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Bears Mon Jun 22 2009

2009 All-NFC North Team

(Editor's Note: With the beginning of the NFL's 2009 season only a short field goal away - training camps are scheduled to open in mid-July - our Marco Scola takes an early look at the people who will make the difference in the NFC North this season. Needless to say a certain new Bear quarterback will figure prominently - KG)

OFFENSE

QB Jay Cutler, Chicago
Cutler could be the missing piece of Chicago's offense that has failed to get a playoff birth since Super Bowl XLI.

RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
In Peterson's two years in the NFL, he's already established himself as the NFL's most dynamic running back, if not the NFL's best player.

FB Jason McKie, Chicago
McKie enters his 8th season, making him the most experienced fullback in the NFC North. He's protected Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman, Jim Miller, and played in Super Bowl XLI.

WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit
Last season, Johnson tied Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald for the most touchdowns (12) in only his second season in the NFL.

WR Greg Jennings, Green Bay
Jennings hauled in 9 touchdowns and 1,292 receiving yards last season, and that was his first season without Favre. Imagine what he can do with Rodgers, who now has experience.

TE Greg Olsen, Chicago
Little by little, Olsen is returning to his dominant form we haven't seen since he was a Miami Hurricane. This is the "decisive" year for Olsen, (3rd NFL Season) so he will be proving himself.

OL Chicago Bears
Chicago's locked and loaded to give Cutler the best protection Chicago has seen since the Super Bowl Season. They've signed Pro Bowler Orlando Pace, cut the dead weight of John St. Claire, and re-signed Roberto Garza and center Olin Kruetz.


DEFENSE

DE Ryan Pickett, Green Bay
Because coach Mike McCarthy has opted to change his defensive scheme to a 3-4, Pickett suddenly becomes the Packers most dynamic defensive linemen. Pickett has played the 4-3 for two seasons, and played the 3-4 in college. "He was a dominant player before the switch, this only makes him better," said defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

DE Mark Anderson, Chicago
Anderson led the Bears in his rookie year (2007) in sacks, and defensive coordinator Bob Babich expects him to "return to that form after his injuries."

DT Tommie Harris, Chicago
Harris is one of the most feared defensive linemen in the NFL as he's stuffed the running game more times than can be counted.

DT Jared Allen, Minnesota
In his first season with the Vikings, Allen recorded 14.5 sacks, making him the NFC North's sack leader.

OLB A.J. Hawk, Green Bay
Hawk led the Packers in tackles last season (86) but he's still got a lot of developing to go before he becomes the divisions' best linebacker.

MLB Brian Urlacher, Chicago
Despite Urlacher's falling numbers, he remains Chicago's emotional leader. Countless teammates have said there is no better inspired player than Brian. Urlahcer brings intensity to the field each and every game that is at the level of Ray Lewis and Brian Dawkins.

OLB Lance Briggs, Chicago
Briggs was the only Chicago Bear to appear in the Pro Bowl last season, and for good reason. Briggs' numbers have surpassed Urlacher's every year since his rookie season.

CB Charles Woodson, Green Bay
Every year Charles Woodson grows older, he adds yet another Pro Bowl to his resume. After an 8-year drought, last season he participated in his 5th. Woodson ties the NFC in most interceptions (7).

CB Al Harris, Green Bay
Harris rounds out the NFC North's best secondary, as he finished 2nd last season in team tackles.

SS Nick Collins, Green Bay
Collins had a career-year last season posting 7 interceptions, making him tied for #1 in the NFC last year. He returned 3 of those picks for touchdowns.

SPECIALTIES

K Mason Crosby, Green Bay
The NFC's most accurate kicker returns to the Packers.

P Brad Maynard, Chicago
Maynard consistently leads the NFL in longest punts year in and year out. This year will be no different.

KR Devin Hester, Chicago
Despite not returning a single kick return for a touchdown in 2008, Hester is still, hands down, the most dangerous kick returner in the NFL. Keep this in mind: He's got 16 combined kick return/punt return for touchdowns, the career record is 18, and it took 15 years to get it. Hester is entering his 4th year.

Special Teams: Chicago Bears
Chicago is consistently the NFC leader in fewest return yards, most touchdowns, and most turnovers.

Head Coach: Lovie Smith, Chicago
Lovie is the only coach in the NFC North that has coached in a Super Bowl.

Offensive Coordinator: Ron Turner, Chicago
Turner is going to have a field day with Matt Forte developing even more, Devin Hester blossoming into a wide receiver, Greg Olsen having a breakout year, and a newly tweaked offensive line. Not to mention, there's a new quarterback in town.

Defensive Coordinator: Leslie Frazier, Minnesota
Frazier's 2008 defense was #1 in the North, and I believe as long as they stay healthy, they'll remain that way.

ROOKIE WATCH

QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit
Obviously the weight of Detroit's franchise lies in the hands of the first overall draft pick. Stafford is going to have Calvin Johnson on his side, which is always a plus. Another plus is the stigma of an 0-16 season behind him, which means even a one-win season is an improvement.

WR Percy Harvin, Minnesota
Despite an injury-plagued final year with the Florida Gators, Harvin's speed and receiving skills could make him the most dangerous wideout in the NFC North.

 
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