With training camp officially wrapping up for the Packers, Bears, Vikings and Lions and the regular season just a couple weeks away, what questions surrounding those teams at the beginning of camp have been answered?
Question: Have the Bears finally found themselves a big receiver?
Brandon Marshall (6-4) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3) give the Bears two very big options on the outside for quarterback Jay Cutler this season. The Bears offense has featured smaller receivers such as Earl Bennett (6-0), Johnny Knox (6-0) and Devin Hester (5-11) the last couple years with minimal success.
The Bears tried to get bigger last year by signing former Lion Roy Williams (6-4), but that experiment didn’t work out so well.
All reports out of Chicago are that Marshall and Jeffery are the real deal and are building a good rapport with Cutler. Jeffery has been the team’s leading receiver (seven catches for 97 yards) through the preseason and Brandon Marshall is averaging 21.7 yards per reception in two preseason games.
“Both caught the ball well and showed good separation from corners,” Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King recently wrote of Marshall and Jeffery when visiting Bears training camp.
Twentyman: The last time the Bears had a 1000-yard receiver was Marty Booker in 2002. That’s an amazing statistic the way the NFL has been evolving offensively over the last 10 years. Lions fans know better than most what having a receiver with both size and speed on the outside can do for an offense. Marshall has a proven track record of performance in the NFL and if Jeffery continues to look as good as he has, the Bears might be tough to cover on the outside.
Question: Can the defense catch up to the offense?
The two biggest areas of concern for the Packers last year on defense were pass defense and getting after the quarterback. They allowed 4,796 passing yards last season (299.8 per game), which ranked last in the NFL. They had the third-fewest sacks in the NFL last season with 29.
They used their first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft to select OLB Nick Perry, who they hope will help with the latter. Former cornerback Charles Woodson has moved to a hybrid safety position, which they think will help the secondary.
The Packers are still trying to figure out the right cornerback spot between with Casey Hayward and Davon House leading a host of candidates.
On paper it looks better for the Packers defense, but only time will tell.
Twentyman: Statistics can be a bit misleading sometimes, especially when it comes to the Packers defense. The same pass defense that gave up all those yards last season also led the NFL with 31 interceptions. The defense allowed 22.4 points per game last year, a better statistic to use when evaluating defense, which ranked 19th in the league. That's not great, but it's not as bad as 12 other teams. With an offense as explosive as the one the Packers employ, the defense just needs to be average for them to be a really good team. Anything more than that and the Packers will be very tough to beat.
Question: Is the secondary better?
The Lions secondary has been scrutinized all offseason because of the way it ended the 2011 season against the Packers and Saints (946 passing yards and nine touchdowns). When the team released starting right cornerback Aaron Berry a few days before training camp opened, the concern grew even more.
One month into the 2012 season, it’s hard to say if they’re better or not.
Delmas' return to the field this season is still being looked at on a week-to-week basis after he had surgery Aug. 7.
It's likely to be a different secondary in 2012 with two new starters at right cornerback and one of the safety spots. The Lions appear to have more depth than a year ago, but it's hard to say right now that they're better.
Question: Will Adrian Peterson really be ready for the start of the season?
It appears that way.
It was less than eight months ago that the Vikings running back tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee last Christmas Eve. He had surgery six days later.
Peterson was taken off the PUP list on Aug. 12 and has now gone through padded practices.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Peterson will not play in either of the Vikings two remaining preseason games, though Peterson has said publicly that he wants to play in at least one.
“I wouldn't mind getting in for a couple of series just to test it out and see how I do,” Peterson told the paper. “Personally, to be honest with you, I feel like I'm fine and I'll be good to go no matter what. But it would be good to get some game action.”
Twentyman: The fact the Vikings could even consider Peterson ready to play in a preseason game is amazing. If Peterson is on the field Week 1 when the Vikings play the 49ers, he’ll be the new poster boy for how to attack an ACL rehab. Lions receiver
Around the NFC North
Bears likely to pun on costly fill-in for Podlesh
Brad Biggs –Tribune
Should Bears be worried about their run defense?
Steve Rosenbloom – Tribune
Brandon Marshall says Bears' offense can be 'scary'
Joe Cowley – Sun-Times
Injuries taking toll on secondary
Mark Potash – Sun-Times
Rachel to get chance to impress at left guard
Jeff Dickerson – ESPNChicago.com
Thompson standing behind Harrell
Nelson follows breakout 2011 season with strong camp
Rob Demovsky – Press-Gazette
Packers ready to go solo at running back
Tom Silverstein – Journal Sentinel
Vikings rookie kicker Walsh quickly discoveries he's an avid indoorsman
Dan Wiederer – Star Tribune
Vikings' improving offensive line says it has Christian Ponder's back
Jeremy Fowler – Pioneer Press