7.5% Attempts by QB Christian Ponder that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, lowest in the NFL. His 22.2% completion rate on those balls is also the league's lowest.
Plenty of this is on Ponder, who let loose just 36 passes of 20 or more yards. The 24-year-old must grow if the offense is to ascend. But the Vikings can do him a favor by improving at receiver, and they have the cap money (about $16 million) to do so. Big-play free agents such as Dwayne Bowe or Mike Wallace should be in play here.
February 11, 2013
AND THEN? Hope that one of the draft's many aggressive linebackers falls to No. 23. If that happens, snatch one as a replacement for Jasper Brinkley, a pending free agent who didn't do enough in 2012 to justify a starter's salary.... Find a better option at defensive tackle. Letroy Guion struggled in '12, and the draft is loaded with alternatives.... Get WR Percin Harvin's ankle healthy, and keep the all-around threat happy with an extension and new schemes that free him up.... Re-sign RT Phil Loadholt.
29.6% Catchable balls that Kellen Davis dropped, highest among tight ends who were targeted at least 40 times.
Davis is a competent blocker, but his unreliable hands severely limited QB Jay Cutler's options. (Hence the Brandon Marshall Show.) The Bears need to sign one of the several pass-catching TEs who could be free agents: Martellus Bennett, Anthony Fasano or Fred Davis.
Upgrade the O-line—at a minimum, one tackle and one guard.... Start the youth movement on D, where MLB Brian Urlacher is 34, DE Julius Peppers 33 and CB Charles Tillman 31.... Replace backup QB Jason Campbell (72.8 passer rating in six games).
45 Combined sacks, hits and hurries allowed by RG Stephen Peterman, most of any guard in the league.
SOLUTION The Lions have two potential answers on the roster: 2012 first-round pick Riley Reiff and Bill Nagy, who spent the season on IR (ankle) and should be healthy by August. An upgrade will reduce the number of sacks Matthew Stafford takes (29 in '12) and lift the running game, which ranked 23rd.
Draft a mid-round runner (Oregon's Kenjon Barner?) with home run potential.... Use the No. 5 pick on Alabama's Dee Milliner, the top CB prospect.... Let DE Cliff Avril go, and hope Texas pass rusher extraordinaire Alex Okafor slips to round 2.
40 Combined sacks, hits and hurries produced by OLBs Dezman Moses and Erik Walden on 581 pass rushes. (Clay Matthews, who missed four games with a hamstring injury, had 49 on 357.)
SOLUTION The return to health of Matthews and Nick Perry (who went on IR after wrist surgery in Week 10) will help. If that's not enough, the Packers could draft pieces for their 3--4 D. Some intriguing talent is likely to be available at No. 26, such as 6'8" SMU end Margus Hunt and Auburn's Corey Lemonier.
Find a stable running back or retain Cedric Benson, who went out in Week 5 with a Lisfranc injury.... Either commit to TE Jermichael Finley or draft his replacement. Cincinnati's Travis Kelce might fit the bill.