As promised, let's take a stab at answering the questions we posed earlier this week in advance of mandatory minicamps for three NFC North teams. (Original post here.)
Chicago Bears: State of the offense and the progress of rookie defensive end Shea McClellin.
Our curiosity about the offense was adequately addressed. By all accounts, it will closely resemble the scheme that quarterback Jay Cutler and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates ran with the Denver Broncos from 2006-08. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice will apply some of his own tweaks, especially as it relates to the running game, but Tice has appropriately allowed Cutler and Bates to take substantial roles in the scheme's development.
"It's stuff that I do well," Cutler said. "It's stuff that I know. As a quarterback you want to be in the same offense over and over and over and over again so you can get a good feel for it and so you know all the nuances. This offense, I was in it three years in Denver, so this is my fourth year in it. I'm very comfortable with it.' … A lot of carryover [from Denver], a lot of stuff we did last couple years. It's kind of a mixture of some stuff Mike had done in his past, stuff Jeremy has, and he learned even more in Seattle, so it's a mixture of a lot of different things."
Meanwhile, McClellin didn't see much if any action with the first team at defensive end, and for now Israel Idonije is the starter at left end opposite Julius Peppers. There is an expectation that McClellin will eventually start, but it might not be in Week 1. Here's what defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli told reporters: " He can move well. He's got really good movement. He's got really good speed. He's got nice range. His size is fine. He's a real hungry guy and he's very smart. I know he's tough. We'll get the pads on him. That determines everything. I believe he'll come out and do a very nice job, but the movement, all the things you look for, it's there."
Detroit Lions: Comfort level in the secondary and the immediate role of rookie offensive lineman Riley Reiff.
In the early going at least, the Lions are working Aaron Berry and Chris Houston as their top two cornerbacks, with newcomer Jacob Lacey covering the slot receiver in nickel situations. My sense is the Lions feel more than comfortable with Berry as long as he remains healthy.
It was worth noting, however, that coach Jim Schwartz suggested it was time for safety Amari Spievey to even out his game. It appears to be a now-or-never year for the 2009 third-round draft pick.
Reiff continued working exclusively at left and right tackle, but the Lions haven't ruled out possible work at guard during training camp. If he is going to start in Week 1, however, the best guess is that it will come after beating out right tackle Gosder Cherilus. It's reasonable to think that left tackle Jeff Backus has at least one more year in him.
Green Bay Packers: Questions on the defense, linebacker Nick Perry, the safeties, quarterback Graham Harrell and left tackle Marshall Newhouse.
We've already spent some time discussing Perry, who sure looks like a big-time NFL linebacker but is still in the process of learning how to play the position. My sense is the Packers could use Charles Woodson in a safety-like role in the base defense and then mix-and-match when they are in nickel. There is definitely some hope that rookie Jerron McMillian, or even M.D. Jennings, could pose significant competition for Charlie Peprah in training camp.
Here's part of what coach Mike McCarthy said when I asked about his comfort level in Newhouse: "Marshall is at that point in his career, I think every player goes through it, the people in the building have a lot more confidence in him than maybe the people outside. I just don't think people know much about him. He's progressed so much and you see the ability, especially the athletic ability. I think Marshall is going to be a good player for us."
Finally, I saw no evidence to suggest the Packers will do anything other than make Harrell their No. 2 quarterback this season. Quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo: "A lot has been written about him not having great physical tools. Usually the people writing that have not seen him play or practice within the last three years. His arm has come alive. He's physically playing the game faster."