Ranking the defensive line groups in the NFC North

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In these reviews, I will be going over how each position group did individually then compare them against the rest of the NFC North teams to see how the upcoming season might go for the group. This time I’ll be covering the defensive lines in the NFC North.

Bears

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As it seems is a theme with the Bears their defensive line group was average or slightly above average. Their run stuffing ability was good as they ranked 10th in the league but their pass rush was virtually non-existent. I know they use linebackers in their scheme to generate pressure and will take that into account when ranking them overall but the line themselves didn’t do much to bother the quarterback. Bringing in Nick Williams won’t help much when it comes to pass rush but he’ll be a good addition to bump them up the ranks when defending against the run.

PLAYER POS GP GS STK ATK CMB SACK PD FUM FREC FTD RUSHING YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME
AKIEM HICKS DE 16 16 39 15 54 8.5 0 0 2 0
EDDIE GOLDMAN NT 15 15 27 17 44 1.5 0 0 1 0
MITCH UNREIN DE 12 8 25 7 32 2.5 0 0 0 0
JONATHAN BULLARD DE 16 3 18 8 26 1.0 2 1 0 0
ROY ROBERTSON-HARRIS DE 13 0 8 5 13 2.0 1 0 1 0
JOHN JENKINS DT 8 1 5 3 8 0 0 0 0 0
TOTALS 177 15.5 3 1 4 108.1

Lions

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Getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks was a real issue for the Lions last season. They did have 28 sacks as a unit but a large bulk of those sacks were from Ziggy Ansah and they came in bursts of three in one game and then a few games without anything. As a unit, they weren’t particularly good at stopping the run either ranking last out of the teams in the north with the most yards per game allowed. However, there is room for optimism with Kerry Hyder coming back after a strong 2016 campaign and the arrival of 4th round pick Da’Shawn Hand the production coming from the line should improve in the coming season. Having depth is a good thing in the NFL as injuries are inevitable. However, the revolving door of players at defensive line isn’t a good thing and there needs to be a solid starting unit that can gain chemistry together to perform their best.

PLAYER POS GP GS STK ATK CMB SACK PD FUM FREC FTD RUSHING YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME
A’SHAWN ROBINSON DT 16 16 32 21 53 0.5 7 1 0 0
EZEKIEL ANSAH DE 14 14 39 5 44 12.0 0 1 1 0
ANTHONY ZETTEL DE 16 16 31 12 43 6.5 0 1 1 0
AKEEM SPENCE DT 16 11 19 20 39 3.0 0 1 0 0
CORNELIUS WASHINGTON DE 15 2 15 9 24 2.5 3 0 0 0
JEREMIAH LEDBETTER DE 16 0 6 8 14 0.5 0 0 0 0
HALOTI NGATA DT 5 5 7 0 7 2.0 1 0 0 0
JEREMIAH VALOAGA DE 9 0 5 0 5 1.0 0 0 0 0
TOTALS 229 28 11 4 2 112.5

Packers

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The Packers have the thinnest unit when it comes to the defensive line, having only five players who have played a down in the NFL on their roster. Kenny Clarke had a fantastic year and with him only going to get better with experience he will be a great anchor for the line. If newly acquired Muhammad Wilkerson can turn back the clock and become the premier pass rusher he used to be then he will add a significant threat to their weak group.

PLAYER POS GP GS STK ATK CMB SACK PD FUM FREC FTD RUSHING YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME
KENNY CLARK NT 15 15 32 23 55 4.5 1 2 0 0
MIKE DANIELS DE 14 14 34 15 49 5.0 0 1 0 0
DEAN LOWRY DE 16 11 18 14 32 2.0 2 0 1 1
QUINTON DIAL DT 13 2 12 7 19 0 1 0 0 0
MONTRAVIUS ADAMS DT 7 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0
TOTALS 157 11.5 4 3 1 112.1

Vikings

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Having a strong front seven is what the Vikings are known for. Their defensive line was involved the most out of any team in the north when it comes to sacks, tackles and forced fumbles. Linval Joseph is one of my favorite defensive tackles to watch as he really controls what is going on in the trenches and is surprisingly athletic for a man his size. With Linval holding the run game to a meager 84.8 yards allowed a game that leaves their two Pro Bowl quality defensive ends, Hunter and Griffen to put pressure on during the passing game, having 20 sacks between them. They also added some needed depth at pass rusher with their 4th round pick Jalyn Holmes who will be learning from one of the best duos in the league.

PLAYER POS GP GS STK ATK CMB SACK PD FUM FREC FTD RUSHING YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME
LINVAL JOSEPH DT 16 16 40 28 68 3.5 0 0 1 0
DANIELLE HUNTER DE 16 16 27 18 45 7.0 2 1 1 0
EVERSON GRIFFEN DE 15 15 31 14 45 13.0 1 3 0 0
TOM JOHNSON DT 16 15 17 15 32 2.0 0 0 0 0
SHAMAR STEPHEN DT 15 1 9 19 28 1.0 0 0 0 0
BRIAN ROBISON DE 15 1 15 5 20 4.0 2 0 0 0
STEPHEN WEATHERLY DE 15 0 7 0 7 0 0 0 0 0
TOTALS 245 30.5 5 4 2 84.8

Final verdict

Packers – 4th

They were probably on par with the Lions last season for having a pretty terrible defensive line group and with only the addition of Muhammad Wilkerson as a starter they haven’t improved their prospects much for the upcoming season.

Lions – 3rd

I’d love to put the Lions higher than 3rd but I think they are too reliant on Ansah performing well to have any impact as a group. The addition of Hand and Hyder coming back off a year injured could give the line a nice boost. Also, A’Shawn Robinson is continually improving so the run defense should improve.

Bears – 2nd

When defending against the run the Bears did well in 2017 and while it looks like they didn’t generate much pass rush they did it in ways that didn’t involve the line. They actually came joint 7th in sacks overall with 42. So with the main job that the line was given being to stop the run they did well.

Vikings – 1st

The strength of the Vikings is their defense, which is led by their dominant defensive line. They are probably the best in both aspects of stopping the run and generating pressure on the quarterback. I can’t see them having a dip in 2018 and they will continue to dominate while adding a bit of depth through the draft and free agents that they have acquired. I don’t think anyone can argue that the Vikings don’t have the best defensive line in the NFC North.

Thanks for checking out the article everyone. Go Lions! Let me know what you think on Twitter @Alex_Watt_Lions and be sure to join the community on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Alex Watt
Alex is a Detroit Lions fan from the UK, his love for the Lions came about from the fact he loves an underdog story and he believes the Lions embody that pretty well! He has a particular love for the defensive side of the ball and he favourite player is Darius "Big Play" Slay, although he has a soft spot for Glover Quin. When he isn't writing for the DetroitLionsPodcast he enjoys gym and sports, playing American Football himself.