NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC North Teams

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Scouts analyze the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC North Teams

Historically known as the domain of defenses like the Monsters of the Midway and the Purple People Eaters, the NFC North may be changing its image. Now home to Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler and a host of explosive playmakers, the division boasted three of the NFL’s top offenses in 2013. The Packers have been the top dog the past three seasons and are considered the favorites again this year. But both the Bears and Lions are hoping offseason changes will allow them to close the gap. And then there’s Minnesota, which has the best running back in the league in Adrian Peterson and is hoping it drafted its next franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of how the four NFC North teams are shaping up heading into the 2014 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff. 

 

Chicago Bears

 

“The Bears saw the results of hiring offensive-minded Marc Trestman when Jay Cutler was having a productive year before a series of injuries occurred and Josh McCown stepped in and actually played even more efficiently.” …

 

“Chicago has an excellent set of offensive skill players with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the outside with Martellus Bennett at TE and Matt Forté in the backfield.” …

 

“Their line got a huge boost from rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills after they had signed Jermon Bushrod in free agency.” …

 

“If they can get any sort of improvement from the defense, the Bears should compete for NFC honors. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is well respected around the league, but in all honesty, his statistics at Cleveland, Jacksonville and last year, have left some wondering about his future as a potential NFL head coach.” …

 

“Still, they were derailed by injuries and have since released Julius Peppers. However, a full makeover is underway with the additions of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston. Allen has plenty left in the tank and Houston was often overlooked as a dependable starter in Oakland.” …

 

“DTs Ego Ferguson (LSU) and Will Sutton (Arizona State) were picked in the second and third rounds and the linebackers have to stay healthy despite their age (D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs).” …

 

“Tim Jennings has coaxed a ton out of his body to become a long-time pro, while [Charles] Peanut Tillman is nearing the end as a starting corner. Hence, the selection of CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) in the first round.” …

 

“The safeties won’t strike fear in anybody, so this entire secondary will need to be overhauled over the next two years.” …

 

“In a sentence, the Bears should be spectacular on offense, and if Tucker and Co. can turn things around defensively, this team has a chance to have a special year.” …

 

Detroit Lions

 

“After the Lions faltered down the stretch of the 2013 season with the division title in sight, the organization fired Jim Schwartz and hired Jim Caldwell. Caldwell has two tasks: to improve the consistency of Matthew Stafford and eliminate the on-field discipline issues that have plagued this team over the past five seasons.” …

 

“Stafford and Calvin Johnson have posted bigger numbers than any tandem since 2008, but they still added Golden Tate to the mix as an alternative, different style of receiver than Megatron. Kris Durham is a favorite of Stafford, despite his lack of all-out speed and athleticism.” …

 

“Brandon Pettigrew was retained, but that didn’t keep them from taking Eric Ebron with the No. 10 pick. The Lions got great mileage out of undrafted free agent Joseph Fauria who caught 10 touchdown passes as a rookie.” …

 

“Reggie Bush was everything advertised as a runner and receiver and the club likes the idea of pairing him off with Joique Bell.” …

 

“The offensive line is adequate with Riley Reiff at left tackle, Dominic Raiola in the middle and Larry Warford coming off a very secure rookie campaign.” …

 

“Teryl Austin takes over as the defensive coordinator and Detroit certainly has one of the best fronts in the entire league. Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Ziggy Ansah and Jason Jones all have significant talent and watch for Devin Taylor to reveal himself as a quality young prospect this year.” …

 

“The linebackers are undersized with Stephen Tulloch leading the way as a tackler.” …

 

“Austin recruited James Ihedigbo from the Ravens, but between he and Glover Quin, not sure they are good enough back there.” …

 

“On the corners, Rashean Mathis returns for another year, despite Detroit drafting Darius Slay in the second round a year ago.” …

 

“Chris Houston’s toe injury has been problematic during the offseason [Editor’s note: Houston was released by the team in June], so they also drafted Nevin Lawson (Utah State) to add depth on the edge.” …

 

“Turnovers and the ability to make critical plays at critical times will determine if Caldwell is a successful hire.” …

 

“Caldwell is charged with turning this group of underachievers into division winners, and for that to happen, he will need stellar performances from Stafford and a defense that will be tested at all levels in the NFC North." ...

 

Green Bay Packers

 

“Somehow without Aaron Rodgers for seven games, the Packers made the playoffs. Give credit to coach Mike McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson who have both quietly put together a solid record of leadership and success.” …

 

“Rodgers is at the top of his game and has performed through quite a bit of adversity over the past two seasons. Neither the offensive line nor receivers are what he had earlier in his career, but the running game is better with Eddie Lacy.” …

 

“Some Alabama insiders felt Lacy had more talent than Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and they were proven right with his 1178 yards as a rookie.” …

 

“Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are both very good players and they added Davante Adams from Fresno State in the second round.” …

 

“David Bakhtiari is just OK as the left tackle, so they need Bryan Bulaga to return from injury in order to bolster their edge protection. J.C. Tretter projects well to center, but actually played LT at Cornell and spent most of 2013 on IR. All-Pro guard Josh Sitton can help him in that transition.” …

 

“On defense, Dom Capers seems to have lost some of his 3-4 magic, however, that may be more of a talent issue.” …

 

“Mike Daniels has become a dependable pro and they need Datone Jones to make big progress in his second year. B.J. Raji was brought back on a one-year deal, but he has to play better.” …

 

“A.J. Hawk has never made the splash plays of a top 5 pick and Brad Jones is only an adequate NFL starter. Clay Matthews is the best player on their D and the Packers signed Julius Peppers to rush from the opposite side, but no one has any idea how Capers will plug him into their system.” …

 

“Sammie Shields was deservedly extended in March, but Tramon Williams is on the other side of it, so Casey Hayward or Micah Hyde could push for a starting role this year.”…

 

“The safety play was atrocious last season and was their biggest need in the offseason. The Packers selected Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 21st pick of the first round and he is an athletic centerfielder.” …

 

“As long as Rodgers is healthy, this team will always have a chance to compete, but if Green Bay wants to talk Super Bowl, they must get production from Peppers and play at a much higher level along both lines of scrimmage.” …

 

Minnesota Vikings

 

“The Vikings are the NFC version of the Bills in that they have put together a solid, playoff-contending roster, but the QB position is the big issue here. GM Rick Spielman has at least a partial miss with Christian Ponder, but that didn’t prevent them from taking Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater at the end of the first round.” …

 

“They hired Mike Zimmer to fix an underachieving defense.” …

 

“Offensively, they literally have a blue-chip caliber talent in every position group except QB. Adrian Peterson is still the best RB in the game, Matt Khalil is one of the best young tackles in the league, Kyle Rudolph is a quality TE and Cordarrelle Patterson has incredible upside. With that said, Zimmer hired Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator to either fix Ponder and/or Matt Cassel and develop Bridgewater.” …

 

“Jared Allen moved to the Bears after the Vikings opted to retain a younger Everson Griffen and sign DT Linval Joseph from the Giants. Shariff Floyd is a major key to a defensive turnaround, he has to be more consistent and provide an interior pass rush against the QBs in this division.” …

 

“The linebackers are good enough when healthy, but Chad Greenway, Matt Mauti and Gerald Hodges have all missed time in the past, therefore, their original first round pick, UCLA’s Anthony Barr, will be expected to play and contribute this year.” …

 

“Maybe the weakest part of this roster is the secondary. Chris Cook signed with the 49ers, but Xavier Rhodes and Josh Robinson are the incumbent returners who will compete with Panthers’ signee Captain Munnerlyn.” …

 

“The safeties are just ordinary with SS Jamarca Sanford and FS Hunter Smith patrolling the deep part of the field…

 

“If this organization can figure out the QB and Zimmer can fix the D, the Vikings may in fact have a positive future after all.” …

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