NFC North Camp Goals

The Vikings' training camp missions are pretty well-known, but how about the rest of the NFC North? How do the Bears, Lions and Packers compare to the Vikings in preparedness for the preseason? We detail the top camp goals for the Vikings' NFC North rivals.


Training camp goals.

1. Get more consistent play out of the quarterback position.

In his first full season as a starter, Rex Grossman had more games with a passer rating of over 100 than any quarterback in the NFC. But he also had more meltdown games than any NFL quarterback.

Grossman must improve his mechanics, especially under pressured, when he developed a tendency to throw off his back foot while falling away from his target. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner and new quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton worked with Grossman on his mechanics throughout the off-season and will continue to stress proper footwork and follow through during camp.

When Grossman has time and sets his feet, he can dissect defenses with precision accuracy, but he has to avoid the disastrous outings when he forces ill-advised passes into traffic, and when his passes lack zip because of faulty mechanics.

2. Establish a new defensive tackle rotation.

None of the Bears' top three tackles from Super Bowl XLI are still on the roster, which could be a concern for a team that likes to play a four-man rotation inside.

Troubled Tank Johnson was released, and unrestricted free agents Ian Scott and Alfonso Boone were allowed to leave. Two-time Pro Bowler Tommie Harris is back after missing seven games, including the postseason following surgery on a torn tendon in his upper left leg. He'll be working with a new cast this year, including former 49ers starter Anthony Adams, an unrestricted free agent pickup, and 2006 third-round pick Dusty Dvoracek, who missed his rookie season with a foot injury. Another inexperienced player, Antonio Garay, could be the fourth member of the rotation.

3. Open up the offense using several new weapons.

The Bears were mediocre in most offensive categories, finishing 15th in total yards and rushing yards and 14th in passing yards.

Thomas Jones rushed for 3,493 yards over the past three seasons, but he was traded to the Jets because the Bears believe 2005 first-round pick Cedric Benson is better. Pro Bowl return specialist Devin Hester has switched to wide receiver from cornerback to provide another home run threat, and tiny third-round change-of-pace back Garrett Wolfe provides another big-play dimension.

This year's first-round pick, Greg Olsen, is expected to give the Bears the best pass-catching tight end they've had since Mike Ditka — was a player. He's yet another player capable of stretching the field vertically. The Bears also hope to get more production from big, fast, third-year wideout Mark Bradley, who battled injuries last season but still averaged 20.1 yards on 14 catches and looked good in the off-season.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Bears report to Olivet Nazarene University in far south suburban Bourbonnais on July 26, and their first practice is at 3 p.m., Friday, July 27. Camp concludes after an 11 a.m. Practice on Saturday, Aug. 18. They will return to Chicago on Saturday, Aug. 4, for a 7 p.m. practice at Soldier Field.


Training camp goals

1. Develop the defensive line.
Rod Marinelli was a defensive line coach his entire career before he became the Lions' head coach. The defensive line is his baby. He has said the front four must drive this franchise.

Marinelli believes Cory Redding and Shaun Rogers can be the NFL's best tandem at defensive tackle. Redding is his kind of guy - a disruptive force with a non-stop motor. But Rogers is known for not getting enough out of his immense talent. The Lions want to see a motivated Rogers - a guy who shows up in shape and works hard.

Dewayne White, a Marinelli disciple, left Tampa Bay as a free agent and is slated to start at left end. Kalimba Edwards is slated to start at right end. Edwards has long had physical tools and potential. The Lions hope Marinelli can help him finally blossom as a pass rusher.

The Lions hope recent second-round picks Shaun Cody, who is slated to rotate in at tackle, and Ikaika Alama-Francis, who can play outside or inside, can make an impact.

2. Shape up the secondary.

The secondary might be the Lions' biggest weakness. When the Lions traded cornerback Dre' Bly to Denver, they parted with a guy who didn't fit the Tampa Two system and made waves in the locker room at times. But they also parted with their biggest defensive playmaker.

Stanley Wilson is slated to start in Bly's spot, and he needs to show he's ready. Travis Fisher, a veteran who played in this system in St. Louis, is just the nickel back for now, but that could change. Fernando Bryant is slated to start at the other corner. Bryant can play this system because he tackles well, but he has no interceptions as a Lion and hasn't been able to stay healthy.

Daniel Bullocks replaces Terrence Holt as the starting free safety. He needs to show he's ready to make the crucial calls in his second NFL season. The Lions also need to find some dependable depth among players like Keith Smith, Gerald Alexander and A.J. Davis.

3. Improve the offensive line.

The Lions allowed 63 sacks and finished last in rushing last season. Their offensive line was a mess, thanks to injuries, constant shuffling, poor chemistry and just plain disappointing performance.

Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola are entrenched at their positions. Backus has started 96 consecutive games at left tackle. Raiola has started 70 consecutive games at center. After that, though, everything is up in the air.

Guard Ross Verba is gone. Guard Damien Woody could be, too, if he doesn't show up in shape and perform well. His weight, conditioning and mobility have been issues. The Lions signed guard Edwin Mulitalo as a free agent and have liked the development of guard Stephen Peterman.

George Foster, who came from Denver in the Bly trade, is slated to start at right tackle. The line needs to come together quickly and stay together so it can build some cohesion.

CAMP CALENDAR: Players report July 25. Practice begins July 26. Camp breaks Aug. 19.


Training camp goals

1. Who's going to fill Ahman Green's cleats?

The Packers ranked 23rd in rushing last season, and they don't have an experienced candidate on the roster to make up for the free-agent departure of workhorse featured back Green to Houston.

Indications in the offseason were that a back-by-committee approach will be in the offing, at least at the start of the season.

Vernand Morency, in his third pro season, is the top incumbent and averaged 4.6 yards per carry when he occasionally spelled Green last season. Questions abound, however, on whether Morency, who isn't in Green's league as a punishing back, can carry a full load.

As such, rookie Brandon Jackson stands a good chance of platooning with Morency. The second-round draftee, not unlike Morency, is quick and shifty but also lacks the credentials of being a full-time guy when he was at Nebraska.

2. The end zone isn't that far out of reach.

Until the cloudy situation at running back is resolved, it will be incumbent on the offense to reverse its immunization of punching the football in the end zone from within 20 yards.

The Packers ranked last in the NFC and 31st in the league last season with a red-zone touchdown efficiency of 32.7 percent. Brett Favre was done no favors by a mostly inexperienced receiving group and a bevy of dropped passes.

The upgrades Favre wanted in the offseason (namely Randy Moss) didn't materialize. So, the "X" factors in any improvement being made from 2006 are a healthy Greg Jennings, Bubba Franks' remembering how to catch before breaking the goal line and possibly regaining the services of Koren Robinson early in the season after he finishes serving a one-year suspension.

3. Finding a safety valve that won't spring a leak.

All 11 starters from the end of last season potentially could form the opening-day lineup this season, but the weakest link - strong safety Marquand Manuel - is in jeopardy of being replaced.

Manuel was an unequivocal bust as a free-agent addition, getting turned around in zone coverage and proving lax with his tackling. Three possible replacements are lurking in the secondary - young returnees Marviel Underwood and Atari Bigby and rookie Aaron Rouse.

The hard-hitting Underwood was pushing Manuel for the job last year before he suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the preseason. Bigby, a practice-squad guy most of last season, impressed coaches in the offseason. The 6-foot-4, 223-pound Rouse, a third-round draft pick, is imposing for the position.

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