Friday, July 26, 2013
Eight in the Box: NFC North camp battles
By Kevin Seifert
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South
One key positional battle for each NFC North team as training camps get underway.
Chicago Bears: The wide receiver position isn't as settled as you might think in Chicago. We know that Brandon Marshall will be one starter, and the assumption is that Alshon Jeffery will work on the other side, with Earl Bennett in the slot. But Jeffery is hardly a proven player, having missed six games as a rookie last season and catching 24 passes in the 10 games he played. Don't forget, too, that Bennett has a long history with quarterback Jay Cutler. The Bears also might be motivated to find roster room for rookie Marquess Wilson, who was troubled but talented at Washington State and might be difficult to get on to the practice squad.
Detroit Lions: Reggie Bush figures to get more snaps this season than any other Lions running back, presuming he stays healthy. But he isn't expected to be a workhorse, so the identity of the team's No. 2 running back will have added importance. Training camp should feature a spirited battle between Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell for that spot. Leshoure was the Lions' primary back last season and carries the pedigree of a second-round draft choice, but he wasn't explosive and continued to deal with hamstring injuries during the offseason. Bell proved a nifty runner last season and a good receiver as well.
Green Bay Packers: The running back position is wide open after the decision to draft Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, who will join DuJuan Harris, James Starks, Alex Green and John Kuhn. Harris has opened training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list but eventually should join the mix. Lacy's size (5-foot-11, 230 pounds) makes him a candidate to handle goal-line and short-yardage situations, but he also could emerge as a first-down back depending on Harris' condition. Starks has as much talent as anyone in the group but has never been able to stay healthy.
Minnesota Vikings: We all know that Greg Jennings will be one of the Vikings' starting receivers. But who will man the second and third spots? The assumption has been that Jerome Simpson will start on the outside, with Jarius Wright in the slot and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson working his way into the rotation. But the competition is open, and I wouldn't assume those spots are locked up in that way. The Vikings have big plans for Patterson, and eventually he should displace Simpson alongside Jennings. It's probably just a matter of when.