NFC Roundup: Quarterback Battles Heat Up Across NFL
By Christian S. Kohl
As Kickoff weekend creeps closer every day, the stories around the NFL continue to heat up. Here are the notable developments this past week for teams in the NFC:
Chicago Bears: The Bears are excited about TE Martellus Bennett as a considerable upgrade as a red zone weapon. Cutler shows great tendencies to target TE’s in the red zone, and Bennett offers superior ability to previous options at the position. In other goal line news, Michael Bush reportedly played through a broken shoulder bone early last season. A healthier Bush this year could translate to greater red zone efficiency as well.
Detroit Lions: Wide receivers are giving the Lions some hope this week. Ryan Broyles is progressing well in his efforts to rehab after ACL issues, and Nate Burleson is also recovering well from a leg injury. Both are expected to be ready to go by week 1 to flesh out the WR corps and take some heat off superstar Calvin Johnson.
Green Bay Packers: Despite a shifting landscape at RB, Alex Green will have to battle hard along with James Starks for a roster spot. The Pack are reportedly happy with Johnathan Franklin and Eddie Lacy, also leaving chances slim that undrafted RB Angelo Pease still has a playbook by the end of camp.
Minnesota Vikings: DL Shariff Floyd apparently did not impress the Cowboys, believing he lacked the quickness to excel as an NFL defender. We’ll see if this motivates Floyd at all on Sundays. Meanwhile, Kyle Rudolph looks to remain the primary red zone receiving option for Minnesota. The big TE is targeted at a higher percentage than any other man at his position, which admittedly speaks more to the lack of Vikings options than it does to his overall skill set.
Atlanta Falcons: Slow news is good news for the Falcons. With no injuries or personnel issues reported this week, attention falls on Dominique Davis, who is likely to lock up the backup QB role behind Matt Ryan. Kevin Cone is now the likely candidate to secure WR4 duties behind Atlanta’s core of stud receiving threats.
Carolina Panthers: Business as usual continues with the Panthers. Their concerns this week remain the same as usual: is Cam Newton progressing, can Steve Smith stay healthy, and do they have even a fraction of the pieces necessary to compete this year? Few of those questions were answered this week, though at the very least Smith feels healthy and prime for a big 2013 campaign.
New Orleans Saints: The exciting addition in the Saints camp this year is not a player. Instead, it is new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The institution of the 3-4 has many players there excited, most notably Roman Harper. The aggressive style of this defense suits his strong blitzing skills well, and leaves him in prime position to win out in the battle for playing time in New Orleans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Two players dominate the headlines in Tampa Bay, and this week is no different. While coaches insist Freeman is their QB, Ron Jaworski continues to be baffled by him. As Jaws continues to question exactly what it is he is analyzing, the best news to emerge from Tampa this week involves CB Darrelle Revis. Coach Greg Schiano believes Revis will be ready to go after recovering from an ACL injury. There is no more encouraging news for Bucs fans than the possibility of Revis Island being open for business on Kickoff weekend.
Dallas Cowboys: As usual, shuffling around is the name of the game with the Cowboys. Sean Lee is expected to sign a contract extension before the season starts, yet Anthony Spencer is now thought to be playing his final season in Dallas. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are fiddling a bit with their offensive line situation, considering moving C Travis Frederick to guard and possibly using OG Kevin Kowalski at fullback. It’s never entirely clear what the Cowboys will do on game day, but it continues to entertain.
New York Giants: In a story that will likely make Coach Tom Coughlin appear as though he is angrily squinting directly at the sun, LB Dan Connor was arrested at Philadelphia International Airport this week for possession of a switchblade. He is not expected to be disciplined, by the NFL anyway. In more cheerful news for Giants fans, the bullet points of a long term contract with star WR and master of salsa Victor Cruz appear to be in place. The deal could be signed as early as this week.
Philadelphia Eagles: The battle of quarterbacks remains the story in Philadelphia, with Nick Foles apparently emerging as the frontrunner according to sources this week. The Chip Kelly chaos continues, as nobody is quite sure what he’ll do next. However, given Vick’s price tag and guaranteed money, conventional wisdom would suggest he gets the nod early on.
Washington Redskins: Optimism is high in Washington, whose front office feels things are beginning to click. Alfred Morris feels more comfortable in the Redskins offense this season compared to the fast-pace of his rookie season last year. Their front office also rates T Tyler Polumbus very highly, and they are confident in their attack this season should RGIII return in full force.
Arizona Cardinals: In non-breaking news, the Cardinals still have elite WR Larry Fitzgerald and little else. While the addition of Carson Palmer could solidify their offense, the suspect offensive line play may afford neither him nor Mendenhall a fighting chance. Without elite interior line play, Palmer may find himself wrapping up his career taking a Jay Cutler number of violent hits.
San Francisco 49ers: Amid a week of dubious news stories, the Niners did manage to sign DB Eric Reid to a four-year deal. Controversy arose this week over Kaepernick wearing a Dolphins hat, which was not the greatest annoyance for Harbaugh this week. OLB Ahmad Brooks may be facing assault charges for allegedly hitting a teammate over the head with a bottle. More will be reported on this story as it develops.
St. Louis Rams: The Rams continue their trend of high hopes for 2013, inking Jake McQuaide to a deal through 2017. Daryl Richardson is the current #1 on the RB depth chart due to his previous NFL work, and Sam Bradford is looking to increase red zone efficiency. Also, like all young quarterbacks, priority #1 will be to limit the turnovers. Perhaps some new blood and a stronger defense will afford him more time and opportunities to convert this season.
Seattle Seahawks: Offseason news has been unfortunate for Seahawks fans, and that trend continued this week concerning star RB Marshawn Lynch. His court date over an alleged DUI is set for November 1, but the case may drag on long enough for Lynch to avoid punishment in the 2013 season. Hopes are high in Seattle this year, provided their star personnel can manage to avoid substance abuse suspensions or NFL imposed discipline for conduct policy violations.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.