Lance Briggs' ongoing stalemate over the franchise tag will come into focus again next weekend when the team holds minicamp without him. Third-round pick Michael Okwo won praise during the rookie minicamp after the draft, but Jamar Williams figures to get first crack at replacing Briggs. Williams, a 2006 fourth-round pick who missed most of his rookie season with a shoulder injury, is similar to Briggs. Williams is intelligent and runs well, but lacks the Briggs' play speed. Okwo might have a little range, too, but Williams understands the defense and should be first up. Coaches keep talking like they expect Briggs to be with them this season, but they must start preparing as if he won't so someone is ready in case he doesn't show up when the season starts.
Coach Rod Marinelli loves positional flexibility, and guard-turned-tight end Eric Beverly gives the offense options. Beverly, signed as a free agent, figures to be used as a second or third tight end when the offense goes to its unbalanced line and power running game. He also can be a double threat inside the 10-yard line because he can catch the ball. Depending on his ability and quickness, the offense might take a look at him as a part-time fullback. Coaches considered using right tackle Rex Tucker as a part-time tight end, but Beverly likely ends that experiment.
Green Bay Packers
First-round pick Justin Harrell must fight hard for a starting job because incumbent defensive tackle Corey Williams won't give up his position easily. Williams is a scrapper who started to come into his own last season. He doesn't have Harrell's bulk and power, but Williams never gives up on a play and tends to wear down opponents with his hustle. He has gotten stronger and looks ready to have a big season. Harrell plays the run better, which is important, but a rotation among him, Williams and Ryan Pickett might result in equal snaps for the three.
Running back Adrian Peterson proved during a recent rookie minicamp that he has the hands to be an all-around star. There is little question about Peterson's ability as a runner, but he rarely was asked to catch the ball at Oklahoma. Coaches were eager to see how he handled himself in pass routes, as well as how soft his hands would be. They were pleasantly surprised with what they saw. Peterson has soft hands and showed an ability to adjust when the ball was thrown to his back hip. He also showed moves that indicated he would be ready to catch the ball out of the backfield when the season begins, a critical skill in the West Coast offense.