Training Camp Preview: NFC North

Tue Jul 26 3:38pm ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Related photo caption below

Watson could play big role


This is the sixth in a series of training camp previews. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.

Packers

The Packers should have an interesting camp because of the departure of Davante Adams, leaving a huge hole at receiver for the Packers. Can Green Bay get by at receiver without Adams on their side? This is a massive hole to fill, putting even more pressure on Aaron Rodgers to perform at a high level and carry the offense. We will see how this all plays out at Nitschke Field in Green Bay, Wisc.

Position battle: As mentioned, the Packers have some openings at receiver for the coming season. The loss of Adams is a huge one, leaving a lot of targets to be had for Packers receivers. Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson and Randall Cobb will battle it out to start this coming season. Lazard is a heavy favorite to start, but after him, it really is up in the air for the other spot. It is anyone’s guess at this point on the No. 2 receiver for the Packers. 

Injury watch: The Packers are not disclosing the injury that rookie Christian Watson is dealing with, but he is opening camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. This is not a great start to his pro career, especially if he hopes to make a big impact as a rookie. There is certainly opportunity there for Watson to emerge, so hopefully he is able to get back on the field sooner than later. 

Vikings

Minnesota has a new head coach for the first time in several seasons. This should be the focus of training camp, seeing how the team reacts to the new coaching staff. There is plenty of excitement for the offense with new head coach Kevin O’Connell in charge of that unit. He is a bright offensive mind with a lot of top offensive weapons to work with for the coming season. We will get to see that unit in action at the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan, Minn.

Position battle: The Vikings don’t really have a key position battle during training camp. The big thing we would watch is Kirk Cousins. This could be a make or break year for him as a Viking. If he doesn’t endear himself to the new coaching staff, they might look to be move on from him after this season. He needs to impress if he hopes to keep starting for the Vikings long term. 

Injury watch: Vikings tight end Irv Smith missed all of last season because of a knee injury suffered before the start of the season. He has yet to play a full season because of injury. Smith is a talented player that could play a big role offensively as long as he can stay healthy. Smith is expected to be cleared for the start of training camp, but his injury history makes him a player to watch this training camp.  

Lions

The Lions competed hard last year and were in a lot of games despite lacking some talent on both sides of the ball. Detroit added some new faces to get them competing at a higher level this year. Things are looking up for this young team. There is more and more excitement surrounding this team than in recent years, including several talented players on the offensive side of the ball. If the young players can keep improving, the Lions could win a few more games this year. The Lions train at the Detroit Lions Training Facility, Allen Park, Mich.

 

Position battle: The Lions signed D.J. Chark this offseason but he isn’t guaranteed a starting job. He will need to earn it and hold off Quintez Cephus, Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond for the job. Chark should have a big upper hand but he has not done much the last two seasons and couldn’t stay healthy last year. It is his job to lose, but he won’t be handed anything. 

Injury watch: Rookie Jameson Williams suffered a torn ACL during the National Championship game last year, getting hurt very late in the game. He is not expected to be healthy for the start of the season and could miss much of his rookie season. But if he starts doing stuff in camp and ramping up his activity as the season draws closer, he could make an impact at some point during the season. His injury is one to watch this camp because he could be a difference maker for fantasy teams during the playoffs if he finds his way back on the field. 

Bears

Chicago is looking to take a step forward this year with Justin Fields in year two. And a new coaching staff could help get him to that next level. Either way, there will be a lot of pressure for Fields to perform this year and get the offense performing more consistently. Fields is probably the key to the success of the Bears this year. Fields and his teammates hold training camp at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill.

Position battle: The Bears are a mess at receiver after Darnell Mooney. They have a host of options looking to start, including Equanimeous St. Brown, Byron Pringle, Velus Jones, Tajae Sharpe and N’Keal Harry. We really have no idea on the receivers that emerge out of this group. All have their plusses and minuses. There is not a clear favorite at this point. We should have a better idea after practices start and games get underway during the preseason.  

Injury watch: David Montgomery missed four games last year and one the previous season because of injury. He has been slowed by nagging injuries each of the last two years. He could be a fantasy monster if he can stay on the field for a huge season. Montgomery’s health during camp and preseason action is one to watch for fantasy owners. He has a chance for a big season with a new coaching staff taking over the offense. 

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

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