Around the NFC North: Preseason Update

How are the NFC North teams doing this preseason? 

We've spent enough time speculating on what will happen this year and debating which robot-in-a-human-suit NFC North QB is better and if Justin Fields is better than both of them because he can run. Thankfully, the players are finally on the field and the games are streamed everywhere. Let's get into what's going on in the preseason for the Packers' rivals. 

Chicago Bears

  • Justin Fields his new number one target D.J. Moore burst onto the scene in week 1 of the preseason with an immediate long touchdown on a screen pass. Fields finished the matchup with 129 yards and 2 TDs with negative air yards. He didn't play in week 2. 
  • If the Bears can't pull off a trade for Jonathan Taylor, Roschon Johnson will likely be the starter. The fourth-round pick was Bijan Robinson's backup at Texas. In the first two games, Johnson has averaged 3.7 and 4.6 YPC with a long of 14 yards. 
  • The wide receiver competition is heating up. Well, as much as you can say it's heating up when Daurice Fountain is leading the race. Fountain (who is from Madison) was a star at Northern Iowa but has bounced around the league. Don't be surprised if he sticks. 
  • The Bears second-round pick, Chase Claypool (lol), missed both games with an injured hamstring.  
  • Unfortunately, the defense looked more sound in the preseason than it did last year. The Bears have a pair of former Badgers playing linebacker (alongside Tremaine Edmunds) and both are excelling this offseason. If I were a Bears fan (the horror), I'd want to figure out a way to use Edmunds to rush the passer and let Edwards and Sanborn hold down the fort at off-ball linebacker. Edmunds has the athleticism and size for it and the team's best edge rusher is probably washed up Yannick Ngakoue.
  • In former Packers news, EQ St. Brown had a target and no catches in both games and Lucas Patrick didn't play a snap. 

Detroit Lions

  • When the Lions used two first-round picks on low-value positions, most people scoffed. If the preseason is any evidence, the scoffers had a point. Jahmyr Gibbs has averaged 3.2 yards per carry and Jack Campbell is the 4th linebacker on the depth chart. Campbell has looked very good, but why bother using a first-round pick on a linebacker if you're going to play Derrick Barnes over him? We'll see how long that lasts. 
  • Many Lions fans justified the overdraft of Gibbs to themselves by saying they wanted Brian Branch at that spot and got him anyway in the second round. It's a good argument as far as fan rationalizations go, and as a fan whose team has drafted a bad kicker, bad punter, and really bad long-snapper in the past five years, I've gotten good at fan rationalizations. Anyway, Branch has played extremely well, with PFF going as far as to say he looked like the best player on the Lions' defense. Let's hope that Van Ness over Branch isn't new Myers over Humphrey or King over Watt for Packers fans. 
  • Back to Gibbs, much of the news out of Lions training camp is how creative the team will get at using him. Putting him in the slot, motioning him out of the backfield, and even having him play running back. It makes sense to move sub-200 pound running backs around the formation -- you want them to be able to take advantage of misdirection to not get beat up at the line, but the Lions have had Gibbs in the backfield on all 18 of his snaps so far in the pre-season. There could be a lot of reasons for that. they want to see what he can do as pass protector or running up the middle, they don't want to give away strategy in the pre-season, but it could also be that they know rookies have a hard time adjusting to the NFL, especially rookies who are underweight and expected to pick up blitzes from 250 pound linebackers and don't want to overload him. A limited Gibbs, even if it's only for part of his rookie season, is a plus for Packers fans. 
  • The Lions brought in Teddy Bridgewater to compete for the backup QB spot, and he looked totally out of place on the field. Almost like a QB wearing number 50. Bridgewater was 5/11 for 34 yards, a horrifying 3.1 YPA. Maybe he's getting back into shape after just recently signing, but more likely, Bridgewater was never that great to begin with and is no longer an NFL QB. Let's hope he makes the team. 

Minnesota Vikings

  • As we all expected, the breakout star of the Vikings preseason is Sheldon Day. "Who is that?" you ask. The journeyman defensive tackle didn't play last season and is probably most famous for being available as a free agent in every season of Madden since 2016. Day has played for five NFL teams and is, maybe, breaking out now with an elite pass-rush grade from PFF. I couldn't bring myself to actually watch a Vikings preseason game so no word on whether he was going up against a starting Tennessee Titan offensive lineman (which would already be two tiers below a normal NFL starting offensive lineman) or a backup.
  • Also making a splash for the team's defense is UDFA linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. Pace was a starter and star blitzer for now-Badgers head coach Luke Fickell's Cinncinati defense last year and will likely play a similar role in Flores' defense, which majors in heavy thumping linebackers who stop the run and can blitz. He played with the green dot in week 2 and will likely be the starter once the regular season comes as well. 
  • Former first-round pick (of the Eagles) Jalen Reagor has made his case to make the roster as the team's best-performing wide receiver so far. I guess, when your team is giving KJ Osbourne games off so that he doesn't get hurt for the regular season, you'll take what you can get. 
  • In just-OK veterans sitting out games news, Alexander Mattison, the projected starter at RB, hasn't played in either game and the team recently worked out Kareem Hunt and Mike Davis either for a 1B option or because the four or five guys the Vikings have competing for RB2 have all been bad. As a just-OK fantasy football veteran who has owned Mattison in several fruitless seasons, I wouldn't be surprised for the Vikings to have a bad run game this year.   




Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan who recently moved form Utah to Stoughton (a Madison suberb). You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.


9 points

Comments (6)

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Bitternotsour's picture

August 21, 2023 at 06:40 pm

To all of you who were howling to bring in Teddy Bridgewater as an "experienced back-up". I told you so.

-1 points
1966-Guy's picture

August 21, 2023 at 07:15 pm

When Bridgewater was with the Queenies, I called him “10 Yard Teddy”. Because that’s really all the farther he could chuck it. Now I’ll call him “2 yard Teddy”.

2 points
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

August 22, 2023 at 03:13 am

MN LB Pace did 22 reps on bench press. That's O lineman strength in a LB. This rookie might be a problem.

3 points
barutanseijin's picture

August 22, 2023 at 11:41 am

So he’s a weight room wonder. I’ll worry about him when he starts making some plays.

0 points
Lphill's picture

August 22, 2023 at 05:26 am

Chicago LB Sanborn might be another Brian Urlacher the Bears know how to pick LB ‘s.

-2 points
T7Steve's picture

August 22, 2023 at 07:18 am

"In former Packers news, EQ St. Brown had a target and no catches in both games and Lucas Patrick didn't play a snap. "

Aren't there a couple other ex-Packers down in Chi Town?

0 points