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Packer/Viking Camp Preview Briefs


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Read on ESPN today:

Green Bay Packers

Key veteran additions: S Todd Franz; S Arturo Freeman; OG Adrian Klemm; S Earl Little; OG Matt O'Dwyer; LB Raynoch Thompson.

Key veteran departures: S Bhawoh Jue; QB Doug Pederson; ORG Marco Rivera; S Darren Sharper; OLG Mike Wahle.

Most significant changes: The Packers lost, and didn't adequately replace, talented veteran leaders when Rivera, Wahle and Sharper were set free. Guards are not generally considered keys to an offense, but Rivera was a Pro Bowler and Wahle a near equal for a cohesive group that did fine work protecting Brett Favre. Sharper's play had slipped, but he was the best safety Green Bay had.

Reasons for optimism: The Packers have more questions on defense than Wisconsin has dairy farmers, but proved as division winners last year that they could survive by outscoring opponents. New defensive coordinator Jim Bates is expected to help, but turning around a group that allowed 380 points last season won't happen overnight. The Packers are replacing a few linemen, but Favre, RB Ahman Green and the rest of the offense remain intact, assuming Pro Bowl WR Javon Walker ends his contract dispute by coming to camp.

Causes for concern: Favre will be 36 by Week 6, and the Packers don't have a trusted backup. The defensive line and secondary have spots expected to remain unsettled into the regular season, and only four or five players are entrenched at their respective positions. A soft schedule helped Green Bay rebound from a 1-4 start a year ago, but the NFC North (the Packers are 9-3 in the division over the last two seasons) looks more competitive, and the AFC North front-runners Baltimore and Pittsburgh are on the schedule along with Carolina, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Battles to watch: CB Joey Thomas has closed the gap created by Ahmad Carroll during their rookie seasons. Thomas impressed coaches in the offseason while Carroll, often victimized as wide-eyed easy prey in 2004, chose to work out on his own away from the team. No one knows for sure how either will fit in Bates' system, but both have a lot to prove. Both safety jobs and more than one DL position are classified as yet-to-be-determined.

Don't be surprised if … TE Bubba Franks reaches a long-term contract extension before the regular season begins. Franks, designated the Packers' transition player, wants a long-term contract, and the Packers plan to give him one rather than let him become an unrestricted free agent next March.

Minnesota Vikings

Key veteran additions: MLB Sam Cowart; PK Paul Edinger; SLB Napoleon Harris; QB Brad Johnson; FS Darren Sharper; CB Fred Smoot; WR Travis Taylor; DT Pat Williams.

Key veteran departures: LB Chris Claiborne; QB Gus Frerotte; DT Chris Hovan; DE Kenny Mixon; WR Randy Moss; FS Brian Russell.

Most significant change: Moss, considered by many to be the most talented offensive player in football, was traded to Oakland in order to ease the volatile locker room, affirm head coach Mike Tice's control and free cash to invest in a talent-poor defense. The defense could have as many as six new starters and a very veteran look. Moss won't be replaced, even by the Vikings' strength-in-numbers approach. Instead, Minnesota would like to pound teams with a power running game now that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has left for larger paychecks with the Dolphins. Without RB Onterrio Smith, suspended for the season for another violation of the league's substance-abuse policy, Michael Bennett, Mewelde Moore, Moe Williams and Ciatrick Fason all have chances in the new RB-by-committee approach for first-year offensive coordinator Steve Loney.

Reasons for optimism: The Vikings have shown great potential over the last few years only to crumble down the stretch. Tice felt his team lacked the experience and killer instinct to continue without significant change. Now, with Pro Bowl centerpieces Daunte Culpepper and Kevin Williams, the team has gone to a fresh approach in hopes of catching -- and burying -- the Packers. Culpepper was brilliant in 2004, including most of five games without Moss, and Tice truly believes his defense might be the NFL's best.

Causes for concern: The sense of urgency in Minnesota may become overwhelming. The last time the Vikings placed this much of a burden on Culpepper, he turned the ball over 30 times trying to execute within the confines of the "Randy Ratio." Culpepper has matured infinitely since then, but his supporting cast is not what it used to be, and he'll be asked to win the team games. Each would-be starting linebacker has glaring flaws, and the best pass-rusher on the roster is DT Williams. SS Corey Chavous, entering the last year of his contract, and CB Brian Williams, angry he lost his starting spot to newcomer Smoot, were no-shows in the offseason but aren't expected to hold out.

Battles to watch: The most significant decision for defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell in camp is this: to start second-year LB Dontarrious Thomas and let him learn on the job, or shuffle the entire LB corps, gaining experience but losing athleticism with either Keith Newman or Raonall Smith. It could come down to whether another battle, between MLBs Cowart and E.J. Henderson, is the no-contest in favor of Cowart many say it is. The loser of that battle presents Cottrell yet another option outside.

Don't be surprised if … rookies Erasmus James and Marcus Johnson are opening-day starters. James, the 18th overall pick, should push Darrion Scott at defensive end and is a better pass-rusher. Johnson is behind Adam Goldberg at left guard, but the 6-6, 321-pounder has plenty working in his favor as the Vikings aim to get him valuable snaps early.

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • Dash 1
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