In what was, and probably still is the best division in football, the NFC North is once again gearing up for another tough season. While the NFL odds might be undervaluing some of these teams this offseason, let’s see why that may be, as we take a look at some of the changes these teams have made on the offensive side of the ball.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers found themselves with a ton of problems last season, most notably their lack of a running game, which was directly affected by how banged up they were. The Packers had more games missed than any other team in the NFL last season. While most of the injuries were on defense, the offensive line was far from immune to the injury bug.
Things look to be better this summer. Injuries are on the mend, and the Packers made a bunch of stellar picks in the draft, most notably, Eddie Lacy and Jonathon Franklin. These two running backs should both compete for the starting job in Green Bay, and both compliment each other very well. On top of that, the Packers drafted two offensive linemen and resigned another, hopefully trying to improve that running game, and the fact that Aaron Rodgers was sacked 51 times in 2012. All things considered, the Packers may have quietly had one of the best off seasons of any team, and they didn’t even do too much.
My Grade: B+
The Bears weren’t bad last season, as their defense led them to a 10-6 SU record. However their offense, and especially their passing game left much to be desired. Jay Cutler and the Bears ranked 29th in the NFL in passing yards last season, and while the offensive line had a lot to do with that, Cutler didn’t help his case much last season.
Seeing the weaknesses, the Bears’ front office has done an excellent job this offseason beefing up the line. Heading into a contract year for Cutler, there will be no more excuses for not producing with the spectacular talent around him. The team drafted Kyle Long to add depth at tackle and probably eventually take over for J’Marcus Webb, and they signed LT Jermod Bushrod, who has two Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring on his resume. On top of that, they added a great blocking and pass catching tight end, Martellus Bennett. All in all, they’ve had a great offensive offseason, but if Cutler struggles, I’m finally jumping off the wagon. Unfortunately it might be too late at that point, but it is all on Cutler and Trestman’s hands now.
My Grade: B+
The Vikings were another team that came out of nowhere last season, and almost won the NFC North as huge underdogs. This season they have some of the same concerns as last season, minus the question of AP’s health; I think he answered that one quite well in 2012. The question that has carried over is that of Christian Ponder. Ponder led the Vikings to the 31st ranked passing offense in the NFL, and even though he barely had anyone to throw to when Percy Harvin got hurt, it still didn’t look great.
The Vikes have added Greg Jennings this offseason, as well as stud 1st round NFL pick, Cordarrelle Patterson to help catch some of those passes, but Ponder has to have time to throw, and make the right reads. I think there is equal chance of progression and regression on offense for Minnesota this season, but they have done an above adequate job of improving their offense on paper.
My Grade: B
The Lions were a huge disappointment last season, and I have a feeling they might be headed for one yet again. I pounded the under on their season win total this summer, and besides some slight improvements to their offense, I’m still very bearish on Detroit (and their city’s finances).
They added Reggie Bush to a running back core that needed his versatility. Compared to Mikel Leshoure, Bush should be a great lead back. Other than some added depth to their offensive line, this team has been much more focused on defense this offseason. However I think that may hurt them in the long run. They still don’t have a solid #2 receiver to compliment Calvin Johnson, and that may kill them in games they fall behind in. I like what they have done, but there is still much to be done.
My Grade: B-
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