2022 NFL Season Preview: NFC North
By: Logan Lepiscopo
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers lost Davante Adams this offseason but signed Jaire Alexander and Aaron Rodgers to big contract extensions. On top of resigning two of the top names on the team the Packers signed Jarran Reed, and brought back De’Vondre Campbell, Rasul Douglas, Allen Lazard, and Robert Tonyan. The Packers executed to perfection in the 2022 draft: LB Quay Walker, DT Devonte Wyatt, and WR Christian Watson. They added offensive line depth with Sean Rhyan, Zach Tom, and Rasheed Walker, and drafted many other great athletic players that can make an impact for Green Bay.
Strengths: Despite Adams leaving Green Bay expect this Packers offense to exceed all expectations currently set. Back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers is still under center, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are slowly becoming one of the best RB duos in the NFL, and Robert Tonyan is coming back from injury. This defense is not a unit to just forget about, Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, and Darnell Savage are just a few names worth mentioning.
Weaknesses: This goes without say, Allen Lazard, Christian Watson, and Randall Cobb are not the WR group Aaron Rodgers was hoping for after two consecutive MVP seasons but here he is. There is potential with this group, but I cannot see any defensive coordinator that would be particularly worried about these wide receivers. The only other weakness I have for the Packers is special teams, it destroyed them at the end of the season, and it led to a first-round exit once again for Green Bay. Mason Crosby was very inconsistent at the end of the 2021-2022 season, hopefully he can get back into his normal groove, but if not, we may see the end of an era in Green Bay.
The Minnesota Vikings have a new man in charge of the team bringing in Kevin O’Connell, supposedly transforming the Minnesota offense into a pass-heavy attack compared to its run-heavy approach in the past. The Vikings traded back in the draft and got two solid players to really help out that secondary (Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr.). The team also did their due diligence in free agency bringing back Patrick Peterson, signing former Packer Za’Darius Smith, and former Cardinal LB Jordan Hicks.
Strengths: Offense, offense, offense, the Vikings offense is one that needs to be talked about way more than it is. Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and plenty more names worth mentioning are all quality and I would say above average players in the NFL. Kirk Cousins gets too much criticism for how much he has produced for the team over the past seasons. A weak point for the Vikings last year was their secondary and I think though it is still not excellent, it has vastly improved. As well as the linebacker group, adding Jordan Hicks and Za’Darius Smith are going to be some huge key additions for this team.
Weaknesses: It is hard for myself to find a weak spot on this Vikings team but looking at the current depth chart I would say that the defensive line is the weakest point. Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, and Anthony Barr are all still sitting in free agency, but those three guys will not be easy to replace. The defensive line in 2022 will be completely new for the Vikings, none of which played a snap for Minnesota last season. I truthfully cannot bring myself to say any other part of this Vikings team is particularly weak, Minnesota should be a playoff lock and perhaps considered for a division title.
There is not really much to say about the Bears and what they have done during this offseason. In the NFL draft Chicago had some quality picks, CB Kyler Gordon and S Jaquan Brisker as the team’s first two selections showed that the defense is still the focus for improvement. The keys were officially handed over to Justin Fields this season and the team did what is equivalent to nothing when it comes to getting better wide receivers. Darnell Mooney will lead the wide receiver corp along with Byron Pringle (Fascinating!), and 25-year-old rookie Velus Jones Jr. (wow!). I do have to give Chicago credit for bringing in a few quality players in free agency; Al-Quadin Muhammad, Lucas Patrick, and Nicholas Morrow.
Strengths: David Montgomery and Darnell Mooney are the true bright spots for the Chicago Bears offense and frankly I do not see much outside of that. Justin Fields still has a lot to prove, and this offensive line could be good, but I am skeptical. Defensively the safety position stands out to me with Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker, Roquan Smith of course is the quarterback of the defense and that is all the nice things I have to say about the Bears. But outside of those few names I would not be excited for the Chicago Bears 2022-23 NFL season.
Weaknesses: Wide receivers. Defensive coordinators are not going to be frightened by the current starters, expect the box to be stacked regularly when teams face the Bears. The cornerback position is another weak spot for the Bears, Jaylon Johnson may be the only corner to be confident in. The defensive line still needs significant help still as well. To say the least, Chicago still has a long way to go in their rebuild.
The Lions had another disappointing season in 2021 but man did the team show that they are going to make every game a dog fight. In free agency the Lions inked new contracts with WR DJ Chark, LB Jarrad Davis, LB Alex Anzalone, S Tracy Walker III, and many more names that will help get the Lions perhaps out of the top 10 picks in next year’s draft. Speaking of the draft, the Lions hit big in the 2022 NFL draft with their two first round picks Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams. Both will be immediate starters for the team and set to make a tremendous impact.
Strengths: Offensive line, plain simple, straight to the point, offensive line. The Lions finished the 2021 season ranked as the 13th best offensive line, and this 2022 season they are being considered as a top three offensive line (via. PFF). The Lions have Frank Ragnow back at center, which may not seem like much, but he makes that big of a difference for Detroit. I cannot forget to mention young D’Andre Swift, when healthy he is one of the better running backs in the NFL, and this offensive line is going to be hard for Swift NOT to succeed. Along with the offensive line I would say that the safety position is a bright spot having Tracy Walker III back and adding DeShon Elliott to accompany him.
Weaknesses: Cornerbacks, my goodness I am petrified for the Lions cornerback group. Jeff Okudah has been injured season after season and even when he played, he was not fantastic. Last season with Kansas City Mike Hughes showed he could be one of the better corners in the league. Amani Oruwariye allowed the 15th most yards among cornerbacks in 2021, and for the rest of the cornerbacks consist of young players that have not had enough play time. I would not say any other parts of this team are “weak,” rather I would refer to every other part of this team as average with the potential to be a strength. This may sound crazy to you… but the Detroit Lions have a legitimate chance of getting a wild card spot in the playoffs THIS YEAR.