Comparing the North: Tight Ends

The tight end position lacks star power in the NFC North, but each of the teams has some potential waiting in the wings. See how things have changed and are changing at the position with the Vikings' divisional opponents.

CHICAGO BEARS

Starter — Desmond Clark. Backups — Greg Olson, Kellen Davis.

Ten-year veteran Clark was the team's leading receiver among tight ends, and he refuses to go away, even appearing to get better with age. Olson flashed star potential as a rookie last season and is the star of the future, but he went long stretches where he seemed to disappear from the passing game, and he is not much of a blocker. The rookie Davis has loads of talent and great size (6-7, 262), but it remains to be seen if he will shed his "underachiever" label and do the blocking and the other dirty work required of the No. 3 tight end.

DETROIT LIONS

Starter — Dan Campbell. Backups — Michael Gaines, Casey Fitzsimmons, Sean McHugh, John Owens.

Campbell is coming back from another elbow surgery. He has a cadaver's Achilles tendon holding things together. If healthy, he can be a force as a blocker and pass-catcher. Gaines left Buffalo as a free agent saying he wants to be the man. He is known as a blocker but wants to show he is an all-around tight end. Fitzsimmons doesn't block well but can catch the ball and has value on special teams. McHugh needs to find a niche after playing a fullback role in Mike Martz's offense.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Starter — Donald Lee. Backups — Tory Humphrey, Jermichael Finley, Joey Haynos, Evan Moore, Mike Peterson.

Bubba Franks' eight-year stay in Green Bay, which regressed from three Pro Bowl selections to paltry numbers the last few years, ended when he was cut early in the offseason. His strong blocking skills won't be easily replaced, but the Packers are well-equipped with receiving playmakers at the position. Lee posted career highs of 48 catches for 575 yards and six touchdowns in 2007. Athleticism oozes with Humphrey and Finley, a third-round pick from Texas. Their competition for the No. 2 should be intense. Humphrey has a chip on his shoulder after suffering a season-ending ankle injury on the first day of camp last year.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Starter — Visanthe Shiancoe. Backups — Braden Jones, Jim Kleinsasser, Garrett Mills.

Shiancoe had a disappointing first season with the Vikings after leaving the New York Giants to sign a big free-agent contract in March 2007. Expected to be a receiving threat, Shiancoe struggled with drops and finished with 27 catches but only one touchdown. He failed to hang onto three more potential touchdowns. Shiancoe, however, caught everything thrown his way during the Vikings' three-day minicamp and appears much more comfortable in the offense. Kleinsasser is no longer a receiving option — he has 11 catches in the past two seasons after having 22 in 2005 — but is an outstanding blocker who is counted upon to provide help in opening holes for the run game and buying Jackson time when he drops back to throw. Childress likes Mills, whom the Vikings picked up from New England during the final training-camp cuts in 2007. Mills did not see any action with the Vikings until the final regular-season game, but he caught two passes for first downs in that loss at Denver and appears to have good hands.





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Starter — Desmond Clark. Backups — Greg Olson, Kellen Davis.

Ten-year veteran Clark was the team's leading receiver among tight ends, and he refuses to go away, even appearing to get better with age. Olson flashed star potential as a rookie last season and is the star of the future, but he went long stretches where he seemed to disappear from the passing game, and he is not much of a blocker. The rookie Davis has loads of talent and great size (6-7, 262), but it remains to be seen if he will shed his \"underachiever\" label and do the blocking and the other dirty work required of the No. 3 tight end.



Starter — Dan Campbell. Backups — Michael Gaines, Casey Fitzsimmons, Sean McHugh, John Owens.

Campbell is coming back from another elbow surgery. He has a cadaver's Achilles tendon holding things together. If healthy, he can be a force as a blocker and pass-catcher. Gaines left Buffalo as a free agent saying he wants to be the man. He is known as a blocker but wants to show he is an all-around tight end. Fitzsimmons doesn't block well but can catch the ball and has value on special teams. McHugh needs to find a niche after playing a fullback role in Mike Martz's offense.



Starter — Donald Lee. Backups — Tory Humphrey, Jermichael Finley, Joey Haynos, Evan Moore, Mike Peterson.

Bubba Franks' eight-year stay in Green Bay, which regressed from three Pro Bowl selections to paltry numbers the last few years, ended when he was cut early in the offseason. His strong blocking skills won't be easily replaced, but the Packers are well-equipped with receiving playmakers at the position. Lee posted career highs of 48 catches for 575 yards and six touchdowns in 2007. Athleticism oozes with Humphrey and Finley, a third-round pick from Texas. Their competition for the No. 2 should be intense. Humphrey has a chip on his shoulder after suffering a season-ending ankle injury on the first day of camp last year.



Starter — Visanthe Shiancoe. Backups — Braden Jones, Jim Kleinsasser, Garrett Mills.

Shiancoe had a disappointing first season with the Vikings after leaving the New York Giants to sign a big free-agent contract in March 2007. Expected to be a receiving threat, Shiancoe struggled with drops and finished with 27 catches but only one touchdown. He failed to hang onto three more potential touchdowns. Shiancoe, however, caught everything thrown his way during the Vikings' three-day minicamp and appears much more comfortable in the offense. Kleinsasser is no longer a receiving option — he has 11 catches in the past two seasons after having 22 in 2005 — but is an outstanding blocker who is counted upon to provide help in opening holes for the run game and buying Jackson time when he drops back to throw. Childress likes Mills, whom the Vikings picked up from New England during the final training-camp cuts in 2007. Mills did not see any action with the Vikings until the final regular-season game, but he caught two passes for first downs in that loss at Denver and appears to have good hands.




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