Inside the Article:
The 2023 NFL season is closing in as preseason games are starting with the Hall of Fame game tonight, and next Friday the Detroit Lions will face the New York Giants. Continuing with the NFC North Rankings for the 2023 season, where will the Lions rank before the season kicks off? Are they #1, or is one of their division rivals at the top?
NFC North Position Rankings: Linebacker
Number Four: Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears linebackers were one of the worst last season, finishing second to last in stopping the run, and they went out and upgraded their linebacking unit by adding Tremaine Edmunds from the Bills. Last season Edmunds played in 13 games recording 102 total tackles, and he also had one sack; he will be a crucial plug in the Bears' limiting their opponent's rushing attack. They also went out and added T.J. Edwards, an Eagle last year and recorded 159 total tackles, tied for seventh most in the league, and two sacks.
The Bears lost their start linebacker this offseason as Roquan Smith signed with the Baltimore Ravens. The Bears also drafted Noah Sewell, the younger brother of Penei Sewell, on the Lions with the 148th overall pick in this year's draft, and last season at Oregon, he had 55 tackles and 1.5 sacks. The Bears bring back Jack Sanborn, and in 14 games last year, he had 64 total tackles and two sacks. This is an improved Bears linebacking unit, but they will have a challenging task in stopping the run game of the other teams in the NFC North.
Number Three: Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings finished last season 20th in rushing yards allowed, which was the best of all four teams in the division, and they will return Danielle Hunter to their unit, who finished 12th in sacks last season with 11.5. They will also return Brian Asamoah II and Jordan Hicks, who combined last season for 146 total tackles and three sacks; all three came from Hicks.
The Vikings also went out and added Marcus Davenport, who spent his first five seasons with the New Orleans Saints, and last season he had 29 total tackles and 0.5 sacks. Behind their starters mentioned already, they don't have much depth, so they rank third on this season's preview rankings.
Number Two: Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions last season finished just ahead of the Bears in most rushing yards allowed allowing 2,491 yards on 477 attempts. They had a tough time containing Justin Fields in their two matchups against the Bears, but as the season progressed, they did get better. They bring back Alex Anzalone, the leader of the defense, and Malcolm Rodriguez; Anzalone and Rodriguez combined for 212 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
The Lions also made sure they added more to their depth, and they drafted Jack Campbell with the 18th overall pick in the draft at Iowa last season Campbell was a force recording 125 total tackles and one sack as well as two interceptions for the Hawkeyes. The Lions could have been first on this list, but the current depth chart, according to ESPN, has James Houston as Edge Rusher for the 2023 season.
Number One: Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers linebackers are one of the best parts of their team as they return everyone from last year in Preston Smith, De'Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, and Rashan Gary; However, they struggled against the run; they were still a solid unit last season. The four starters combined for 308 tackles, and Walker led the way with 121, although Gary ended his season early, having sustained an injury against the Lions on November 6th; they combined for 16 sacks with Smith and Gary leading the way, Smith had 8.5 while Gary although only playing in nine games had six total sacks.
The Packers also added some depth at linebacker going out and drafted Lukas Van Ness from Iowa with the 13th overall pick. Last year with the Hawkeyes, he recorded 36 total tackles but had 6.5 sacks, another player to Green Bay's linebacking core that knows how to get after the Quarterback.
Bottom Line: NFC North Linebackers can attack the Quarterback
If you combined all of the projected starters entering the 2023 season in the NFC North, they had combined for 38.5 sacks in 2022; that's also excluding the rookies; the Packers had 16 of those 38.5 sacks. Last season the Detroit Lions had one of the worst defenses in the league, and that was due to their secondary and the linebackers for some of the season; well, they addressed that problem. The Vikings and Bears both enter 2023 with solid linebacking units as well. This will be the most exciting position in the NFC North as they are all very close in talent and could be a 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D situation at the end of the season.