NFL preview 2012: The NFC North


The Packers bring back MVP Aaron Rodgers. (Mike Roemer/Associated Press)
September 5, 2012

1

GREEN BAY PACKERS

In the pass-happy NFL, few quarterbacks are as polished as Aaron Rodgers. The reigning NFL MVP threw for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns in leading the Packers to a 15-1 record last season.

Green Bay’s season ended prematurely, though, with a 37-20 loss to the New York Giants in the second round of the playoffs, and there’s a renewed focus in Titletown to get back to the Super Bowl.

The Packers elected not to re-sign running back Ryan Grant, but added free agent Cedric Benson as the offense diversifies from the zone-blocking scheme that had been a staple of the running game.

Nick Perry, OLB, Southern California, Rd. 1

2

DETROIT LIONS

A spate of offseason arrests put the Lions in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Aaron Berry, for instance, was arrested for driving under the influence in June and simple assault in July. The cornerback was released soon thereafter.

But Detroit remains an emerging power in the NFC behind quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who has separated himself from all others at the position.

The mystery remains at running back, where Mikel Leshoure appears in line to start after missing a portion of training camp with a sore hamstring. Leshoure missed all of last season with a torn Achilles’ tendon.

Riley Reiff, T, Iowa, Rd. 1

3

CHICAGO BEARS

In July, running back Matt Forte signed a four-year contract reportedly worth $32 million, but the Bears still added Michael Bush as insurance in the backfield.

The offense also received a major boost at wide receiver with the arrival of Brandon Marshall, who has five straight seasons with at least 1,000 yards. The Bears acquired the three-time Pro Bowl selection by dealing a pair of third-round draft picks to the Miami Dolphins.

Marshall has been reunited with quarterback Jay Cutler, who appears fully recovered from a thumb injury last season. They played together with the Denver Broncos.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina, Rd. 2

4

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

All football eyes in the Twin Cities are focused on the return of running back Adrian Peterson, who missed four games last season and suffered a knee injury that required surgery in Week 16.

The Vikings severely limited Peterson’s workload in the preseason, and the four-time Pro Bowl selection will not absorb his first contact until the season opener, leaving in doubt how his knee will hold up.

The good news is that there was no swelling around the joint in the preseason. Backup Toby Gerhart filled in admirably, but Minnesota lost seven of its final eight games in quarterback Christian Ponder’s rookie season.

Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame, Rd. 1

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