NFC North News and Notes: Mar. 26

Is there any indication who Detroit may take at No. 2 overall in the NFL Draft? Where will T.J. Lang end up on Green Bay's offensive line? Can Tarvaris Jackson step up in Minnesota if Brett Favre finally retires?

Detroit Lions

Martin Mayhew is a man of mystery when it comes to the No. 2-overall pick in the NFL Draft. The Lions' general manager has made it clear he would like to trade down. He has thrown out some other info to suit his purposes. But other than that, he's keeping his cards close to the vest.


OT Russell Okung
Getty Images: Scott Boehm

"I've seen a lot of stuff written that I think is a little bit premature about what our thoughts are and who we're going to take and who we're down to and that kind of stuff," Mayhew said. "There's a lot of work to be done still."

Some of what has been written has been on the Lions' official Web site. The Lions have posted stories about visits by the apparent top candidates for the No. 2 pick: Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung.

They wouldn't do that and then, say, draft Oklahoma left tackle Trent Williams, would they?

"You never know what we might do," Mayhew said. "That's one of the smart things about it."

Okung has not generated the buzz Suh and McCoy have. But teams generally are more comfortable paying a premium for a left tackle than they are for a defensive tackle, and Mayhew said Okung was a "tremendous talent" and it was "very possible" he has been underrated by the media.

Then he added this when asked if Okung clearly was the best left tackle in the draft: "I think big picture, overall, taking everything into account, there are probably two guys that are the best two out there." He declined to go further.

Mayhew obviously thinks the smartest move would be to trade down if he can get enough in return for the pick.

"First of all, we don't have a desperate desire to move back," Mayhew said. "That's the first thing, because we're going to get a quality player there.

"But I think what happens is, you get a quality player at a premium price, whereas you might get a quality player later at a better price. If you believe that you want to take advantage of the opportunity to get value in the draft, it would make more sense to get more players at better prices than to get one player at a premium price."

Mayhew said he felt the Lions would receive an offer for the No. 2 pick based on his conversations with one team, but he acknowledged they wouldn't necessarily take it.

"I feel confident that we'll have an opportunity to move back," Mayhew said. "Now, will that be an opportunity we want to take advantage of? Will it be a situation where we feel we'll get the appropriate value? I couldn't answer that question right now."

Asked if he also hoped to encourage more offers by making that comment, he said: "We'll see."

The common thinking is that a team would have to come up for a quarterback. Quarterback-needy teams include the Redskins at No. 4, the Seahawks at No. 6 and the Browns at No. 7. The Rams could take Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford No. 1 overall.

"It's going to be interesting to see the way it all shakes out," coach Jim Schwartz said. "Quarterbacks make people move at the top of the draft, and I think it will be interesting to see when it's all said and done how much interest there is in those guys and where we go with that second pick."

Asked if his trade-down opportunity depends on what the Rams do first, Mayhew said: "I didn't really get into that. By my way of thinking, if we go back, we have to have a comfort level with going back. It doesn't matter what happens ahead of us."

Green Bay Packers

Injuries and inconsistencies conspired to put the Packers' offensive line in constant flux for most of last season. They used six different starting combinations.


OT T.J. Lang
Getty Images: Jeff Gross

Those same nuisances could rear their ugly heads again next season, but coach Mike McCarthy feels the unit will be better equipped to handle any more upheaval.

"I know the competition along that line will be the best that we have had during my time in Green Bay," said McCarthy, in his fifth year on the job. "That's all you can ask for. You try to rotate them the right way, and you try to get that starting five."

McCarthy acknowledged at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando that keeping the same top five linemen intact for a full season, something that has eluded him in his tenure, isn't likely to happen in 2010 either.

The Packers rolled the dice this offseason by re-signing veteran tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, both unrestricted free agents, to long-term contracts. They have been competent starters since they were rookies in 2000, but recent injury setbacks and advanced age are working against them.

"History will tell you that Chad Clifton is not going to play 16 games," McCarthy said.

Clifton, who has been hampered by knee and ankle injuries in the past, last played a full season in 2007.

Yet, he returns to the Packers as the starter at left tackle, just as Tauscher remains the starter at right tackle. He is a little more than a year removed from reconstructive knee surgery that kept him sidelined until the second half of last season.

Green Bay is more settled on the inside with Josh Sitton at right guard and Scott Wells at center. McCarthy said they were the team's best linemen in 2009.

What happens at left guard is up in the air. Incumbent starter Daryn Colledge, whose play regressed down the stretch last season, and Jason Spitz are restricted free agents who remain unsigned. Spitz was the starting center to open last season but suffered a season-ending back injury after Week 4 and gave way to Wells, who had lost his long-time job to Spitz in the preseason.

The wild card is T.J. Lang, a versatile lineman who had practice and game reps at three positions as a rookie last year and started a total of three games at the two tackle spots.

Although Lang is a natural tackle, the uncertainty of Colledge and Spitz's future with the team perhaps prompted McCarthy to tout Lang's attributes as a left guard.

"I think T.J.'s long-term [position] is at guard," McCarthy said. "I think he is a natural left guard when I look at his body, but he is young (22 years old). He needs to develop strength to hit that because he is a very young second-year player."

Lang also will be in the mix to challenge Tauscher for the starting job at right tackle, but for now, McCarthy is looking at Lang to be the backup to Clifton on the left side.

That would change should the Packers put a high-round priority on drafting a starting tackle of the future in the draft, which seems likely based on comments McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson made at the league meetings.

"I would think so," McCarthy said of taking a tackle, "but crazier things have happened through the draft.

"A guy in T.J. Lang, where does he compete this year?" McCarthy added. "There is a lot of conversation about that young man. What is going to happen in the draft? That may affect the rotation, too. I clearly think that we could have almost two guys per position competing for starting spots. That's a very good situation to be in."

Minnesota Vikings

While the Vikings remain hopeful that Brett Favre eventually will decide to return for a 20th NFL season, coach Brad Childress expressed confidence in backups Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels.


QB Tarvaris Jackson
Getty Images: Jeff Gross

Childress, speaking at the NFC coaches' breakfast during the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, pointed to how much Jackson and Rosenfels learned from playing behind Favre last season.

Childress especially focused his comments on Jackson, who has yet to sign the tender the Vikings extended him as a restricted free agent. Nonetheless, it's not expected Jackson will get any offers because that would mean a team would be willing to give up a third-round pick.

"I think they both evolved and grew even though it might have been in a vicarious way last year with Brett, through him," Childress said. "But I know there was great dialogue and I watched Tarvaris in his games and in his snaps do a great job and I thought he grew mentally, which was as important as anything, in how he approached the game and how he approached practice.

"Really, some of the intangible things because there's not statistics for that. I think, on face, talking to him he'd really admit that it was a great year, and you can't put a premium on that, being around a guy like Favre and growing in our system and seeing how a Hall of Fame quarterback operates our system."

Indications are that if Favre surprises everyone and does decide to retire that Jackson (10-10 as a starter in four NFL seasons) would take over. Jackson was the Vikings' No. 2 quarterback last season.

"If you took it off of last year, yeah," Jackson would be the starter, Childress said. "But we're going to get to the field here before we start next year, so we'll just see how those guys have evolved."

Meanwhile, Childress said he had no update on Favre's possible return and clearly the Vikings remain in wait-and-see mode.

"I don't know," Childress said. "Just the same as it has been really. I just don't know. I told these guys before, in this business, you have to be able to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity because that's what this is about."

That could continue into the first part of training camp, too, because no one will be surprised if Favre decides to join the Vikings after they return from their stint in Mankato.


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