NFC Update: Training Camps Open, Teams Prepare For NFL Season
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By Christian S. Kohl
Chicago Bears: The addition of Martellus Bennett has fostered optimism in Chicago. Brandon Marshall believes it will free him up more often. Matt Forte also believes he will be featured heavily in the passing attack once again. A diversity of options will definitely give Chicago a better chance, especially if it means Cutler will take fewer huge hits.
Detroit Lions: Expectations are high for WR Ryan Broyles to have a huge season coming off an ACL injury. Like Marshall with the Bears, anything relieving the pressure off Calvin Johnson will give Detroit hopes for a more promising season. To that end, Matthew Stafford hopes to attempt fewer passes this season, presumably with an aim toward a slightly less imbalanced attack.
Green Bay Packers: The Packers inked Morgan Burnett to a 4-year, $24 million extension. Both Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley are hard at work refining their route running and overall skill. The Packers will need that to translate to fewer drops in key situations to propel them further toward another title. Also, sources indicate Alex Green may be traded by the end of camp.
Minnesota Vikings: In a continuation of the story of Larry Fitzgerald expressing his affinity for the Vikings, Jerome Simpson is working out with Fitzgerald this week. While this is a step which could help Simpson develop, one week will in no way turn him into Fitzgerald. But a solid step forward in his development could ease the burden and injury risk to Adrian Peterson.
Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez continues to assert 2013 will be his last season in the NFL. Since 2013 will not be the final season for QB Matt Ryan, his talks for a long term extension with the Falcons continue, but have yet to be finalized.
Carolina Panthers: Domenik Hixon is likely to win the #3 WR job with Carolina. Jonathan Stewart withdrew from a golf tournament due to issues with his ankle. Both will need to be healthy, and then some, to give Cam Newton a real chance to progress the Panthers to the next level this season.
New Orleans Saints: Darren Sproles looks to see an increased workload in 2013. With Ivory gone and Payton back, he may very well become a regular threat in the Saints attack. Sources indicate the return of Payton may also be good news for TE stud Jimmy Graham, giving him the best chance to return to his status as one of the most, if not the most feared tight ends in the game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Connor Barth is out for the season due to a torn Achilles, and the Bucs immediately signed Lawrence Tynes to replace him. Darrelle Revis is expected to be on the field participating during camp, though if he will be playing at 100% by week 1 is still unknown.
Dallas Cowboys: Lots of nicks and scrapes early for the Cowboys. Tony Romo is working through a back injury, and Jay Ratliff is having an MRI on his hamstring. DeMarcus Ware was cleared for training camp after having shoulder surgery. Getting healthy is only step one for Dallas. A long road awaits them if they are to become an elite team as soon as Jerry Jones hopes.
New York Giants: Andre Brown and David Wilson are likely to split time based on whoever is performing best. No clear moves have been made on the depth chart, which in a Coughlin offense, usually means whoever fumbled most frequently will rank #2 on the depth chart that week.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles signed T Lane Johnson to a four-year deal. DeSean Jackson will likely see more time as a returner this season, and Maclin expects to be featured heavily in the new Chip Kelly offensive attack.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins are on the mend this week. Pierre Garcon will be cleared to go for the start of training camp after issues with his shoulder. Roy Helu is also progressing well rehabbing his Achilles, and most importantly, Robert Griffin III continues to impress in his rehab prepping to man the helm for the Redskins in his sophomore campaign.
Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd looks poised to see an increased role for the Cardinals opposite Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals are one of several NFC teams with one elite receiver and little else in the passing game. The Cards, Lions and Bears all hope to find additional weapons, but the team to win the race to make the leap forward still remains entirely unclear.
Seattle Seahawks: Sidney Rice may be playing his last season with Seattle, based on his current situation. Meanwhile, Percy Harvin is the Seahawks hope to be a 1,000 yard receiving threat, assuming he can keep himself healthy for an entire season.
St. Louis Rams: WR Brian Quick is battling to find a spot in the starting rotation while dealing with consistency issues in his game. While hopes are high for Tavon Austin, St. Louis insists its goal will be to have a balanced attack which mitigates Bradford errors as opposed to heavily featuring one individual player. For all intents and purposes, the Rams want to hold onto the ball before they look to get it into any one player’s hands.
San Francisco 49ers: Nnamdi Asomugha, just a few years removed from his mammoth free agency sweepstakes, is a borderline candidate to make the Niners roster this season, battling with Eric Wright. Meanwhile, sources consider Vernon Davis, and not Anquan Boldin, to be the favorite to lead SF in receiving yards this season. Ironically, it may be the presence of Boldin which allows Davis enough breathing room to turn in an elite season as the Niners TE.
That’s it for this week. Keep it here next week for the latest on all the latest develops in the NFC as Week 1 fast approaches.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.