NFC North weekend mailbag

There's always something these days. The week after the draft is typically deep-breath time for the NFL, but the events of this week had us running hither and thither on the NFC North blog. Through it all, I saw everything you've submitted via the mailbag, Twitter and Facebook and tried to respond when possible. Another attempt forthcoming:

Brian of Minneapolis has watched the NFL issue severe punishments following its investigation into the New Orleans Saints' bounty program and can't reconcile them with relatively light in-game punishment in issues of player safety: My frustration as a fan is seeing the referees on game day powerless to enforce penalties beyond the standard 15-yard penalty for repeat offenders. Fines may come later, but I don't see the behavior deterred on game day. What if the NFL adopted a rule mandating an ejection for two unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a game?

Kevin Seifert: As Brian pointed out later in his note, there is sports precedent for progressive in-game penalties, including the "persistent infringement" aspect of soccer. (Yes, I'm sure there are many of you who would protest using "football" and "soccer" in the same sentence, but that's for another day.)

Normally I would say there would be little chance for such a dramatic change to the NFL's in-game rules. Referees have the authority to eject a player on a first offense if it is egregious enough, but what Brian is referring to is deterring standard roughness or unsportsmanlike infractions by elevating the punishments within a game.

Given how focused NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appears to be on the player-safety issue, however, I couldn't rule out this type of change in coming years. In essence, if this kind of rule were enacted, a player could be ejected after hitting a player out of bounds and then roughing the punter.

Many of us would cry foul at another attempt to reduce the violence of an inherently violent game, but we've already seen Goodell act repeatedly with no concern for that argument. Who knows what's next?

Serge of Windsor saw our post on the Detroit Lions' offense and writes: I think [rookie receiver] Ryan Broyles will have a significant impact on the Lions' offensive explosive capability. The Lions already have a couple deep threats in Calvin Johnson and Titus Young … however, their impact was negated through double teams in deep cover 2 schemes. What has been missing -- sorry, while Nate Burleson is a class act and a great influence in the locker room, he has been very average on the field -- and what the Lions see in Broyles, is a receiver that is able to punish a defense for playing such schemes by finding windows underneath and gaining yards after the catch. In theory, this will eventually force defenses out of such schemes and open up deep opportunities for Calvin Johnson and Titus Young to make explosive plays downfield.

Kevin Seifert: Interesting theory, Serge, especially if Broyles turns out to be the kind of open-field runner that draft evaluators believe he is. He does appear to have all the skills necessary to be a front-line slot receiver.

But I'm not convinced defenses will deprioritize deep coverage, especially against Johnson, if the Lions have stronger weapons underneath. Johnson is going to draw maximum attention as often as defenses can arrange for it. I don't think a slot receiver, no matter how talented he is, can draw coverage away from Johnson.

What Broyles will do is make more explosive plays when he gets his hands on the ball in the open field than, say, tight ends Brandon Pettigrew or Tony Scheffler. The Lions would be a more explosive offense with Broyles, but that doesn't necessarily mean defenses will make it any easier for Johnson, and to a lesser extent Young, make deep downfield plays against them. I'm pretty sure I would take my chances against anyone other than Calvin Johnson.

Ben of Denver thought that Mike Daniels, the Green Bay Packers' fourth-round draft choice, deserved to be in this week's discussion about the team's desire to get more "juice" in its defensive front: I think he at least deserved to be mentioned in the article, as he was brought in to do and has just as much of an opportunity to bring exactly the same thing that [Anthony] Hargrove was signed for, inside pass rush. I am very excited about the injection of explosiveness, talent, and depth to our front seven.

Kevin Seifert: Fair point. Daniels had seven sacks as an inside pass-rusher at Iowa and has a naturally athletic frame. According to Scouts Inc., Daniels put on 50 pounds in college to play defensive tackle at 291 pounds. In its pre-draft report, Scouts Inc. gave Daniels its highest grade for quickness (hands/feet) and toughness/motor. Here is an excerpt:

"Step late getting to the quarterback at times but disruptive nonetheless and excels at moving quarterback off the spot. Quickly reacts to snap and flashes the ability to shoot gaps. Above-average hand fighter that flashes effective swim, rip and push-pull moves. Can shake offensive linemen with spin move. Gets hands up when sees quarterback start throwing motion. Flashes the ability to get under centers and drive them back but average overall power as a bull rusher. … Active hands make it difficult for blockers to lock onto frame. Flashes the ability to counter when offensive linemen get their hands inside his initially. First-step quickness is a notch below elite. Rarely gets beat to the point of attack and ability to explode upfield in addition to leverage helps mask lack of ideal size. Shows good foot speed working down the line and fighting off cut blocks."

The point of the post was that the Packers have taken a very focused approach to their offseason, seeking out players with the skills to be disruptive on the line of scrimmage. Daniels certainly fits that description and should have received a mention in the post.

Chuck of Guilin, China, writes: I have seen videos and read numerous slams on the Chicago Bears' OL. I thought they had two starters coming off 2011 injured reserve, no more Mike Martz and, most important, Mike Tice likes his group of young linemen. If Tice is what everyone says he is, why all the media flack?

Kevin Seifert: That's definitely the counter-argument to the media criticism the Bears have received. From the big picture, I see where the criticism has come from. The Bears have had to patch together their line in each of the past two seasons, rolling through various combinations and schemes until they found something that worked. In the process, some of their linemen -- like left tackle J'Marcus Webb -- looked pretty bad.

The Bears' decision not to add personnel means they have placed a lot of faith in Tice. In addition to his role as offensive coordinator, they want him to mold a functioning line group out of players who haven't always gotten the job done in the past two years. Success is usually a combination of player skill, good coaching and luck. The Bears have faith in some players whose skills have not always been obvious from the outside.

Facebook friend Jerry asks: Since the free agent and draftees by the Vikings all seem to be second-tier WR's, is there any chance the Vikings will add an impact player from free agency still? Say a Braylon Edwards, Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress?

Kevin Seifert: While I agree the Vikings have some question marks at the receiver position, it should be pointed out that they've already taken a dip into the veteran free-agent market and come up with Jerome Simpson. I'm not sure they have any plans beyond that. For now, they'll go with Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins, Simpson, their pair of pass-catching tight ends, and hope that perhaps Greg Childs or Jarius Wright develop into a contributor.