SportsNet - July 2012
NFC North Preview: Weaknesses for Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings
The NFC North is blighted by some of the softest pass defense in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers took division with a 15-1 record last season, despite ranking last in the league against the pass.
Here are the major weaknesses troubling the NFC North heading into the 2012 NFL season:
Chicago Bears: Offensive Line
Although the Chicago Bears ranked 28th in pass defense last season, count on their Tampa-2 scheme to tighten things up in 2012. The Bears' real weakness is the play of their offensive line.
Chicago's front five surrendered 49 sacks last season, after giving up 56 in 2010. Quite how those numbers recommended line coach Mike Tice for a promotion to offensive coordinator, is anybody's guess.
The Bears have some talent at the skill positions, particularly running back Matt Forte. They traded for wide receiver Brandon Marshall and added another tall flanker in the draft, with the selection of Alshon Jeffery.
However, all of those weapons will be rendered moot, if the Bears don't perform better up front.
Detroit Lions: Secondary
"Rome burns whilst Nero fiddles" is a famous quotation about indecision and dithering. Whilst it may not actually be very accurate in a factual sense, it is an excelleent analogy for the malaise that has smothered the club since the Glazers arrival.
Whilst the Glazers themselves dither and pontificate about listing the company on the New York Stock Exchange, the manager seems to be frozen by indecision. It was noteworthy that he actually made a sarcastic comment in his press conference in Shanghai about "not sitting on our backsides" in the transfer market. However, actions speak louder than words and every year it seems we have the spectacle of Ferguson supposedly "chasing" a player only for a long drawn out failure to play out in the media.
Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster pulled off an interesting manuever this week. The right-hander, who has the right to veto any trade because of the 10-5 rule, appeared indecisive regarding a possible move to Atlanta. The Braves, who were set to send starting pitcher Randall Delgado to the Cubs for Dempster on Monday, have seemed to have run out of patience, and are prepared to move on from this trade.
If he had his druthers, Dempster would stay right where is. He doesn't want to leave Chicago, and has made no secret that his desire is to stay with the Cubs. While there's little doubt that other deals will surface over the coming week, there does seem to be a measure of uncertainty regarding Dempster's intentions. There is some conversation surrounding the possibility that even if dealt, the veteran righty could wind right back up with Chicago when the offseason convenes.
Oklahoma is the final team on this list. They have a ton of talent, but it all starts with their senior quarterback, Landry Jones. Despite throwing for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns last season, Jones struggled down the stretch for the Sooners. After starting 6-0, Oklahoma finished 3-3 in their final six regular season games. Landry Jones is one of the favorites to contend for the Heisman Trophy entering his senior season.
Junior tailback, Dominique Whaley, was one of the best stories in college football last season. The walk-on led Oklahoma in rushing through six games before suffering a broken ankle against Kansas State and was shut down for the rest of the season.
Now that Bob Stoops has given Whaley a scholarship, the junior can finally quit his part-time job making sandwiches at Subway and focus on football. He will be the main cog in the rushing attack for Oklahoma heading into 2012. The Sooners also brought in two talented freshmen recruits in Alex Ross and David Smith to add depth to the backfield. Oklahoma also added a very talented back in Damien Williams, a junior college transfer from Arizona Western.
Michigan will bank on their senior quarterback, Denard Robinson to lead them through the Big Ten this season. Robinson is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country and he will have his work cut out for him in Michigan's season opener against defending national champions Alabama. He led the way for Michigan last season en route to an 11-2 record and a BCS bowl victory. If Michigan wants to win the Big Ten outright this season, it all starts with Mr. Robinson.