NFC North Defensive Changes


Chicago Bears

2014 Ranks - Pass: 31st; Run: 25th

After 12 seasons, LB Lance Briggs and CB Charles Tillman finally say farewell to Chicago. Both are former All-Pros and they have 9 Pro Bowl appearances between them. 

After 12 seasons, LB Lance Briggs and CB Charles Tillman finally say farewell to Chicago. Both are former All-Pros and they have 9 Pro Bowl appearances between them. 

Key Losses:
DE Stephen Paea (+14.4)
LB Lance Briggs (+7.6)
CB Charles Tillman (less than 100 snaps in 2014)
LB D.J. Williams (-6.8)

Key Additions:
DE Pernell McPhee (+20.8)
S Antrel Rolle (-13.9)

2015 Matchup Projection - Pass: Favorable; Run: Favorable

The Bears are rebuilding. The addition of McPhee and Rolle may mitigate the loss of several veterans but it won't be enough to elevate the defense from the bottom of the rankings. 


Detroit Lions

2014 Ranks - Pass: 7th; Run: 1st

Losing Suh and Fairley is a big deal but the Lions have found adequate replacements in Ngata and Walker. 

Losing Suh and Fairley is a big deal but the Lions have found adequate replacements in Ngata and Walker. 

Key Losses:
DT Ndamukong Suh (+27.5)
DT Nick Fairley (+9.8)
DT C.J. Mosley (+3.9)

Key Additions:
DT Haloti Ngata (+23.1)
DT Tyrunn Walker (+8.0)

Notes:

  • The interior defensive line was completely gutted this offseason as Suh, Fairley, and Mosley are now elsewhere. Ngata and Walker were brought in to fill the hole.
  • MLB Stephen Tulloch, who infamously tore his ACL in week 3 during a celebration, graded at +18.7 in 2013. With Suh gone, Tulloch's return is even more important for clogging the lanes and stopping the run. 

2015 Matchup Projection - Pass: Unfavorable; Run: Unfavorable

You don’t lose players like Suh and Fairley without some decrease in production. However, the Lions have responded appropriately by patching up the hole with Ngata and Walker and the rest of defense is so strong that they should remain elite for another year. 


Green Bay Packers

2014 Ranks - Pass: 13th; Run: 21st

In 2014, the Packers got great value out of 1st round pick, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

In 2014, the Packers got great value out of 1st round pick, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Key Losses:
CB Tramon Williams (+1.6)
CB Davon House (-0.1)
LB A.J. Hawk (-11.6)
LB Brad Jones (-11.4)

Key Additions:
CB Damarious Randall (Round 1, Pick 30)
CB Quinten Rollins (Round 2, Pick 30)

Notes:

  • This off-season, the Packers had their money tied to re-signing players like WR Randall Cobb and OT Bryan Bulaga and, as a result, were forced to leave free agency empty handed. 
  • CB Tramon Williams and CB Davon House were solid cornerbacks but not worth the price paid to them by Cleveland and Jacksonville, respectively.
  • However, CB Sam Shields and CB Casey Hayward remain and the Packers added depth at the position by drafting CB Damarious Randall and CB Quinten Rollins. Randall played safety in college but will convert to cornerback.
  • In addition, Micah Hyde figures in at both corner and safety, and is definitely a candidate to win the nickel corner job outright. As it is, he is used part of the time as the 5th DB in nickel "pressure" packages, where he plays the old Charles Woodson role as a sort of hybrid DB/LB.
  • NT BJ Raji returns from injury to anchor the defense which struggled a bit against the run without him until Clay Matthews moved to ILB.
  • LBs Jones and Hawk were liabilities against the run and are most likely additions by subtraction. 

2015 Matchup Projection - Pass: Neutral; Run: Neutral

Typical off-season for the Packers: re-sign stars, let someone else overpay for players they can afford to lose, and build through the draft. The defense will remain solid and stable heading into 2015. 

*Thanks to u/theDarkAngle for corrections and providing more information


Minnesota Vikings

2014 Ranks - Pass: 15th; Run: 22nd

According to PFF grades, FS Harrison Smith and SS Robert Blanton were the most effective safety duo in 2014.

According to PFF grades, FS Harrison Smith and SS Robert Blanton were the most effective safety duo in 2014.

Key Losses:
ILB Jasper Brinkley (+2.5)

Key Additions:
CB Trae Waynes (Round 1, Pick 11)
ILB Eric Kendricks (Round 2, Pick 13)

  • In 2013, the Minnesota defense finished dead last in points allowed. In Mike Zimmer's first year as coach, the team improved to 11th. 
  • FS Harrison Smith (+17.9) and SS Robert Blanton (+8.8) combine for the highest grade of all safety duos in the league at +26.7.
  • The next five: Detroit's Quin and Ihedigbo combined for +23.7, Seattle's Thomas and Chancellor combined for +21.7, New England's McCourty and Chung combined for +21.0, Cleveland's Gipson and Whitner combined for +19.9, and Miami's Jones and Delmas combined for +14.2.

2015 Matchup Projection - Pass: Neutral; Run: Neutral

The Vikings improved mightily in 2014 under new head coach Mike Zimmer. The lineup is solid all the way through.  I expect the trend to continue in 2015.