Bear Essentials: Division Notes

Bear Report discusses some of the recent news coming from NFC North camps, including player workouts in Minnesota and Green Bay, as well as the naming of Detroit's defensive line.

Detroit Lions

Through his Twitter account, Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz recently announced the nickname of his defensive line: "The Silver Crush." The nickname is a slight modification of the one used in the late 1970s and early 1980s, "The Silver Rush," when Doug English was the prominent defender.

"Acknowledges tradition/history of 'Silver Rush' with slight update," Schwartz wrote on his Twitter page.

Detroit's defensive front needed a nickname due to the addition of recent first-round pick, DT Nick Fairley. Fairley was an elite player at Auburn and dropped to the Lions at 12th overall due to character concerns. He joins a front-line unit that already boasts last year's defensive rookie of the year Ndamukong Suh and three-time Pro Bowler Kyle Vanden Bosch.

DT Ndamukong Suh
Rick Osentoski/AP

Suh exploded onto the scene last year. The former Nebraska Cornhusker racked up 49 tackles, 17 assists, 10.0 sacks, three passes defended and one interception, which he returned 20 yards. Vanden Bosch is no longer the elite player he was in the middle part of the decade, but he's still one of the better edge rushers in the NFC.

With the addition of Fairley, Detroit now has, on paper, the most formidable defensive line in the conference. No longer are opposing teams going to be able to put up points at will. If Fairley has the type of presence most assume, and can be the same force he was against both run and pass at the collegiate level, then things just got real difficult for the Chicago Bears' offense.

Last year, the Lions' defense ranked ninth in the NFL against the run, 17th against the pass and 12th overall. The Bears' offense compiled 463 total yards in the first meeting between the two teams last year, but were held to 311 total yards in Week 13. Most believe these numbers will be much lower in 2011 with the addition of Fairley and fifth-round pick Doug Hogue, linebacker from Syracuse. Some analysts are even predicting the Lions as a playoff team next year.

The organization is definitely on the rise and will no longer be a doormat in the NFC. Yet even though the defensive front seven looks formidable, the team did nothing to upgrade its secondary, which was its weakest link last year. It also did not address its issues on the offensive line until Round 7, which could mean more trouble for oft-injured quarterback Matthew Stafford. That said, expect the two tilts between Chicago and Detroit to be close, heated affairs; games that will most likely decide which team goes to the playoffs and which one watches from home. Bears fans better hope the offensive line is up for the challenge.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers' Aaron Rodgers has publicly questioned the value of player-organized workouts, yet that didn't stop his front five from getting together recently. According to Alex Marvez of, center Scott Wells, left tackle Chad Clifton, right guard Josh Sitton and veterans Mark Tauscher and T.J. Lang were part of the group working out in Franklin, Tenn.

"A couple of guys had called me and I think were stressed out over the offseason uncertainty and not seeing each other," Wells told Marvez. "They expressed that they wanted to get together, do some football drills and talk shop."

Chicago's offensive skill position players met for some workouts a few weeks back, but the offensive line is the group that could really use some time together. The problem is no one knows who is going to play what position, or whether Olin Kreutz, currently a free agent, will be back with the team next year.

Green Bay is able to conduct these workouts because it has a group of established players along the offensive line who know their roles. While Chicago is a team loaded with veterans, the offensive line is one area being strongly affected by the lockout.

Minnesota Vikings

QB Christian Ponder
G Flume/Getty

Minnesota rookie quarterback Christian Ponder announced last week his intentions to organize workouts with his receivers. For the Vikings especially – a team that will most likely head into Week 1 with a rookie QB under center – any time spent throwing passes is extremely beneficial.

The first day of those workouts came yesterday at the IMG facility in Bradenton, Fla., yet to Ponders' surprise, none of his top receivers showed up. Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian and Visanthe Shiancoe all were absent.

"I thought it would be hard and probably should have had better planning," Ponder told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We'll definitely do it again and hopefully a bunch more guys will show up. I talked to a few guys, some other guys we couldn't get a hold of. We got some good work in. To be around some of the guys was good for me."

Rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph was one of the players who did attend. The Bears' coaching staff would be mindful to take notice of Rudolph's presence. The Vikings have a lot of outside weapons, plus an established pass-catching tight end in Shiancoe. This will open things up in the middle of the field for Rudolph, who will benefit from being surrounded by playmakers. If Ponder can develop a solid connection with Rudolph, the two could develop into a deadly combination. Coordinator Rod Marinelli better not sleep on the Ponder-to-Rudolph connection or the team could get burned.

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