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NFC North Roundtable: One Big 2022 Question For the Vikings, Packers, Bears, and Lions

With training camp around the corner, here's a big remaining unknown for each NFC North squad.
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Every NFL team heads into the season with a few things that could be deemed weaknesses, question marks, or at least unknowns. Beginning in training camp, how those areas of their game play out over the course of an 18-week schedule will go a long way in determining how successful their season is.

This summer, Fan Nation's four NFC North publishers — myself, Packer Central's Bill Huber, All Lions' John Maakaron, and Bear Digest's Gene Chamberlain — are running a 12-part roundtable series breaking down the state of the NFC North heading into the 2022 season.

This is part nine, where we go over the big remaining question for the team we cover.

Without further ado, let's get to it.

Minnesota Vikings: Will the offensive line and secondary be good enough?

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I'm making this a two-part answer because, well, why not? As currently constructed, the Vikings have one key area on each side of the ball that's a relative unknown heading into the season.

As is the case seemingly every year, the offensive line is a potential weakness that could hold back an otherwise talented attack. The Vikings have a solid veteran quarterback, elite weapons at the skill positions, and a young offensive-minded head coach who appears to have a bright future. In order for all of those people to thrive, the line needs to provide adequate pass protection and strong run-blocking. Minnesota's tackle situation is actually quite promising with young building blocks Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neill, but it's the interior trio that remains a concern, particularly center Garrett Bradbury.

Defensively, the front seven looks stout. But this is a passing-driven league, so the Vikings' secondary might make or break their defensive performance as a whole. It's a unit relying on two of the oldest players on the roster — possible Hall of Famers Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson — to play at a high level. In addition to those two, the Vikings will be counting on three of the youngest players on the roster, including two rookies, to provide quality play. That mix of post- and pre-prime talent could work well — or it could be a bit of a mess. — Will Ragatz, Inside the Vikings

Green Bay Packers: Who’s going to get open?


Aaron Rodgers is coming off back-to-back MVP seasons thanks in part to All-Pro receiver Davante Adams. Over the last six seasons, no receiver in the NFL caught more passes, piled up more yards or scored more touchdown than Adams. With talent and incredible connection, they were unstoppable together.

The problem is the Packers didn’t add to significant assets to their receiver corps until it was too late. In the five drafts from 2016 through 2020, the Packers drafted six receivers. The earliest was J’Mon Moore with a compensatory pick at the end of the fourth round. None of those six are even on the roster today.

With the offseason trade of Adams, the Packers signed veteran Sammy Watkins, whose lone 1,000-yard season came way back in 2015, and drafted Christian Watson in the second round, Romeo Doubs in the fourth round and Samori Toure in the seventh round. Those four, along with veterans Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb and 2021 third-round slot Amari Rodgers will battle for their place on the depth chart in training camp.

Ultimately, the entire season will boil down to this question: Who will get open? Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback and Matt LaFleur has a great scheme but, at some pivotal moment in a hugely important game, somebody is going to have to win their route and make a play. Will that be Lazard? Watkins? One of the rookies? Or will GM Brian Gutekunst have to go shopping? — Bill Huber, Packer Central

Chicago Bears: Can the Bears keep Justin Fields standing upright?


If a veteran line allowed 58 sacks last year, how many times can Justin Fields expect to be thrown to the ground this year?The Bears approach training camp with three tackles for two spots and they have started 10 total NFL games. Former center Sam Mustipher at right guard. He hasn't played there in his life other than during OTAs and minicamp.

This offensive line is an Abbott and Costello routine for football: Who's at tackle, what's at guard? Could rookie Braxton Jones start at left tackle? Will they move Mustipher back to center and start center Lucas Patrick at right guard, one of the positions he played with Green Bay? 

Larry Borom started eight games as right tackle last year but lined up at left tackle through the offseason until Jones played left tackle to close OTAs and minicamp.And Teven Jenkins was supposed to be a starter as their second-round pick last year but he could be on the bench if Jones and Borom man the tackles. Then again, they could also move Jenkins to guard. They did have Dakota Dozier playing guard but he suffered a knee injury at minicamp and is on IR.

A starting offensive line needs to be established as soon as possible to let them build as a cohesive unit. The Bears have four undetermined positions. Fields' mobility promises to be tested. — Gene Chamberlain, Bear Digest

Detroit Lions: Can the defensive line drastically improve?


The Detroit Lions defensive line has struggled mightily over the past couple of seasons pressuring the quarterback. Simply put, opposing offenses have had their way with Detroit's defense for far too long. Detroit's sack totals and pressure rates have been nothing to write home about, as Detroit's defense has ranked in the the bottom tier of the league in a lot of categories.

Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and the front office have made a concerted effort to revamp the defensive line, drafting young talent who possess a strong motor and are positive fits in the locker room.

Charles Harris had a career season in 2021 and will be looking to build off of the success he experienced his first season in Motown. How fast Rookies Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal adapt to life in the NFL will go a long way in determining how successful the defensive line can be.

The coaching staff is counting on veteran Romeo Okwara returning from a serious injury along with the development of second-year players Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill. If the switch to more of a 4-3 base look can produce more pressure, the secondary can also benefit and take steps forward, as the roster is still quite young on defense. The biggest question mark still revolves around who will step up along the defensive line to rack up sack totals. — John Maakaron, All Lions

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