NFC North outlook: What scouts say

Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Four executives in personnel for NFL teams sized up the NFC North in interviews his week with the Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn. Here are excerpts:


“I think everything with Green Bay starts with the quarterback (Aaron Rodgers). He is an elite talent. He can pretty much make plays at any given time any place on the field.” … “Jordy Nelson is back, the threat that was missing, and I think they’ve created better depth. (Randall) Cobb is more than a slot receiver.” … “The tight end (Jared Cook) that they acquired will surprise some people. He’s got to be more consistent catching the ball but he can run like a son of a gun. The quarterback will make it a little bit easier for him because he will put the ball on him. He’s got a chance to have a pretty good impact.” … “The O-line will be interesting. They’ve been fairly consistent. It will be interesting to see the impact releasing (Josh) Sitton will have on the cohesion of the unit.” … “It remains to be seen if (Jason) Spriggs can be a good (player). He struggled a little bit in the Kansas City game but I imagine he’ll get better as he plays more.” … “(Lane) Taylor isn’t an overly talented player but he is kind of a dirt bag inside. They say he’ll do all those things you have to do to be successful. It won’t be pretty.” … “Up front there’s a mix of new and veteran guys. (Clay) Matthews is more productive as a pass rusher outside than he is at inside linebacker.” … “I see the D-line as hard-working guys that execute the scheme fairly well. (Nick) Perry has never played like a first-rounder.” … “I kind of like (Jake) Ryan, to tell you the truth. He’s going to be a pretty good player. He and (Blake) Martinez will have to grow up in a hurry.” … “Their big deal is their defense has to come on and start playing like they have in the past where they helped that offense. They’re going to need the defense. They need to improve the pass rush to help out the secondary and get it in Aaron’s hands.” … “The running back (Eddie Lacy) has to control his weight like always. He ran well early on (in exhibition games). He certainly can be a pounder. They’ll have a committee there and have a chance to control it by running the ball as well.” …”The secondary should be at a point where they’re hitting their stride. It’s still a relatively young group but they’ve played enough football so there’s a mesh. That’s a good, young group.” … “I think (Jacob) Schum has a lively leg. He can help you change field position.”

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“There’s a lot of ifs with (Sam) Bradford. When you have a handful of ifs, you have more than you need. If he gets acclimated to the system. If he gets acclimated to the receivers. There’s so many ifs for a quarterback when you just get inserted at this point after four preseason games. It’s how quickly he can get caught up to speed and work with those new friends all around him. Some things don’t just happen instantly, especially for a quarterback.” … “I like Harrison Smith, who they just reupped. He’s one of the better safeties in the league. Trae Waynes is going to be good.” … “Sharrif Floyd is a good young player. The next few years he’ll really come into his own.” … “Their linebacking corps flies to the ball. That Minnesota defense will really help them, and they always have.” … “I think they’ll go into the first week with Shaun Hill as the starting quarterback and have Bradford backing up. If

Bradford can’t overtake him, that was a hefty price to pay for competition.” … “This is the best system Sam Bradford has been in. It suits his skill set.” … “The running back (Adrian Peterson) still has some juice even at his age. The problem is they may end up leaning on him more than they would have if they had their starting quarterback. People are now going to make them beat them throwing the ball. They’ll load up the box and take him out of the game.” … “They’ve got a couple receivers. (Stefon) Diggs surprised some people with the type of year he had, and there’s Charles Johnson. It remains to be seen where (Laquon) Treadwell fits in. He doesn’t run particularly well but he’s got excellent hands.” … “That’s still a solid O-line. Andre Smith will still have the same weight issues that he had in Cincy and he always got hurt. When he’s in shape he’d be a good, solid right tackle. He’ll give you more than a lot of guys would give you.” … “(Brian) Robison is a pretty good athlete. Their edge guys run well and can put some pressure on you. They’ve got a little bit of depth with Danielle Hunter. People like him. He can rush the passer.” … “(Anthony) Barr and (Eric) Kendricks and (Chad) Greenway … those are three good linebackers any team in the league could work with. Even their backups, like Emmanuel Lamur who came from Cincy, can run fairly well.” … “In the secondary they have a (blend) of Pro Bowlers and guys that can’t make any other team. Trae Waynes really should be taking over there for (Terence) Newman. Harrison Smith is pretty dang good and Xavier Rhodes is a big corner. He gets his hands on you. (Safety) Michael Griffin, who went on injured reserve, would have been a little bit of a descending veteran. It hurts them because they had a specific role in mind for him. He’d have to be better athletically than the other guy, (Andrew) Sendejo.” … “Mackensie Alexander is a feisty guy but he is little. He’s a smaller corner better suited for nickel.” … “What’s the deal with Cordarrelle Patterson? That’s all (returning kickoffs) they can do with him? They can’t get him in the mix? (Marcus) Sherels can be decent as a punt returner. He shocks you every year.”


“I like Detroit. I know (coordinator) Teryl Austin’s defense will be stingy. I know with (Jim) Caldwell they will be ready to play. They are not the doormat anymore. They’re going to make all their games competitive. I think they’re a little better than people give them credit.” … “Caldwell took over halfway through a season (2012) in Baltimore as offensive coordinator and he tweaked it. That changed a lot of things. It was just the way he approached it. It really helped Joe Flacco. Caldwell is kind of a low-key guy.” … “I’m not saying they have great weapons but they have good enough weapons. (Golden) Tate is more possession. Marvin Jones is more of a vertical guy. I guess they’ll find a role for Anquan (Boldin), right? If he does (have anything left), I don’t know where it’s coming from. It’s got to be all guts. Even last year when they had ‘Megatron’ (Calvin Johnson) they didn’t do a great job getting the ball to him.” … “They’ve got a fairly young offensive line with (Taylor) Decker and (Laken) Tomlinson, (Travis) Swanson, (Larry) Warford and Riley Reiff. It’s a matter of how long it takes for those guys to develop cohesiveness. For offensive lines that’s really what it’s all about.” … “I don’t think (Eric) Ebron has played like everybody was thinking out of North Carolina. He does have some talent.” … “Their running backs aren’t great and are a little bit gimmicky. (Ameer) Abdullah and (Theo) Riddick are more diminutive receivers out of the backfield. It comes across as they want to throw the ball more than anything else. Not great runners.” … “Austin will communicate well with his group. He’s got the type of guys in there now that he feels he wants to play with. That defense has tons of holes in it. It will have to play well together.” … “Where’s (Haloti) Ngata? Up front, it starts with him. Obviously, Ngata had a heck of a career in Baltimore but it remains to be seen if he can recapture that form. They drafted the kid from Alabama (A’Shawn Robinson). He’ll compete, but I don’t think he’ll be the starter. I don’t think it’s that good of a run-stopping defense. (Ziggy) Ansah is athletic but he’s still learning as well.” … I’ve always liked (DeAndre) Levy just as a good, hard-working linebacker. But does he even get back to form? Tahir (Whitehead) is a good, solid player. That’s about it. Kyle Van Noy is young and runs fairly well.” … “(Darius) Slay is a good, solid corner. They’ll never be up there as an elite corner group. They drafted a safety, Miles Killebrew, who is a big athlete. Glover Quin has had a pretty good career.” … “Tate is able to shake people loose sometimes. Ameer Abdullah is an explosive kick returner.”


“I don’t know exactly what type of team you’re going to get. They’ve had a lot of changes. They’ve brought in a lot of people.” … “You’re at the whim of (Jay) Cutler at the top. You don’t know what type of player you’re going to get at that position. That’s where everything kind of feeds off of.” … “Cutler has the worst body language in America. He’s got good arm talent but he’ll forget and throw it without much second thought to it. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, then what the hell? Interesting dude. Some games he’ll light it up. Other games he acts like he doesn’t want to be there. Losing (Adam) Gase doesn’t help. I’m pretty sure having somebody that understands him was important to him. He doesn’t seem to like change a whole lot.” … “If Alshon (Jeffery) is healthy, if Kevin White is healthy, then they could be pretty good. You don’t know what you’re going to get from White. Eddie Royal is a veteran slot guy.” … ”Getting (Josh) Sitton definitely helps. It’s, like, where you come from? He’s coming from a team that kind of knows how to do it. I’ve got to think he’ll bring that to the table.” … “Then they re-signed Kyle (Long). With Sitton and Kyle, they want to build that line and work from there. Because I don’t know if you can work it from the quarterback. The quarterback’s been there. He’s the wild card.” … “(Jeremy) Langford isn’t a big back but he runs hard and is a dynamic receiver out of the backfield. The other guys are just guys.” … “Zach Miller is a veteran tight end and the backup, (Greg) Scruggs, is a converted D-lineman from Seattle. I imagine he’s there to do a little more blocking than receiving.” … “They’ve got to get (Pernell) McPhee healthy. (Danny) Trevathan is like one of the leaders. When they drafted they were looking for more pass rush and got the kid from Georgia (Leonard Floyd). I don’t know how far along he really is. If he comes on he will at least help.” … “More importantly, their secondary is going to have to turn it up. They have Kyle Fuller and (Tracy) Porter but they have to turn up the dial. They need their draft picks to bolster that area (safety). If you’re going to have guys like that back there you better have guys up front getting to the quarterback.” … “You do know one thing. That is, they’ll have some innovative schemes because of (Vic) Fangio.” … “Talent-wise, nothing special on the D-line. They’re are all work-hard guys. They’re all grunts.” … “Lamarr Houston, if he’s healthy, he’ll have his moments to shine. I think he’s their best front-seven guy. They drafted Floyd, who is talented, but he needs to grow into that body a little bit. (Jerrell) Freeman is a little bit undersized. (Jonathan) Anderson, (Danny) Trevathan, they’re all undersized (inside) linebackers who run well to the ball. Anybody that can pound it on ‘em will take advantage of that lack of size. Same thing with Willie Young. He’s a tall, linear pass-rush guy. Not spectacular by any means.” … “You can say the same thing about the secondary. Porter is a journeyman. Adrian Amos, (fifth-) round pick. Fuller was off to a pretty good start a year or two ago but had the injuries. The defense has some real issues.”

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