Monday, June 28, 2004

The Packers have been quiet since the end of the June minicamp and the signing of QB Tim Couch, not that it is unexpected since it is only the end of June and training camp hasn't opened yet. Looking around the rest of the NFC North, winning the division is more important than ever since realignment caused more competition for fewer wild card spots, here our some of the stories getting press this June.

Minnesota. The team released 2003 starting strong side LB Henri Crockett and 2003 starting middle LB Greg Biekert retired, leaving only LB Chris Claiborne as a return starter. Claiborne is moving to the strong side (over the tight end), second year LB E.J. Henderson (coming off May knee surgery) will start in the middle, and the weak side LB spot is a wide open battle between LB Mike Nattiel and rookie LB Dontarrious Thomas, according to Minnesota's defense was awful after week 6 last season and a revamped linebacker group along with a very young defensive line will probably lead to a inconsistant defense in 2004.

Chicago. Their defense is getting younger and only LB Brian Urlacher is a true impact defensive player. No one on Chicago's offense could be accused of being an impact player yet. The defense is being revamped under new coach Lovie Smith, which is to be expected by the former defensive coordinator. Contracts for draft choices are slotted (based on last year's contract plus 5% or so increase for this season, therefore DT Tommie Harris should be paid the same as last year's 15th overall pick plus 5% approximately), and Chicago had generally worked out contract terms with Harris' agent in the minutes before they selected Harris in the April draft, but now Harris has a new agent, according to As reported, it is probably not a problem, due to the slotting of draft choices' contracts, but it could delay Harris from participating in training camp from day 1.

Detroit. The biggest story for them is the weight of DT Shawn Rogers. I've read one story about it on and probably another on as well. Rogers should have been drafted in the first round a couple of years ago because he can dominate, but he has a history of injury and weight problems. He has the most potential of any player on Detroit's defense, but it is Rogers responsibility to make it happen. Another story is the charges of insurance fraud against new FS Brock Marion. Detroit has spent a lot of money to revamp their secondary, signing Marion and DB Fernando Bryant this offseason to play alongside last season's big free agent DB Dre Bly. Detroit was counting on Marion to solidify their secondary which has lacked consistant free safety play for a few seasons, but the criminal investigation against Marion probaly derailed those plans.

Overall, all three teams have question marks, which is to be expected because none of them made the playoffs last season, but all these changes are obvious attempts to improve their respective teams.

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