The NFC North has been at the center of news with the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings squaring off in an arrest battle. The league was relatively quiet in free agency and trades, with the exception of Chicago making a trade to get a #1 receiver. Here are the top ten new faces in 2012:
10. C Jeff Saturday, Green Bay. The long time Colt comes in to replace Scott Wells, who had been the starting Center since 2006, and is now in St. Louis. Saturday may no longer be in his prime, but the Packers are hoping his experience working in productive passing offenses helps bridge the transition at the position.
9. WR Alshon Jeffery, Chicago. The Bears needed offensive weapons for Cutler, so they added Jeffery in the second round when he slipped in the draft. He should have a chance to challenge for starting time and at least be in the top 3 rotation outside at receiver when the season opens.
8. Offensive Coordinator Mike Tice, Chicago. Mike Martz is out, and while Tice was on the staff last year, moves into a new role as the offensive coordinator. Tice has never served as an offensive coordinator before, always working as a tight end or offensive line position coach around his stint as the Vikings head coach. The Bears will use Jeremy Bates as the passing game coordinator to assist Tice.
7. RB Mikel LeShoure, Detroit. LeShoure is not new to Detroit, but no one has ever seen him in a Lions uniform for an actual game yet, as he got hurt before his rookie year. So far, he’s contributed more arrests than games played. With all the running back issues for Detroit last year, though, LeShoure should play a much bigger role . . . if he can stay out of trouble.
6. WR Jerome Simpson, Minnesota. Simpson signed with the Vikings to address their outside receiver needs, after an acrobatic season in Cincinnati. He then promptly got suspended for the first three games for his arrest stemming from a package of marijuana being delivered to his house.
5. DE Shea McClellin, Chicago. McClellin should have a chance to join the rotation at defensive end and play opposite Julius Peppers.
4. SS Harrison Smith, Minnesota. Minnesota had major needs in the secondary that had to be addressed, and so they used their second selection in the draft to bring in Harrison Smith at safety. He joins former Ravens cornerback Chris Carr as the primary changes in the secondary.
3. OLB Nick Perry, Green Bay. Green Bay really struggled to generate a pass rush last year if it did not come from Clay Matthews. As a result, they turn to another USC linebacker. Perry should play a big role right away in Green Bay.
2. OT Matt Kalil, Minnesota. The Vikings hope that the addition of the best left tackle in the draft helps the development of Christian Ponder.
1. WR Brandon Marshall, Chicago. Reunited and it feels so good. Cutler and Marshall put up huge numbers in Denver before both were traded. Chicago has a clear need at receiver. Let’s put it this way: the franchise leader in receiving yards played before 1970 (Johnny Morris) and the two receivers with the most career yards in Chicago since 1970 are Curtis Conway and Marty Booker. Marshall is the best receiver to play in Chicago in a long time.
[photo via US Presswire]