NFC North Blog
Cassel is the "heavy favorite" to start over Vikings rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, USA Today's Tom Pelissero says. The Vikings took Bridgewater in the first round of the 2014 draft, prompting many observers to speculate that he would start for Minnesota this season. For his part, VIkings HC Mike Zimmer has said he won't name either player the starter early in camp. But for now, it seems that Minnesota will begin the season with Cassel under center.
When asked to assess this year's Packers running game compared to those of the past 10 years, one NFL executive told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "It's the best it's ever looked. They're good to go. As long as Eddie Lacy's healthy, I think they're as comfortable as they've ever been." Running back coach Sam Gash agreed. "I'm lucky," Gash said. "From top to bottom, the guys we have, I'm happy to be with a group as solid as this. I'm coming in just hoping not to mess it up. I'll make sure the guys are where they're supposed to be and take it from there."
Master Tesfatsion of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote Friday that Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph "should have a big year" under offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Rudolph was on his way to setting some career-highs last year before a broken foot took him down for the final eight games. But Rudolph's foot is healthy, he has lost some weight in an effort to make himself quicker, and "all signs point to [Rudolph] elevating his game" this season, Tesfatsion said. Tight ends such as Jordan Cameron and Antonio Gates have done just that with Turner's coaching.
Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune believes "Martellus Bennett is poised to build on his breakthrough first season" with the Bears. Tight ends coach Andy Bischoff also had praise for Bennett mentioning "The things we've identified for him as improvable areas, he is all over it." Bennett had some issues staying healthy last season but should be good to go this year.
In a very vague and unclear tweet, Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley indicated he may be returning to his former team less than a day after meeting the Pittsburgh Steelers and they apparently offered him a contract at that time.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson may not reach 300 carries this season, but that doesn't mean he will be used less than in years past, just differently. According to ESPN's Ben Goessling, head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner want to turn some of Peterson's would-be rushes into receptions. They want to give him the ball with more space to run and reduce the number of hard hits he absorbs.
Packers running back Eddie Lacy was on the field for 637 snaps last season, about 62 percent of the team's total play count. In 2014, the Packers want more.
ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky wrote Wednesday that the team would like to keep Lacy on the field for more plays this season in an effort toward Green Bay's quest to average 75 plays per game.
"That means Lacy will have to perfect his pass-blocking skills," Demovsky wrote. "It also could mean more opportunities to catch the ball coming out of the backfield."
The free agent TE Finley, who suffered a season-ending spinal contusion last year, will undergo medical testing Wednesday to hep determine his fitness to play this season, with results to be sent to all 32 NFL franchises. Finley has been working out, and has reportedly visted the Seahawks and Patriots, in addition to his former Packers team. The Steelers have also expressed interest in Finley, who caught 25 balls for 300 yards and three TDs in six games last season.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and QB Aaron Rodgers want to increase to speed of the Packers offense to 75 plays per game this season, which would place them among the fastest-paced offenses in the NFL. "That seems to be the answer to some of the different things that defenses are doing," Rodgers said of the plan. According to head coach McCarthy, that type of offense would require RB Eddie Lacy to become a three-down back. Last year, the Denver Broncos ran the fastest offense in the NFL at an average of 72 plays per game.
Lions wide receiver Golden Tate fully understands how different his new offense operates compared to the one he came from in Seattle.
"I have a chance to catch a ton more balls," he said Monday on ESPN's First Take via NFL.com's Mike Coppinger. "I'm going to see a lot of single coverage. I'm probably going to see a lot of No. 2 and No. 3 cornerbacks because everyone's going to be on [Calvin Johnson].
"I'm excited. I think the sky's the limit. I think it's going to get back to the old Golden."