It might feel like the dog days of summer for football fans, but the 2017 campaign is rapidly coming down the pike. With training camps opening later this month, Around The NFL's Conor Orr, Kevin Patra and Marc Sessler are examining the key issues for each team in this division-by-division series. Here's the NFC North camp primer:
Training camp report dates: rookies (July 19) and veterans (July 26).
Location: Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Illinois.
Most important position battle: Wide receiver. The Bears enter training camp with a host of second-fiddle wideouts. Do they have a No. 1? Former first-round pick Kevin White has the talent to be the go-to target, but he needs to stay healthy, having appeared in just four games through two years in the NFL. Cameron Meredith proved last year he's a capable weapon (888 yards, four touchdowns, 13.5 yards per catch), but he's not someone defenses fear. Beyond that, the Bears have a host of veteran retreads and young, low-upside players. Markus Wheaton, Victor Cruz, Kendall Wright, Rueben Randle, Deonte Thompson and Josh Bellamy are all battling for a roster spot. More than one will likely get cut. Daniel Braverman, Titus Davis and Tanner Gentry are young players trying to hang on. How this group stacks up will help determine the success of the quarterback in Chicago this year.
Newcomer to watch: QB Mitchell Trubisky. Duh. The Bears can play the "Mike Glennon is our guy" soundtrack on repeat all training camp, and we'll still plug our ears and ignore it. From Day 1 of camp, all eyes will be on Trubisky. If he is lights-out, it will be a story. If he is hitting offensive linemen in the head with passes and tossing wormburners, it will be a story. For better or worse, Trubisky is the future under center for the Bears. Whether he starts in Week 1, Week 15 or 2018, the franchise is married to the 2017 No. 2 overall pick. With jobs on the line for the coaching staff, they must prove they are the best option to nurture Trubisky. The journey starts in camp.
Looming camp question: How will the defensive backfield shape up? The Bears attempted to upgrade a mediocre secondary by making mid-level additions in Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper at corner and Quintin Demps at safety. None of these players is a game-changer. After watching their young players struggle last year, we need to see improvement for the Bears' defense to have any chance in 2017. Corner Kyle Fuller enters a pivotal campaign in Year 4 after missing all of 2016 as he recovered from knee surgery. Fourth-round rookie Eddie Jackson could push for playing time if he has a good camp. Will young players like slot corner Bryce Callahan vault forward with another season in coordinator Vic Fangio's system?
Training camp report dates: rookies (July 24) and veterans (July 29).
Location: Lions Training Facility, Allen Park, Michigan.
Most important position battle: Left tackle. Outside of Matthew Stafford getting gangrene after a bulldog bite, losing left tackle Taylor Deckerto a torn labrum was about the worst thing that could have happened to the Lions' offense. An offensive line that looked to be a rebuilt strength heading into 2017 now has a glaring hole on Stafford's blind side. With Decker set to miss significant time, the Lions will hold a competition for the job. They traded forGreg Robinson, the former Rams Busty McBusterson, and signed Bills disappointmentCyrus Kouandjio. The two will battle with Joe Dahl (who reportedly struggled during minicamp), Cornelius Lucas (a career backup) and Corey Robinson (who might be the leader for the job if healthy) for the starting gig.
Newcomer to watch: LB Jarrad Davis. The Lions owned the worst linebacking unit in the NFL last season. Enter Davis. The first-round pick out of Florida is slated to start immediately in the middle of Detroit's defense. Davis was already calling the Lions' defensive alignments during offseason workouts. His progress through camp and the preseason will be worth watching for a Detroit defense sorely needing the tackling and athleticism he can provide.
Looming camp question: How will the secondary situation sort out? The Lions head to training camp set for a battle for the nickel corner spot. Free agent D.J. Hayden could have the inside track, but Quandre Diggs will get a shot at the job after recovering from a pectoral injury. Is rookie Teez Tabor ready to step into a role opposite Darius Slay? If so, Nevin Lawson could get shuffled around. Second-year safety Miles Killebrew will be another secondary player to watch during camp. The hard hitter improved immensely last season and could force his way onto the field. If Killebrew continues to impress, Detroit could deploy more three-safety sets in 2017, which would take pressure off the weak linebacking corps.
Green Bay Packers
Training camp report dates: rookies and veterans (July 26).
Location: St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin.
Most important position battle: Will one of the rookie RBs step up to share snaps with Ty Montgomery? We know Montgomery is slated for the bulk of the backfield duties heading into the 2017 season. Can any of the young tailbacks cut into the former receiver's snaps? Fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams enters camp as the most likely to carve out a role as an early-down runner. Fifth-round pick Aaron Jones owns big-play ability and could see the field as a pass-catching back. If either of the rookies displays consistency in camp, he could serve a major role in 2017. Seventh-round pick Devante Mays and undrafted runners Kalif Phillips and William Stanback will battle for a roster spot.
Newcomer to watch: TE Martellus Bennett. The loquacious tight end is a perfect fit in Aaron Rodgers' offense. Bennett is an upgrade over last year's free-agent signee at tight end, Jared Cook, in the passing game and as a run-blocker. At 6-foot-6, Bennett should feast in the red zone for this diverse passing attack. Bennett will also thrive when Rodgers vamps and extends plays. The tight end's rapport with his new quarterback will be one thing to track during camp.
Looming camp question: Will the revamped secondary fix last year's leaks? Green Bay's pass defense was painful to watch in 2016. The unit routinely made third-and-long a pitch-and-catch prospect for opposing offenses. GM Ted Thompson brought veteran Davon House -- who spent the past two seasons in Jacksonville after starting his career in Green Bay -- back into the mix. He also used second-round picks on cornerbacks Kevin King and Josh Jones. King should push for a starting gig out of the gate. Could the rookies bypass Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins in the pecking order? With a questionable pass rush heading into the season, Thompson needs his latest secondary rebuild to work out in a hurry.
Training camp report dates: rookies (July 23) and veterans (July 26).
Location: Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minnesota.
Most important position battle: Running back. Second-round pick Dalvin Cook enters camp ahead of veteran addition Latavius Murray for the feature-back role in Minnesota -- Murray admitted as much on NFL Network this offseason. Murray missing offseason workouts following ankle surgery gave the multipurpose Cook the lead heading into camp. Will the rookie hold onto the gig? Cook owns the most talent in the Vikings backfield, but he must prove he can handle pass protection to remain ahead of Murray and passing-down back Jerick McKinnon.
Newcomers to watch: Offensive tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. The Vikings deployed one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season, which nearly got quarterback Sam Bradford killed. Enter Reiff and Remmers. Both players are major question marks after average play with the Lions and Panthers, respectively. Reiff was moved to right tackle in Detroit but will swing back to left tackle in Minnesota. Remmers famously got destroyed in Super Bowl 50 with Carolina. The Vikings' offensive improvement in 2017 relies heavily on the newcomers becoming the answer to Minnesota's perpetual blocking problems.
Looming camp question: Will second-year receiver Laquon Treadwell leap into a significant role? The first-round pick in 2016 barely saw the field as a rookie. His 80 offensive snaps last year were four fewer than Adrian Peterson (who played just three games) and six more than backup QB Shaun Hill. Can the big-bodied Treadwell work his way onto the field in 2017? He won't pass Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen on the depth chart, but he should battle Jarius Wright and Michael Floyd (suspended for four games) for the No. 3 gig. If Treadwell can swipe the third-receiver spot, it will make the Vikings' passing game much more diverse.