Behind Enemy Lines: Part I

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Nate Caminata of Roar Report, travel Behind Enemy Lines for a breakdown of Sunday's Week 4 matchup between the Lions and Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago. Let's start this three-part series with five questions from John to Nate.

John Crist: While I still believe Mark Sanchez is going to be the better pro, there's no denying that Matthew Stafford is oozing with potential. But why did the Lions decide to go with the rookie right away after we heard great things about Daunte Culpepper this offseason? Might we still see a switch?

Nate Caminata: Barring injury, I think we can expect to see Stafford in the driver's seat for quite some time in Detroit. Stafford thoroughly outplayed Culpepper in camp and the preseason but, more importantly, won the confidence and allegiance of the entire coaching staff.

Beyond establishing himself as capable under center, the Lions felt Stafford entered the NFL with a professional pedigree, and sitting him behind Culpepper would only delay his learning rather than assist. He didn't hurt his case against Washington.

JC: Much like Matt Forte here in Chicago, Kevin Smith is a great-looking tailback but doesn't have much behind him on the depth chart. Is the Detroit coaching staff asking too much of Smith these days and potentially putting him in harm's way? Especially on an artificial surface, that's a lot of punishment.


RB Kevin Smith
Getty Images: Stephen Dunn

NC: Smith injured his shoulder against Washington but has told the media he fully expects to play against Chicago. The Lions view him as a 20-25 carry per game back, with spells for veteran Maurice Morris and rookie Aaron Brown, who are both capable in their own right.

Certainly, while Smith is the primarily ball carrier, the Lions have change-of-pace backs that can make it difficult on a defense and give him the occasional rest.

JC: I've been a monster fan of Calvin Johnson since he was a freshman at Georgia Tech, and he may be the most explosive force in football if Stafford develops as a passer. It's easy to remember the big plays and highlight-reel catches and assume Johnson is unstoppable. That said, can he truly do it all?

NC: Let's put it this way. Against Washington, Johnson shoved 6-6, 350-pound tackle Albert Haynesworth to the turf ... with relative ease. Haynesworth didn't like it, but Johnson showed that beyond his pass-catching abilities, he's a key pass blocker in Detroit's running scheme. Offensively, he forces a defense to commit at least two players, opening availability to other receivers. But Johnson isn't only a downfield threat. He's just as capable of turning a 5-yard slant into an 80-yard gain.

He drew comparisons to Randy Moss leaving college, but his sheer strength might make him more potent.

JC: Detroit has been bad in the secondary for years, which is why the addition of Louis Delmas at safety was applauded around the league. Many Bears fans wanted to hear Delmas' name on draft weekend, as a matter of fact. How has the rookie done so far, and how soon before he's a Pro Bowler?


S Louis Delmas
Getty Images: Scott Boehm

NC: Delmas has big-play ability to pair with his big-hitting ability. He went helmet-to-helmet with the aggressive Adrian Peterson two weeks ago, and Peterson caught the brunt of the hit, as Delmas followed up with some verbal abuse towards the rather surprised Vikings' stud.

Sometimes, Delmas' aggressive demeanor takes him out of plays, however. Once the rookie settles down, and he will, the Lions will have a reliable safety net and leader in the defensive backfield for years to come.

JC: While Lovie Smith will never root for another team in the NFC North, he did say it was nice to see a division rival get a much-needed win like the Lions did in Week 3. However, after getting a King Kong-sized gorilla off their collective back, do the outright cynics still outnumber the aspiring optimists in the Motor City?

NC: I don't think one win can necessarily subdue the pessimism after an 0-16 year, which capped the torturous, eight-year Matt Millen reign. However, there is a sense of hope on the horizon, if only because the Lions aren't the same team. They have 31 new players, a new coaching staff and new management. They just needed a win to prove it.

As the Lions begin to accrue more victories and prove that there is a future in Detroit (finally), hope will spring eternal.

Be on the lookout for Part II of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where John answers five questions from Nate, on Thursday.


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John Crist is the publisher of BearReport.com. Nate Caminata is the publisher of RoarReport.com.


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