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NFC NORTH: Where each team stands after offseason program

The summer break for the four teams in the NFC North is here after OTAs and minicamps in Detroit, Minnesota, Green Bay and Chicago finished up last week.

Next up for the four teams in the division is the start of training camp at the end of next month, which typically marks the official beginning of the 2018 season.

Let’s catch up on some of the headlines for each team:

MINNESOTA

Headline: Some of the Vikings’ core pieces are entering final contract years. Will the Vikings be able to get them all re-signed?

The skinny: Defensive end Danielle Hunter, linebacker Anthony Barr and receiver Stefon Diggs are all entering the final year of their contracts.

Hunter has become a bookend edge rusher opposite Everson Griffen with 26.5 sacks in his first three seasons.

Barr is one of the most versatile linebackers in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl in three of his first four seasons in the league.

Diggs makes up the second part of one of the best receiving duos in the league alongside Adam Thielen. Diggs caught 64 passes last season with 849 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games.

Twentyman: What a great problem to have if you’re the Vikings. Which star do we prioritize signing first? It just speaks to the job GM Rick Spielman has done over the years building the core of this roster through the draft.

I’d expect the Vikings to try and get deals done with at least a couple of these players before the season starts.

DETROIT

Headline: Will Detroit’s run game be better in 2018?

The skinny: If the Lions don’t improve from being the worst rushing team in the league a season ago, it won’t be for lack of trying. The team signed veteran running back and three-time Super Bowl Champion LeGarrette Blount in free agency to give them a more physical presence in the backfield and be a veteran voice in the meeting room.

GM Bob Quinn then selected interior offensive lineman Frank Ragnow in the first round of the draft to add some toughness. He took running back Kerryon Johnson in the second round to give them a nice one-two punch in their backfield.

The offensive line coaching staff is all new too.

Twentyman: It’s hard to truly evaluate a run game until the pads come on and the hitting starts, but all indications from talking with the coaches and players tasked with improving the run game is that there was a big emphasis on getting better this offseason, and the feeling is that the right personnel have been assembled to get the job done.

This crazy thing is that the run game doesn’t have to improve by leaps and bounds to make a big impact. The 19th-ranked rushing attack last season averaged 4.0 yards per attempt (Lions averaged 3.4) and 104.2 yards per game (76.3).

GREEN BAY

Headline: Packers head coach Mike McCarthy again excuses group of veterans from this week’s minicamp

Skinny: McCarthy told reporters Tuesday that 16 veterans, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, are exempt from camp and will start their summers early, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette.

“Well, the format for this camp is similar to the last couple of years and we have a vet-select opportunity,” McCarthy told the paper. “Sixteen veterans that have been excused from the camp and that’s really twofold: They deserve it, where they are particularly in their career, and as we all know, the second part is there’s only so many reps that you can accomplish throughout the offseason.”

Twentyman: The Packers have decided that they want to focus on the younger players alongside select veterans as a way to attack their three-day minicamp.

Other players skipping camp include receiver Randall Cobb, tight end Jimmy Graham, defensive linemen Mike Daniels and Muhammad Wilkerson, and linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry to name a few.

Summer vacation came early for some vets in Green Bay. Good for them.

CHICAGO

Headline: Bears new head coach Matt Nagy praises offense after three-day minicamp

The skinny: Nagy expressed “satisfaction” with how the offense played during the three-day mandatory minicamp, according to ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson. Nagy is still installing the system he brought over from Kansas City, but told reporters the installation is ahead of schedule at this point.

Twentyman: The Bears are a pretty veteran group on defense, and it's okay for Chicago fans to be a little optimistic about the potential for this offense with running back Jordan Howard, second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and a new collection of receiving weapons brought to the Windy City via free agency.

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