Ranking the North: Vikings Dominate the EDGE Position
Arguably just as important as a sturdy offensive line is a devastating pass rush. Traditionally, the NFC North have had historically dominant players in this department, and 2022 looks to be another season of above-average EDGE groups. Here is how I have the NFC North stacking up ahead of the 2022 season.
1. Minnesota Vikings
Assuming the group remains healthy in 2022 (I recognize this is a massive “if” given recent years), this is pretty simple. The Minnesota Vikings had the second-most sacks in the NFL during the 2021 season even though they only had seven games of Danielle Hunter. If all goes to plan, the 2022 Vikings will get an extra 10 games of Hunter, and they add Za’Darius Smith to the group who totaled 12.5 sacks in 2020. These are major additions to a roster that was elite at getting to opposing QBs in 2021.
On top of that, there is some intriguing depth at EDGE for Minnesota as well. Patrick Jones might be a sneaky candidate as a breakout player in 2022 now that the 2021 third-round pick has gotten a full NFL season under his belt. Rookie linebacker Brian Asamoah could play a role in the defense as well. Overall, the Vikings have a strong unit with elite talent at the top, and some interesting depth further down the roster.
2. Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers may have lost Za’Darius Smith to the Vikings, but they remain one of the fiercest pass-rush groups in the NFL, as evidenced by PFF ranking them third in the entire NFL. Rashan Gary and Preston Smith combined for 18.5 sacks last year in the absence of Smith.
Then, they added a player who I hoped the Vikings would end up selecting, Devonte Wyatt. If the Vikings don’t stay healthy, this unit should easily be the best pass-rushing group in the NFC North.
3. Detroit Lions
The Lions highlight move of the offseason was their drafting of Michigan EDGE rusher Aidan Hutchinson with the second overall pick in the 2022 draft. Of course, it will probably take some time for the former Wolverine to adjust to NFL talent, but the potential is there for Hutchinson to be the NFC North’s next great sacker of quarterbacks.
There isn’t a ton of proven NFL talent at this position for Detroit, though. They have a few other high-end draft picks, including Alim McNeil and Levi Onwuzurike, but those players have not quite turned into starting-caliber talent. Some further development in 2022 could turn this into an above-average group by the end of the year.
4. Chicago Bears
Chicago spent most of its offseason dumping off expensive contracts in favor of developing their youth. This pirge heavily hit their pass rishers as both Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks are no longer on the team. Even further, Robert Quinn could be traded any day.
Unfortunately for any Bears fans hoping they will be rooting for a competitive team in 2022, these players were the anchors of their defense in recent years. Al-Quadin Muhammad jumped from Indianapolis to Chicago with new head coach Matt Eberflus, but behind him there is very little to be inspired by with this unit. Maybe they’ll surprise us, but I wouldn’t bet on it.