NFC Notes: Sam Darnold, Ben Johnson, Lions, Packers, Vikings

Lions

With the departure of WR Josh Reynolds in free agency, the Lions need another playmaker to step up in the passing game aside from WR Amon-Ra St. Brown. Detroit OC Ben Johnson delved into how they plan to replace Reynolds’ production. 

“It might be someone that didn’t have as much production last year, say an Antoine Green or a Peoples-Jones or some of the guys that we had on the scout team,” Johnson said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “Or it could be some of the other guys. Maybe it’s another carry for David Montgomery or [Jahmyr] Gibbs or it’s another target for [Sam] LaPorta.

“It could be — we might have to spread it out that way. So, that’s what we’re trying to find out here this springtime and in training camp is not just who the guys are that we’ll hang our hats on, but also how we distribute those carries and those targets as the season goes.”

Packers

Packers TE Tucker Kraft thinks coming from a small college like South Dakota State builds a negative misconception and feels he’s made a smooth transition into the NFL because of his technique and knowledge of their offense. 

“Everyone was wrong. Anyone who tries to shove that small-school narrative, they can put it where the sun don’t shine,” Kraft said, via PackersWire. “We’re football players. We’re playing the same game. You rise to the ability of the people around you. I was out there dominating the FCS level, but you turn the film on here, the NFL is not that hard of a game if you’re locked into your techniques and you know your offense well enough.”

Kraft said there’s no order in the depth chart between himself and fellow TE Luke Musgrave.

“I didn’t come into this league as a backup,” Kraft said. “Luke and I, we don’t play under or over each other; we play with each other. That’s how all of us work when we step out on the field. We’re playing with each other, playing for each other. I’d say the next progression in us is mainly just identifying what parts of our game we’re really good at. I’m just excited to get rolling.”

It’s Kraft’s goal in 2024 to be a dependable blocker as a tight end and allow Green Bay to freely run to his side. 

“Yeah, I’m just ready to take off in this league and establish myself as a football player, really. That’s where my frustration lies. I was really excited about this offseason – to have the whole offseason – to get running off the football again, get my second step down, my landmark. What I want to establish this year is I want to be the best Y in the outside zone – running the ball at the tight end – that’s my individual goal for the season. That just opens up so many avenues.”

Vikings

Minnesota moved up to add first-round QB J.J. McCarthy in the draft but also brought in QB Sam Darnold in free agency. Vikings OL Dalton Risner had high praise for Darnold and is excited about what he adds to the team. 

“Sam’s an awesome dude too,” Risner said, via The Purple Persuasion. “He’s one of those guys who gets along with the OL real well. One of those guys that you think he was at the facility or a Viking for the last two or three years. By the friends that he has and the way he carries himself.”

“He holds himself to a good standard. He’s made some great throws just in my short time of being there. Looks like he has this system down. Who’s going to be a guy who everyone count on.”

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