5 things learned at the combine - Day 2

Posted Mar 1, 2018

Thoughts from the Packers' NFC North rivals

INDIANAPOLIS – Over the first two days of the NFL Scouting Combine, most head coaches and general managers around the league met with the media.

Here are a handful of observations from some of the Packers’ NFC rivals.

1. The Vikings aren’t tipping their hand at quarterback: As of now, Minnesota has three QBs headed to free agency – Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum – and there are reports the Vikings will be strong players for Kirk Cousins once free agency begins.

No one in Minnesota’s camp is declaring what the organization is going to do.

“Just to make clear, there have been no decisions made,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said. “We will continue to evolve this process.”

Head coach Mike Zimmer reiterated the team continues to evaluate all its options, and there are issues to discuss regarding everyone.

“Can Sam stay healthy? Is Teddy what he was? Is Case going to be the guy he was last year, or 2-3 years ago? Those are the $64,000 questions with us,” Zimmer said. “I have a crystal ball, but I didn’t bring it with me.”

Joking aside, Zimmer made it clear he doesn’t want the quarterback decision to compromise the foundation he has built on defense, one of the league’s top-ranked units. He pointed out his team, which has won the NFC North two of the last three years and reached the conference title game last season, is 30-4 when it scores at least 21 points in a game.

“We don’t want to lose the defensive part of the game. Defense keeps the game close,” he said.

“What I don’t want to do is do this one thing (at QB), and have that take away from the rest of the things that have gotten us to this point.

“It’s important for myself and Rick and the organization to pick the right guy for us moving forward. If we don’t, I’ll probably be fired.”

2. It’s easier to find three-down running backs in the draft now: The Packers played a pair of rookie running backs extensively in 2016, and this year the Lions might be the NFC North team going that direction.

As Detroit looks potentially to upgrade its backfield, Lions GM Bob Quinn said there’s less hesitation with playing rookie running backs right away because they come into the NFL with more experience in pass protection due to the offenses being run in the college ranks.

“You put on three or four games (to review film) and you can tell if a guy can pass protect, which is critical in this league,” Quinn said.

Quinn didn’t come right out and say Detroit is going to draft a top running back, but Chicago GM Ryan Pace made no bones about wanting to upgrade at receiver for young QB Mitch Trubisky.

“It’s a need position for us,” Pace said.

3. The new Lions head coach also isn’t into age-old questions: It’s not just new Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine side-stepping the 4-3 vs. 3-4 question when it comes to defensive scheme.

New Lions head coach Matt Patricia, a former defensive coordinator in New England, isn’t answering it either.

“The 3-4, 4-3 question, I always laugh at that every single time,” Patricia said. “It’s all relative. When you look at the trends on defense, 90 percent isn’t even regular defense, it’s all sub.”

4. The Bears would rather keep things low-key: Asked their feelings on running back Jordan Howard guaranteeing the Bears would make the playoffs in 2018, both Pace and new head coach Matt Nagy liked hearing their young star’s confidence but would rather he keep it to himself.

“The message we're going to send loud and clear to our guys is that let's take this step by step,” Nagy said. “Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let's understand the process. And let's do it through our actions, not through our words. And he gets that.

“So, I appreciate his candidness. I appreciate his want to be great. He's excited. You can't fault the kid. But let's just understand where we're at.”

5. The Falcons don’t see the NFC South getting any easier: Three of the conference’s six playoff teams came from the NFC South in 2017, with champion New Orleans backed up by wild-card entrants Carolina and Atlanta. All three teams finished with double-digit victories in the regular season.

“I sense that again,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. “It’s about the quarterback play, the toughness of the defenses, the way teams play.

“It’s a helluva division. Every week you play division games it’s going to be a battle. You’d better bring it.”

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