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 linebackers in the NFC North.
The Bears linebackers had a busy year with a wide variety of them getting good game time and putting up good numbers. Christian Jones and Danny Trevathan are both good NFL linebackers and performed well for them during the season. However they have lost Christian Jones, Jerrell Freeman, Willie Young and Pernell McPhee during the offseason so they are losing a good number of their core players.
Losing arguably their most productive linebacker in Christian Jones to a division rival in the Lions is an extra tough blow for them to take. They have addressed these losses in their first and fourth round picks in the draft with Roquan Smith and Joel Iyiegbuniwe. They have good depth at the inside position and I can see Roquan becoming an elite linebacker in the league quickly. However with outside linebackers behind Leonard Floyd they have some depth issues that might see them struggle next season.
The Lions performance last season at linebacker was pretty bad. Jarrad Davis struggled to make an impact on games and you could see that he was struggling during his rookie season. Tahir Whitehead was a solid tackler but was terrible in coverage. Paul Worrilow on the whole wasn’t effective at anything. There aren’t many good points but one shining light was that Davis improved dramatically during the final few games of the season and should be in for a solid second NFL season. With the loss of Whitehead in the offseason the linebacker group was due some remodelling. The situation was addressed with the additions of Christian Jones and Devon Kennard, both of who are strong starting calibre linebackers. I believe Kennard will be a huge addition to the defensive side as a whole.
Nick Perry not being available for around half the defensive snaps was devastating for the Packers last year, it resulted in Matthews having a down season with no pressure coming opposite him or him having to go inside and not play his preferred position of outside. Blake Martinez had a good season and if he improves next year, with their addition in the draft of Oren Burks. They haven’t made many upgrades for the upcoming season but having Nick Perry back for hopefully all 16 games will be like having a new player.
Kendricks and Barr are one of the premier linebacker duos in the league, with Barr putting another pro bowl worthy season. They rank first when it comes to least yardage gained from opposing running backs when catching which shows how good their coverage was. Combining that with a strong performance from rookie Ben Gedeon they are a great group for their 4-3 defense scheme. They haven’t made any additions to their linebacker group this offseason so if they get any injuries they will struggle.
Lions – 4th
You’d have a hard time convincing me that last season the linebacker group wasn’t the worst in the NFC North. Tight ends were a huge trouble for Detroit with them ranking 26th vs defending against tight ends. The additions in the offseason should see them improve in the coming season, with an improved scheme and hopefully improved defensive line play the linebackers should have an easier job as well.
Packers – 3rd
Not far ahead of the Lions here but managing to get 21 sacks as a unit isn’t a bad return in a season. They ranked better vs tight ends but worse against receiving backs. It was a toss-up between 4th and 3rd to be honest and I think with the lack of additions next season the Packers will rank dead last.
Bears – 2nd
The Bears had a good core when it came to the linebacker position with good depth and versatility. Christian Jones and Danny Trevathan were a good core. With Roquan Smith being added the partnership between him, Travathan and Floyd could be a scary one next season.
Vikings – 1st
Having a pro bowl linebacker like Anthony Barr combined with Eric Kendricks is enough to give them the number 1 spot. The Vikings defense is their strength and having these two at the heart of it explains why. They ranked second vs tight ends and first vs receiving backs which is an amazing achievement. If the unit have another injury free season they will once again be at the top of the pile.