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A look at the Vikings’ NFC North rivals as pre-season winds down

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Now that pre-season is half over, we begin to get a better idea of what team starting rosters may look like heading into the regular season – including those of the NFC North. Of course things can still change (see Vikings last year), but for the most part the starters are pretty well known, with a few exceptions not likely to have a big impact either way.

Taking a closer look at NFC North rosters gives us a chance to identify strengths and weaknesses, find matchup issues, and outline each team’s chances against the Vikings.

Let start with last year’s division winner- the Green Bay Packers.

Green Bay Offense

Offensively, the Packers look about as strong as ever at the skill positions. The main difference with previous years is that the receiver group has filled out a little more from Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Davante Adams has improved as the other outside receiver opposite Nelson, so Aaron Rodgers has three good receivers to throw to now. It would not be surprising if Jordy Nelson, who is 32 and entering his 10th season, began to slide some in his production, but that remains to be seen.

The Packers lost a key cog in their offense last year in Jared Cook, whom Aaron Rodgers gave some credit for the Packers late season run last year, but replaced him with Martellus Bennett, who may be just as good. There could be some lead time before Bennett and Rodgers develop the chemistry lost with Cook, but otherwise this change seems a lateral move.

Running back does not look to be changed much for the Packers, who will roll again with WR-turned-RB Ty Montgomery, who did well filling in for the injured Eddie Lacy last season, who the Packers have since let go. The Packers picked up a couple fresh RB prospects in the draft- Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones- who will likely fill out their RB committee. But I’m not expecting improvement here for the Packers, particularly as the run blocking along their offensive line looks worse than previous years.

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NAPA, Calif. — While Marshawn Lynch contemplated talking to the media on Tuesday before ultimately declining, the running back’s decision to sit during the national anthem before Saturday night’s exhibition opener at the Arizona Cardinals remained a topic at Oakland Raiders training camp.

Tight end Jared Cook, who participated in the St. Louis Rams’ “don’t shoot” salute in 2014, said he was “proud” of Lynch, even if Lynch has yet to say if, or what, he was protesting.

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Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett seems to be adjusting to his new team a little too well.  According to Jason Wilde of ESPN Wiconsin, Bennett has been getting to know his new quarterback Aaron Rodgers in ways that only he can (or will).

Bennett has been texting Rodgers in a rather candid way since joining the Packers.  Whether he’s asking Rodgers, “what kind of cookie do you like?” or “telling him little things” like his daughter using the potty, Bennett is going to make sure that Rodgers is so comfortable with him that he’s uncomfortable.

Like the internet native that he is, Bennett has also incorporated new-wave media into his conversations with Rodgers.  “I send a lot of emojis and GIFS and stuff like that to him,” Bennett said.  “Other than that, it’s just conversations.”

Although his heart may flutter whenever he sees the three dots pop up in his conversations with Rodgers, Bennett knows why he’s really in Green Bay.

“I always talk to him on the field, too, trying to see what he wants,” Bennett said.  “‘Hey, how did that look?’ or he’ll give the thumbs up.” Bennett also said that he’ll steal glances at Rodgers while he’s with other groups, and he’s constantly asking Rodgers if what he’s doing is what Rodgers wants on any given play. “Always trying to figure out, just trying to have those conversations on and off the field, trying to get to know each other as players, and as people.”

Rodgers has a rapport with his past tight ends. Despite a slow regular season, Jared Cook had an excellent postseason last year. Cook caught 18 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns after having only 30 receptions the entire regular season. Going further back, Jermichael Finley was always an important cog in Rodgers’ progressions.


The Rams have a brand new home in Los Angeles — and a rapidly changing roster to go with it.

The team released defensive end Chris Long, linebacker James Laurinaitis and tight end Jared Cookon Friday. The club later confirmed the moves.

“This is the time of year when all NFL teams are faced with difficult decisions regarding their veteran players,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said in a statement.

“Chris and James are the epitome of what it means to be a pro in this league and it’s been an honor to coach them both. They’ve been the pillars of our defense for many years and not enough can be said of their love for the game and for their teammates. Beyond the field, they took pride in mentoring the younger players and doing their part to make a real difference in the St. Louis community. We will always be grateful for James and Chris’ unselfish commitment to the Rams and wish them the best moving forward.

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