Jaylon Johnson

2023 NFC North Position Rankings: Secondary

After ranking the NFC North’s offensive position groups and the defensive front seven, we move to the final position group and one of the most important in the sport: the secondary.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll select each team’s top two cornerbacks and safeties, according to depth charts available on ESPN.

Where do the Chicago Bears rank among their NFC North rivals? You may be surprised. Check it out.

Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions

Cornerbacks: Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley

Safeties: Kerby Joseph and Tracy Walker III

The Lions spent heavily in free agency on the cornerback position, completely revamping the room as they continue rebuilding.

Sutton and Moseley should raise the floor significantly at cornerback, while safeties Joseph and Walker III hope to build on solid individual performances in 2022.

However, I’m not as high on this group as some are. While a massive improvement from last year’s group, I think these newcomers’ ceiling is still limited. They’re big names, yes. But a recognizable name doesn’t always mean an elite performer.

The Lions’ defensive backs have their work cut out for them. In 2022, Detroit gave up the third most passing yards in the league and tied for the fifth most passing touchdowns allowed. The 94.2 passer rating against the Lions’ defense was good for eighth worst in the NFL.

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings

Cornerbacks: Andrew Booth Jr. and Byron Murphy Jr.

Safeties: Harrison Smith and Camryn Bynum

The defensive struggles for Minnesota continued in 2022, enough that the Vikings fired their defensive coordinator and hired Brian Flores, former head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

In fairness, the Vikings did struggle with major injuries to their secondary last year, with Booth and fellow rookie Lewis Cine missing 10 games and the entire season, respectively.

Murphy is a newcomer from Arizona, where he spent four years. Other than that, the rest of Minnesota’s secondary has been in place for at least one year. Assuming no significant injuries and a superior play-caller in Flores, this group appears decent on paper. But it’s hard to have much faith in them, given Minnesota’s defensive woes in recent years.

Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers

Cornerbacks: Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas

Safeties: Jonathan Owens and Darnell Savage

Let’s make something clear immediately: the Packers’ cornerbacks are pretty good. Alexander is the best cornerback in the division by a comfortable margin, and Douglas is a solid CB2, though his performance in 2022 dipped slightly from 2021.

Looking at the safeties is an entirely different story. Despite a good start to his career, Savage has been downright awful the last two years, even getting benched at one point last year. Owens is a newcomer and has played just one full season in the NFL, earning a 48.3 grade from PFF. And with embattled defensive coordinator Joe Barry returning for another year, it’s hard to believe either player will see a big turnaround for the better.

Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears

Cornerbacks: Jaylon Johnson and Tyrique Stevenson

Safeties: Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker

Unlike the Packers’ dire safety situation, the Bears’ safety duo of Brisker and Jackson is arguably the best in the league. The arrival of the hard-hitting Brisker freed up Jackson to get back to ball-hawking. Jackson had four interceptions and was on an All-Pro course until a midseason injury landed him on IR.

Brisker, meanwhile, led the team with four sacks.

Some malign Johnson for having just one career interception in three years, and that’s a valid criticism. However, Johnson is a lockdown corner who forces quarterbacks to look elsewhere for targets.

Stevenson will be a rookie, but there’s been a lot of hype around him coming out of Halas Hall during OTA’s and minicamp.

Chicago’s secondary caught a lot of flak last year during arguably the worst defensive performance in team history, but I don’t think they could have done any better. With a porous run defense and a non-existent pass rush, Chicago’s secondary was behind the 8-ball frequently. Plus, four starters missed 17 games last year due to injuries.

With an improved defensive front and good health, I would be surprised if this is not one of the top secondaries in the league.

Bears' secondary has most upside in NFC North

Bears' secondary has most upside in NFC North

This was a difficult position group to rank. Minnesota seems the clear basement dweller for now, and despite Detroit’s free agency additions, they’ll need to prove it on the field before rising higher than third in the division.

Green Bay has one of the best cornerback duos in the league but a safety duo that hovers near the bottom.

Meanwhile, the Bears’ safeties are two of the best, but the cornerback room is limited to just ‘pretty good’ plus an unknown in the rookie Stevenson.

With that in mind, despite Green Bay having the best overall cornerback, I’ll give the nod to Chicago’s better overall depth in the secondary, with the Packers finishing a close second.

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