NFC NORTH: Who could have a breakout season?

Posted Jun 12, 2014

Senior writer Tim Twentyman takes a look at which second-year players in the NFC North are primed for a breakout 2014 season.

The 35 players taken in the 2013 NFL Draft by Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota are nearing the completion of their first full offseason with their respective teams.

They’ve already played their rookie season and know what to expect heading into year two.

There’s usually a big jump in production from year one to year two because of the experience and the full offseason of work afforded to these youngsters.

So who could be primed for breakout seasons in 2014?


Potential breakout player: LB Jon Bostic

Drafted: Round 2, No. 50 overall

Rookie stats: 57 tackles, two sacks and one interception

Why him: Bostic played in all 16 games for the Bears as a rookie with nine starts. Chicago is changing some things in the Cover 2 defense they’ve played for nearly a decade, mainly some of their run fits and alignments will be different.

Bostic played in an aggressive man-to-man defense at Florida and he told the Chicago Sun-Times recently that the changes should suit his game much better than a year ago.

Quotable: “A lot of the changes that we did make, it’s a lot more natural for me,” Bostic told the paper. “I can play how I’ve been taught literally from little league to high school to college to now. It’s back to playing how I used to. There were a lot of things that we did last year that worked, but now we changed a couple of those things, and it’s more natural.”


Potential breakout player: DE Ziggy Ansah

Drafted: Round 1, No. 5 overall

Ziggy AnsahDE Ziggy Ansah (Photo: AP Images)

Rookie stats: 32 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles

Why him: The Lions plan to be much more versatile with the super athletic Ansah in 2014. He’s going to move around. He’s going to stand up and rush at times. He’s going to drop back in coverage. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is going to be aggressive and will try to utilize matchups to his advantage. Austin doesn’t want to stick Ansah exclusively on the right side where defenses always know where he is. Austin plans to move him around in an effort to keep opponents guessing.

If Ansah stays healthy in 2014 (he missed two games as a rookie with an ankle injury) he has a real chance to join the double-digit sack club in year two.

Quotable: “I like the changes we have now,” Ansah told “I don’t always have to be on the right side. I can get up and move around and drop into coverage. I think (Austin) is a great coach and going to bring a lot to the team.”


Potential breakout player: S/CB Micah Hyde

Drafted: Round 5, No. 159 overall

Rookie stats: 55 tackles (41 solo), one sack and one forced fumble

Why him: The Packers are trying to find ways to get Hyde on the field more after he showed a lot of promise as a rookie. Unfortunately for Hyde, the Packers are stacked at cornerback with Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House and Jarrett Bush.

Safety, however, is a lot more of a question mark, which is why the Packers have moved Hyde to safety this offseason in a effort to get him on the field more. Hyde is splitting his time between the meeting rooms for safety and cornerback.

Adding Hyde means there will be stiffer competition at safety among first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, returning starter Morgan Burnett and Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo.

If Hyde wins a bigger role at safety, he has a chance to be even more productive in 2014.

Quotable: "Exactly where he's going to end up, I'm not sure," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "We like his football ability and playmaking ability, and he's played nickel, dime and corner for us; he hasn't played any safety.

"By working him at safety, we'll see how it works itself out. We think he's another good football player, and you want to find packages where you can get him on the field so he has a chance to make plays."


Breakout player: CB Xavier Rhodes

Drafted: Round 1, No. 25 overall

Rookie stats: 48 tackles, 10 passes defended and one forced fumble

Why him: Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson could certainly fit here, too, but Rhodes has a chance to take a bigger leap forward from year one to year two.

It’s a tough adjustment to the NFL for rookie cornerbacks because the game is so much faster and the receivers are so much bigger. Rhodes struggled early on as a rookie, but just like Darius Slay in Detroit, he was playing his best football at the end of the season. Eight of Rhodes' 10 passes defended last year came in his last three games.

He got valuable experience with six starts as a rookie and should enter 2014 as a starter for Minnesota. He has terrific size (6-1, 210) and speed and with a little experience should be ready to turn some of those passes defended into interceptions.

Quotable: "I've been impressed with him...he wants to be very good," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told "He's got great acceleration, learning the techniques and staying on point much better."