Insiders

Players Ready to Breakout in the NFC North

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As we end our series of players likely to breakout this upcoming season, we’re invading the prestigious NFC North. After dominating the NFC North for the few past years, the Green Bay Packers finished second in the division this past season, as the Minnesota Vikings took the crown.

With Green Bay primed to snatch the division title back, there’s four key players in the division ready to burst into the spotlight this winter.

Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers – After a less than stellar rookie campaign, it was setup for Devante Adams to have a breakout sophomore season, but that simply wasn’t the case.

The 23-year-old receiver only caught 50 passes for 483 yards with one touchdown to boot.

Those low numbers are so surprising because with Jordy Nelson out for the season, Adams was suppose to be Aaron Rodgers legitimate second option behind Randall Cobb.

However, to his defense, Adams was battling a sprained ankle that cost nearly four full games. Not to mention, he missed the playoff loss at Arizona due to a knee injury.

Nonetheless, head coach Mike McCarthy fully believes in Adams.

“You look at his rookie year, he was drawing the [No. 3 cornerback] a lot of the time and had a lot of success,” McCarthy explained. “Now you get out there and you’re drawing the first or second guy, it’s a different battle. He has it in his body, he has it in his heart and I look for him to come back in better shape than ever. Work ethic and everything needs to go, the understanding of the position, understanding as far as the relationship with the quarterback. I look for him to take that next step and I have all the confidence that he will.”

With Nelson back, a lot of the focus will shy away from Adams, which should spring him free more often than not.

Tahir Whitehead, OLB, Detroit Lions – Two years ago, Tahir Whitehead played middle linebacker for most of the season when Stephen Tulloch tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

During that 2014 season, Whitehead experienced his best season to date where he totaled 86 tackles to go along with two interceptions and five passes defended.

On the flip side, last season was a step back for Whitehead as he was asked to go back to outside backer with the return of Tulloch. Opportunities were slim to none early on in the 2015 season as Whitehead lost his starting job.

Having said that, Whitehead has re-signed with Detroit, which most likely means he’ll be going back to being their starting mike backer.

“I believe it gives me the opportunity to utilize my speed and coverage ability, be in the middle of the defense,” Whitehead stressed. “And over the last two years I’ve gotten comfortable with getting the call with the sideline and giving it to the defense. And just that comfort level has definitely gotten better.”

Considering Whitehead will be in his comfort zone this year, expect a monster year.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings – When Teddy Bridgewater was drafted two years ago, expectations were very high for the Louisville product.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, Bridgewater has been nothing more than a game manager thus far. After two years, he has a touchdown to interception ratio of 28 to 21.

Despite his unimpressive numbers, it’s important to note Bridgewater was sacked 45 times last season, which ranked as the eighth most sacks allowed.

The acquisitions of Alex Boone and tackle Andre Smith should help in that department.

Even with more time in the pocket, it’s essential for Bridgewater to gain more chemistry with his receivers, which is why he constructed informal workouts in his home state of Florida.

Minnesota’s leading receiver from last year, Stefan Diggs, enjoyed the time together with his quarterback.

“Everything went smooth,” Diggs mentioned. “This was the first time everybody got together as a group. Everybody getting in a little earlier than usual. Spending that quality time with your guys is going to pay off in the long run.”

Year three for a quarterback is when you typically expect to see a major stride in performance.

Bridgewater is on the clock.

Jeremy Langford, RB, Chicago Bears – With Matt Forte leaving for New York, Langford is ready to takeover the backfield. 

“I feel ready,” Langford confidently stated. “I learned a lot last year from Matt. I think it’s going to help going into [this] season. I’m ready. I’ve just got to continue to learn and get better.”

In year one, rushed for 537 yards on 148 carries.

“I was pleased with my rookie year,” Langford admitted. “Being as competitive as I am, I think there are a lot of things I could have done better. This year I want to try to be an every-down back and really have no reason to come off the field unless I’m tired.”

For Langford to be an every down back, he’ll have to improve upon his 3.6 yards per carry average.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.