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Welcome to the next installment of our OTA reports as we take a look at the NFC North.
Previous OTA Reports: NFC East
, AFC North
, NFC West
, AFC East
Green Bay Packers
The Packers invested heavily in the draft at the running back position drafting Eddie Lacy out of Alabama and Johnathan Franklin out of UCLA and both will look to see plenty of playing time in their rookie seasons.
They also face competition from DuJuan Harris who showed some promise late last season as well as Alex Green, who for the most part struggled.
There has been some talk of Johnathan Franklin being a sleeper for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, although he is ineliglible to participate in the Packers’ OTA’s due to not graduating yet from UCLA. Eddie Lacy also has an injury history which could be problematic but this looks to be a very intriguing battle at the position for the Packers.
With the loss of last year’s starter Jasper Brinkley this offseason the Vikings are very thin at this position heading into their offseason program.
The Vikings figure to choose between Audie Cole, Michael Mauti, Tyrone McKenzie, Gerald Hodges and Erin Henderson to fill this spot.
Heading into OTA’s the favourite has to be starting weak-side linebacker Erin Henderson who would move inside with fourth-round pick Gerald Hodges possible taking his place at the weak-side spot, but this still looks like being an open battle for the middle linebacker spot.
Every offseason there seems to be a positional battle along the offensive line for the Bears, and this year is no different after Chicago drafted former Oregon guard Kyle Long in the first round and also brought in the likes of former New York Jet Matt Slauson to compete.
Jerome Bushrod figures to have the left tackle spot locked up -- after all he is being paid too much to just sit on the bench -- but the Guard position is where the real battle will take place.
The aforementioned Kyle Long and Matt Slauson will be fighting for a spot alongside Gabe Carimi, James Brown and Edwin Williams. Although should Carimi lose out on one of the Guard spots, he can possibly be moved to the tackle position opposite Bushrod.
The Lions are going to look very different at the defensive end position after losing last seasons’ starters Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
So fighting for those positions are fifth overall pick Ziggy Ansah, fellow rookie Devin Taylor, four year veteran Willie Young and sixth year veteran Jason Jones.
Currently the signs point towards Ziggy Ansah and Jason Jones filling the two defensive end spots, although I expect a lot of rotation at the position with Willie Young in particular getting significant play time. All eyes though will be on how well and quickly Ziggy Ansah fits into the Lions’ scheme.
TEAM NEWS AND INJURIES
Green Bay Packers
The Packers last week signed rookie RB Eddie Lacy meaning all but first round selection Datone Jones are now signed up from the Packers’ 2013 draft class.
Longtime absentee Johnny Jolly was back in a Packers helmet for the first time in three years after his drug related charges and subsequent jail time.
Cornerback Sam Shields missed the start of OTA’s but has now signed his restricted free agent tender and has now rejoined his team mates at practice.
Fourth round pick, OG J.C. Tretter is likely out for the season after tearing ankle ligaments during OTA’s, which is a big loss for a team who struggled protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers last season. Third year CB Davon House had shoulder surgery earlier in the year but coach Mike McCarthy is expecting big things from House in 2013.
Current NFL MVP Adrian Peterson has come out and stated that he is now ‘"pretty much 100%" after having surgery for a sports hernia in February. He has looked and performed like we know he can in OTA’s as he looks to improve on his 2,097 yards rushing he earned last season!
QB Christian Ponder has also looked confident and accurate, which is very promising at this point for the organisation and its fans. First round pick CB Xavier Rhodes has also looked impressive with his coverage skills and run support and the Vikings will be hoping he carries this over to training camp and beyond.
New acquisition, WR Greg Jennings has missed some time at OTA’s due to picking up an ankle injury, which according to coach Leslie Frazier was "nothing serious". DE Jared Allen also returned for the second week of the Vikings’ OTA’s after rehabbing from offseason shoulder and knee surgeries.
Perhaps the biggest news to come out of Halas Hall, which isn’t good news, is the arrest for the second time this off-season of FB Evan Rodriguez for DUI. Rodriguez has since apologised but his roster spot on the Bears could very easily be up for grabs.
With recently retired Brian Urlacher no longer calling the defensive plays the responsibility will now rest with Lance Briggs as he takes on a larger leadership role. Reports suggest he’s excelling in his new role which bodes well for new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
RB Matt Forte has also looked very impressive as he’ll have an increased role in the Bears offense.
The Bears were one of the first teams in the NFL to start their OTA program, with a noticeable absentee being star WR Brandon Marshall who is now back in the fold after arthroscopic hip surgery in February.
OL Gabe Carimi has also been missing from OTA’s after choosing to work out alone in Arizona.
The Lions have gone about their business fairly quietly after having a recent history of high profile arrests. Newly acquired RB Reggie Bush seems very confident in the Lions’ ability to not only have the number one offense but to also go on and win the Super Bowl. A brave prediction!
Reports coming out of Detroit are suggesting that Reggie Bush will be a focal point of the Lions’ offense alongside Calvin Johnson. The Lions have a young defense who should make strides this season after some impressive individual OTA performances.
WR Ryan Broyles, RB Mikel Leshoure and 2013 second round pick CB Darius Slay have been missing after nursing injuries, with Broyles still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last season. Leshoure and Slay however have participated in practise this week on a limited basis.
That's the NFC North covered. Stay tuned for more reports.