The Minnesota Vikings are expected to resume practice today, assuming head coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t call another audible, and Vikings fans are hoping to get some relieving news and continue to watch the team march towards what is widely expected to be a very successful 2016 campaign within the NFC North.
Before Vikings news commences, however, here is a quick glance around the division to see what our biggest enemies are up to:
Chicago Bears Show Little Progress
Every year, a team far exceeds expectations and surprises a number of teams along the way to a playoff berth. Usually, hindsight being what it is, a person can look back to August and find signs of growth and opportunity that were clear but still went unnoticed.
That isn’t happening in Chicago.
The Chicago Tribune‘s Dan Wiederer and Rich Campbell recently had an extensive chat, published in conversation form, and neither sounds overly optimistic about the Bears doing any real damage this offseason. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:[pull_quote_center]…I still see a team that is woefully low on depth, continually hampered by injuries and far from special in any area. -Wiederer[/pull_quote_center] [pull_quote_center]Nothing I’ve seen to this point has changed my mind about the Bears finishing in the vicinity of six wins. -Campbell[/pull_quote_center] [pull_quote_center]…a bottom-feeding team still needs to be ultra-talented, deep and healthy to make a significant jump. At this point, the Bears may be close to 0-for-3 in that regard. -Wiederer[/pull_quote_center] [pull_quote_center]The injuries are alarming. Across the board. -Wiederer[/pull_quote_center] [pull_quote_center]…this team doesn’t have a single player who can be the kind of game-changer — heck, season-changer — that Peterson was.[/pull_quote_center]
Green Bay Swaps Centers… Again
In 2014, a preseason injury caused Green Bay center J.C. Tretter his job, as then rookie Corey Linsley stepped in while Tretter was on the mend and performed well enough to earn the nod. Two years later, places have officially been traded.
Linsley missed the final four games of 2015 with an ankle injury and has been serving time on the PUP list. Meanwhile, a fully healthy Tretter has been back to taking all of the first team reps. On Monday, Tretter found out that he had officially won back his old post, as the Packers named him the opening day starter at the center position.
“JC Tretter has had an excellent camp,” said Mike McCarthy according to ESPN. “I think I’ve answered that question repeatedly and JC, in my view, has earned the starting position at center. Availability is a big part of what you look for in your players.
Tretter made three starts at center last year, when Linsley went down with an injury, but injuries to the line were largely credited to Green Bay’s dip in production in 2015. As that same ESPN article points out about their line, only guard Josh Sitton played all 16 games last season, and one of those starts came when he was forced to play left tackle.
McCarthy is hoping for some continuity along the offensive line this season, and hoping that Jordy Nelson returns healthy and back to his old playmaking self, as that would go a long ways towards the Packers once again being one of the premier offenses in the NFL.
Golden Tate Thinks Detroit Can Be Special
Last week, I discussed how Detroit is installing a fast–paced no-huddle offense under the guidance of Jim Bob Cooter, which is often dangerous enough on its own to catch unprepared defenses by surprise regardless of how talented the team is. But, you see, the Lions don’t exactly have a void of talent on offense either.
Receiver Golden Tate doesn’t put much stock in the production of the first-team drives so far in preseason (two field goals on four drives) and insists things will heat up once a game is being played that matters in the standings.
“I’m excited for when we actually put a game plan in, study these cornerbacks and these DBs, and have some plays drawn up for what we do best,” Tate said, according to M Live. “Right now we’re kind of just practicing plays out there — and we’re making plays. So like I said, as long as we keep dialing in on the details of this offense, and working with Matt [Stafford], I think we can be special.”
I’m not sure of how “special” Detroit will end up being in 2016, but you can count me among those Vikings fans that aren’t going to underestimate this Megatron-less Lions team. And a lot of it has to do with an offense that, like Tate indicates, could offer plenty of excitement once the vanilla looks of preseason get some regular season sprinkles in the mix.