Comparing the North: Defensive Lines

The Vikings might have not only the best defensive line in the NFC North, but the best in the league. All the other teams in the division have some questions or medical issues in their front faour. We examine the look of the lines as the division rivals get set for the start of training camps.

CHICAGO BEARS

Starters — LE Adewale Ogunleye, NT Dusty Dvoracek, DT Tommie Harris, RE Alex Brown. Backups — DE Mark Anderson, DT Anthony Adams, DE/DT Israel Idonije, DT Marcus Harrison, DE Dan Bazuin.

Harris played hurt most of the season in ‘07 and his performance dropped off after seven sacks in the first eight games, but he is an elite inside player and was rewarded with a four-year, $40 extension in the offseason. There were high hopes for Dvoracek early on, but he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the ‘07 season opener. He also missed his 2006 season as a rookie with a foot injury but is a legitimate run-stuffer if he can stay healthy. The Bears believe they have three starting ends. Eight-year veteran Ogunleye is coming off his best of four seasons in Chicago, Brown is solid vs. both the run and the pass, and Anderson is a gifted pass rusher who slumped last season after a 12-sack rookie season. Adams can play on the nose or at the 3-technique, and he started at both positions last season when injuries pushed him up the depth chart. Idonije can play inside or outside and has the athleticism to help on special teams. Harrison can also play both DT spots and is expected to be in the four-man rotation. Bazuin is looking to contribute as a situational pass rusher after missing his rookie season with a knee injury.

DETROIT LIONS

Starters — LE Jared DeVries, UT Cory Redding, NT Chuck Darby, RE Dewayne White. Backups — E Cliff Avril, E Ikaika Alama-Francis, E Corey Smith, T Shaun Cody, T Andre Fluellen, T Langston Moore, T Landon Cohen, E Claude Harriott, E Victor DeGrate, E Rudolph Hardie.

The departure of Shaun Rogers leaves a huge hole in the middle of the defensive line, which Rod Marinelli has said must drive the franchise. Darby is a veteran who has played in this system before under Marinelli in Tampa Bay. Fluellen also has potential as a rookie. The Lions still lack an elite pass rusher. White is solid on the right end, but he would ideally play left end. The Lions hope Avril can step up as a rookie and use his speed off the edge. Alama-Francis and Cody, recent second-round picks who have not produced much, need to take a step forward.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Starters — LE Aaron Kampman, RE Cullen Jenkins, NT Ryan Pickett, DT Johnny Jolly. Backups — E Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, E Michael Montgomery, E Jason Hunter, E Jeremy Thompson, T Colin Cole, T Justin Harrell, T Daniel Muir, T Conrad Bolston, T Alfred Malone.

Not counting Brett Favre, who ultimately may stay retired, the Packers' only loss from the starting lineup at the end of last season was Corey Williams, who was dealt to Cleveland for a second-round draft pick this year. Williams priced himself out of staying for the long term after initially having the franchise tag slapped on him, but the versatile lineman's absence could be felt for a while. The line, regarded as a strength for its quality of depth in ‘07, was sabotaged by medical issues in the offseason. Jolly (shoulder) and Cole (forearm) were in recovery mode from season-ending injuries sustained late last year and probably won't be available on a full-time basis at the start of camp. Harrell's pro tenure so far as the team's 2007 first-round pick has been notable for considerable time spent in the training room — he needed back surgery in the spring after injuring himself lifting weights. That left Jenkins, who's coming off a disappointing season, to move inside to compensate for the guys missing in action. The situation wasn't any better on the edge, where pass-rush specialist Gbaja-Biamila spent the offseason working his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery. Since a rumored trade for Miami All-Pro Jason Taylor isn't likely to happen, help on the outside to complement ever-steady Kampman is lacking. Thompson, a fourth-round pick, has upside but needs time to develop.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Starters — LE Ray Edwards, RE Jared Allen, NT Pat Williams, DT Kevin Williams. Backups — DT Kenderick Allen, DE Martail Burnett, DT Leger Douzable, DT Fred Evans, DE Otis Grigsby, DT Letroy Guion, DE Jayme Mitchell, DE Brian Robison DT Ellis Wyms.

The Vikings traded their first- and third-round selections to Kansas City and then invested $31 million in guaranteed money in order to acquire Allen. He has had off-the-field issues — Allen was suspended for the first two games of last season after twice being arrested for drunken driving — but he said he no longer drinks alcohol and the Vikings are convinced he is telling the truth. Minnesota also feels Allen's NFL-leading 15.5 sacks and Pro Bowl berth last season were not flukes and is counting on him providing the type of pass-rushing presence this team hasn't had for several years. That lack of a consistent rush is one reason the Vikings have finished at the bottom of the NFL in pass defense the past two years. Edwards will shift to left end to make room for Allen and said he's comfortable with the move because he played base end in college. The Pro Bowl combination of Pat and Kevin Williams should give the Vikings one of the best lines in the NFL. The Vikings were No. 1 against the rush last season thanks to the two big tackles. Robison, who had 4.5 sacks last season as a rookie, will be the primary backup to Allen at right end. Evans, Kenderick Allen, Wyms and Guion, a fifth-round pick in the April draft, will battle for the backup spots at tackle. Wyms, an eight-year veteran, was signed as a free agent and will have an edge in experience. Mitchell had one sack in 10 games last season and would seem to have an inside track to make the roster. Grigsby was added off the Panthers practice squad last season and contributed a sack in four games. The Vikings frequently rotate members of their line to keep players fresh so depth is key.




Viking Update Top Stories

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Starters — LE Adewale Ogunleye, NT Dusty Dvoracek, DT Tommie Harris, RE Alex Brown. Backups — DE Mark Anderson, DT Anthony Adams, DE/DT Israel Idonije, DT Marcus Harrison, DE Dan Bazuin.

Harris played hurt most of the season in ‘07 and his performance dropped off after seven sacks in the first eight games, but he is an elite inside player and was rewarded with a four-year, $40 extension in the offseason. There were high hopes for Dvoracek early on, but he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the ‘07 season opener. He also missed his 2006 season as a rookie with a foot injury but is a legitimate run-stuffer if he can stay healthy. The Bears believe they have three starting ends. Eight-year veteran Ogunleye is coming off his best of four seasons in Chicago, Brown is solid vs. both the run and the pass, and Anderson is a gifted pass rusher who slumped last season after a 12-sack rookie season. Adams can play on the nose or at the 3-technique, and he started at both positions last season when injuries pushed him up the depth chart. Idonije can play inside or outside and has the athleticism to help on special teams. Harrison can also play both DT spots and is expected to be in the four-man rotation. Bazuin is looking to contribute as a situational pass rusher after missing his rookie season with a knee injury.



Starters — LE Jared DeVries, UT Cory Redding, NT Chuck Darby, RE Dewayne White. Backups — E Cliff Avril, E Ikaika Alama-Francis, E Corey Smith, T Shaun Cody, T Andre Fluellen, T Langston Moore, T Landon Cohen, E Claude Harriott, E Victor DeGrate, E Rudolph Hardie.

The departure of Shaun Rogers leaves a huge hole in the middle of the defensive line, which Rod Marinelli has said must drive the franchise. Darby is a veteran who has played in this system before under Marinelli in Tampa Bay. Fluellen also has potential as a rookie. The Lions still lack an elite pass rusher. White is solid on the right end, but he would ideally play left end. The Lions hope Avril can step up as a rookie and use his speed off the edge. Alama-Francis and Cody, recent second-round picks who have not produced much, need to take a step forward.



Starters — LE Aaron Kampman, RE Cullen Jenkins, NT Ryan Pickett, DT Johnny Jolly. Backups — E Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, E Michael Montgomery, E Jason Hunter, E Jeremy Thompson, T Colin Cole, T Justin Harrell, T Daniel Muir, T Conrad Bolston, T Alfred Malone.

Not counting Brett Favre, who ultimately may stay retired, the Packers' only loss from the starting lineup at the end of last season was Corey Williams, who was dealt to Cleveland for a second-round draft pick this year. Williams priced himself out of staying for the long term after initially having the franchise tag slapped on him, but the versatile lineman's absence could be felt for a while. The line, regarded as a strength for its quality of depth in ‘07, was sabotaged by medical issues in the offseason. Jolly (shoulder) and Cole (forearm) were in recovery mode from season-ending injuries sustained late last year and probably won't be available on a full-time basis at the start of camp. Harrell's pro tenure so far as the team's 2007 first-round pick has been notable for considerable time spent in the training room — he needed back surgery in the spring after injuring himself lifting weights. That left Jenkins, who's coming off a disappointing season, to move inside to compensate for the guys missing in action. The situation wasn't any better on the edge, where pass-rush specialist Gbaja-Biamila spent the offseason working his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery. Since a rumored trade for Miami All-Pro Jason Taylor isn't likely to happen, help on the outside to complement ever-steady Kampman is lacking. Thompson, a fourth-round pick, has upside but needs time to develop.



Starters — LE Ray Edwards, RE Jared Allen, NT Pat Williams, DT Kevin Williams. Backups — DT Kenderick Allen, DE Martail Burnett, DT Leger Douzable, DT Fred Evans, DE Otis Grigsby, DT Letroy Guion, DE Jayme Mitchell, DE Brian Robison DT Ellis Wyms.

The Vikings traded their first- and third-round selections to Kansas City and then invested $31 million in guaranteed money in order to acquire Allen. He has had off-the-field issues — Allen was suspended for the first two games of last season after twice being arrested for drunken driving — but he said he no longer drinks alcohol and the Vikings are convinced he is telling the truth. Minnesota also feels Allen's NFL-leading 15.5 sacks and Pro Bowl berth last season were not flukes and is counting on him providing the type of pass-rushing presence this team hasn't had for several years. That lack of a consistent rush is one reason the Vikings have finished at the bottom of the NFL in pass defense the past two years. Edwards will shift to left end to make room for Allen and said he's comfortable with the move because he played base end in college. The Pro Bowl combination of Pat and Kevin Williams should give the Vikings one of the best lines in the NFL. The Vikings were No. 1 against the rush last season thanks to the two big tackles. Robison, who had 4.5 sacks last season as a rookie, will be the primary backup to Allen at right end. Evans, Kenderick Allen, Wyms and Guion, a fifth-round pick in the April draft, will battle for the backup spots at tackle. Wyms, an eight-year veteran, was signed as a free agent and will have an edge in experience. Mitchell had one sack in 10 games last season and would seem to have an inside track to make the roster. Grigsby was added off the Panthers practice squad last season and contributed a sack in four games. The Vikings frequently rotate members of their line to keep players fresh so depth is key.



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