Most Intriguing Players in the NFC North for 2019
By Julie Voigt and Russell S. Baxter (VIBE)
Special to Pro Football Guru
The 2019 NFL season is not far away. Which player for each team in the NFC North is worth keeping a closer eye on?
Welcome back to the latest series by the team of “Voigt Julie” and “Yours Truly.” With the 2019 NFL regular season roughly two and half months away, it’s a division-by-division look at each club’s most intriguing player. It started with the AFC East, where the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots have won a league-record 10 straight division titles. Then onto the NFC East, where the Dallas Cowboys are coming off capturing their third division title since 2014. And a year ago, the Baltimore Ravens won six of their final seven games to overcome a 4-5 start and win the AFC North for the first time since 2012.
Now comes a look at the NFC North. This past season, the Chicago Bears and new head coach Matt Nagy finished 12-4 and won a division title for the first since 2010. It snapped a streak of four straight last-place finishes. Can they make it two straight playoff appearances? Or will the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions have a major say in the matter?
Here’s Part 4 of the series (teams are in order of 2018 finish):
RB Tarik Cohen
BE: It’s the second year under Matt Nagy and the Chicago offense could be something to watch this season. The club dealt running back Jordan Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason. He was the workhorse and logged 250-plus carries in each of this three seasons in the Windy City. Cohen is as versatile as they come and more touches could mean more big plays for quarterback Mitch Trubisky and company.
RB Dalvin Cook
VI: The talk that has been swirling around surrounding the Vikings is that they will have second-toughest schedule this coming season. But the real challenge for Cook is to stay healthy. A player with tons of talent will be helpful in head coach Mike Zimmer’s vision of the running game. Keeping the offense on the field will be key and the versatile running back is more than capable of making that happen.
Green Bay Packers
OLB Preston Smith
BE: The franchise dipped into free agency a little heavier than usual this offseason and added the likes of this former Washington Redskins’ defender, as well as outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith and safety Adrian Amos. The Green Bay defense has been subpar for far too long. And this Smith can not only get after the quarterback but can handle the run as well. The Packers were 22nd in the NFL in rushing defense this past season.
QB Matthew Stafford
VI: It’s safe to say Stafford (who enters his 11th NFL season) is a solid quarterback. And he is learning a new offensive system under the command of new coordinator Darrell Bevell. That means a renewed emphasis on the running game and that could make the Lions a playoff contender again. It is a work in progress, but just don’t sleep on Matt Patricia’s team.
Julie Voigt (JulieNoted_PFG) and Russell S. Baxter (@BaxFootballGuru) are the co-founders of @pfgVIBE. Julie is also the Colts’ reporter for OurTurf Football while Russell writes for FanSided and NFL Spin Zone.