NFC North News

This week Bear Report takes a look at the strengths and weakness of the Lions, Packers and Vikings.

QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Joey Harrington. Backups -- Mike McMahon, Rick Mirer, Curt Anes, Jason Fife.

It is generally agreed that Harrington has to step up his play in his third NFL season after a generally bland first two years in the NFL. With the addition of rookie RB Kevin Jones and young WRs Charles Rogers and Roy Williams, he will have more weapons than he has had the first two seasons, and that should make a difference. If he can play as well as he did when coach Steve Mariucci challenged him in the final game of the 2003 season (26 of 36 for 238 yards and three touchdowns with one interception), Harrington could be a good one. He might have to become more of a risk-taker, however, and he has not shown a tendency to do that very often. McMahon remains an intriguing player because of his swagger and his ability to keep a play alive by running, but his passing accuracy has been horrible (42.3 percent), which makes him a liability in the West Coast offense. Mirer replaces Ty Detmer as the veteran No. 3 quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Kevin Jones, FB Cory Schlesinger. Backups -- Artose Pinner, Shawn Bryson, Olandis Gary, Paul Smith, Avon Cobourne, FB Stephen Trejo, FB Keith Belton.

With James Stewart gone, the Lions will take their chances with two young, inexperienced running backs -- Jones, a first-round draft pick last April, and Pinner, a fourth-round pick a year ago. Because of his speed and quickness, Jones could be something special, a worthy successor to former Lions first-round running backs Billy Sims and Barry Sanders. Pinner missed most of the 2003 season recovering from a broken leg but could be a good change-of-pace back. He's big, strong and runs hard. Bryson could help on third-down situations. Schlesinger's bruising style as a blocking back is taking its toll, but he should be good for at least one more season.

TIGHT END/H-BACK: Starter -- Stephen Alexander. Backups -- Casey FitzSimmons, John Owens, Matt Brandt.

The addition of Alexander, signed as a free agent late in the spring, gives the Lions the closest thing to a full-service tight end they've had in several years. He has the ability to find a seam and get down the field as a receiver, and he is an adequate-to-good blocker. FitzSimmons catches the ball well in the short-to-medium routes, and Owens is used primarily as a blocker.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Charles Rogers and Roy Williams. Backups -- Tai Streets, Scotty Anderson, Az-Zahir Hakim, David Kircus, Reggie Swinton, Eddie Drummond, Trevor Gaylor, Tim Van Zant, George Wilson.

The Lions believe they have the makings of a set of receivers capable of thriving in the West Coast offense. Rogers got off to a good start as a rookie but suffered a broken collarbone and didn't play after the first five games. If the break was an individual incident and not an indication that he is fragile, the Lions will breathe easier. Williams, like Rogers a high first-round pick, is considered a can't-miss prospect with size, speed and big-play ability. Although he has much to learn, the Lions believe he'll be ready for the season opener Sept. 12 at Chicago. Streets, a veteran of Mariucci's offensive system in San Francisco, provides a good No. 3 threat, and Hakim, whose injuries and temperament have limited his effectiveness the last two years, will be used in three- or four-receiver sets.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Jeff Backus, LG Matt Joyce, C Dominic Raiola, RG Damien Woody, RT Stockar McDougle. Backups -- C/G Tyrone Hopson, G Josh Lovelady, G David Loverne, G David Miller, T Kelly Butler, T Ben Johnson, T Victor Rogers, C Dave Pearson, G Branden Hall, G Kaulana Noa, G Zach Wilson, T Matt McCoy.

The Lions had to improve their running game, which explains why president Matt Millen made Woody his top free-agent target of the past offseason. Woody's ability to pull and lead the play should make the Lions more explosive, especially if rookie RB Kevin Jones lives up to expectations. The only question mark is at LG with Joyce, a veteran who has filled in at several OL positions. The rest of the line is solid. The Lions gave up an NFL-low 11 sacks last season, but that was as much the result of Harrington getting rid of the ball on time as it was good pass blocking. Depth could be a problem. Aside from Loverne, the Lions have very little experience among the backup players.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Robert Porcher, DT Dan Wilkinson, DT Shaun Rogers, RE James Hall. Backups -- DE Kalimba Edwards, DE Jared DeVries, DT Kelvin Pritchett, DT Cory Redding, DE Patrick Kabongo, DE Andrew Shull, DT Ahmad Childress, DT Colin Cole.

The most settled area of the team. The inside pair of Wilkinson and Rogers gives the Lions approximately 700 pounds of run-stopping ability and, although he's 34 years old, Pritchett is still a capable backup in the D-line rotation. Porcher is back for his 13th NFL season but is likely to get less playing time this year. Hall has developed into a solid NFL player, capable of playing at either end of the line and holds up well against the run. The Lions need Edwards to deliver the pass rush they were lacking last year. DeVries is a blue-collar backup who is seldom out of position, and Redding is expected to get increased playing time in his second NFL season.

LINEBACKER: Starters -- OLB Boss Bailey, MLB Earl Holmes, OLB James Davis. Backups -- Teddy Lehman, Wali Rainer, Donte' Curry, Alex Lewis, Andrew Battle, Scott Genord.

Except for Holmes, the linebacking corps figures to be extremely young and fairly inexperienced. Bailey, a prize pick in the 2003 draft, started all 16 games as a rookie and -- if he continues to improve as well as he has -- could be very good. He is extremely athletic, runs well and makes plays. Lehman, a second-round pick this year, has the athletic ability to push Holmes for the Mike position but still has a lot to learn. The Will OLB job is up for grabs, with second-year man James Davis lining up with the No. 1 unit going into training camp. Lewis has the speed the Lions like and could compete with Davis.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Fernando Bryant, RCB Dre' Bly, SS Brian Walker, FS Brock Marion. Backups -- S Terrence Holt, CB Chris Cash, CB Andre Goodman, CB Rod Babers, CB Charles Drake, CB Kenny Heatley, CB Chris Kern, CB Jeff Sanchez, CB Dainon Sidney, CB Keith Smith, S Julius Curry, S Bracy Walker, S Clifford Johnson.

The addition of veterans Bryant and Marion give the Lions some depth and stability in an area that became a major cause for concern last season. Bly, who was selected as a Pro Bowl starter in his first year with the Lions, has emerged as the natural leader and a very confident playmaker. Brian Walker has not given the Lions the quality play they expected, but perhaps he will be more productive now that he's paired again with his former Miami teammate, Brock Marion. Holt, Cash and Goodman provide more depth than the Lions had last year, when both Cash and Goodman were on injured reserve. Babers and Smith, a third-round draft pick, are young players with some potential. Sidney and Bracy Walker are experienced backups.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Jason Hanson; P Nick Harris; LS Bradford Banta; H Nick Harris; KOR Eddie Drummond; PR Eddie Drummond. Backups -- LS Jody Littleton; PR/KOR Reggie Swinton.

Hanson, starting his 13th season, has shown no signs of weakening either on kickoffs or with his field goal accuracy. Harris wasn't particularly impressive as last year's replacement for John Jett (retired after a calf injury), but special teams coach Chuck Priefer believes in him and Hanson has confidence in him as a holder, so he's solid as the punter. Drummond is lightning in a bottle when he's healthy enough to return kicks and punts; when Drummond is hurt Swinton gives them an all-or-nothing backup.

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Brett Favre. Backups -- Tim Couch, Doug Pederson, Craig Nall.

Favre will be 35 in October and is coming off a streaky season. He still forces too many passes and was at fault for 18 1/2 of his 22 interceptions in 18 games last year. His 18-game rating of 90.8 was one of his best in recent years. Did a lot of handing off in midseason but proved he still had the nerve and accuracy to go downtown in the final month. The signing of Couch, a former Browns starter, means Pederson, 36, and Nall, a third-year man, will be battling for one job. Pederson's edge is that he holds for placekicker Ryan Longwell. Nall had an up-and-down offseason. Don't be surprised if Pederson makes the team and is active on game days to hold even though Couch would be the long-term replacement if Favre were to go down.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Ahman Green, FB William Henderson. Backups -- RB Najeh Davenport, RB Tony Fisher, FB Nick Luchey, RB Dahrran Diedrick.

This is the strongest position on the roster. Green is coming off another Pro Bowl season. Power, speed, toughness, blitz pickup -- he has it all. He even curtailed his fumbling in the second half of the season. Davenport proved to be a beast in 2003 when used in limited fashion. He's a 250-pound banger with more wiggle and elusiveness than tacklers realize. Fisher is a rock-solid No. 3. Henderson withstood the challenge of Luchey in '03 and looked better in the minicamps. Henderson blocked better than he did in '02 but started to drop too many passes. Luchey just needs to get in better shape. He has everything else.

TIGHT END/H-BACKS: Starter -- Bubba Franks. Backups -- David Martin, Steve Bush, Tony Donald.

West Coast teams would prefer a better down-the-field threat than Franks, but the Packers seem stuck with him long-term. He hasn't had a reception longer than 24 yards since November 2001. Great hands and concentration. Able to block defensive ends but misses too many blocks at the point and backside. Martin is blocking better than he did earlier in his career, but his promise as a deep threat has never materialized. Bush, the former Cardinal, also can long snap. Donald tore it up in NFL Europe but remains raw. He played linebacker in Green Bay's camp last summer.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- SE Robert Ferguson, FL Donald Driver. Backups -- Javon Walker, Carl Ford, Antonio Chatman, Scottie Vines, Frank Rice, Devin Lewis.

Driver had an excellent season in 2002 but was a non-factor a year ago as the nominal No. 1 receiver in an offense quarterbacked by Brett Favre. Didn't make the tough catch on a consistent basis and offered next to nothing after the catch. Walker, a first-round pick in 2002, made big plays down the field in the second half of the season. His average per catch of 17.5 yards was second in the NFL among players with more than 25 receptions. He's a long strider who tends to bump into defenders and gets knocked off against zone coverage. Big, fast and strong. Ferguson has improved each of his three seasons. He is fearless in traffic, runs better than average on the deep patterns and has nice hands. He just isn't polished. There is no other wideout of merit on the roster. Chatman, a kick returner only in '03, showed some spark as a receiver in minicamps.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Chad Clifton, LG Mike Wahle, C Mike Flanagan, RG Marco Rivera, RT Mark Tauscher. Backups -- T-G Kevin Barry, G-C Grey Ruegamer, T Steve Morley, C Scott Wells, T Brennan Curtin, G Atlas Herrion.

This might be the finest group in the NFL. There is no weak link. Clifton probably is the least effective run blocker but makes up for it by being a very, very talented pass blocker. He's agile, graceful and extremely quick in his pass sets. The Packers never have to give him double-team help. Rivera went to the Pro Bowl for the second straight season after playing at a phenomenally high level for the first 11 games. He was merely good after that. He pretty much owned Philadelphia's Corey Simon, San Francisco's Bryant Young and Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp near midseason. Rivera is known for his legendary toughness, but each year he has gotten better in protection. Wahle is a much better athlete than Wahle and might well have been the best offensive lineman in the NFC North last season. He runs well, packs a big punch coming around the corner on counters and anchors better now against bull rushers. Tauscher bounced back from ACL surgery and started every game. He didn't move quite as well as he had in the past but made no excuses and did a decent job. Flanagan is a cerebral player with bountiful athletic ability. He sorts out all the movement at the line and doesn't make many pre-snap mistakes. Barry operated mainly as the second tight end in run packages and meted out more punishment on a down-to-down basis than anyone else on the roster. He worked mostly at guard in the spring. The Packers would like to find someone better than Ruegamer as an interior backup. Wells, a seventh-round pick from Tennessee, has short arms but is strong as a bull.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Aaron Kampman, NT Grady Jackson, 3T Cletidus Hunt, RE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Backups -- LE Chukie Nwokorie, 3T Kenny Peterson, NT James Lee, DT Donnell Washington, LE Corey Williams, E Tyrone Rogers, 3T Cullen Jenkins.

Joe Johnson was cut and Jamal Reynolds was cut after his trade to Indianapolis was voided after a failed physical. Also gone are nose tackles Gilbert Brown and Rod Walker. Kampman played much better than Johnson at power end and is fairly entrenched as a starter. He plays hard and diagnoses plays exceptionally well. The Packers just wish he had more pass rush. Gbaja-Biamila played way too many plays (87 percent) and faded late in games. He is a one-dimensional speed rusher who is relentless in his approach. His run defense is shaky. Nwokorie can play both ends but is coming off a serious wrist injury. Williams, a sixth-round pick from Arkansas State, is a pretty good athlete and has nice size. He figures at power end or three technique. Clearly, it's a thin list at both end and tackle. Hunt was a disruptive force in the backfield on one or two plays every quarter. What drives coaches up the wall is he doesn't do it all the time. He has big-time ability. Jackson might have been the most valuable player on the entire defense after being claimed on waivers Nov. 3. He has great short-area burst and enormous power. However, he also had arthroscopic knee surgery in February and wasn't able to do much this offseason. Peterson, a third-round pick in '03, is on the small side and has marginal ability. Lee sat out the year after being injured in the first practice of training camp but worked hard in the weight room. Washington, a third-round pick from Clemson, has all-world ability but doesn't know how to use it. Rogers is a hard worker with more pass rush than run-stop ability.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- SLB Hannibal Navies, MLB Nick Barnett, WLB Na'il Diggs. Backups -- WLB Marcus Wilkins, SLB Paris Lenon, MLB Torrance Marshall, MLB Armegis Spearman, WLB Steve Josue, MLB Tyreo Harrison.

Everyone returns. The starters are adequate. The backups are weak. Navies stayed healthy for the first time in his five-year career in '03 and held up well over the tight end. Injuries and the adjustment factor caused Diggs to have somewhat of a disappointing season in his first year on the weak side. He is a linear athlete who must improve in both man and zone coverage. Barnett led the team in tackles with 134 and played almost every snap. He had speed to a semi-slow defense, made more than his share of big plays and tackled OK. However, he's small and gets bounced against the interior run, and his coverage was too inconsistent. Harrison will get a chance to win the backup job in the middle because he's smart and was productive as a senior at Notre Dame.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LC Mike McKenzie, RC Al Harris, SS Darren Sharper, FS Mark Roman. Backups -- FS Marques Anderson, CB Ahmad Carroll, CB Michael Hawthorne, CB Joey Thomas, CB Chris Johnson, SS James Whitely, SS Bhawoh Jue, FS Curtis Fuller.

McKenzie, a rugged face-up tackler and competitor, has threatened to sit out the season if he isn't traded. The Packers hope that cooler heads prevail and he returns in time for the start of regular-season paychecks in September. Harris, 29, is a lost step away from being out of the league. He loves to push and pester in the bump zone but gets in trouble when playing off. Carroll, a first-round pick, and Thomas, a third-round choice, were drafted as protection against the loss of McKenzie. Carroll is a shade under 5-10 but runs well and competes. Thomas has prototypical size but played in Division I-AA at Montana State and has a long way to go. Both can run. Hawthorne comes back after holding up well as dime back from Week 5 on. Sharper is one of the premier safeties on paper but didn't have one of his better years. Roman, a former Bengal, has been a more accurate tackler than Anderson and should win the job as a result. Neither one makes big plays, although Anderson did fall into a few as a rookie. Jue, a converted corner, was impressive at safety in minicamps.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Starters -- K Ryan Longwell, P B.J. Sander, H Doug Pederson, LS Rob Davis. Backup -- P Travis Dorsch.

Longwell is coming off one of his finest years. He is deadly accurate despite the conditions. His only shortcoming is kickoffs. The Packers let Josh Bidwell sign with Tampa Bay and traded up to draft Sander in the third round. Sander started only as a senior at Ohio State. He's better directionally than in terms of leg strength. Dorsch, a former fourth-round pick, has a stronger leg than Sander but wasn't as consistent or as controlled as Sander in minicamps. Pederson and Davis handle their jobs well.

QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Daunte Culpepper. Backups -- Gus Frerotte, Shaun Hill, Matt Kegel.

Culpepper matured last season en route to his second Pro Bowl appearance. He cut his interceptions from 23 to 11 and turnovers from 32 to 17. Expect an even better season in 2004 because of an upgrade at receiver and tight end. Frerotte is the perfect backup -- talented and content as the No. 2 guy. He was 2-0 with a 118.1 QB rating last season when Culpepper was sidelined because of a back injury. Hill might never be more than a No. 3 QB, which is a problem because Frerotte is in the last year of his contract. Don't be surprised if the Vikings replace Hill with the rookie free agent Kegel.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Michael Bennett. Backups -- Onterrio Smith, Moe Williams, Larry Ned, Mewelde Moore, Butchie Wallace.

Bennett is lean, fast, healthy and eager to return to his Pro Bowl form after being slowed last season because of an offseason foot injury. After missing the first seven games last season, Bennett was average as he shared the running back duties with Smith and Williams. This season will be different. Bennett was the most impressive Viking in minicamp and developmental camp. Bennett's increased playing time could bother Smith although his attitude has been good so far. Ned is the best athlete on the team, but he's a fumbler. Williams is the most consistent performer on the team. He turns 30 July 26 but has at least one more year as the third-down pass-catcher before turning that role over to the rookie Moore.

TIGHT END/H-BACK: Starters -- Jim Kleinsasser, Jermaine Wiggins. Backups -- Sean Burton, Richard Owens, Kane Anderson, Ben Steele, Jeff Dugan, Richard Angulo, T.J. Cottrell.

The Vikings' top priority in free agency was re-signing Kleinsasser. Already one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, the Vikings think Kleinsasser can become an increasing threat in the passing game. Wiggins is more athletic and is expected to fill a role similar to the one Bryon Chamberlain held when he caught 57 balls during his 2001 Pro Bowl season. Although the Vikings don't lack for bodies behind their starting tight ends, the rest of this group is either first- or second-year players. Dugan, a pile-driver from Maryland, was the team's seventh-round draft pick.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Randy Moss, Marcus Robinson. Backups -- Nate Burleson, Keenan Howry, Kelly Campbell, Kenny Clark, Lane Danielson, Omar Jenkins, Ben Nelson, Derrick Williams, Aaron Hosack.

Moss is coming off his best season, but questions linger concerning the plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Although he said he played with the injury during the last month of the 2003 season, the injury did not improve with rest following the season. Moss was 15 pounds overweight at minicamp but vows he won't let the injury stop him. Despite his reputation as a part-time slacker, Moss works hard and has never missed a game in his six seasons. If Moss is healthy, he could produce even more than last season, when he caught 111 passes for 1,632 yards and 17 touchdowns. Robinson, a big receiver with speed, should be the best sidekick to Moss since Cris Carter. Burleson is coming off a successful rookie season. Campbell, although small, is one of the best deep threats in the NFL. A youngster to keep an eye on is Danielson, the rookie free agent from Iowa State.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Bryant McKinnie, LG Chris Liwienski, C Matt Birk, RG Dave Dixon, RT Mike Rosenthal. Backups -- T Adam Goldberg, Adam Haayer, OL Lewis Kelly, T Nat Dorsey, G Anthony Herrera, T Alan Reuber, C Cory Withrow.

The Vikings have one of the best and biggest left sides in the NFL. McKinnie is massive at 6-8, 346 but looks leaner than ever. The 6-5, 325-pound Liwienski is the Vikings' most underrated lineman. He's a tackle who excels at guard. Then there's Birk, the three-time Pro Bowl center who will continue to rack up trips to Hawaii. The right side contains more questions. Such as: Can the 35-year-old Dixon squeeze out a 12th season? And is Rosenthal overrated? Dixon is in great shape, but he might fade during training camp. Rosenthal has beefed up and is in a contract year, but he struggled with the better defensive ends last season. If either Dixon or Rosenthal stumbles, this could be the year Kelly steps in as a starter. The heir apparent to Dixon, Kelly is at peak strength and valuable because he can play all five positions. Dorsey, the team's fourth-round pick out of Georgia Tech, has the size and athleticism to play left tackle. He needs a year to increase strength. If Rosenthal leaves, look for Dorsey to step in at RT. The Vikings believe they got a steal in the rookie free-agent market when they signed Tennessee's Herrera.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- RE Kenechi Udeze, T Chris Hovan, NT Kevin Williams, LE Kenny Mixon. Backups -- RE Lance Johnstone, RE Nick Rogers, E Chuck Wiley, DL Billy Lyon, NT Steve Martin, DL Darrion Scott, T Jeff Womble, T Spencer Johnson.

A weakness only a few years ago, the defensive line should be a strength in 2004. Williams, a first-round pick in 2003, was outstanding as a rookie. A year later, the Vikings reinvested in their defensive front, drafting Udeze 20th overall to fill their most glaring weakness -- pass rushing. Udeze has a lingering shoulder injury that scared away some teams in the draft. The Vikings cleared him and anointed him their starting right end immediately. Hovan is 10 pounds lighter, in a contract year and frothing at the opportunity to prove his subpar 2003 season was an aberration. Mixon is a solid left end but could face a league suspension for substance abuse following his latest a drunken-driving conviction. Scott has a mean streak and can start in place of Mixon. The added depth also will allow pass-rushing specialist Johnstone to play about 15 snaps a game, keeping him fresher and more effective.

LINEBACKER: Starters -- MLB E.J. Henderson, SLB Chris Claiborne, WLB Mike Nattiel. Backups -- LB Keith Newman, WLB Dontarrious Thomas, MLB Max Yates, SLB Raonall Smith, LB Rod Davis, LB Grant Wiley.

This is by far the Vikings' biggest question mark heading into training camp. Yes, there is talent. Yes, there is speed. In fact, there's more speed at linebacker than the Vikings have had in years. But there is concern whether all that speed will be going in the right direction. Henderson, in his second season, replaces retired veteran Greg Biekert as the leader of the defense. Although Henderson played well in the nickel defense last season, he has never started and is coming off an offseason in which he was convicted of drunken driving and was arrested following a fight outside a bar at closing time. Claiborne, the only starter with starting experience, is coming off heel surgery. He looked a step slow and heavy during minicamp. The starting WLB job probably will shift from the second-year Nattiel to the rookie Thomas early in camp. Thomas is bigger and stronger than Nattiel, who excelled as a nickel linebacker last season. The depth is dangerously thin, which is why the Vikings signed the veteran Newman, a former Atlanta Falcon who has starting experience. Smith, a second-round pick in 2002, has been a major bust to this point. This is his make-or-break season.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Antoine Winfield, RCB Brian Williams, FS Brian Russell, SS Corey Chavous. Backups -- CB Ken Irvin, CB Rushen Jones, FS Willie Offord, SS Tyrone Carter, CB Deandre' Eiland, CB Rhett Nelson, CB Jermaine Mays, CB Horace Willis, S Ben Nauman.

Although he's no Ty Law or Champ Bailey, Winfield, the team's prized free-agent acquisition, is the best CB the Vikings have had in years. His height (5-9) is a concern in the NFC North, but his tackling ability is outstanding. Williams is poised to have his first Pro Bowl season. Russell, despite tying for the league lead in interceptions with nine in 2003, isn't a lock to start. He needs to be a better tackler. Coaches also cling to the hope that Offord will wake up and use his chiseled 6-1, 216-pound body the way they had hoped when the Vikings selected Offord in the third round in 2002. Don't bet against Russell, who wrestled the job away from Offord last season and will again this summer. Chavous is a team leader and coming off his first Pro Bowl season. A devoted student of the game, Chavous' weekly scouting reports help prepare the entire secondary. Depth is a concern because CBs Denard Walker and Eric Kelly forced the Vikings to release them rather than except reduced roles. The nickel back is 32-year-old Irvin. Jones, a second-year pro who surprised many as a rookie free agent, is the leading candidate as the dime back.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Aaron Elling, K Dan Orner, P Darren Bennett, P Filip Filipovic, LS Brody Liddiard, LS Cullen Loeffler, PR-KR Keenan Howry, KR Mewelde Moore, KR Larry Ned, PR Kelly Campbell.

Bennett improved the Vikings' special teams considerably when he was lured away from San Diego. Eddie Johnson, who was released, was inconsistent during his rookie season. He eventually had to be replaced late in the season after dropping snaps in three consecutive games. Elling, who also was in his first season last year, was average (18 of 25 on FGs). Even worse, the Vikings lost confidence in his ability to make anything longer than 40 yards. That created many difficult fourth-down decisions for coach Mike Tice. The job is Elling's for at least another season. Orner is a rookie free agent who won't make the team. Liddiard, the incumbent LS, probably is on his way out. The Vikings have warned him about the hitch in his delivery. Also, rookie free agent Loeffler is from the University of Texas and a favorite of owner Red McCombs, a huge Longhorns fan. The Vikings could use an upgrade at PR. Howry is sure-handed but slow and not much of a threat to score. Campbell would like to return punts, but the coaches say he's too small. The addition of Moore means Onterrio Smith won't return kickoffs. Moore had limited experience returning kicks in college but has great hands.

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