2014 Combine

NFC NORTH: How do the Packers, Bears and Vikings plan to get better this offseason?

Posted Feb 22, 2014

The other coaches and general managers in the NFC North discussed some of their needs for the 2014 season down at the NFL Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS – Like the Lions, the Packers, Bears and Vikings are down at the NFL Scouting Combine learning all they can about the 335 potential draft picks taking part.

Here's a look at what each team had to say about some of their needs heading into 2014 and how they plan to get better.

PACKERS

2013 record: 8-7-1

Biggest need: Defensive line

Green Bay could potentially see a lot of turnover along their defensive line with DE B.J. Raji, NT Ryan Pickett, DE Johnny Jolly and DE C.J. Wilson all unrestricted free agents.

There have been some reports the Packers are looking to revamp their defensive line completely to get smaller and more athletic. It's an idea Packers head coach Mike McCarthy disputed on Friday.

"I've never been part of a conversation that you want your d-linemen to be smaller," he said. "That's not accurate. We want to continue our process, but as far as evaluating d-linemen, we will be a little different on defense as far as how we utilize our defensive players, particularly our front players, because we do have a number of players who can play both the rush outside position and maybe make some impact from the inside position.

"But our evaluation as far as what we're going to do bringing defensive linemen into our program – if anything, you always want to get bigger, stronger and faster and things like that. We're definitely not going to be smaller."

McCarthy and the Packers seem to be stressing versatile defenders this offseason.

BEARS

2013 record: 8-8


Biggest need: Remake the defense

Charles TillmanCB Charles Tillman (Photo: AP Images)

Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman told the media Thursday at the Combine his biggest task this offseason is "rebuilding the defense."

The Bears lost linebacker Brian Urlacher last offseason and could lose defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Charles Tillman as cap casualties this year.

The Bears will look much different in 2014 and Trestman said his team plans to build through the draft and will then implement a scheme around the young players they acquire.

The ultimate goal, according to Trestman, is to build a new defense to a "stature that is expected of us."

The Bears ranked 30th in total defense in 2013 and that unit was a big reason they finished 8-8 and outside of the playoffs.

Already part of the shakeup on defense for the Bears will include 2012 first-round pick Shea McClellin moving from defensive end to linebacker. Bears general manager Phil Emery said McClellin could end up in the middle or strong side.

"Shea is going to move to linebacker but Shea will be used in multiple roles, wherever his skills will take him," Emery said.

"He is a perfect candidate to be on the field all downs in some capacity, whether that is blitzing, rushing, playing against the run in run personnel but he is going to have to compete for his job. He's going to have to win that job. He could win that job at sam. He could win that job at mike."

VIKINGS

2013 record: 5-10-1

Biggest need: Franchise quarterback

The Christian Ponder era as the Vikings starting quarterback could be coming to an end in Minnesota as they continue to search for franchise quarterback.

"I think we've done a lot of great things in the draft, but ultimately, everybody's trying to find that quarterback, that franchise guy," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said Thursday. "I think you have to be aggressive to go out there and try to find that guy, keep turning that wheel until you find one you hit on.

"Are we going to force a quarterback at No. 8? We're going to take the best player, unless we're absolutely in love with a guy. It's not to say, 'Well, you're not going to take a quarterback at 8 because Christian isn't where he's supposed to be right at this time.' That's never going to stop you. If we feel strongly enough about a guy, we'll take him."

Ponder was the 12th overall pick by the Vikings in 2011 and has finished only one of his three seasons with a passer rating higher than 80 (81.2, 2012). He is still under contract and is expected to back in 2014, but he'll likely have to compete for the starting job with at least two other quarterbacks.

"Well, right now that's the process we're going through," Spielman said. "Christian Ponder is our only quarterback under contract right now. There are games when you watch him play the Washington Redskins game or watch him play in Green Bay, he's playing at a very high level.

"Then there are some other games when he hasn't been. Christian just hasn't been that consistent. He's shown flashes of it but never been able to do it on a consistent basis."