NFC NORTH

NFC North: Impressions after two preseason games

Posted Aug 18, 2013

Tim Twentyman looks to all four teams in the division to see what we can learn halfway through the preseason

Two preseason games are in the books for each of the four teams in the NFC North. What do we know so far?

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Preseason record: 1-1

Week 1: Arizona 17, Green Bay 0

Week 2: Green Bay 19, St. Louis 7

What happened:

Eddie LacyRB Eddie Lacy (Photo: AP Images)
  • Quarterback Aaron Rodgers played just one series vs. Arizona, but saw that increase to three against the Rams. He was 10-of-12 passing for 134 yards with a 113.2 rating. I'd say the former NFL MVP is ready for the regular season.
  • Rookie running back Eddie Lacy made his preseason debut and it was a good one. He made a nice move to avoid a tackler in the backfield for a 7-yard run on his first carry and then broke two tackles on a 15-yard run in the same drive. In all, the former Alabama running back had 40 yards on eight carries. Have the Packers found their running back?
  • Tight end Jermichael Finley has been a favorite target of quarterbacks the first couple weeks of the preseason. After a lackluster season in 2012, Finley had four catches for 78 yards with the starters against the Rams.
  • Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly continues to be a terrific story in Packers camp after serving a three-year drug suspension. He tipped a Kellen Clemens pass that was intercepted. Then, dropped into coverage and intercepted a Clemens pass that was tipped.

What they had to say: "Eddie Lacy, you go back to his college film with his ability, he doesn’t waste any steps," coach Mike McCarthy said after the game, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette, "And that’s something that I always look at in a running back, particularly the ability to get north and south with his body type.

"We wanted to give him some opportunities. Frankly, I had a chance to briefly visit with him before the game. I just want to make sure he was all the way back from his injury, and I think that was evident tonight. He clearly took advantage of his opportunities."

CHICAGO BEARS

Preseason record: 1-1

Week 1: Carolina 24, Chicago 17

Week 2: Chicago 33, San Diego 28

What happened:

  • Matt Forte is a big key to the Bears offense in 2013 and Chicago coaches had to be happy with his 74-yard night vs. San Diego on just eight carries. Also of note, Forte got some goal line reps and scored a 3-yard touchdown. That hasn’t always been the case in previous years. Fantasy owners take note.
  • Is there growing concern with second-year receiver Alshon Jeffrey? The Bears rank 30th in the NFL this preseason in passing and their No. 2 receiver has just one catch for 13 yards in two games.
  • Reports out of Chicago are that rookie right guard Kyle Long has been very impressive this preseason. The Bears took a gamble on the raw prospect out of Oregon and it appears they’ve found their starter there.
  • The fact that the Bears defensive line is producing without Julius Peppers this preseason is good news for Chicago, and not so good news for the rest of the division. The Bears had four sacks and eight tackles for loss vs. San Diego.

What they had to say: "I thought there’s a competition up front defensively," Trestman told ESPNChicago.com after their win over San Diego. "Again, good pass rush. Shea (McClellin) was involved. Corey (Wootton) was involved. Nate (Collins) was involved. And that’s a good thing."

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Preseason record: 0-2

Week 1: Houston 27, Minnesota 13

Week 2: Buffalo 20, Minnesota 16

What happened:

  • After a lackluster performance in a loss to the Texans, quarterback Christian Ponder did nothing to ease the concerns of Vikings fans against the Bills. In two games, Ponder is 6-of-14 passing for 68 yards without a touchdown.
  • Punter Jeff Locke dropped three punts inside the 20-yard line vs. the Chargers. Locke, the first of only two punters drafted in April (Detroit’s Sam Martin being the other), is averaging 44.8 yards per punt in the preseason. Martin is averaging 44.4.
  • Playing without All Pro running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings had 11 plays for no gain or a loss midway through the second quarter. The starters on offense played five possessions and had four first downs and three points.

What they had to say: "The only thing I was saying to myself when everything was happening was, ‘OK. Glad it’s the preseason,’" Frazier told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after a sloppy performance in Buffalo. "Let’s get this out of the way now. Because we definitely don’t want to be doing this in September."

DETROIT LIONS

PRESEASON RECORD: 1-1

Week 1: Detroit 26, New York Jets 17

Week 2: Cleveland 24, Detroit 6

What happened:

  • The starters on offense struggled mightily against Cleveland without receiver Calvin Johnson playing. The first-team offense played five series and recorded just four first downs and three points. Wait, didn't I just write that (see Vikings offense above)?
  • The starters on defense weren’t much better, especially the secondary. Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden was 8-of-12 passing for 117 yards and two scores.
  • Rookie cornerback Darius Slay replaced veteran Ron Bartell at right cornerback to start the second quarter. Slay hasn't relinquished the spot since, running with the starters on defense the last two days of practice.
  • Lions No. 1 pick Ziggy Ansah didn’t have the flash plays that he did a week prior vs. the Jets (interception, touchdown and tackle for loss) but head coach Jim Schwartz said he played a much more complete game vs. the Browns, playing within the defensive scheme.

What they had to say: "We played poorly in all three phases," Schwartz said after the game. "We played poorly on offense. We dropped balls and didn’t execute. We didn’t move the ball or have any explosive plays. We didn’t score any touchdowns. Defensively we made critical errors. We didn’t tackle very well and had some key penalties."