NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC North Teams

Scouts analyze the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings

The Green Bay Packers have won four straight NFC North titles, and that grasp atop the standings doesn't seem to be fading away anytime soon. However, this certainly remains a very interesting division, and each team's success could revolve around just a few key players. The Vikings will have Adrian Peterson back, so that should have a strong impact on the team. Will it be enough to make the playoffs though? How will these teams compete with the dominant Packers?

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of how the four NFC North teams are shaping up heading into the 2015 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

 

“With high hopes for 2014, the Bears’ season quickly dissolved into a 5-11 campaign due to a dysfunctional locker room, no apparent leadership from the head coach or QB positions and a defense that made zero strides as a unit."…

 

"Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery were shown the door and veteran coach John Fox and first-time GM Ryan Pace were hired in the offseason."…

 

"New offensive coordinator Adam Gase followed Fox from Denver and he has the unenviable task of ‘fixing’ Jay Cutler."…

 

"WR Brandon Marshall was traded to the Jets, but Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett all return, and West Virginia WR Kevin White was chosen at pick No. 7, so there is ‘talent’ in the building."… [Editor's note: Kevin White will start the season on the Physically Unable to Play (PUP) list because of a stress fracture in his shin that will require surgery. He will miss the first six games, at minimum.]

 

"OG Kyle Long has proven to be a Pro Bowl-level player, but the rest of the offensive line is a work in progress."…

 

"Vic Fangio comes to the Windy City from the 49ers as the defensive coordinator and he has one of the toughest jobs in football as Chicago tries to transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4."…

 

"They signed a notable free agent at every level of the defense in OLB/DE Pernell McPhee (Ravens), LB Mason Foster (Buccaneers) and safety Antrel Rolle (Giants). McPhee has never been a full-time player, Foster missed most of 2014 with an Achilles injury and Rolle is on the backside of his career, however, they can provide a new voice and serve as a conduit for Fangio to the other defensive players."…

 

"PK Robbie Gould struggled with a nagging quad injury all season and only made 9-of-12 field goals in 12 games."…

 

"Fox and Co. will try to push the reset button with a roster of mixed pieces and parts, but this looks like the weakest team in the division.”

 

Detroit Lions

 

“Give Jim Caldwell and his staff credit, they cleaned up the turnover margin (minus-12 to plus-seven) and put themselves in position to win 11 games last year."…

 

"They dialed back QB Matthew Stafford and relied on a defense that finished top two in run, total and scoring defense."…

 

"DT Ndamukong Suh and his contract situation dominated the headlines for months on end before they opted not to franchise tag him and he signed with the Dolphins. Now, the trick will be to see if Haloti Ngata and a host of others can replace Suh in the middle."…

 

"Calvin Johnson continues to be a preeminent talent in the league, but he did miss three games in 2014."…

 

"The Lions are looking for much more from last year’s first-round pick, TE Eric Ebron, to give Stafford another safe option in the passing game."…

 

"Joique Bell is a dependable RB and Theo Riddick will assume the Reggie Bush role…The offensive line was uneven last year, but first-round pick, Duke OG Laken Tomlinson should help right away."…

 

"DE Ziggy Ansah is developing nicely as a complete player and their linebackers are underrated as a group."…

 

"Overall, this secondary was OK with Suh and that front, but they did add a pair of rookie corners in Stanford’s CB Alex Carter and Texas’ Quandre Diggs."…

 

"After shuffling through three placekickers, Matt Prater came onboard and was adequate enough to hold the job."…

 

"GM Martin Mayhew made the right call on Caldwell as coach in 2014. With more organizational leadership stability and financial flexibility post-Suh, it will be interesting to see if the Lions can chase down the Packers in the division.”

 

Green Bay Packers

 

“The Packers major in evaluating college prospects and their own team, then they sit back and use this knowledge to selectively sign pro free agents and fill specific needs in the draft."…

 

"GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy are the longest-tenured duo in the entire NFL and that continuity pays dividends when it comes to scouting and developing players."…

 

"Offensively, Green Bay is set at all of the skill positions with Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb all at the top of their respective games."…

 

"The offensive line is more functional than spectacular, but they found a fifth-round gem in OC Corey Linsley last year."…

 

"This is a middle-of-the-league defense and they will rely on a wave of linemen and the flexibility of Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers to bolster their front, while they drafted Arizona State DB Damarious Randall in the first round and Miami-OH CB Quentin Rollins in the second."…

 

"Much will be expected of Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde, so the competition for playing time will be intense in training camp."…

 

"McCarthy announced over the winter that he would no longer call plays in order to focus on the entire team, this coming after the Packers gave up seven blocked kicks during the season and melted down in the final minutes of the NFC title game on special teams. Still, as long as Rodgers is healthy, they are the clear front-runners in the NFC North.”

 

Minnesota Vikings

 

“Mike Zimmer put his imprint on this team with a no-nonsense, tough guy approach that resulted in a very competitive 7-9 record despite not having RB Adrian Peterson for the final 15 games."…

 

"There are three major coaching chores for the Vikings on offense in 2015: the continued development of QB Teddy Bridgewater, getting OT Matt Kalil back to Pro Bowl form and tapping into the raw talent of underachieving WR Cordarrelle Patterson."…

"Bridgewater looks like the future at the position after starting 12 games and hitting 64.6 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while leading the team to four come-from-behind victories."…

 

"The Peterson suspension/reinstatement, ‘I Don’t Want To Play in Minnesota Anymore Game,’ grabbed all the headlines during the spring, but at the end of the day, he was not traded, so the anticipation is that he will be in a purple uniform by September."…

 

"They traded for Mike Wallace from the Dolphins to give them a vertical threat, while figuring out what happens with Patterson."…

 

"TE Kyle Rudolph is solid and the rest of the offensive line is intact, so there is a degree of continuity around Bridgewater."…


"DE Everson Griffen and rookie OLB Anthony Barr are both playmakers, and the Vikings added an immediate starter in Round 2 with the selection of UCLA LB Eric Kendricks."…

 

"The secondary has more ‘ability’ than results, but still added the draft’s consensus No. 1 corner, Trae Waynes from Michigan State."… 

 

"The reality is that there is a blue-chip talent in virtually every position group on this roster. If DT Sharrif Floyd, safety Harrison Smith and CB Xavier Rhodes continue to improve, this defense has the makings of becoming a top-third unit in the league.”

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