NFC North Tour: Camp Confidential

What are the hot training camp battles brewing in Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota? We've got answers from the insiders who cover each team.

Minnesota Vikings

Battle of the week

Tarvaris Jackson vs. Sage Rosenfels for backup quarterback — Things have certainly changed when it comes to this situation. For the first two weeks of training camp, this battle was for the starting job. But Brett Favre's arrival ended that and Jackson and Rosenfels are attempting to stick around as the backup. Jackson didn't hurt himself with a strong performance in the Vikings' second preseason game against Kansas City. He completed 12-of-15 passes for 202 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. That, of course, came after Jackson struggled in the preseason opener at Indianapolis. Rosenfels got the start in that one — days before Favre's arrival — and completed 10-of-13 passes for 91 yards in two series. However, Rosenfels hurt his ankle in that game and was unable to play against Kansas City.

Other battle fronts

Benny Sapp appears to have created some separation in his quest to keep the job as the inside corner in the nickel defense. Rookie Asher Allen has put the most pressure on Sapp for the job, but Sapp has been the first defensive back used in the nickel in the opening two preseason games. ... Jaymar Johnson appears to be in the lead for the fifth wide receiver spot because of his ability to return punts. He returned both in the Vikings' preseason game against the Chiefs. Darius Reynaud also is making a good case to make the roster, however. Reynaud caught two passes for 88 yards with a 64-yard touchdown from Tarvaris Jackson against Kansas City. Reynaud, though, does not return punts. Glenn Holt also has been involved in this competition. ... Albert Young, who spent last season on the Vikings' practice squad, is battling rookies Ian Johnson, Kahlil Bell and Antone Smith for the third-string role at running back. Young's year of experience in the Vikings system appears to give him the edge. He had a team-high 14 carries for 58 yards in the first preseason game and got five carries for 17 yards in the second exhibition contest.

Player of the week

Tarvaris Jackson didn't have an easy week after the sudden news that Brett Favre had decided to join the Vikings, but Jackson certainly played well in his team's 17-13 victory over Kansas City. In two-plus quarters of action, which followed Favre's two series, Jackson completed 12 of 15 passes for 202 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

Rookie report

First-round wide receiver Percy Harvin made his Vikings debut against Kansas City after being held out in Week 1 of the preseason because of a shoulder injury. Harvin caught two passes for 9 yards and also returned two kickoffs for 26.5 yards versus the Chiefs. Harvin is almost certain to open the regular season as the Vikings' primary kickoff return man. ... Second-round offensive right tackle Phil Loadholt appears to be locked in as the starting right offensive tackle. Loadholt is solid in the run game but must improve in pass protection. ... Third-round cornerback Asher Allen is competing for a spot in the nickel and will be expected to contribute on special teams. ... Fifth-round linebacker Jasper Brinkley is vying for the job backing up starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. Also in the mix is former CFL player Kenny Onatolu. Brinkley has shown he's not afraid to throw a big hit and should make the team based on what he can do for special teams. ...Seventh-round safety Jamarca Sanford most likely is going to end up on the practice squad, but will attempt to make the 53-man roster based on how much he can help special teams. ... Free-agent center Jon Cooper is getting work with the second team behind John Sullivan and appears to have an excellent shot to make the team.

Chicago Bears

Battle of the week


G Frank Omiyale
Charles Arbogast/AP Images
The Bears didn't change their depth chart for Saturday night's second preseason game, which means they still listed Josh Beekman as the starter at left guard. Odd, since Frank Omiyale started both preseason games.

So what's up with that?

"We're still looking," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "We're trying to sort everything out, but still looking. Frank has done a nice job, and 'Beeks' has done a nice job."

Beekman started all 16 games at left guard last season, but the Bears gave Omiyale a contract worth $14 million (including bonuses and escalators) over four years to leave the Panthers and presumably not to sit on the bench in Chicago.

The problem is that Omiyale was mostly a tackle with Carolina, and he's adjusting to playing inside. Team sources say Omiyale has not outperformed Beekman, but he's making progress in adjusting to his new position.

"At tackle you, have more space to work, but at guard, everything is right now," Omiyale said. "You have that nose guard sitting right on your shoulder. But I think I'm starting to develop pretty good with it.

"I was frustrated at first because I want to get it right, right now. But I know that it's a progression, just like (offensive line) coach (Harry Hiestand) was telling me, and I'm happy where I'm at right now."

Beekman's battle for the guard spot could be hindered because he is also being groomed as the heir apparent to 12-year veteran center Olin Kreutz, who can't play forever. Being able to start at both guard positions and at center would make Beekman more valuable to the Bears in the long run, but it doesn't necessarily keep him in the starting lineup at present.

Other battle fronts

Al Afalava, a sixth-round pick out of Oregon State, got his second straight start at strong safety, because Kevin Payne, who is normally the No. 1 strong safety, moved to free safety in place of injured Danieal Manning (hamstring), who also missed the preseason opener. Afalava has been impressing coaches since early in training camp, and he might not be just an interim starter. "He does have a look about him," coach Lovie Smith said. "To play safety you need that. But at the same time he's confident in his ability. After you've gone through some practices and now you've got a game under your belt, it even picks up more. He is a quick learner. He has great instincts and good ability too." Afalava had three first-half tackles in Saturday night's second preseason game.

Player of the week

Based on his performance Saturday night against the Giants at Soldier Field, quarterback Jay Cutler is worth everything the Bears gave up to get him and more. It was only a second preseason game, but he electrified the crowd by completing 8-of-13 passes for 121 yards, one touchdown and a passer rating of 117.8 in a 17-3 victory.

Rookie report

WR Juaquin Iglesias caught one pass for 23 yards in the second preseason game but is fifth or sixth on the depth chart. ... WR Johnny Knox, who is behind Iglesias, had a 38-yard kickoff return but netted just 1 yard on two punt returns and did not catch a pass. ... WR Derek Kinder, who has almost no chance to make the team, had a 37-yard punt return and caught one pass for 4 yards. ... CB D.J. Moore, who didn't do much to impress on defense during training camp and got very few reps, had minus-2 yards on two punt returns. ... LB Marcus Freeman tied for the team lead with four solo tackles, but most of his playing time came with the third team. ... DT Jarron Gilbert has impressed with his athleticism in practice but hasn't really shown up in games yet. ... DE Henry Melton had a QB hit in the second preseason game but faces an uphill battle for a roster spot at a position in which the Bears are deep.

Detroit Lions

Battle of the week


Daunte Culpepper
AP Images
Matthew Stafford vs. Daunte Culpepper for starting QB — Stafford seemed to be in the lead entering the second exhibition at Cleveland, but he took a big step backward against the Browns. He started and threw an interception on his first pass attempt, and he wasn't sharp afterward, either. Culpepper was solid, though not spectacular. The competition could go into the fourth exhibition.

Other battle fronts

No one seems to want the Lions' fourth and fifth receiver spots. At least, no one has stepped up to stake a claim to those openings. John Standeford is supposed to be sure-handed, but he returned from injury and dropped balls against the Browns. Keary Colbert dropped three balls in the exhibition opener. Rookie Derrick Williams has not impressed, and Adam Jennings has struggled. ... Marquand Manuel could win a starting safety job by default, with Daniel Bullocks on injured reserve and Kalvin Pearson not playing well.

Player of the week

S Louis Delmas — Delmas returned from a knee injury and woke up a Wednesday practice by smacking fellow rookie Aaron Brown. Delmas brings a physical presence the Lions need and want, as defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham tries to turn this into a hard-hitting group.

Rookie report

Stafford struggled badly against the Browns. ... Tight end Brandon Pettigrew suffered a setback with his thigh injury and remains sidelined. ... Delmas has returned from a knee injury. ... Linebacker DeAndre Levy seems to have improved, with defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham praising him. ... Defensive tackle Sammie Hill's exhibition debut was the first time he had attended an NFL game. He is raw and has seemed homesick for his little Alabama town at times, but has impressed the coaches with his physical ability.


Packer Report Top Stories