Players To Watch In NFL Training Camp: NFC North
The Father chooses one player from each team to keep an eye on this summer
Training camps will be opening up later this month, and roster battles will begin, new players will find a role, injured players will seek a return to form, old players will try to show they still have it, and young players will try to show they have improved. Every team has their own storylines and players to watch, and I am going to take a little time over the next couple weeks to highlight some of these players. I will pick one player from each team to highlight to keep an eye on in training camp. If they can fulfill their destiny, they can make a big difference in what happens with their team this year.
We now move on to the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers: Jordan Love
It is looking more and more like Aaron Rodgers will not be present for training camp. We still don’t know whether he plans to retire, continue pushing for a trade, or acquiesce to the team’s desires and sign an extension. Regardless, the Packers fate in this scenario will be dramatically effected by what Love does in the preseason and early in the year. If he explodes out of the block, the Packers are free to trade Rodgers with little in the way of negative consequences. If he is bad, Rodgers has ALL the leverage in negotiations, and the fans will crush the current administration for letting things get this far. That is a LOT on the back of a player who is essentially a rookie this year, having not played at all last year. This doesn’t even mention the loss of Pro-Bowl center Corey Linsley and All-Pro tackle David Bakhtiari. It feels like a storm is gathering here, and I wonder if Love will be a victim of the surge.
Minnesota Vikings: Patrick Peterson
Patrick Peterson has been a top cornerback in the NFL for close to a decade now, and, for the first time, he finds himself in a new uniform following his departure from the Cardinals. Peterson has been slipping in recent years from his position on the podium of top cornerbacks, but he comes to a Vikings team that was starting players off the street at times last year, as injuries and incompetence overwhelmed the Viking defense. After last season, any solid veteran would be welcome, and that solid veteran is Peterson. Peterson needs to show that he has something left in the tank in camp, and matching up with Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson will provide fans all they need to know. If Peterson can’t cover number 1 receivers anymore or stay healthy, the fallout will be felt across the rest of a defense that struggled to cover and rush the passer last year.
Chicago Bears: Andy Dalton
Andy’s situation is different from everyone else’s here on these lists. Most of the players I am discussing are critical to his team’s success. Andy Dalton is the major impediment to his team’s success. The team has made it clear that Justin Fields will NOT be starting the season as the QB. This may be the only time in recorded history that a coach has outright said they don’t care who the best player is, their mind is made up. With a defense that is suddenly vulnerable thanks to the release of Kyle Fuller (TO SIGN DALTON) and their aging pass rush in Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, they are going to need a strong offense this season to win games. We saw what Andy Dalton looked like in an offense loaded with talent last season in Dallas. He was terrible. This offense is NOT loaded with talent. Simple deductive reasoning tells us: Andy Dalton is NOT going to be good. The only hope for the Bears is Dalton NOT coming into camp in the best shape of his life, NOT establishing a connection with anyone, and NOT staying healthy. With the Bears’ fans’ luck, he is going to look like another former Cowboys QB Stephen McGee and set the world on fire in the preseason.
Detroit Lions: Jeff Odukah
Odukah was the third overall pick last offseason for the Lions. His rookie year was a mild disappointment, as he certainly didn’t arrive as a lockdown cornerback. While that is certainly disappointing, it is fair to assume a rookie cornerback will have some growing pains. The real problem is the opportunity cost, specifically the opportunity to take several of the players after him, like Justin Herbert. Odukah needs to show up to camp focused and improved for year two, as the team is banking on his improvement to give the defense hope for this season. The rest of the defense is also young, and lacks the pedigree Odukah has. They need him to step up and be a star right away in year two. He will face stiff competition with wideouts like Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams, and Allen Robinson, four of the best in all of football, in the division.