser teams, it is all about those tough opponents. Pace is in his fourth year as GM and has been in a rebuild mode throughout most of that time. Now it is time to at least expect improvement more than anything.Related image

Now can the Bears surprise the world and go say 10-6 and contend for the playoffs? Sure there is. If all this talent works out and the team is healthy, then they have the potential to have a lot of success. The Bears have lost so many frustratingly close games they could have won the past two years and this is the opportunity to turn those close games into wins. Not to mention we so often see teams for from worst to first on a yearly basis, no reason why it is not impossible for the Bears to do that especially with all the new talent. It just won’t be easy.

The talent is there.

The coaching is there.

The team philosophy is there.

The excitement is there.

The winning attitude is there.

This offeseason and 2018 regular season will be a huge stepping stone for the Chicago Bears organization. 2019 is a time Bears fans will hopefully be fully expecting playoff berths and playoff runs. The 2018 season should be exciting for Bears fans, however, it seems like there are plenty of reasons to hold certain cautions. Really want to finally see results on the field and not just on paper. Enjoy the ride and hope for the best.

 

BEAR Down; Khalil Mack, Welcome To Chicago

Chicago Bears fans across the country woke up Saturday morning both stunned and delighted to see that their team made a blockbuster deal with the Oakland Raiders. In exchange for several first round draft picks, the Bears acquired Pro Bowl DE Khalil Mack from Oakland. Mack (27) is one of the best players at his position and gives a Bears teams a much needed pass rusher.

The 2016 NFL defensive player of the year now will wear navy and orange. The Bears made Mack the highest-paid defender in NFL history with a six-year, $141 million extension that guarantees him $90 million and pays an annual average of $23.5 million from 2019-24. ESPN and NFL Network reported the contract details. Mack, the fifth overall draft pick in 2014, is scheduled to make $13.8 million this season, the fifth year of his rookie contract.

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Photo by; Silver and Black Pride

Most significantly, the Bears gave up their first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, but they received the Raiders’ second-rounder in 2020. There was more to the trade, the Bears also received a 2020 conditional fifth-rounder; they dealt a 2020 third-rounder and 2019 sixth-round pick. That leaves the Bears without a first- or second-round pick in the 2019 draft because of Saturday’s trade and their 2018 draft day trade up to select Memphis receiver Anthony Miller. Although the Bears no longer have a 2020 first-rounder, they have two second-round picks. It is a high price to pay in both what they gave up for the trade and what they now owe Mack, but now is the perfect time to pull the trigger on a move such as this, because quarterback Mitch Trubisky is only two seasons into his slotted rookie contract.

In 64 career games he has 40.5 sacks, 231 tackles, 72 assists, nine forced fumbles and four fumbles recovered.

Mack was rumored to be linked to a number of teams, as he was holding out with the Raiders while trying to negotiate a new contract. Not only is this a huge get for Chicago, but the rival Green Bay Packers were also reportedly one of the teams in the mix for Mack. Him going to Green Bay would have really made things tougher for the Bears. Now that he is in Chicago, the team is clearly very serious about winning this year.Image result for khalil mack bears uniform

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio now adds Mack to a defensive front seven that has Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, Jonathan Bullard, Danny Trevathan, Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman. Last season the front seven and defense as a whole was pretty good, adding first-round pick Roquan Smith and Mack makes it all that much better. Now they filled their biggest hole in the pass-rush game. If this team is fully healthy, they can put all sorts of pressure on the quarterback and either bring him down or force bad throws. Mack’s speed is one of the things that makes him so good and he can get around and get to the quarterback very fast.

Is this one of the biggest trades in Chicago Bears history?

It has to be. There is not a whole lot of trading in the NFL compared to baseball or hockey, so the sample size is not huge. Nevertheless it is still very significant. The last major trade they made was getting Jay Cutler in 2009 for Kyle Orton. Since then there has not been a major move like this one. While not a quarterback, the impact that Mack can make on a team is big because of how good he is. In an NFC North division with Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Kirk Cousins the Bears will need as good as a defensive unit as they can get.

“He brings a ton on the field, but he really fits what we are building in our locker room, too,” General Manager Ryan Pace wrote in a statement. “Elite defensive players in their prime are rare so when we knew we had a legit shot to acquire him, we did everything we thought necessary to get him. I’m confident the compensation to Oakland, including the return draft picks to us, and the contract extension for Khalil are fair to all parties.”

The Chicago Bears must at least have a .500 season in 2018. GM Ryan Pace has worked on the rebuild since 2015 and has yet to reach a winning season. Now is the time to start playing like contenders.

Bear Down, Solid Showing By Depth vs. KC

The Chicago Bears for the first time in 2018 played at Soldier Field in their preseason match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs. A 27-20 win over the Chiefs improved their preseason record to 2-2.

There were a lot of mixed feelings from Bears fans and media towards head coach Matt Nagy’s decision to rest the starters including QB Mitch Trubisky, a decision which was made the night before. Some were frustrated they could not watch Trubisky work with the first-string offense in a game, others were fine with Nagy not risking injury.

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Photo by; Brownsville Herald

Chase Daniel made the start for the Bears, who is slated to be the backup on the squad in the regular season. He had a very nice game passing for 198 yards and was 15/18 in completed passes with two of them being touchdowns. He also rushed for 47 yards including a 28-yard dash. Overall he has looked comfortable with the offensive scheme, which makes sense considering he had played in Kansas City with Nagy for a few years. Tyler Bray came in towards the end and went 5/7 with 72 yards.

Probably the guys being talked about most in this game were rookie WR Javon Wims and Kevin White. Wims led the way in receiving yards with 114 and caught one of the touchdowns. His touchdown catch was a very impressive over-the-shoulder catch in the back of the endzone as he dragged both feet just inside the zone. So far the 23-year old from Georgia is making a big case to make the roster. Meanwhile 2015 first-round pick Kevin White had two catches for 33 yards. His touchdown catch early on had a lot of people buzzing as he was able to deck the defender and find himself wide-open down field.

The defenders who played were second-stringers or lower, zero of the starters played. Safety Deiondre’ Hall led the team in tackles with five and LB John Timu had four. No interceptions or fumble-recoveries recorded. Roy Robertson-Harris did play a little as he is battling Jonathan Bullard for the starting DE spot.

There is one more game to be played before their September 9th opener in Green Bay. That will also be at home vs. the Bills. What Nagy will do with the roster for that game will remain to be seen.

THE PACK: Headlines & Analysis From Pre-season Week 2

Welcome back Packers fans! With me writing this next article, that means we are one week closer to the regular season opener against the rival Chicago Bears at Lambeau on Sunday Night Football!

There was plenty of storylines for the Packers in the news this week, not to mention the 51-34 victory over the Steelers on Thursday. I’d like to touch on a few headlines I found intriguing and look at how our roster is shaping up at this stage of the season.

MACK TO THE PACK?

Rumors surfaced earlier this week about the possibility of Green Bay making a move to acquire All-Pro OLB/DE Khalil Mack, whose contract negotiations with the Raiders are going absolutely nowhere as his holdout continues. The Packers could certainly use an elite pass-rusher like Mack, who has accrued 40.5 sacks in his first four seasons in the league and has yet to miss a game. The offer the Packers would likely make if they were to pursue Mack would come from their 2019 draft capital, from which they have a 1st round pick of their own as well as another 1st rounder acquired from the Saints. It’s impossible to say at this point if the Raiders would go for an offer like this, but as one of the most cash-poor teams in the NFL, it is unlikely they will be able to sign Mack to the type of long-term mega-deal he is looking for.

The main issue for the Packers, if that trade were to be made, is that they don’t really have the cap space either. With them “creeping” closer to a new deal with QB Aaron Rodgers that will likely make him the highest paid player in NFL history, they wouldn’t be able to also support the highest paid defensive player in NFL history and still put a team on the field. For right now, I think the cost-controlled assets in the two 1st round picks will be more valuable for the Packers going forward, but if they wanted to make a bold move and compete for a Super Bowl right now in the stacked NFC, Mack would certainly be a difference maker. Another factor they may influence any decisions is that there have also been rumors that the Bears may have interest in Mack, and the Packers certainly don’t want to have to face Mack twice a year.

THE HARD TRUTH

Aaron Rodgers’ told it like it was, calling the performance of his three rookie receivers in practice prior to last week’s game against the Titans “piss poor.” Despite any positives we may have seen from the Packers’ rookie receivers in that game, there have been plenty of growing pains, mistakes, and mental lapses as well that do not bode well for them. As I mentioned last week, Rodgers is one of those quarterbacks that you have to impress with your performance in order to earn his trust and respect. He will be the one who misses WR Jordy Nelson the most. He’s a competitor, and if you want to be on the field with him, you have got to make the plays that need to be made and do your job, no matter what position, but particularly the skill positions of running back and wide receiver. He softened his stance with comments this week, saying it was “nothing personal” and as a leader “you try to inspire.” These three rookies certainly didn’t come to play against the Steelers, as they combined for 2 catches and 27 yards on 8 targets. There are still a few openings at receiver for the Packers behind Davante Adams, but no one has stood out yet.

“16” that Rodgers mentioned in his comments is second-year fan favorite Jake Kumerow out of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He and WR DeAngeo Yancey have progressed, at least in Rodgers’ eyes. Kumerow had 3 catches on as many targets Thursday, with the majority coming on an 82-yard touchdown from QB DeShone Kizer. Kumerow also had 3 catches and a long 52-yard touchdown last week, but now has been diagnosed with a shoulder sprain. The wide receiver snaps will be something to look at in next week’s dress rehearsal if Aaron Rodgers plays more than a single series.

GAME RECAP

Even with the uptick in scoring that we have seen this preseason already, mainly due to the NFL’s new and highly controversial tackling rule, the Packers took it to a new level against the Steelers, putting up 51 points with contributions on both side of the ball. Veteran CB Tramon Williams took an intercepted rookie QB Mason Rudolph and took it to the house on the first play from scrimmage, and rookie CB Josh Jackson added another pick-six early in the second half off QB Josh Dobbs.

Rodgers found his new toy TE Jimmy Graham for a touchdown on his first and only series. A slew of other tight ends contributed for the Packers as well, including Lance Kendricks, Mercedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, and Emanuel Byrd. Tight end has not been a position of consistent production or use for the Packers in recent years, but the Packers are hopeful that the connection between Rodgers and Graham can get to the level Graham had with QB Drew Brees in New Orleans and add another dimension to the offense. Rodgers has been raving about Graham, which is the opposite of his comments towards his other receivers.

Feeding off of my article from last week, the projected starting running backs again left much to be desired on their limited snaps, averaging 2.0 yards per carry. RB Ty Montgomery showed terrible ball security with a fumble on a kick return. RB Jamaal Williams exited the game with an ankle injury, which luckily was only minor. Aaron Jones is already suspended for two games to start the season, and if Williams injury lingers into before week 1, Montgomery will likely carry a larger load and be spelled by whatever backs make the final roster and are available, whether it be their preseason leading rusher Joel Bouagnon, sophomore Devante Mays (currently dealing with a hamstring injury), or recently added LeShun Daniels. The Packers offense has looked explosive through the air, but they have the toughest strength of schedule for 2018 and will need to be able to establish a solid running game to keep defenses honest and be able to eat away at the clock and close out close games on the ground.

LB Oren Burks looked good and led the Packers with 6 tackles for a second straight week. As a 3rd round pick, it is promising to see him fill the void left by LB Jake Ryan’s season-ending injury. What’s more impressive is that he is able to take charge of the huddle with the second-team with Blake Martinez off the field, and he has been able to pick up on defensive coordinator’s Mike Pettine’s complex scheme. Take a look at this highlight for just a taste of what he can bring to the table this year.

Even with the Packers making plays on defense in this game, they still have some work to do, as they allowed an average of 5.6 yards per carry and could not slow down rookie WR James Washington, who, to his credit, made some outstanding catches, racking up 114 yards and two touchdowns on just five receptions. The final score of 51-34 moves the Packers to 2-0, and they will face the Oakland Raiders next Friday night, hopefully without Khalil Mack.

See all of the game highlights here.

 

Check back all season as I cover the Packers, and follow myself @bradpetrowitz and @cleatgeeks for articles from across the NFL! DM CleatGeeks if you’re interested in writing yourself!

Detroit Lions 2018 Defensive Preview

Football season is upon us! Every team is full of hope, and everyone is hearing all the wonderful reports from camp. There’s always a lot of news to follow along with, so in this article we’ll just focus on the Detroit Lions defense. The Lions made a lot of changes this off-season. The first, and most obvious change being the one at Head Coach. Detroit decided to part ways with Jim Caldwell after 4 seasons and a 36-28 record, as well as two playoff appearances. While that’s not necessarily a bad record, especially by Detroit’s standards, the team has been more talented than that record suggests. Caldwell was obviously replaced by former New England Patriots Defensive Coordinator, Matt Patricia. This signing was quite popular among most fans, as it brought hope that the defense can be returned to the heights they reached in 2014, now that they’re under a more defensive minded coach. Patricia made his goals for this defensive very clear with his free agent signings. Patricia signed 3 LBs in a 10 day period, to fit the defense to Patricia’s scheme to hopefully return it to the form of 2014 as previously mentioned. Today we’ll be taking a look at the Detroit defense, what changes Patricia has made, and what we should expect the defense to look like in the 2018 season.

 We’ll start with the biggest change, the coaching change, and the large impact it’ll have on the defense. For the last four years Detroit has been an offensive minded team that relied very heavily on the passing game. The switch to Matt Patricia should make the team a little more defensive, which would obviously take some of the pressure off of the offense, and the passing game specifically. The biggest difference you’ll notice with Patricia at the helm should be the defensive scheme. Detroit for years has played a very basic 4-3 scheme. In 2018, Detroit is expected to still base their defense off a 4-3. However, Patricia has called a 3-4 defense in the past and I expect to see some 3-4 this year. We should expect the 4-3, and 3-4 to both be mixed into the scheme, as well as a lot of hybrid and sub packages. In the past Patricia has shown a willingness to cater his defensive strategy to the strengths of the players at his disposal. That trend should continue in Detroit.

Image result for christian jones lions

Photo by; 97.1 The Ticket

 

When you consider the scheme Patricia is likely to implement, it brings some more sense to the signings of Christian Jones and Devon Kennard. I expect to see Kennard and Jones rotate in and out a lot throughout the season in various different roles. Reports from the Lions joint-practice with the New York Giants have placed Kennard in the SAM role, playing a key role on run stopping downs, and helping on tight end coverage in the extra safety sets that Patricia leans towards. When we look at the skill set possessed by Christian Jones, he should fit perfectly in Patricia’s, “bend, don’t break,” style of defense. Jones isn’t an elite run stopper, or extremely skilled in pass coverage, but what he does provide is reliability in tackling, which is something Jarrad Davis didn’t afford the Lions in 2017. In 63 career games, Jones has yet to record an interception, and only defended 8 passes. He does have the ability to make a large impact on the game despite this. One of the more notable performances of Jones’ career was against Carolina last season. Jones played a large role in the Bears limiting Christian McCaffery to just 14 touches for 42 yards. He recorded 9 tackles on the day, and seemed to be on top of McCaffery as soon as he touched the ball every time. You could look for Jones to attempt to repeat this performance when Detroit matches up against Carolina in week 11. The final key linebacker signing made by Patricia was Jonathon Freeny. Freeny was an easy signing to make as he’s worked with Patricia in the past, and is therefore already familiar with the scheme. Listed as a DE by some sources, Freeny should be most often deployed as an ILB in this system. He should be a serviceable backup to 2nd year LB Jarrad Davis. In addition to backing up Davis, with his past experience as a DE, Freeny could be used in rotation with the other DEs who are more established on the team such as Ziggy Ansah, who’s playing on the franchise tag, Anthony Zettel, who had an impressive sophomore campaign last year recording 6.5 sacks, and Kerry Hyder Jr., who missed all of last season with an achilles injury. The other DE of note on the Lions roster is 4th round draft pick Da’Shawn Hand. On the first release of the depth chart, Hand was listed in the “other” category as far as DE was concerned. I expect this to change quickly however, as Hand seemed to really impress on his 29 snaps in the first preseason game against Oakland, earning praise from Patricia in his post game press conference. Hand does have his doubters, but the man whose opinion really matters appears to have faith in what hes seen thus far. As far as the interior lineman go, the main man in Detroit this year will be A’Shawn Robinson. Robinson showed some good potential during the 2017 season, and is looking like the clear cut first option on the interior DLine. The other notable names to watch out for on that interior this season are Sylvester Williams, Cornelius Washington, and recent singing Ricky Jean Francois, who has worked well in Patricias scheme in the past. Detroit’s defense is finally looking strong, and is deep overall.

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 Beyond the front line, and linebackers as already mentioned, Detroit will also feature a secondary including the likes of Glover Quin, and Darius Slay. Last season Darius Slay was tied for the NFL lead with 8 INTs. Darius Slay also posted the 5th lowest passer rating allowed by a CB in a single season, in NFL history as reported by PFF. Across the field from Slay we should expect to see Nevin Lawson once again, with the newly acquired DeShawn Shead likely taking the slot corner role. The Lions will also expect to see improvement from second year CB Teez Tabor. Tabor only featured in 10 games last year, but Detroit will expect to see some improvement from Tabor this year, and in turn he should see the field more often. As far as safety is concerned, the aforementioned Glover Quin will be a staple of this defense as he has been for the last 4 seasons, during which time he’s recorded 16 interceptions, and forced 6 fumbles. Returning in the backfield with Quin will be Miles Killebrew, and Tavon Wilson. As well as being joined by Quandre Diggs, who is expected to be deployed by Patricia in the safety role after he saw some time there last season. Charles Washington who saw very sporadic time on the field last season has also been getting some reps in camp, and at times has even looked to be ahead of Killebrew, who has been rumored to be in danger of being cut. The only relevant addition to the safety group is 3rd round draft pick Tracy Walker. A lot of people were really surprised by this selection, and I’ve even seen some people say they had a 5th round grade on the ULL prospect. Walker appeared on the inaugural depth chart as 4th FS. Seeing as he was a 3rd round selection, and Patricia seemed very excited to have gotten him, I would be surprised if we didn’t see him get a chance of some sort during the 2018 season.

 When you look at the defense as a whole, you can begin to see how this defense can fit the Matt Patricia mold. They have plenty of versatility and depth on the EDGE, and at LB, which caters very nicely to Patricia running many different sub packages throughout games and the season. In addition to this, the secondary should prove itself to be very reliable with Quin and Slay working together to limit the oppositions passing attack. When you consider all of these things, it’s not difficult to imagine that this team could return to being the powerful force that they were in 2014. This defense could be one that you don’t want to mess with in 2018. Offenses beware.

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