The calendar has finally flipped to August and that means one very important thing: football is on the horizon. After months of constant NBA offseason rumors and the grind of the MLB regular season, football is getting ready to step back into the center of the sports universe. Training camp is not the end all be all for most veteran players returning to their respective teams. These players for the most part they already know their role and camp is a necessary evil required to get them back into playing shape before Week 1. For the rest of the roster, newcomers and fringe roster players, camp is an absolutely critical time of the year. There are plenty of questions around the NFC North teams ahead of the opening of training camp, but here is the most important question for each team.
Green Bay Packers: What impact will Martellus Bennett have?
The Pack broke tradition and made a relatively splashy move in free agency. Green Bay inked a deal with TE Martellus Bennett fresh off a Super Bowl victory in New England. For a team without many glaring holes, adding a weapon like Bennett is a luxury that could make them one of the most explosive offenses in football. Bennett provides Aaron Rodgers a target that can attack the middle of the field that he has not had since Jermichael Finley. Couple that with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on the outside, and Green Bay has a passing attack that will leave defensive coordinators sleepless. The only hiccup with Bennett is his somewhat divisive personality. Despite being one of the most talented tight ends in football, he has bounced around four teams in his nine-year career. He has never been shy about sharing his opinion, never sugar-coating his opinion about teammates past or present. Bennett toed the company line New England, refusing to rock the boat en route to a championship. His passion is part of what makes him such a great player, but if his somewhat volatile personality causes unrest in the locker room Bennett may do more harm than good.
Minnesota Vikings: Who will get the majority of the carries?
After 10 years of stability, the Vikings are staring down the barrel of uncertainty at the running back position. They chose to move on from Adrian Peterson this past offseason while adding Latavius Murray from Oakland and drafting Dalvin Cook out of Florida State in the second round. Throw those two in with incumbents Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, and Minnesota finds itself with a very crowded backfield. Murray will begin camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, which means there is an opportunity to grab an early edge for the rookie Cook. Teams do not trade up in the draft to select a running back they intend to staple to the sidelines. Cook had a monster career at FSU, but slid in the draft due to character concerns as well as questions about a lingering shoulder injury. Assuming he can keep his nose clean and stay healthy he should form a nice thunder and lightening combo with Murray, with sprinkles of McKinnon as a change of pace option. If the offensive line can improve, which frankly it would seem impossible that they get worse, the Vikings’ running game could take a massive step forward despite Peterson’s absence.
Detroit Lions: Can they sustain their late game magic?
History suggests that teams are unlikely continue the kind of late game heroics that Matthew Stafford and the Lions had last season. Seven of their nine victories came by a touchdown or less, a feat that will be awfully difficult to replicate facing a second-place schedule. Stafford was a magician in the 4th quarter for Detroit last season, leading countless late game drives to put them in the lead. While he may not have the same level of theatrics, if Stafford can continue excellent play Detroit has a chance to return to the postseason again this year.
Chicago Bears: If/When will Mitchell Trubisky place?
The Bears have been in desperate search for a quarterback since Jim McMahon led them to the Super Bowl in 1985. They unloaded several picks on draft night to trade up one spot to draft Trubisky out of North Carolina. They did all this despite handing Mike Glennon a three-year 45 million dollar deal during free agency. Poor logic aside, Glennon is clearly just a stop gap in order to allow Trubisky to develop. The question for the Bears is when that day will come. GM Ryan Pace has been adamant in his desire to bring Trubisky along slowly, but patience is in short supply in Chicago. If Glennon struggles early, a proposition that is not unlikely, there will be cries from every talking head and radio host in the greater Chicago area for Trubisky to be given the keys to the offense. Rookie quarterbacks rarely find success early, and with both Pace and Fox under heavy scrutiny by ownership they may be reluctant to play Trubisky in the interest of job security.