Forte finished last season ranked third in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (1,933 yards) on the way to being named to his second Pro Bowl. Forte rushed for 1,339 yards, carrying the ball on 71.5 percent of the team’s rushes, which ranked as highest in the league, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Since 2008, Forte ranks third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (9,585), behind Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson.
Forte ranked one spot ahead of San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and one slot behind Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
None of Chicago’s defenders made Wednesday’s offering in the #NFLRank project.
Bush in the opening game last season took a sliver of an opening created by Detroit’s offensive line on a screen 77 yards for a touchdown, signifying Detroit’s screen game might be a bit improved with its new running back.
“Let me tell you what makes a good screen game. The guys carrying the ball. Let’s be real, now,” offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn said. “We became a better screen game a couple years ago when Reggie Bush and Joique Bell started touching the ball and now Theo Riddick and Mikel Leshoure and now the receivers that we have.
“That’s really what makes you have a good screen game.”
According to Pro Football Focus, no Lions player graded negatively on screen blocking last season. Five players -- center Dominic Raiola, left guard Rob Sims, right guard Larry Warford and wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Kris Durham – had season grades at plus-1 or higher, including a plus-4 rating for Raiola.
The Lions ran screens 67 times last season according to ESPN Stats & Information, completing 52 of those passes. While the 77.6 completion percentage isn’t great, Detroit gained 525 yards on screens last season, good enough for third in the NFL.
The Lions averaged 7.84 yards per screen and scored three touchdowns using them last season. The yards per screen, total yards, attempts, passer rating and touchdowns were all Top 5 in the league last season.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford's screen numbers would have been higher, too, except the Lions led the league with five dropped screens and were the only team to fumble twice on screen passes, losing one.
Last season’s overall success, though, is part of the reason why the Lions appear unconcerned about the team’s screens this preseason. While the Lions had a perfectly set up screen go for 36 yards with Riddick against Oakland, there have been other screens that have been blown up pretty easily.
Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said he didn’t have enough data to dissect Detroit’s screens yet or any concern about them yet -- it is the preseason -- but he was trying to run some different screens than what the Lions and Saints did last season. He is happy with the backs Detroit has running the screens and the linemen he has up front as well.
The screen is a boom-or-bust play and takes timing among the linemen, backs and quarterback, so perfecting the screen takes more time than most other offensive plays.
“It’s nothing we’re pulling our hair out about or having a crisis about,” right tackle Corey Hilliard said. “But we are working on it.”
There are simply a lot of moving linemen up the field and players syncing up, so it takes time. The offensive linemen have to figure out how to release on the defensive linemen and learn their aiming points to set up the blocks and the hole on each screen. Then there is timing it with the pass and the running back’s cut.
Instead of merely pass protection or opening a rushing lane for the back, there is precision from all 11 players. The Lions calling them at all in the preseason has been a help.
“The way we coach it, it’s like an odd-man rush in hockey,” Washburn said. “It’s not going to look the same any time and it’s one man knowing what the next man’s job is and it’s also knowing what the concept of the screen is and also what the concept of the defense is.
“Yeah, screens take reps. You just have to rep them. It’s awesome that we’ve been calling screens in preseason. Whether they’ve been pretty or not, there are coaching points on each one that we can use once we get to the season.”
Once Detroit reaches the season-opener against the New York Giants, it figures to have its screen game worked out much like the Lions did in last season’s opener.
While the coordinator has changed, Washburn remains. He is coaching screens to the linemen the same as last season. Once they have all the steps and alignments down, then it goes to what linemen like to do best -- hit and block.
“We just have to outhustle them,” Raiola said. “For screens, once you get it started, then it turns into a match of wills and hustle and finishing the play.”
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: Romo has led 13 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime over the past three seasons, two more than any other quarterback. Romo also ranks fifth in Total QBR in the fourth quarter and overtime since 2011.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: Manning led the NFL with a career-high and franchise-record 27 interceptions last season, five more than any other QB. It was the most interceptions by any QB in a season since Brett Favre in 2005 (29).
Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles: Foles threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions last season. Foles' touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13.5 was the best by any qualifying QB in a season in NFL history.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins: Griffin ranked fifth in the NFL with a Total QBR of 73.2 on the 0-to-100 scale as a rookie in 2012. Last season, his rating plunged to 40.1, 29th in the NFL. Griffin had the league's largest decrease in Total QBR from 2012 to 2013.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals: Palmer led the NFL with 145 passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield last season, but he also led the league with 13 interceptions on such throws while finishing 17th in yards per attempt and 29th in touchdown-to-interception ratio on deep passes.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers: Kaepernick has been blitzed on a league-high 38.3 percent of his dropbacks over the past two seasons. But he's also one of the best QBs against the blitz, with the third-highest QBR since the start of 2012 (75.2).
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: Including playoffs, Wilson is 28-9 as a starter over the past two seasons. That's the most wins by a starting QB in his first two seasons in NFL history and tied with Peyton Manning for the most wins in the NFL since 2012.
Shaun Hill, St. Louis Rams: Shaun Hill is 13-13 with a 50.1 Total QBR (50 is average) in his career as a starting quarterback. Sam Bradford is 18-30 in 48 career starts and has never posted a Total QBR over 50.3 in a season.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: During his first four seasons in Chicago, Cutler was sacked on 7.6 percent of his dropbacks, the highest rate among qualifying QBs. In his first season under Marc Trestman in 2013, Cutler was sacked on just 5.0 percent of his dropbacks (sixth-lowest rate in NFL).
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford threw 16 touchdown passes and six interceptions in his first eight games last season. In his last eight games, he threw 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, tied with Joe Flacco for the most interceptions in the NFL over that span.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: Over the past three seasons, Rodgers ranks first in the NFL in yards per attempt (8.5) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (5.1), second in Total QBR (78.9) and third in completion percentage (67.5).
Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings: Cassel completed 73 percent of his passes and averaged 8.9 yards per attempt last season when targeting Greg Jennings. When targeting all other players, he completed 59 percent of his passes for 6.9 yards per attempt.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: In his three NFL seasons, Newton has been sacked, hit while throwing or hit while carrying the ball 467 times. That's more than double the total for any other quarterback. Next closest is Ryan Fitzpatrick, at 230.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Brees has thrown for 5,000 yards in four seasons, including each of the past three. Every other player in league history has combined for four seasons with 5,000 or more passing yards.
Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: McCown had the league's third-highest completion percentage (51.2) on passes 15 or more yards downfield last season. Seventeen of his 21 completions on such throws were to Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall.
EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills: Manuel was among the NFL's least effective QBs on third down last season. Manuel ranked last in the NFL in yards per attempt (5.2) on third down and second to last in completion percentage (47.5).
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins: Tannehill was sacked 58 times last season, the most in a season since Jon Kitna for the Lions in 2006 (63). Tannehill has been sacked 93 times in his career, the most by any player in his first two NFL seasons since Jake Plummer in 1997-98 (101).
Tom Brady, New England Patriots: In 2013, Brady had his lowest completion percentage (60.5) in a full season since 2003, his fewest yards per attempt (6.9) since 2006 and his fewest TD passes (25) since 2006. However, Brady also threw a league-high 163 passes to rookies last season.
Geno Smith, New York Jets: Over the first 13 weeks of 2013, Smith was the NFL's lowest-rated QB with a Total QBR of 21.6. Over the last four weeks of 2013, Smith was the league's second-highest rated QB with a QBR of 78.9, trailing only Peyton Manning.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: Last year, Manning became the fourth player in NFL history to set the single-season record for passing yards and passing TDs in the same season. He joined Dan Marino (1984), Sid Luckman (1943) and Cecil Isbell (1942).
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs: Over the past three seasons, only 17 of Smith's 1,171 passes have been intercepted, giving Smith the lowest interception percentage (1.45) of any QB since the start of 2011. Smith also ranks fourth in win percentage over that span, trailing only Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
Matt Schaub, Oakland Raiders: Schaub ranked last in the NFL with a Total QBR of 13.4 on play-action passes last season. Over the previous five seasons (2008-12), Schaub was the third-highest rated QB on play-action passes (86.0 Total QBR), behind only Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: After entering 2013 with a career completion percentage of 63.6, Rivers led the league with a 69.5 completion percentage last season. Rivers also had just 13 turnovers in 2013 after turning it over 47 times from 2011-12 (tied for second most in NFL).
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: Flacco has started 96 of a possible 96 games since his rookie season in 2008. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that's the second-longest starts streak by a QB to begin his career since the merger. Flacco trails Peyton Manning (208).
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: Dalton is 30-18 with 80 touchdown passes and 49 interceptions in 48 regular-season starts. In three postseason starts, he's 0-3 with one touchdown and six interceptions. Cincinnati has scored 33 total points in Dalton's three playoff starts.
Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns: Hoyer was 3-0 and completed 59.4 percent of his passes with a 47.5 Total QBR last season. All other Browns QBs were 1-12 and completed 55.0 percent of their passes with a 31.7 Total QBR.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Over the past three seasons, Roethlisberger has the league's highest completion percentage (51.8), most passing yards (1,837), most TD passes (18) and second-highest Total QBR (60.5) when he's under duress or hit while throwing. The average QBR on such plays in that span is 26.9.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans: Fitzpatrick is 27-49-1 in 77 career regular-season starts. The only active QB with more regular-season starts who has never started a playoff game is Jason Campbell (79).
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Luck has thrown for 8,196 yards since entering the league in 2012, the most ever by a QB in his first two seasons. Only seven quarterbacks have thrown for more yards than Luck since the start of his rookie year.
Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars: Henne's average pass was just 6.5 yards downfield last season, giving him the shortest average pass attempt in the NFL. Fifty-five percent of Henne's attempts were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans: After backing up Matt Hasselbeck as a rookie in 2011, Locker has missed 14 games with injuries over the past two seasons. Of the 20 quarterbacks drafted in the top 10 since 2000, only Rivers and Matt Leinart threw fewer passes in their first three seasons than Locker's 563.
Peterson has done most of his work between the tackles in recent years, often putting together some of his biggest plays on zone runs that gave the running back a chance to read the defense and cut back against the grain if he saw an opportunity. In 2012, Peterson gained 1,536 of his 2,097 yards inside the tackles, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Some of those plays will still be there, but the Vikings will also introduce some power running elements to their ground game, including some outside runs like they've shown in the preseason with guard Charlie Johnson pulling around the right side of the line. On those plays, Peterson will have to display enough patience to let his blockers get set up and follow them to a predetermined point of attack.
"There's some lateral parts to the run game," running backs coach Kirby Wilson said. "It's a little bit different read for him -- his eyes are probably at a different spot and location than they have been in the past. Any time you're running lateral, there's a degree of patience that comes with it. I think that will help grow his game; he's already got a tremendous package of things he does really well. I think this will just add to it."
The Vikings want to get Peterson on the edge of the field more often, both to maximize his explosiveness and reduce the pounding on his body, and that will inherently put the running back in some new situations. He'll run out of shotgun sets and multiple-receiver formations more often. He'll have to be better in pass protection to stay on the field on third downs, and he'll have to be more reliable catching the ball. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Peterson has dropped 5.5 percent of the passes targeted for him over the last three seasons; that rate is still better than some prominent running backs with similar numbers of targets, like Marshawn Lynch and Darren McFadden, but is far higher than the 3.1 percent drop rate from two of the league's best dual-threat backs (Chicago's Matt Forte and Baltimore's Ray Rice).
It's all a significant change for a running back who, for his extraordinary talent, has been more of a specialist than a generalist during his first seven seasons. But Peterson has embraced the offense, saying the scheme is what he's been waiting for his whole career, and added on Tuesday that Turner has been " trying to pretty much get me into any type of situation he can in this offense to put the ball in the running back's hands."
Said Wilson: "He's had good days, but there are some days where he's been spectacular in those areas. I'm excited to see what the new and improved Adrian Peterson is going to look like when the opener starts. I think this whole team is excited about what he could bring as a dual-threat player."
Count Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson among the small group that can make that statement.
Nelson, who turned 29 on May 31, jumped 32 spots to No. 34 among all offensive players in ESPN's second annual #NFLRank project.
The Packers clearly believe Nelson has not reached his plateau. After all, they gave him a four-year, $39 million contract extension last month. In new money, it made Nelson the ninth-highest paid receiver in the NFL by average salary per year.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Nelson has 31 receptions of 30 or more yards since the start of 2011. That ranks second to only Detroit's Calvin Johnson (32).
Here's a look at the Packers in the rankings so far:
No. 95: CB Sam Shields
No. 81: DT B.J. Raji
No. 50: OLB Julius Peppers
No. 77: G Josh Sitton
No. 66: WR Randall Cobb
No. 60: RB Eddie Lacy
No. 34: WR Jordy Nelson
Most surprising move: When the Packers used to hold their offseason practices on the old practice field that bordered Oneida Street, there was a term for players who stood out in helmets and shorts and then faded when the pads came on. They were known as members of the “All-Oneida Team.” Put receiver Chris Harper in that category. The second-year pro drew praise from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy for his production during the offseason program. After a practice on June 3 during which Harper caught a deep pass, McCarthy said: "That’s the kind of explosiveness that he has." Two and a half months later, Harper did not even make it to the final cuts. He was one of seven players released on Sunday.
Change of plans: So much for tight end Colt Lyerla spending the season learning the Packers’ ways while on injured reserve. On Tuesday, they reached an injury settlement with him, the details of which can be found here. If the Packers truly wanted to develop Lyerla, it would seem logical that they would have kept him on injured reserve to keep a close eye on him.
Packers’ moves: After Sunday's release of seven players -- Harper, safety Charles Clay, cornerback Antonio Dennard, linebacker Korey Jones, fullback Ina Liania, quarterback Chase Rettig and receiver Gerrard Sheppard -- the Packers were at 81 on their roster. On Tuesday, they placed the following six players on injured reserve: receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee), running back Rajion Neal (knee), nose tackle B.J. Raji (biceps), linebacker Joe Thomas (knee) and guard Andrew Tiller (calf). Abbrederis, Barclay and Raji will remain on injured reserve for the entire season, but Neal, Thomas and Tiller most likely will be given injury settlements and released at a later date.
After spending the first four years of his career in Seattle, where the Seahawks ran the ball just as much as they threw it -- including 155 more runs than passes during the last three seasons after the team acquired Marshawn Lynch -- he has now moved to an offense that likes to throw.
This is why, when Tate says he believes he can better his 64 receptions and 898 yards from last season, it is a plausible thought even though he moved from being the No. 1 receiver in Seattle to the No. 2 receiver in Detroit.
"I think my numbers can be way better in this offense naturally how it's set up," Tate said. "I was coming from, you gotta think I was in the toughest division with the 49ers, Rams and Cardinals, defensively, with a run-heavy offense and now I'm going to a pass-happy offense where I'm on the same team as the best player in the league, one of the best players in the league who is going to draw a lot of attention, a lot of double coverage, which is going to leave me with a lot of single coverage with a lot of No. 2 and No. 3 cornerbacks.
"So mentally I think I should be able to excel and do very well here."
The player Tate is referring to is Calvin Johnson, who should still draw the majority of a defense's attention even with the additions of Tate and tight end Eric Ebron along with running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell and tight ends Joseph Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew.
Those are a lot of players for Matthew Stafford to choose between on a given play, so while Tate might not receive as many looks as he did in Seattle, he should see much more favorable coverage.
If Tate wants to eclipse those numbers, he might have to do it on fewer than the 98 targets he had last season. He did say, as many players will, he would sacrifice individual stats if Detroit can finally win.
"My goals are just to be better than I was last year," Tate said. "I think every year I just want to be better than I was last year. Just a little bit better. Coach (Jim) Caldwell does a great job of using, we just want to be six inches better, that's what I want to do. I want to help this team win.
"If my numbers aren't as great and we have 11 wins and go to the playoffs and go deep into the playoffs, I'm happy with that. I want this team to win. I think we definitely have what it takes to win and it's time to win now."
Caldwell, though, has no interest in making any predictions about statistics -- or about wins. He passed on commenting about season projections and when told of Tate's thought that he could put up bigger numbers in this offense, he downplayed that as well.
"You don't know. It could be game-to-game," Caldwell said. "You often see within schemes, in particular those, we'll run the ball as well, you'll see certain schemes and how they decide to attack you, one game one guy might catch six balls and the next game he might get two. One game a guy might get 12 and the next game he might get none.
"Just kind of depends on the situation so it would be tough for me to predict that."
One prediction will be easy enough -- Johnson will still see a lot of attention and if offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is able to do it correctly, that should open up chances for everyone else on the offense.
The end of a career? The Bears signed Adrian Wilson hoping he still possessed many of the physical traits that made him one of the NFL’s most dominating safeties over the years. Had Wilson panned out, he would have given the Bears the type of physical presence on the back end they haven’t had since Mike Brown roamed the secondary. The Bears gave Wilson plenty of opportunities to earn a spot on the team, but he never flashed the brilliance that made him such a force for so many years with the Arizona Cardinals. Wilson says he’s a “prideful person,” but at this point it appears his career is over.
What’s next: The Bears finish out the preseason on Thursday at Cleveland, and upon returning they’ll start to finalize the roster heading into the Aug. 30 cutdown date before beginning preparation for the regular-season opener against the Bills.
Bears' cuts: QB Jordan Palmer, KR/PR Darius Reynaud, LB Jordan Senn, RB Michael Ford, WR Greg Herd, WR Kofi Hughes, OT Joe Long, RB Derricus Purdy, DB Peyton Thompson, DT Nate Collins, OG Dylan Gandy, S Adrian Wilson, S Craig Steltz, OG James Brown, B Isaiah Frey.
It is likely this was just a veteran's day of rest for Jones, who was in the locker room prior to practice.
Some other nuggets from the short media practice viewing:
- Both of Detroit's waiver claims from Monday -- Emil Igwenagu and Michael Egnew -- were at practice. Egnew is wearing No. 49 and working with the tight ends. Igwenagu is wearing No. 44 and working with the running backs. How cruel is the NFL world sometimes? Jacob Maxwell, who was cut Tuesday, wore No. 49 on Monday and Chad Abram, who was cut Monday, wore No. 44.
- Linebacker Shamari Benton continues to not have a nameplate with his No. 44 jersey (on defense). Considering he was signed over a week ago, typically the Lions have been pretty good about making sure names are on jerseys.
- Tight end Brandon Pettigrew had guests from the Boys & Girls Club of Detroit at practice on Tuesday.
Take last year's class as an example. Of the 11 players picked, eight made the opening-day roster.
The three who did not – fourth-round pick JC Tretter plus seventh-rounders Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey – all had injury issues. Tretter missed all of camp because of a broken ankle that forced him to start the season on the physically unable to perform list, while Johnson and Dorsey battled injuries throughout the offseason. Johnson played in only two preseason games, while Dorsey played in only one. Johnson landed on the practice squad before the Cleveland Browns signed him, and Dorsey spent the season on injured reserve.
With that in mind, here's a look at where things stand for each member of general manager Ted Thompson's 2014 draft class heading into Thursday's preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, plus the undrafted rookies who could be on the verge of winning a roster spot:
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S (first round): After a slow start to training camp, Clinton-Dix has found himself around the ball more often of late. He has three interceptions during practices this summer, which ties safety Sean Richardson for the camp lead. However, it looks like he won't unseat second-year pro Micah Hyde for a starting job. That means Clinton-Dix likely will play only in the dime (six defensive back) package to start the season.
Davante Adams, WR (second round): Early in camp, Adams was pushing Jarrett Boykin for the No. 3 receiver spot but inconsistent play derailed that. Meanwhile, Boykin has overcome a slow start to secure that spot. If Adams can refine his route running and shore up his hands, he could still make a push for more playing time as the year goes on.
Richard Rodgers, TE (third round): Without much fanfare, Rodgers appears to have won the starting job over veteran Andrew Quarless and up-and-comer Brandon Bostick (who went down with a foot injury in the second preseason game). However, Bostick almost certainly would have been the tight end in two-minute situations and likely will be when he returns next month. Rodgers' blocking has to catch up to his pass-catching ability.
Carl Bradford, LB (fourth round): It doesn't matter how the Packers spin the last-minute decision to switch Bradford from outside to inside linebacker this week, that's a tell-tale sign that they're concerned he may never be able to be a productive pass-rusher off the edge. Thompson has not cut a fourth-round rookie since receiver Cory Rodgers in 2006, but Bradford has been just as disappointing. If he makes it, it's solely because they're not ready to give up on him yet.
Corey Linsley, C (fifth round): This was supposed to be a redshirt season for him, but the knee injury to Tretter last week means Linsley might be the most important rookie on the team when the Packers open the regular season in Seattle. His responsibility as the starting center, even if it's only until Tretter returns, is far greater than what any other member of this draft class faces. Physically, he looks the part, but his mental errors have hampered him.
Jared Abbrederis, WR (fifth round): The former Wisconsin standout almost certainly would have made a strong push for the No. 5 or 6 receiver spot if not for a torn ACL in the first week of camp. He also would have had a chance at the kick return job but instead will spend his rookie season on injured reserve.
Demetri Goodson, CB (sixth round): The former college basketball player at Gonzaga who then played three years of football at Baylor has struggled mightily in coverage despite obvious athleticism. He sustained a concussion in last Friday's preseason game against the Raiders, leaving his status his doubt.
Jeff Janis, WR (seventh round): Still raw and unschooled in the complexities of the Packers’ offense, Janis' speed can't be ignored, which is why Thompson likely will keep him on the roster. After his impressive 34-yard, catch-and-run touchdown in the second preseason game, it's likely a team would claim him before the Packers could sneak him through to the practice squad.
Undrafted rookies with a chance: Defensive tackle Mike Pennel of Colorado State-Pueblo is a virtual lock to make the roster after B.J. Raji's season-ending injury, while outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott (who is tied for the NFL preseason lead in sacks with four) might be only one more good showing away from joining him on the 53.
The art, of course, is talking. How to do it, how to speak what’s on your mind as a way to motivate yourself, make yourself laugh and also, potentially, get under the skin of opponents. One of the underrated things Vaughn brings to the Detroit Lions cornerback corps is his gift of gabbing. To anyone. About anything.
“I was raised like that,” Vaughn said. “My dad talked trash. I talk trash. My son talks trash. Even my little girl talks trash. It’s just a family thing.
Vaughn insists he never crosses a line with his talking and that it is done as much to motivate himself as it is to rankle the receivers he faces. But ask his teammates and there’s a combination of eye rolls, laughter and mutual admiration for how much Vaughn talks.
Since he signed with Detroit in the offseason to compete for a depth corner spot -- one he’s close to winning -- he’s been jabbering to whoever would listen. After a pass breakup? He talks. After an interception? You better believe he’ll start chattering.
“He talks his way, a lot of people like to do that, they talk their way into feeling good,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “He’s one of those guys. When he’s talking, you know it’s a good day for him.”
Vaughn said he started talking trash in preschool, before he started playing football and before he turned into a NFL cornerback in his fifth season. There is a difference between the way Vaughn talks and some of his contemporaries.
For instance, Miami cornerback Cortland Finnegan will occasionally research an opposing receiver before a game, looking for any way to have a mental edge on an opponent during a game. Vaughn does no research.
Anything he says or does is off the top of his head in the moment, mostly because it isn’t necessarily meant to be directed at an opponent. That said, the lifelong training in his particular art form has served him well when receivers start jawing at him.
It has led to some of his better lines.
“Somebody told me they was better than me,” Vaughn said. “And I told them I sleep better than you live.
“No research. Just straight up off the top of my head, however I feel at the moment. That’s how it’s going in. Now that I’m a little bit older, never scared to get beat because I’m able to come back and make the same plays. That comes from the trash talking.”
It led to some bonds with receivers as well. When Golden Tate, another Lions free agent signing, arrived in town, he and Vaughn became friends quickly. They both grew up in Tennessee -- Vaughn in Memphis, Tate from Nashville -- and they both have been known to talk on occasion.
“We both talk trash to each other,” Tate said. “It’s nothing ever vicious or anything.”
That’s what Vaughn prefers. Go at him with words. Try to make a play on him. He’s going to do the same to you. Have some fun. Line up and then do it again.
“I just like to enjoy myself,” Vaughn said. “More of the trash talk is to enjoy myself and have fun with the game because it’s at the end of the day a kid game and you have to enjoy it.”
Vaughn clearly does. As he said, “it’s a family thing.” One he’s more than willing to pass along.
So was Jeffery's production in 2013, allowing him to come in at No. 31 on this year's NFLRank project in which ESPN ranked the league's top 100 players on offense and defense. In all, 23 players on offense made their debuts on this year's NFLRank project.
After a difficult rookie season in which he suffered a broken hand right hand, in addition to being sidelined with an arthroscopic knee surgery, Jeffery produced a gem in 2013, catching 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns, combining with Brandon Marshall for 2,716 yards and 19 TDs.
"I think part of it is the chemistry he has with this team," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "His work ethic hasn't changed. That's a sign to be able to stack a good year on a good year. He's done it for one year. He knows he's got to prove himself. He's got to stack years and years together to be a great player like Brandon has. If you could see him work here on a daily basis, he's doing all the right things to put another good year together."
Jeffery was one of two receivers in 2013 to produce two 200-yard games (Gordon was the other), and the only one to put together a 200-yard game on the road (a single-game franchise record 249 yards against the Vikings in Week 13). Jeffery attributes the bump in production from his rookie season to 2013 simply to learning the intricacies of the offense.
Jeffery also spent the majority of the offseason training with Marshall in Florida.
"My first year here, I would say it was just a learning process. It was about learning and knowing the NFL," Jeffery said. "Just staying on the field [in 2013] and staying healthy helped last year. But like I said, it was a big learning curve from my first year to my second year."
Potentially on the verge of stardom, Jeffery prefers not to look too far ahead. Asked where he sees himself in three years, Jeffery said, "Ask me that question three years from now, but I'd say the sky is the limit."
That certainly seems to be the case with Jeffery and the rest of the Bears coming off a 2013 season in which offense set multiple franchise records. Interestingly, Jeffery is the only player in Bears' history to produce two 200-yard receiving games, and is one of eight players in NFL history to accomplish that feat in the same season.
Over his first two years, Jeffery has caught 113 passes for 1,788 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"My mentality when that ball goes up in the air is it's my ball," Jeffery said. "I've got to make the play."
McCarthy's 88-50-1 record in his eight seasons gives him the fourth-highest winning percentage in the league among current coaches with a minimum of 60 games.
Using the same voting system Sando employed earlier this year in his "QB Tiers" project , the coaches were broken up into five different tiers. McCarthy came in near the top of the second tier.
But it was perhaps more interesting what some of those league sources told Sando about McCarthy.
Here's an excerpt:
Like Payton, McCarthy gets high marks for his offensive acumen and overall leadership. The Packers have won with varying run/pass emphasis and they continue to evolve as their personnel changes. But the Packers' defensive performance has declined in recent seasons, leading voters to cite the same reasoning over and over when asked why McCarthy wasn't a '1' in their eyes.
"I like him as a head coach and would love to work for him," one veteran assistant coach said. "I think Mike is a great offensive coordinator who has done some pretty good things as a head coach, but defensively and on special teams, they have never done well enough up there. There is something missing in the program."
A former GM said he thought McCarthy needed to "fix the staff defensively" while noting that the head coach must coach the coaches, not just the players. McCarthy did get 11 votes in the first tier, however. One of those votes came from an executive who blamed some of the defensive issues on personnel, noting that McCarthy had in fact made sweeping staff changes back in 2009.
A GM placing McCarthy in the top tier focused on offensive flexibility. "You look at him as an offensive play-caller and he was grinding the s--- out of the ball when he was in New Orleans, and then he changed things up," the GM said. "He developed a passing game in Green Bay, and he is just the same guy all the time – strong leader.”
Steltz had re-signed with the Bears on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum on March 18.
Steltz spent the first couple weeks of training camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) after undergoing offseason groin surgery, but returned to action last Friday in Seattle where he recorded a tackle on special teams.
Steltz proved to be a valuable special teams contributor over the past six years with 58 total tackles, the second-highest total of any Bears player since 2008. The safety's veteran production and experience will be missed on a special teams unit that has woefully underperformed throughout the entire preseason.
Steltz appeared in 77 career games with eight starts. In his lone start on Dec. 1 2013, Steltz registered 12 tackles versus the Minnesota Vikings. His best stretch in a Bears' uniform occurred in 2011 when Steltz started the final five games and posted career-highs in tackles (42), sacks (1.0) and forced fumbles (2).
It was the first time the rookie has lined up anywhere other than outside linebacker since the Packers picked him at No. 121 overall in May.
But after an unproductive training camp and three unimpressive preseason outings at outside linebacker, this could be Bradford's best way to find a role on the team.
"He's been able to pick up the playbook, but what we're looking for is just being able to transfer that on the field as far as production," linebackers coach Winston Moss said Monday. "I know there's a high concern for that. I'm pretty sure he's aware of that, and I'm pretty sure he's had to address it as well."
A former defensive end at Arizona State, Bradford seemed more suited to play inside given his size (6-foot-1, 252 pounds) than as an edge rusher in the NFL. So perhaps the only surprise in seeing him line up at inside linebacker during Monday's practice was that the Packers waited this long.
"I liked it," Bradford said. "I like coming downhill and opposing those tackles and guards and smashing those running backs."
It's crowded group at outside linebacker, especially with the emergence of undrafted rookie Jayrone Elliott (who is tied for the NFL lead in preseason sacks with four), and Bradford is likely no better than seventh or eight on the depth chart at that spot.
But the inside linebacker spot is much thinner behind starters A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. The top backups are Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington. After that, it's wide open. Not only did Bradford take snaps there on Monday but so did second-year outside linebacker Nate Palmer.
"When you look at Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore … these guys all started outside and next thing you know they're our inside linebackers," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "And those guys have been productive for us inside."