Scouts give their take on the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings
The Chicago Bears were the toast of the NFC North last season while the rest of the division struggled to keep up. The Bears became the third team to win the NFC North in the last three seasons, making Detroit the only team to not fo do so in that span. The Lions aren't considered one of the favorites this season either, but some key additions in free agency and the draft could produce better results for second-year head coach Matt Patricia.
Meanwhile, Chicago has its sights set on more than just repeating as division champions, but the Bears did undergo some changes this offseason, mainly to the league's top-ranked defense. Green Bay hired Matt LaFleur to replace Mike McCarthy, and the young head coach will try and get on the same page with Aaron Rodgers and help lead the Packers back to the postseason. Minnesota finished with a winning record (8-7-1) but missed out on the playoffs as the offense struggled in Kirk Cousins' first season with the Vikings.
In order to get an accurate assessment of how the four NFC North teams are shaping up heading into the 2019 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.
"What a magical first season for Matt Nagy. In a move to connect coach and quarterback, GM Ryan Pace made the best call of his era in putting Mitchell Trubisky under Nagy’s leadership. Coordinator Mark Helfrich gets zero credit, but he is a key interpreter for Trubisky. The third-year signal-caller has to do two things better in 2019: hit more downfield passes and cut down his picks from 12 to single digits."
"They traded Jordan Howard to the Eagles and signed Mike Davis from the Seahawks. Tarik Cohen is a magician in space and as a receiver."
"Trey Burton was more than advertised with 54 receptions and six touchdowns, while Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel were surprisingly dependable. Anthony Miller is a future star after a solid rookie campaign."
"The offensive line is adequate and gets masked in their quick-paced West Coast offense."
"Khalil Mack was one of the headline stories of the entire season, and, along with Roquan Smith, gives the Bears two of the league’s best defensive playmakers. All Danny Trevathan does is make tackles. Leonard Floyd has not lived up to his draft status, so this will be an important year for him. Akiem Hicks is finally getting his due as one of the game’s best interior linemen. Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson are two big-league ballhawks."
"This team is on the rise. If they can get past their placekicking woes, they should not only contend for the playoffs, but also Super Bowls in the coming years."
"2018 was an inventory year for new coach Matt Patricia as the team struggled to a 6–10 finish after a respectable 3–3 start. "
"Jim Bob Cooter was replaced by Darrell Bevell as the OC, and he will be tasked to find the right balance of run/pass for Matt Stafford and Co."
"Stafford was more game manager last year and less reliant on his big arm. When he did push the football downfield, Kenny Golladay was on the receiving end for 70 receptions and five TDs. The scouting community missed on Golladay coming out of Northern Illinois; he has emerged as a legit vertical threat."
"Kerryon Johnson flashed in seven starts with 641 rushing yards and 32 receptions."
"Tight end T.J. Hockenson was drafted to go along with Jesse James, who was signed during free agency."
"Jarrad Davis is a multi-dimensional linebacker; he led the team with 100 tackles, while registering six sacks."
"Patricia and GM Bob Quinn recruited Trey Flowers from New England, and he should help bolster the pass rush. Devon Kennard chipped in seven more sacks and was a quality free agent signing from a year ago."
"Darius Slay gets most of the attention in the secondary, and he is a Pro Bowl talent, but Quandre Diggs has quietly become one of the most consistent corners in the game."
"If Kerryon Johnson can stay healthy for a full season, the Lions’ playoff chances would be bolstered; otherwise, it will be another year of stat building for Stafford and a sub-.500 record."
"With all the controversy surrounding the departure of former head coach Mike McCarthy and his relationship with Aaron Rodgers, that story has overshadowed the fact that this is an average football team. The offensive line is ordinary beyond David Bakhtiari, and the front seven is devoid of any difference-makers. Everything centers around A-Rod’s health, and he was sacked 49 times a year ago but made it through 16 games while only throwing two interceptions."
"Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are serviceable backs, but neither has game-breaking talent."
"Rodgers and Jimmy Graham were better between the 20s than in the red zone, where they connected for only two scores. Davante Adams has emerged as their go-to guy."
"GM Brian Gutekunst was active in free agency by adding Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith to their pass rush and Adrian Amos to the back end."
"Outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell had a quiet but effective 10.5-sack season, and Blake Martinez is a steady Eddie on the inside."
"They drafted defensive end Rashan Gary, who is a curious fit in their front, and Darnell Savage to upgrade their safety position."
"The Packers are counting on Oren Burks to man one of the linebacker spots, and Kevin King needs to step up as an outside corner."
"While the biggest job of head coach Matt LaFleur will be partnering with Rodgers, the more difficult task might be leading this roster back to the playoffs in what is a very competitive NFC."
"In what had to be considered a failed season, the Vikings did not make the playoffs much less contend for the Super Bowl."
"On paper, Kirk Cousins delivered a 4,298-yard season with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but the reality is that the offense was a pass-happy, dink-and-dunk operation. Their run game was nonexistent and finished 30th in the league. OC John DeFilippo was dismissed in December and now Kevin Stefanski along with Gary Kubiak will try to find the right balance with Cousins."
"Dalvin Cook has played in 15 total games in two years, so his durability is a primary concern."
"Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen complement each other well. However, Laquon Treadwell has been a major disappointment because he simply cannot separate."
"Kyle Rudolph is one of the NFL’s best combination tight ends."
"The offensive line was a huge problem and is their weakest position group. GM Rick Spielman signed Josh Kline from the Titans, but he is not a difference-maker. One of the best picks in the first round was their selection of center Garrett Bradbury."
"Defensive end Danielle Hunter has developed into a legit game-plan wrecker."
"They have Pro Bowl-caliber talent at all three levels of the D."
"They staved off the Jets in keeping Anthony Barr, and Harrison Smith has become a consistent all-star."
"I love their corner group with Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes on the outside, and Mike Hughes should return from a torn ACL after being injured in the sixth game."
"They can challenge for the division, but I don’t see them competing for a Super Bowl with this offensive line."