In this series, the Last Word on Sports NFL department will be selecting the best players in each division by their position. Defense in the NFC North is on the radar here. Without further ado, let’s delve into which players made the cut.
2020 NFC North All-Division Team: The Defense
Defensive End: Yannick Ngakoue, Vikings
Many will wonder how this selection makes the NFC North All-Division defense having just gotten to the Minnesota Vikings via trade a couple of days ago. It should be noted that Ngakoue’s production is what puts him on this list. Before he wore purple, Ngakoue registered 37.5 sacks as a member of the Jaguars and forced 14 fumbles. Following a dispute with the organization, he was shipped to the Twin Cities in exchange for a second-round pick and conditional fifth-round pick. His stats speak his worth.
Defensive End: Trey Flowers, Lions
Most will remember Flowers as the one who sacked Matt Ryan in Super Bowl LI to lead a large comeback. Others will remember him as a key member of two Super Bowl championships for the Patriots. Still, with 28 sacks to his name, his impact on an often overlooked Detroit Lions defense has allowed him to make a name for himself. In his first season in the Motor City, Flowers put up six sacks and helped the Lions pull off an upset against the Eagles in Week 3.
Defensive Tackle: Kenny Clark, Packers
Productive play equals a large contract. Just ask Kenny Clark. This offseason, Clark signed a four-year, $70 million contract extension with a $25 million signing bonus. In four seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Clark amassed 193 totals tackles in 16.5 sacks. Kenny has also been a force on the defense that went to two NFC championship games during his tenure.
Outside Linebacker: Khalil Mack, Bears
No surprise here, Khalil Mack has been regarded as one of the best edge defenders in the National Football League. After being traded to the Chicago Bears from the Raiders in a blockbuster deal, Mack has provided good returns on his investment. His first season helped Chicago clinch the NFC North title and put them in the playoffs. Since then, he has worked to continue improving his game. It’s only a matter of time before he ends up in Canton.
Outside Linebacker: Robert Quinn, Bears
Even though he just arrived in the NFC North, Robert Quinn deserves a spot on this defense. Back in Dallas, Miami, and with the Rams, Quinn has amassed a total of 80.5 sacks and 290 tackles. Quinn will look to provide a spark to the Bears defense that Leonard Floyd was unable to create. This addition will also strengthen the Bears and the progression of Khalil Mack, which to many will be a scary sight.
Inside Linebacker: Danny Trevathan, Bears
The third Bears linebacker to make this list, Danny Trevathan continues to be the mold of what a Bears linebacker should be. Upon arriving from a Super Bowl championship, Trevathan instilled a level of physicality in the Bears defense that had been lacking from the Marc Trestman era. With the new acquisitions and the departure of Eddie Goldman due to his opting out, Trevathan will have to step up his game to fill the void left by the one who helps him in the trenches.
Inside Linebacker: Eric Kendricks, Vikings
Since arriving from UCLA, Kendricks has been a stalwart on Mike Zimmer‘s defense. In week 6 against the Eagles, Kendricks forced a key fumble on tight end Zach Ertz that was recovered by teammate Anthony Barr in a 38-20 win. In week 7 against Detroit, Kendricks recorded a team-high 12 tackles in the 42-30 win. His career totals are 342 tackles and nine sacks.
Cornerback: Kyle Fuller, Bears
In 2013, the Bears missed out on Aaron Donald by one pick and ended up with Fuller. Though Donald is at the top of the league right now, Fuller has been a nice alternative, having grabbed two interceptions in a comeback win against San Francisco as a rookie. Fuller has two Pro Bowls, 276 tackles, and 18 interceptions despite never reaching the endzone. The Virginia Tech standout will look to lead the Bears secondary once again.
Cornerback: Jaire Alexander, Packers
Defense has not been the Packers’ strong suit, but Jaire Alexander is exempt from that mold. Coming out of Louisville, Alexander has been a lockdown corner, with 124 tackles, three interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. While he may be just a few years into his career, don’t be surprised to see his name mentioned among the top cornerbacks in the league in a few years’ time.
Cornerback: Desmond Trufant, Lions
It is hard to imagine that Trufant is no longer a member of the Atlanta Falcons. Since being drafted out of Washington, Trufant has grabbed 329 tackles and 13 interceptions. Although he missed out on the run to the Super Bowl, Trufant was a force in the secondary before he joined Detroit this offseason. Expect him and rookie Jeff Okudah to bring relevance to the back end after the departure of Darius Slay to Philadelphia.
Free Safety: Eddie Jackson, Bears
Big Play EJ. When he gets the ball in his hands, it can be best assumed that he will score. Upon arriving from Alabama as a 4th round pick, Jackson has been known for his playmaking ability and was rewarded handsomely. In his career, Jackson has 184 tackles, 10 interceptions, and five touchdowns. He has also grabbed two pro-bowl bids. A captain of the Bears secondary, he is on track to someday don a gold jacket in the Hall of Fame.
Strong Safety: Harrison Smith, Vikings
One trade in 2012 changed life in the backfield for the twin cities. Since coming from Notre Dame, Smith has been an enforcer in purple, garnering 503 tackles and 23 interceptions while scoring four touchdowns. Smith was also part of the Vikings defense that rode the Minneapolis Miracle to an NFC title game appearance. Though Minnesota failed to host the Super Bowl, Smith proved his worth to the team with five consecutive Pro-Bowls.
Kicker: Matt Prater, Lions
Most players will remember Prater for his record kick against the Titans. Since leaving Denver, Prater has been as steady as they come in the Motor City. In the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Prater set NFL records for consecutive field goal conversions of 50+ yards. In Week 17 against Green Bay, Prater threw a 14-yard touchdown to Levine Toilolo on a fake field goal attempt and was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Punter: JK Scott, Packers
This should come as no surprise as Scott has been steady since being drafted in 2018. The Alabama product made his NFL debut in the Packers’ season opener against Chicago. He had four punts for 192 yards in the 24–23 comeback victory. As a rookie, Scott punted 71 times for 3,176 yards for a 44.73 average. Scott also had one kickoff attempt for 61 yards. His career average per punt is 44.3 yards.
Returner: Cordarrelle Patterson, Bears
The swiss-army player of the division, “Ceepee Flash” can do it all. In 2013, Patterson tied the NFL record for longest play and set the NFL record for longest kick return with 109 yards. In New England, Patterson was a vital part of a Super Bowl championship. Throughout his career in Minnesota, New England, and Chicago, he has scored touchdowns on receptions, rushes, and kickoff returns. Patterson is also the first NFL player to have a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown, a 75-yard touchdown catch, and a 50-yard rushing touchdown in the same season (2013).
Embed from Getty Images