NFC Notes: Berger, Bucs, Alexander, Eagles

With starting center John Sullivan sidelined all year for the Vikings, veteran offensive lineman Joe Berger – rated by Pro Football Focus as one of the league’s top centers – has been invaluable for the team, writes Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune. Minnesota prioritized re-signing Berger in the offseason, and he was happy to return to the Vikings, even in a backup role.

Having played every offensive snap for the club this season, Berger is on track to earn an extra $400K in incentives if he continues that pace, and barring an injury, there’s no reason to believe he won’t. Sullivan suffered a setback and underwent another surgical procedure in October, and isn’t expected to return this season, so the center job looks like Berger’s for at least the rest of the year.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Although he’s facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander looks likely to play in Sunday’s game against the Colts. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times notes that the NFL officially notified the team of Alexander’s suspension on Wednesday, giving him five days to appeal the ban, which he’s expected to do. By the time the appeal process plays out, Alexander may end up serving the penalty over the final four games of the regular season, assuming the suspension is upheld.
  • Buccaneers running back Doug Martin made comments this week suggesting he doesn’t like the idea that he’s having an excellent season because he’s in a contract year. However, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes, teams may be wary of a repeat of DeMarco Murray‘s situation, so if Tampa Bay doesn’t franchise Martin or make a competitive offer, “the warning to everyone else will be implied.” For what it’s worth, the Bucs have indicated they want to retain the running back beyond the 2015 season.
  • If the Eagles decide to replace head coach Chip Kelly before the 2016 season, Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News would be surprised if a new coach could come in and immediately transform the club into a playoff team. Of course, that just means that Kelly the general manager should be getting at least as much criticism as Kelly the coach, since he was responsible for many of the roster decisions that have depleted the club’s talent.
  • After consecutive 10-6 seasons, Kelly didn’t suddenly becoming a bad coach, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who points out that there are Super Bowl-winning coaches that succeeded after flaming out in their previous head coaching jobs. Like Bowen though, McLane questions Kelly as a general manager, writing that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie will have to decide if replacing Kelly as GM and/or head coach is the answer.
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