Every NFL team has at least one player on the roster whom they hope is ready for a breakout season in 2014. Who are the NFC North candidates?
Green Bay Packers: Datone Jones
Julius Peppers is expected to help the Green Bay Packers pass rush from the edge, but it’s getting a push from the interior that can truly get things going them. That is why defensive end Datone Jones should see increased action in 2014. His 3.5 sacks a year ago was a promising sign of his ability. Provided he’s in NFL shape and utilizing his experience properly, he has a chance to cut loose with Peppers and Clay Matthews drawing all the attention.
Chicago Bears: Marquess Wilson
Normally a 7th round pick doesn’t generate much buzz. That wasn’t the case for Marquess Wilson. More than a few experts lauded the Chicago Bears for taking a risk on the Washington State receiver, whom they felt had 1st round talent but fell because of issues with his coaches that resulted in him quitting the team. Wilson didn’t see much action in 2013, but thanks to a fierce workout regimen with teammates Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, the 21-year old is poised to be just the latest offensive weapon for the Bears to unveil.
Minnesota Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson
Not to be outdone, the Minnesota Vikings have a weapon of their own expected to take a major leap this 2014 NFL season. Cordarrelle Patterson was deceptively effective as a rookie. All told he scored nine touchdowns on the season, four receiving, three rushing and two as a return man. Expectations are that new offensive coordinator Norv Turner will find tremendous use for him in his quarterback-friendly system. The only question left is finding the quarterback who can get him the football.
Detroit Lions: Darius Slay
Regardless of their collapse last season, the Detroit Lions still boast one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Everybody expects second-year defensive end Ziggy Ansah to thrive alongside Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. However, another name to watch is cornerback Darius Slay. He was surprisingly decent in 13 games for the Lions, defending five passes and making 34 tackles. Early signs hint he’s learned a lot from the experience and looks much sharper in practice thus far. If he has progressed, he should be able to take quick advantage of that stout front.