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NFC North Roundtable: Overrated Lions Player

NFC North roundtable explores players possibly receiving a little too much hype.

The third in a series of articles from NFC North FanNation team reporters explores players rated or valued a little too highly. 

Lions

DE Charles Harris 

Prior to landing with the Detroit Lions in 2021, Harris spent time with both the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons. 

Harris, a 2017 first-round draft pick, was a player who benefitted mightily from playing in defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn's defensive scheme, which took advantage of his strengths as a pass-rusher. 

In 2021, Harris recorded career-high marks in tackles (65), quarterback hits (16), tackles for loss (10) and pressures (34). Unfortunately, his performance was sporadic, as he went six consecutive weeks without a sack, after having a four-game sack streak from Week 2 until Week 5. 

Among the question marks heading into the 2022 season is whether Harris' performance was simply an anomaly or a sign of things to come for the foreseeable future. 

Even Harris acknowledged to reporters he left a lot of plays out on the field, something he is looking to correct this season. 

"Mentality wise, I think I've been able to go back and watch a lot of film from last last year and see the plays that could have been made, but didn't get made," Harris said. "I think that's kind of where I am this year. If I added every play I could have made, numbers would be crazy."

Detroit now has added additional defensive linemen via this year's draft, which should bode well for a competitive training camp. 

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Packers

RB Aaron Jones

It’s not that Jones isn’t a good player. Heck, he’s a very good player, and will be a big factor most weeks as a runner and receiver. But, notably, the 2020 Pro Bowler wasn’t quite as good last season. Running backs have a limited shelf life, and perhaps the 27-year-old is getting close to the end of his prime. 

At this time last year, Jones ranked sixth in NFL history, with a career mark of 5.17 yards per carry (minimum 600 carries). In three of his first four seasons, he averaged at least 5.47 yards a carry. Last year, however, his average slipped to 4.67.

After back-to-back seasons of 1,084 rushing yards in 2019 and 1,104 rushing yards in 2020, Jones slipped to 799 rushing yards last season. 

Compared to 2020, his yards after contact dropped from 3.54 per rush to 3.18, according to PFF. Notably, for an explosive, shifty runner, his 10-yard runs plunged from an average of 24.3 the previous three seasons to only 16 last year.

With a revamped receiver corps, Packers coach Matt LaFleur might have to rely more on the running game. Fortunately for him, he’s got Jones and AJ Dillon providing an excellent one-two punch. 

But, the ascending Dillon could emerge as the lead back and Jones, whose cap number explodes to $20 million in 2023, could be entering his final season with the team.

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Bears

S Eddie Jackson

The Eddie Jackson who has played the last two seasons is much different than the one who made Pro Bowls from 2018-19, plus made 10 interceptions and scored five touchdowns from 2017-19.

After signing his four-year, $58.4 million deal, Jackson's statistics fell off sharply. It occurred at the same time that the rest of Chicago's secondary declined. So, laying it all on Jackson is unfair, but the numbers reflect his part in it.

Sportradar credits Jackson with eight TD passes allowed the last two seasons and passer ratings against of 110.1 and 143.6 when targeted. This came after he had ratings against of 40.5 and 57.6 in 2018-19. 

Jackson hasn't made an interception in 30 games, although he had a few overturned by defensive penalties.

Jackson has really not been the same since Chicago lost safety Adrian Amos to Green Bay in free agency, and there is hope that rookie Jaquan Brisker can be more of a force closer to the line of scrimmage as Amos had been. It could free Jackson up to do what he had previously done best, and that was going for the football.

Also, the new defensive scheme in Chicago is one favoring players who read the quarterback and go after the ball, and that has always been a strength of Jackson's. Or, at least it was. It seems he must prove himself all over again, after struggling for the last two years.

Minnesota Vikings

QB Kirk Cousins

Cousins is one of the most polarizing players in recent memory. Some people have a proper idea of who he is as a quarterback, and some probably even underrate him a bit. 

Still, it seems like the majority of people -- including the Vikings' own front office and coaching staff -- overrate his abilities.

With a career record of 59-59-2 as a starter, Cousins has made it abundantly clear that he is a .500 quarterback. No, wins aren't exclusively a QB stat, but at some point, your record is who you are.

Cousins is paid like a top-five quarterback, and is viewed by many Vikings fans as a top-10 player at the position, despite the reality that he's somewhere in the 13-16 range.

Cousins' impressive accuracy is overshadowed by his conservative decision-making, inconsistent pocket presence and struggles to create outside of structure. Adding to that, his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 caused him to miss a must-win game for Minnesota's playoff hopes last year. 

After one postseason berth in four seasons, it's apparent that Minnesota made the wrong call when they signed Cousins to a huge deal in 2018.

And yet, the team's new brass decided to double down this offseason with another extension. Maybe Cousins escapes this label in 2022 under new head coach Kevin O'Connell, but it's difficult to feel particularly confident in that happening.

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