Comparing the North: Wide receivers

Two of the Vikings' wide receivers have been in the news more than on the field because of missed practices, but when healthy the team has one of the best receiving corps in the division. See what the other teams are bringing to the receiving table in 2010.

CHICAGO BEARS

Starters - Devin Hester, Johnny Knox. Backups - Devin Aromashodu, Earl Bennett, Rashied Davis, Juaquin Iglesias, Freddie Barnes.

It might take some time to sort out the depth chart here, since no one has separated himself from a deep group that has exciting potential. Last year the Bears resisted the temptation to bring in a veteran wide receiver, and instead let their young players get valuable playing time. That seemed to work, as Devin Hester caught 57 passes for a team-best 757 yards, Earl Bennett caught 54 passes for 717 yards, rookie Johnny Knox caught 45 for 527 and Devin Aromashodu emerged late in the season with 22 catches for 282 yards in the final four games. The arrow is still pointing up on all four of those players. Hester may never become a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but his speed and elusiveness will always make him a big-play weapon. Knox combines excellent speed with soft hands. He still has much to learn about route running, but he answered questions about his toughness and ability to take a hit. Aromashodu is the Bears' tallest receiver at 6 feet, 2 inches, and he was the team's most productive receiver late last season. Plus, Cutler has made it known that he values a big target who can also stretch the field, which accurately describes Aromashodu.

DETROIT LIONS

Starters - Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson. Backups - Bryant Johnson, Derrick Williams, Dennis Northcutt, Mike Moore, Eric Fowler, Tim Toone, Brian Clark, Contrevious Parks.

The offseason goal was to find "an eraser" to force teams to quit double- and triple-teaming Calvin Johnson. Offseason additions, including the veteran Burleson, seem to have addressed that issue, while also returning Bryant Johnson to a more comfortable role as the No. 3. But the preseason task — in addition to developing some chemistry in a retooled passing scheme — is to figure out who else is on the roster. Is Derrick Williams ready to prove he was worthy of last year's third-round pick? Is Dennis Northcutt still needed as a veteran slot receiver after a disappointing 2009? And what about the new faces, including Stafford former college teammate Mike Moore and Mr. Irrelevant, Tim Toone?

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Starters — Greg Jennings, Donald Driver. Backups — James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Brett Swain, Patrick Williams, Chastin West, Charles Dillon, Shawn Gore, Jeff Moturi.

Jennings and Driver give the Packers one of the best pass-catching tandems in the league. They combined for 138 receptions, more than 2,100 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009. Driver, who led a balanced passing attack with 70 catches and six touchdowns, is showing no letup at age 35 and feels energized after recovering in the offseason from arthroscopic surgery on both knees. Jones and Nelson thrived in Driver's absence in the offseason practices, and Nelson was particularly in sync with Rodgers. Swain, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, leads the cast of young players vying for the fifth and probably final spot on the roster.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Starters — Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice. Backups — Taye Biddle, Marquis Hamilton, Percy Harvin, Jaymar Johnson, Greg Lewis, Marko Mitchell, Logan Payne, Ray Small.

Rice is coming off a breakout season in 2009, having caught a team-leading 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns, but there is some concern given that he continues to battle a lingering hip injury suffered in the playoffs. It's unclear when Rice will be ready to go. Berrian, meanwhile, is looking to bounce back after being slowed for much of last season by hamstring issues. The most telling stat was that the usually speedy Berrian averaged 11.2 yards per reception after leading the NFL with an average of 20.1 yards per catch in 2008. Harvin is a backup in name only. The 22nd pick in the 2009 draft, Harvin was named the NFL's offensive rookie of the year after finishing second on the Vikings with 60 catches for 790 yards and six touchdowns. About the only thing that slowed Harvin were his battles with migraine headaches, which have returned to all but wipe out his training camp. He missed numerous practices and one game because of the issue last season. Lewis caught only eight passes last season but one was the last-second dart that Favre threw into the end zone in the final seconds of Week 3 against San Francisco to give the Vikings an improbable victory. Lewis, a former Philadelphia Eagle, is a favorite of coach Brad Childress and figures to stick. Small, signed as a rookie free agent out of Ohio State, will get a long look. Johnson is an extremely hard worker but continues to look for his first chance at extended playing time since being a sixth-round choice of the Vikings in 2008.


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