"Hey! I don't stink!"
Though we do consistently have a laugh at the very optimistic headlines over at SB Nation's Bears blog, Windy City Gridiron, they run a very good and usually level-headed site. They're looking at the different position groups among NFC North teams and put up this interesting post about each teams' linebacker corps.
Even though Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs probably aren't truly elite players anymore in their advanced age, I think they're correctly rated at No. 1. The Green Bay Packers are likely to start a rookie who was a college DE at LOLB, while A.J. Hawk is fighting to keep his job, and they're ranked at No. 2. Incredibly, I think this is correct as well.
Which made me think: Holy cow, this is a bad division for linebackers. This is probably due partially just to pure dumb luck, with all four teams in the process of rebuilding their linebacker corps at the same time, but it's still incredible considering the division's long-standing reputation for hard-nosed, old-school football.
Of course, the division has moved away from that, like much of the NFL. Matthew Stafford led the league in passing attempts last year, while Aaron Rodgers finished second in passing accuracy and first in yards per attempt. Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte are among the best running backs in the league, but Forte isn't exactly a straight ahead, downhill powerhouse of a running back. His value is in his hands, his route-running, and his cuts more than his power.
Do you think that this is just an odd anomaly and that each teams' linebackers will improve over the next two-to-three years, or do you think the NFC North teams are going to continue to emphasize defensive backs and pass rushers to account for not just Rodgers and Stafford, but the offensive shifts across the NFL?