Kevin Ogletree began training camp for the Detroit Lions as one of their starting wide receivers.

Now, he’s out of a job.

Ogletree was cut by the Lions on Saturday, according to colleague Field Yates. The Queens, New York, native was inactive for the Lions’ first two games of the season, having been passed on the depth chart by Jeremy Ross and Corey Fuller.

Detroit cut Ogletree to make room for cornerback Mohammed Seisay, who is being promoted from the Lions’ practice squad after an injury to cornerback Cassius Vaughn.

This leaves the Lions with five wide receivers on the roster: Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Ross, Fuller and Ryan Broyles. In the first two games of the year, the Lions only kept four receivers active -- Johnson, Tate, Ross and Fuller -- leaving both Ogletree and Broyles inactive on game days. This made one or both expendable when injuries piled up in the secondary.

Detroit likely kept Broyles over Ogletree because he is a former second-round draft pick of the club in 2012 and he had an impressive preseason coming off an Achilles injury.

The 27-year-old Ogletree signed with the Lions last season after being released by Tampa Bay after four games. He caught 13 passes for 199 yards last year.

In 62 career regular-season games, Ogletree caught 78 passes for 999 yards and six touchdowns.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears announced Saturday they'd face the New York Jets on Monday night without center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand).

The club held out all five players for Saturday's workout. Receivers Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) participated in a limited capacity, and are officially listed as questionable. Both are expected to play against the Jets.

In other injury news, the club officially listed defensive end Jared Allen (back), safety Chris Conte (shoulder) and receiver Josh Morgan (groin) as probable. Defensive end Trevor Scott (foot) is doubtful.

It was expected that Garza and Slauson would miss Monday's game after sitting out last week's win against the San Francisco 49ers, with Brian de la Puente and Michael Ola serving as their replacements. But the unavailability of Ratliff and McClellin forces the Bears to reshuffle the lineup for the starting defense.

With Ratliff out of the defensive line rotation, the Bears will lean more heavily on rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton.

"That Sunday night game was a big test, and they played a decent amount of snaps," Allen said. "The game didn't seem too big for them, and sometimes that can be a problem with young guys. They kind of lose their minds out there, and they don't really remember their techniques or fundamentals. But they've been doing a great job of that. Both of them are powerful, and both of them have obviously a high skill set."

McClellin's expected absence means Jonathan Bostic will start at strong side linebacker.

McClellin participated on a limited basis on Thursday, but suffered a hand injury at practice that kept him out of action on Friday and Saturday.

"We've got a lot of different options," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We're disappointed for [McClellin] because he has been getting better. We've watched him so hard to learn a new position, get his body the way he's gotten it to play the position. We know he'll be out this week. We'll see where we are next week."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Before Jim Caldwell even coached DeAndre Levy, he had a good idea of what he would be getting in an outside linebacker. All he needed to do was remember back to last season.

Caldwell marveled then at Levy’s ability at linebacker, when one play in particular stood out. It was a play designed to fool the linebacker -- in this case, Levy -- into following the flow of the play as a bit of misdirection.

Other linebackers kept biting as a way to set up the trick play. Then Baltimore ran it against Detroit.

“It was a very difficult play to kind of sniff out and he was the only player to recognize it,” Caldwell said. “He was the only linebacker that we saw that moved in the direction of the play instead of the opposite.”

It is those instincts that have aided Levy over the past couple of seasons as he has turned into one of the league’s best linebackers and one of the top coverage linebackers in the NFL. Last season was his breakout year, when he made a career-high 119 tackles, intercepted six passes and seemed on the verge of a Pro Bowl bid.

He’s continued that this season with 17 tackles and an interception over the first two games.

Some of the uptick in his play comes from a more structured daily routine and offseason training regimen, but it also comes from an increase in his instincts as he challenged himself after every season.

“I think I’ve taken a step,” Levy said. “But it’s a process day in, day out. Year in, year out.”

It’s a process others in the league have noticed, too. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has faced the Lions as long as Levy has been in the league and now views him, along with Stephen Tulloch and Ndamukong Suh, as one of the cogs of Detroit’s defense.

And more than that, he sees him as one of the better 'backers in the league.

“DeAndre has really made himself into a guy who is consistently considered for the Pro Bowl,” Rodgers said.

What has turned him into that are things like what Caldwell saw a season ago, with Levy reading, reacting and instinctively playing his way into being one of the best in his league at the position.

“He’s a talented guy, man, a very talented guy,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “It’s showing, it shows. You can’t hide talent. I love playing with him. He’s a quiet guy but he’s very passionate about what he does.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Bryan Bulaga is no doctor, but the Green Bay Packers right tackle knew immediately that the left knee injury he sustained in the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks wasn't the same as the torn ACL in the same knee 13 months earlier.

And while no one – not even a doctor – can say for sure whether the brace he wore against the Seahawks saved him from another ACL tear, Bulaga believes that to be the case.

So the DonJoy-brand brace that hung in his locker on Friday will be part of his regular equipment the next time he suits up for a game – whether that is Sunday in Detroit remains in question – and perhaps for the rest of his career.

"I'll definitely say that I feel the knee brace helped," Bulaga said Friday, speaking for the first time since he sprained his MCL against the Seahawks on Sept. 4. "There's no doubt about it. I mean, I would assume it did. I just, in my own head, I think it did."

Unlike in college football, where those knee braces are the norm, most NFL players don't wear them unless they must. Bulaga began wearing the brace at the start of training camp. For a player who has played in just one of the Packers' last 25 regular-season games, every little thing could help.

"When it first happened, initially I thought I got charley-horsed or kicked in the thigh," Bulaga said. "So I kind of tried to get back up and wasn't able to. But I didn't think it was going to be anything serious. I certainly didn't feel the same way that I did a year ago. Yeah, I wasn't too nervous about it."

Bulaga said Friday that he felt much better than he did a week ago, when it was determined that he would not play against the New York Jets. However, he still must prove in practice on Saturday that he's able to function at a high level for an extended period of time before he will get the OK to return against the Lions.

"Mobility-wise, strength-wise, everything has just progressed really well," he said.
The Detroit Lions will be without their third starting slot cornerback in as many weeks.

Cassius Vaughn, who was slated to take over for Nevin Lawson after he took over for Bill Bentley, is out Sunday against Green Bay with an ankle injury after missing practice Thursday and Friday.

He is one of three players ruled out for Detroit, joining linebacker Travis Lewis (quadriceps) and starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle (calf). This is the second straight game Waddle has missed with the injury.

In Vaughn’s place, Detroit will do one of three things: Start recently-signed cornerback Danny Gorrer in the slot, start safety Don Carey in the slot or move outside cornerback Rashean Mathis into the slot, moving Gorrer to the outside.

The Lions also are planning to promote rookie cornerback Mohammed Seisay from the practice squad, according to his agent. Seisay was signed as an undrafted free agent from Nebraska.

Garrett Reynolds will likely start his second straight game at right tackle for Detroit.

The Lions’ secondary issues go beyond the slot corner. Safety James Ihedigbo is doubtful for the second straight game with a neck injury. Detroit’s biggest defensive free agent signing, Ihedigbo has yet to play a game this season.

Fullback Montell Owens, a special-teams stalwart, is also doubtful with a hamstring injury.

Starting defensive linemen Ezekiel Ansah (knee) and Nick Fairley (biceps) are questionable, along with rotational defensive end George Johnson (groin).
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- You could see it in Al Harris' eyes that day back in January 2008. It was the NFC Championship game against the New York Giants, and the Green Bay Packers' Pro Bowl cornerback was amped up for the challenge of covering receiver Plaxico Burress.

Too amped up, as it turned out.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioCalvin Johnson has put up his best numbers against Green Bay, but the Packers' Sam Shields is up to the challenge.
Burress used Harris' overly aggressive, physical style against him and burned the Packers for 11 catches, 151 yards and a touchdown in the Giants' upset win at Lambeau Field.

That was a full year before defensive coordinator Dom Capers and most of his current staff came to Green Bay, but it's a lesson that might be worth reminding their cornerbacks this week when they prepare for a megasized challenge in the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson.

"It's important for our guys, particularly our corners, to play with their technique and play with their leverage and just play football," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week. "Anytime you go up against a top-notch player like Calvin, you can't let players like that take you out of your technique."

Surely, that message has been conveyed to Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and the rest of the Packers' secondary this week. Shields is most likely to draw Johnson the most, although Capers has said repeatedly that you can't cover him with the same defensive back all the time. The Packers say they aren't worried about a guy like Shields, who signed a four-year, $39 million contract this offseason, trying to go out and justify his contract by trying to shut down Johnson.

If anything, Shields should be confident in knowing that he has done it in the recent past. Shields covered Johnson for most of last year's Thanksgiving game at Ford Field. Although the Lions won in a 40-10 blowout, Shields held Megatron to just three catches for 46 yards in seven targets when he was in coverage, although Johnson still managed six catches for 101 yards overall for the day.

"At the end of the day, it's all competition, and he's a big challenge," Shields said. "You know a guy like that, you want that. In the NFL, all eyes on you, everybody wants to see what you're going to do against Calvin Johnson. So you know, like I said, do the right things, do my keys, my techniques right, everything will be good."

The same goes for Williams, who has had success -- and seen others have success -- against Johnson. In 2012, Williams' primary job was to cover Johnson, and he held him to four catches for 54 yards without a touchdown in a game at Lambeau Field. However, Williams did not have him the entire time, and Johnson still managed a 100-yard game. And he saw Charles Woodson hold Johnson, in his worst game against the Packers, to two catches for 10 yards for an entire game in 2009.

However, those were not the norms for Johnson, who in 12 career games against the Packers has 71 catches for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns -- the most catches, yards and touchdowns he has against any one opponent.

Williams remembers the Harris-Burress situation and, for one, doesn't think Harris played as poorly as most thought.

"I went back and looked at that game, he was in some good positions, and at the end of the day, you battle a guy like that, and he's just making plays for his team, you can live with that," Williams said.

But he and others also do not think the same circumstances apply to a player they know as well as Johnson, their divisional foe.

"We play him twice a year, so it's not anything new," Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "It's not like we’re on a team that might see him once every two or three years, we see him so much that we understand the challenge, and the challenge is huge."

Allen practices, Marshall sits

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen (lower back) practiced without restrictions on Friday, but wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) remained sidelined for a second consecutive day.

 Marshall and Allen are both expected to play Monday night versus the New York Jets.

Besides Marshall, six other Bears were held out of Friday’s practice: defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff
(concussion), linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle).

McClellin’s situation took a turn for the worse. The linebacker had limited in participation in practice on Thursday, but he sat out the entire workout on Friday.

According to head coach Marc Trestman, McClellin suffered the hand injury in practice this week, not during the 28-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.

In other health news, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were both limited for the second straight practice, while receiver Josh Morgan (groin) had full participation. Morgan should be available to face the Jets.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Since coming into the NFL, Jordy Nelson has been a good target for Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

This season, though, the former Kansas State receiver has been playing at an even higher level. Through two games, Nelson is leading the NFL in receiving yards (292) and targets (30), is tied for the lead in receptions (18) and first downs (13) with the Saints' Jimmy Graham and is among the top 10 in yards after catch (107).

When Green Bay plays Detroit on Sunday afternoon, Nelson will again be a main target for Rodgers and a primary concern for the Detroit Lions.

In their own words, here’s what they see when they watch the 6-foot-3, 217-pound receiver.

[+] EnlargeJordy Nelson
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesJordy Nelson is Aaron Rodgers' favorite target these days.
Cornerback Darius Slay: "Him and Rodgers got a good connection, you know. They been with each other since I don’t know when. They got a real good connection. A lot of back-shoulders, trusting that the guy can make plays in the deep ball area, so what I’m going to try to do is eliminate them big plays."

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin: "You have to know where he is. Last year, when we were in Baltimore, they had those three guys and we had to know where he was. He hit us for a big play. We know about him and we know why he gets targeted. He catches the ball, has run-after-catch ability and he can take a small one and make it a big one."

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi: "The thing that stands out for me is seeing all these back-shoulder catches. So body control, great hands, good route-runner. Competitor."

Safety Glover Quin: "They gave him all that money -- he should be on a different level. Probably out there feeling good, having fun. He’s the quarterback’s favorite target, so he’s like, 'Hey man, gets to go into these games and know the quarterback is going to throw me the ball and they gave me all that money,' so hey, he’s living the good life right now. But Jordy’s a great player. I love playing against Jordy. We have a lot of fun."

Quin on Nelson and Rodgers: "It looks like a best-friend connection (between Nelson and Rodgers). It’s one of those things when he gets in trouble, he trusts Jordy to be in the right spot, in a certain spot. He trusts Jordy. If nothing else, if all else fails, he trusts Jordy. If he has to and he’s forced into that situation, and he has a lot of targets, if it comes down to it, he’s probably going down to Jordy."

Safety Jerome Couplin III: "[Nelson is] a playmaker. He finds way to get himself some very good catches. That’s something that you can’t really necessarily always coach. He has the ability to find the ball and track the ball good. So he’s a playmaker."

Safety Don Carey: "He has a good combination of size and speed. Great hands. Smart football player. Any time you come across a player like that, you have to [mind] your P’s and Q’s."

Linebacker DeAndre Levy: "He’s a great route-runner. Catches the ball. Gets open. I think him and [Aaron] Rodgers have a good connection. He can take a slant, make a guy miss and get 10, 12, 15 more yards on it."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Although Mike McCarthy said earlier this week that he's more optimistic about Bryan Bulaga's chances of playing Sunday against Detroit than he was last week against the Jets, the Green Bay Packers coach listed his starting right tackle as questionable for the second straight week.

The Packers practice on Saturday instead of Friday this year, so McCarthy will have one more chance to look at Bulaga before making a final determination. The same goes for cornerback Casey Hayward, who also was listed as questionable because of a glute strain.

 "Bryan Bulaga, and really Casey is in the same boat, they're progressing well," McCarthy said Friday. "Yesterday went well. Obviously they're having treatments today, extended treatments. But they have to get through the whole thing tomorrow, so that's the only hurdle left."

Bulaga did not play against the Jets because of the sprained MCL he sustained in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks. With Sunday's game on artificial turf at Ford Field, that also could be a consideration for whether Bulaga plays.

"We're going to practice on turf tomorrow, so that's part of our decision-making process," McCarthy said.

If Bulaga can't play, Derek Sherrod will make his second straight start. For Sherrod, it marks the return to a stadium in which he played his first offensive snaps (he finished the Thanksgiving 2013 game by playing six snaps in the blowout loss). Before that, Sherrod had not played a snap on offense since he broke his leg on Dec. 18, 2011.

Sherrod allowed two sacks against the Seahawks and another against the Lions, but the Packers feel like he has settled into the role.

"He's getting better," McCarthy said of the former first-round pick. "I feel good about Derek, the direction he's going."

Jamari Lattimore will make his second straight start at inside linebacker in place of Brad Jones (quadricieps).

Here's the full injury report:

LB Brad Jones (quadriceps)
OLB Andy Mulumba (knee)

RT Bryan Bulaga (knee)
CB Casey Hayward (glute)

S Micah Hyde (knee)
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Detroit’s injury-go-corner is continuing to spin.

What began as a comfortable position entering the season with the improving Bill Bentley turned into a question mark with Nevin Lawson when Bentley suffered a torn ACL. Then Lawson sustained dislocated toes, leaving veteran Cassius Vaughn as the next corner up.

That might have lasted less than a week.

The slot cornerbacks have been dropping all over the place – in games and even in practice this week with Vaughn being limited Wednesday and out Thursday, leaving him at least questionable for Sunday.

Not knowing who could be at the nickel can change what defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and head coach Jim Caldwell want to do during a week.

“There are some things you can do exactly the same,” Caldwell said. “There are some things that happen where all of a sudden you have to play towards that individual’s strengths so it allows you to do some things that you weren’t able to do before.

“The antithesis of that would be that there are some weaknesses that may come to light as well so schematically you want to stay away from those things that put you in bad positions.”

This is what the Lions have to figure out, especially if Vaughn ends up unable to play. If that is the case, Detroit will either move Rashean Mathis inside on Randall Cobb and play newly signed free agent Danny Gorrer on the outside, have Gorrer play the slot or drop Don Carey down into the slot -- a position he has played before.

Considering Vaughn’s status as of now, it might be a combination of things throughout the game.

The real damage, though, is what happens in games when the Lions lose a nickel corner.

All the preparation the Lions do all week, all the communication Glover Quin, Mathis and Darius Slay have prepared with the slot cornerback all of a sudden becomes meaningless. That practice time suddenly has much less worth.

What went in as planned has become instinctual for Detroit the past two weeks, as Bentley turned into Lawson and then Vaughn at the nickel.

“I don’t think it takes away because some of those things are just game plan things as far as stuff that we’ve seen on film and we want to do this week. Just the basic system and the scheme don’t change,” Quin said. “If you’re working with just one guy and you’re doing certain things in practice and as a veteran player you may go to them and say, ‘Hey if we get this look in a game, let’s do this. When we get this look, this is how we’re going to play it. If we get this look in practice, let’s do this right here and if it works in practice, in a game this is how we’re going to play this.

“When you’re in a game, that’s what you’re expecting with that guy. When you get a new guy in there, I can’t go to him and say this is what we’re going to do because we haven’t talked about that that week so you have to just play it normal and let your rules be your guide.”

If one thing is certain, though, the Lions understand how to cope with an injury to a secondary that has been full of them already.

Vikings vs. Saints preview

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
It has been a turbulent start to the 2014 season, to say the least, for both the Minnesota Vikings (1-1) and New Orleans Saints (0-2) as they head toward their Week 3 matchup in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Minnesota’s issues run much deeper than football. Star running back Adrian Peterson has been indicted on a felony child-abuse charge in Texas; on Wednesday, the Vikings put Peterson on their exempt list, barring him from games and practices.

The Vikings deactivated Peterson for their Week 2 game, a 30-7 loss at home to the New England Patriots.

The Saints, meanwhile, are hoping to use their home opener to rally back from two stunning, last-second losses at Atlanta and Cleveland.

ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett and ESPN Vikings reporter Ben Goessling discuss this week's matchup:

Triplett: How much did the Vikings miss Peterson on the field last Sunday? And how do they try to fill that void this week?

Goessling: Against a Patriots team that appeared vulnerable against the run, they missed Peterson considerably. He didn't have a great first game of the season in St. Louis, but a large part of what Peterson brings to the offense, even when he's not being terribly productive, is the number of looks he opens up for others simply by the attention he commands from defenses.

Matt Asiata caught a touchdown pass last week and is a decent between-the-tackles runner. They also like rookie Jerick McKinnon, though they haven't gotten him involved in the offense yet. But no matter what the Vikings do, they're not going to be able to replace Peterson. They have some good weapons in their passing game, and they'll have to make them work. Without Peterson, though, the Vikings' offense looks a lot less intimidating.

The Saints will be without running back Mark Ingram. How will that change their offense this weekend?

Triplett: It's basically the exact opposite of what you just described. Ingram has been off to a fantastic start -- probably playing the best of his career. But he's also more replaceable than Peterson because the Saints have such good depth at running back. Veteran Pierre Thomas and second-year pro Khiry Robinson are both off to good starts this season as well. And they're more than capable of increasing their workload.

Most important, the entire Saints run game has been thriving since late last season, which has helped all three of their backs. The Saints are tied for fifth in the NFL with 156.5 rushing yards per game, and they’re ranked second with 5.7 yards per carry. Normally those numbers translate to victories.

What other parts of Minnesota's offense will the Saints need to prepare for? It looks like Cordarrelle Patterson has given the Vikings a new dimension. And can Matt Cassel match points with Drew Brees if needed?

Goessling: You're right about Patterson adding some new wrinkles to the Vikings' offense. He has taken the baton from Percy Harvin, in the sense that the Vikings can use him out of the backfield, get the ball to him on screens and employ him as a kick returner. The one area where Patterson still needs to improve, actually, is as a receiver. He struggled mightily last week while trying to get separation from press coverage, and while his route-running has improved, he's still learning how to be a reliable option for Cassel.

As for Cassel's ability to match points with Brees ... boy, I don't know. The Vikings had trouble protecting him last week, and he threw a couple of bad interceptions when he wasn't able to look off defenders. If it turned into that kind of game, I'd be a little worried about the Vikings' ability to keep up.

One of the ways the Saints' offense could get rolling, obviously, is Jimmy Graham. Is there any recipe to slowing him down right now? What would your advice be to the Vikings about how to cover him?

Triplett: Well, don't ask the Browns. They tried a little bit of everything last week, including Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden and corner Buster Skrine at times. And Graham just exploited the size mismatch.

When teams have had success against Graham, they had to devote more than one resource. The Patriots pressed him with corner Aqib Talib and played zone behind him; the Seahawks bracketed him, often using Earl Thomas as a spy; and the Eagles chipped him with defensive ends off the line. The problem, though, is that exposes teams to all of the Saints' other weapons, including their much-improved run game and dynamic new receiver Brandin Cooks. It's a pick-your-poison offense that's almost immune to double-teams.

So where is the Vikings' defense most vulnerable?

Goessling: Especially against a team that can spread them out like the Saints can, I'd have to say it's the secondary. Xavier Rhodes is the top cornerback, but he was playing with a groin injury last week, gave up four catches and got flagged three times. Captain Munnerlyn gave up a touchdown, and the secondary depth is a concern. As you mentioned, the process of stopping Graham is a group effort, and the Saints have so many options that the Vikings could have trouble keeping up, especially if they have as much trouble getting to Brees as they did to Tom Brady last week.

Speaking of defensive vulnerabilities, the Saints' defense looks to have taken a significant step back in the first two weeks of the season. First, where has the pass rush gone, and second, do you see a quick fix for the defensive issues?

Triplett: I definitely expect vast improvement by the Saints' defense. The talent is there, from pass-rushers Cameron Jordan, Junior Galette and Akiem Hicks to middle linebacker Curtis Lofton to No. 1 cornerback Keenan Lewis and safeties Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro. All have actually played well this season. But the Saints were done in by things such as missed tackles in Week 1 and blown assignments and penalties in Week 2. All extremely frustrating -- but correctable -- issues.

The biggest concern is the depth at cornerback. The Saints might have to make a change at the No. 2 cornerback spot, where teams have been picking on Patrick Robinson. A more consistent pass rush would certainly help in that department as well.


Bears vs. Jets preview

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
The Chicago Bears are coming off one of their best wins in recent memory; the New York Jets are trying to rebound from one of their worst losses -- ever.

Monday night's nonconference matchup at MetLife Stadium will be a fascinating study in how the teams -- both 1-1 -- handle extreme highs and lows. The Bears rallied from a 17-0 deficit to stun the San Francisco 49ers on the road 28-20. The Jets blew a 21-3 lead and fell to the Bears' top rival, the Green Bay Packers, 31-24.

The Jets and Bears are different on so many levels. The Jets like to play the game in the trenches, and they play it well. They lead the NFL in rushing offense and rushing defense, becoming the first team since the 2007 Minnesota Vikings to lead those categories in the same week. The Bears struggle in those areas (30th and 27th, respectively), preferring to play the game on the perimeter with Jay Cutler throwing to a talented group of receivers.

ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini and ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discuss the matchup:

Cimini: Obviously, there is a lot of interest in receiver Santonio Holmes. How is he fitting in with the offense and, given his diva reputation in New York, is he behaving in the locker room?

Wright: Rich, the first week Holmes was here, I spent about an hour speaking with him one day after practice and we touched on his tumultuous tenure with the Jets. He seems to be genuine, and says that is probably what got him into trouble some in New York. From what I've seen of Holmes, though, he is a fairly quiet guy who seems to prefer to be alone. He understands the current situation is a tremendous opportunity; he wants to prove that he still possesses the skills to be an effective player and that he can be a person his coaches and teammates can depend on. He has been good in the locker room, sharing his knowledge and experiences with younger receivers.

Holmes is still learning the nuances of Chicago's system, which he said is similar to what the Jets ran during his tenure, and he is spending time after practice with receivers coach Mike Groh, learning the ropes. It appears he is becoming more comfortable with the offense, and I anticipate his role growing as the team moves forward.

Turning to the Jets, it seems there has been quite a bit of fallout over the timeout that negated what should have been the game-tying touchdown against the Packers. In a situation like that, a lot of blame can be thrown around. How are the Jets handling that, and have they done anything moving forward to eliminate another miscommunication?

Cimini: Sheldon Richardson and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have each taken responsibility for the costly, ill-timed timeout, truly one of the biggest gaffes in Jets history. In my opinion, it was a perfect storm, meaning a whole lot of bad stuff happened at the same time. Obviously, they learned a hard lesson. If they didn't know it already, the players on the sideline know they should stay out of the "timeout" business.

In terms of communication between the coaches, nothing will change, according to Rex Ryan. He feels confident the right system is in place. He and Mornhinweg communicate during the game via the headset and, if Ryan is on the defensive channel and can't hear Mornhinweg (which happened Sunday), he will get the message from someone in the coaches' booth. They feel last Sunday was an aberration.

It overshadowed the biggest concern -- the pass defense. Do you think the Bears will try to have more balance offensively, or will they let Cutler attack the Jets' suspect secondary?

Wright: That depends on whether the Bears can be effective against the Jets' stingy run defense. Chicago has run the ball 35 times and passed 83 times this season. Against a defense like the Jets' -- regardless of the issues in their secondary -- that will get you beat. If Chicago can't show a semblance of a rushing attack, the offense becomes one-dimensional, which would allow the Jets to dial up the pressure on Cutler.

So the Bears definitely want to keep the Jets guessing. But as you mentioned, they will also want to attack with their huge receivers (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery) on the outside, and also utilize tight end Martellus Bennett down the seams. The Bears will definitely try to test New York's run defense early. But if they don't achieve any success, my guess is they will go heavy with the aerial attack.

Speaking of offense, New York seemed to be rolling early in the game against the Packers, scoring touchdowns on each of the first three drives. But in the last nine drives, the Jets came up with only a field goal. What is the team’s explanation for what happened?

Cimini: Get a load of this stat, Michael: The Jets scored 14 points in the first quarter for the first time since 2009. That is what you call a rare early explosion. They built the 21-3 lead with a run-heavy approach (18 runs, 10 passes), using a variety of schemes that kept the Packers off balance. The Packers adjusted and the Jets got away from the run, with a run-pass ratio of 16-26 over the final nine drives. I think the Jets got a little caught up in trying to keep pace with Rodgers, and it took them out of their comfort zone.

This week, there will be a renewed emphasis on the running game. Even though they ran for 146 yards, they weren't happy at all. The uncertain status of wide receiver Eric Decker (hamstring) makes the running game even more important. At the same time, they are trying to achieve more balance in the passing game. It has been a two-man show, Decker and Jeremy Kerley, and some of the players have approached Mornhinweg about trying to spread the ball around.

Statistically, the Bears' run defense stinks. How do you think it will fare against the Jets' run-heavy attack?

Wright: In the opener, Chicago gave up 193 yards to the Bills on the ground -- but 85 came on two runs. Most of their issues against the run have been execution, and that is more acceptable than players simply being dominated physically. That is why the Bears weren't overly concerned with their performance in the opener. There were one or two occasions in which a player tried to do more than his own job. That resulted in the player jumping out of his gap, and a big gain followed. The Bears cleaned that up against the 49ers in Week 2, and I anticipate them being a tad better against the Jets. That doesn't mean the Bears will stop them. But I think they will allow fewer than the 4.8 yards per attempt they gave up last week.

There have been lots of Jets penalties so far. How have the flags affected this team's effectiveness, and do you think this speaks to an issue of immaturity or lack of discipline that can ultimately undermine the Jets?

Cimini: The Jets have been called for 22 penalties (four declined), but who's counting? That total includes two roughing-the-passer penalties and two unsportsmanlike conduct calls, one of which resulted in the ejection of Muhammad Wilkerson. Yeah, there is a lack of maturity at times. The Jets are a relatively young team, and those young players tend to lose their poise. Some of it falls on Ryan, who is anything but a no-nonsense disciplinarian. He gives the players their space, and sometimes things get loosey-goosey, but they appreciate his player-friendly approach and they play hard for him. That is the tradeoff.

Obviously, they have to clean it up or they will lose a lot of close games. Teams with middling talent, such as the Jets, don't have a huge margin for error.

Lions vs. Packers preview

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
It is a rivalry filled with dirtbags, scumbags, stomps and a winning streak going on longer than some NFL rookies have been alive. And that is just the past few decades.

Whenever the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions play each other, something ends up happening. So far, two of the major instigators of the recent vintage -- Packers lineman Josh Sitton and Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh -- have remained quiet. That doesn’t mean something won't end up happening between now and game time.

So what happens during the game? NFL Nation Lions reporter Michael Rothstein and Packers reporter Rob Demovsky break down what you might see Sunday.

Rothstein: So, Rob, the Lions are going to have their third different starting slot corner in as many weeks on Sunday. How have the Packers done in three-wide sets this season and is that an exploitable area for Aaron Rodgers?

Demovsky: The three-receiver set is essentially their base offense. They use it primarily when they go no-huddle. But it really has not mattered much what the Packers are in personnel-wise, they’ve been looking to Jordy Nelson time and again. At some point, teams are surely going to force other receivers to beat them and that’s where Randall Cobb could come in. Although he caught a pair of touchdown passes last Sunday against the Jets, he had only 39 yards receiving. Given that he’s their slot receiver, perhaps this is a matchup the Packers will look to exploit this week.

I know it’s early in the season, but Nelson is putting up Calvin Johnson-type numbers so far. In fact, Nelson and Johnson come into this game ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in receiving yards. Nelson turned 29 this offseason and doesn’t look like he’s lost a step. Johnson will turn 29 at the end of this month. Is there any reason to think he’s slowing down at all?

Rothstein: Not at all. There was perhaps some concern over that during spring workouts, but he came into training camp looking like the receiver who has dominated the NFL over the past four seasons. The Lions brought in Golden Tate and Eric Ebron to help elongate Johnson's career as much as to help Matthew Stafford from taking nasty hits. So far, it has worked. Johnson is still being targeted a ton, but Tate is tied for 25th in the league in catches and 19th in yards with 150. Not bad for a true No. 2 receiver.

As long as Johnson can avoid injuries, he should still be in his prime for another couple of seasons. He takes extremely good care of himself and the Lions are doing their best to manage him. In the preseason they barely played him. Even during regular-season games, they are doing what they can to keep him fresh. That'll be one difference for Green Bay. There will be plays he's healthy on the sideline as the team tries to keep him as healthy and fresh as possible.

While the receivers will get the attention, the last time these two teams played, Josh Sitton called Ndamukong Suh and friends "dirtbags" and the Lions defensive line responded with their best game of the season. Is there still a similar level of dislike there or has that changed with the switch in the Detroit coaching staff?

Demovsky: Certainly the change in the coaches eased some of the tension between the Packers’ players and the Lions. Let’s face it, Sitton was pretty blunt in what he said about Jim Schwartz, so some of that is now gone. And Evan Dietrich-Smith, the player Suh stomped on, is no longer with the Packers. That said, there’s always going to be an emotional charge as long as Suh is on the other side. That will never go away as long as he’s there and Sitton and T.J. Lang are here. But both of those players are experienced enough to know now that this game is bigger than the individuals. And besides, the last time the Packers were at Ford Field, they took a beating, so if anything, the Packers might go back there humbled.

How much carryover, if any, will the Lions take from that 40-10 win over the Packers last Thanksgiving given that Rodgers did not even play in the game?

Rothstein: Not much, I don't think. So much has changed since then, from Rodgers now being healthy to the Packers switching defensive fronts to the Lions changing coaching staffs and offensive and defensive philosophies. I think it helps the Lions -- and Stafford -- that he finally beat Green Bay so there's potentially an underlying confidence thing there, but not a ton to it. Detroit doesn't seem focused on last season at all. For instance, when I asked Suh about that game last year and the aforementioned dirtbags comment, he smiled and basically said that was last season and had nothing to do with this season.

One of the Detroit offensive linemen, Rob Sims, mentioned the defensive line looks a lot different this year both in size and personnel. How much has the defense really shifted and how much 3-4 might the Packers still run, if any?

Demovsky: It’s like someone took Dom Capers’ old playbook away from him given how much 4-3 he’s running. It’s the first time he has done that since he came to Green Bay in 2009. What’s more, when he’s playing a four-man line, he’s using Clay Matthews off the line of scrimmage almost like an inside linebacker. They’re also much smaller across the front without those big three defensive tackles they had last season. It’s a completely different look, and it remains to be seen whether the change has been for the good. So far, they have struggled to stop the run, allowing 176.5 yards per game, which ranks 31st in the NFL.

The Packers have not been able to run the ball at all up the middle this season, and it looks like it might not get any easier this week. Why has the Lions' run defense been so effective?

Rothstein: It starts with that familiar guy from earlier, Ndamukong Suh. While teams still like to double him as much as possible, he is so difficult to deal with when an offensive line is trying to run block. Plus, the Lions have become much more aggressive this season with sending their linebackers, so rush lanes up the middle that used to be available in the Wide 9 defensive front are no longer an option for opposing teams.

But it starts with Suh and then linebackers DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch. Those three players are going to make it difficult for any team Detroit faces to run up the middle. Here’s what you need to know there. The Giants and Panthers tried 34 rushes either up the middle or behind guards the first two weeks of the season. They’ve gotten pretty much nowhere, gaining only 69 yards. It’s a strength for Detroit, without a doubt.


Injury report: Hyde, Hayward upgraded

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Micah Hyde, who has started at safety in each of the Green Bay Packers' first two games this season, was upgraded from a limited participant in Wednesday's practice to a full participant on Thursday.

Meanwhile, another member of the secondary also was upgraded. Cornerback Casey Hayward, who did not practice Wednesday because of a glute strain, returned to practice Thursday.

However, that does not necessarily mean Hayward will have a role on defense in Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. Last Sunday against the New York Jets, Hayward played only on special teams after Davon House moved into the nickel package and played well, breaking up a pair of passes (including one that was nearly an interception).

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga also practiced on a limited basis. Bulaga (knee) worked in the same fashion last week but did not play against the Jets.

"Before viewing the film, I can't give you an accurate assessment of Casey, Micah and Bryan," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. "But I know they participated and did what was laid out for them."

Here's the full injury report:
  • RT Bryan Bulaga (knee, limited participation in practice)
  • CB Casey Hayward (glute strain, limited participation)
  • S Micah Hyde (knee, full participation)
  • LB Brad Jones (quadriceps, did not practice)
  • OLB Andy Mulumba (knee, out)
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Sixteen days removed from surgery to reattach the biceps tendon in his right arm, the only thing B.J. Raji knows about his future is that he faces a rehab process that could take up to nine months.

Whatever happens at the end of the process is anyone’s guess for a player who had returned to the Green Bay Packers hoping to parlay his one-year contract into something bigger. But Raji said he plans to be prepared to prove he can still play and do it at a high level.

That was Raji's intent when he returned this season for $4 million after the free agent market failed to produce a long-term deal. Although he appeared to be poised for a big season back at his old nose tackle position after playing defensive end the last three seasons, he might be staring at another one-year deal when free agency hits next season.

[+] EnlargeB.J. Raji
AP Photo/Tom DiPaceB.J. Raji might have played his last game in a Packers uniform.
And there's no guarantee the Packers will be interested again.

"Right now I'm just not looking further than my rehab," Raji said Thursday, when he spoke to reporters for the first time since he was injured in an Aug. 22 preseason game. "Just trying to get better, making sure that when I'm able to start training that I'm in good position business-wise. I don't want to get crazy out of shape, where people might have some questions. Just doing everything I can to help myself and whatever happens, happens."

Raji compared his situation to that of defensive tackle Henry Melton, who tore his ACL last September as a member of the Chicago Bears. In free agency this past offseason, Melton signed with the Dallas Cowboys, who structured the contract in such a way that it is a one-year deal with an option for three more years. If the Cowboys pick up the option after the first year, Melton’s base salary of $9 million in 2015 would become guaranteed.

"Ultimately, it's something I've never been through before," Raji said. "So it's like, let it [play] out and see what happens. I think it's more important for me to get myself ready so if the questions do come, you can say, 'Listen, I'm doing X, Y and Z,' whereas opposed to you've kind of got your hands up, like, 'Well, I didn't know.'"

Packers physician Dr. Pat McKenzie, who performed Raji’s surgery on Sept. 2, told the 28-year-old that it will take 6 to 9 months for him to recover from the surgery but does not expect any lingering issues. Raji said he was injured while trying to reach out to make a tackle. McKenzie told him that night he was pretty sure his biceps tendon was torn and tests the next day confirmed that.

Raji was still in an immobilizing brace on Thursday and he plans to remain in Green Bay throughout the season to rehab, travel with the team to road games and offer whatever help he can provide to his fellow defensive linemen.

But he knows the possibility exists that he has played his last game for the team that drafted him ninth overall in 2009.

"I would love to be a Packer, but obviously who knows at this point?" he said. "I'm more worried about my rehab and just being around the team and trying to be a help to the young guys."