NFC North Notes: Bears, Lions, Packers

     

Bears

Despite being on the field for a higher percentage of the snaps than he was in 2018, Bears RB Tarik Cohen‘s efficiency cratered. Cohen had 500 fewer yards in 2019 than he did the year before as the Bears’ struggles to use him symbolized the overall issues they had on offense. Like the rest of the team, all Cohen can do now is look ahead to 2020 and use the past year as motivation. 

“It was very frustrating not having the season I thought I was going to have,” Cohen said via Pro Football Talk. “I thought I was destined for a crazy year and, during the season, it was real frustrating. I thought it got to me mentally. Looking back at it, it’s going to do nothing but motivate me for this year coming up because I’m only going to look at myself. I don’t look at any other factors out there. I feel like how I play is always determined by me at the end of the day, so I feel like I got things to work on in the offseason”

  • Per the Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain, Cohen’s base salary has increased from $735,000 to $2.147 million due to the NFL’s proven performance escalator for players entering the league later than the second round. 

Lions

Lions TE T.J. Hockenson dominated in his rookie debut and looked like he would silence any hesitancy Lions fans might have about drafting another tight end high in the first round. But that was the peak of Hockenson’s 2019, as he dealt with typical rookie tight end struggles, a concussion and finally a season-ending ankle injury. However, Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez was so impressed with his performance he offered to work with him this offseason. 

“He’s off to such a great start,” Gonzalez said in a media session during Super Bowl week, via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. “And like I said, you just got to keep taking it to that next level and you got to keep challenging him. And hopefully I’ll get a chance to talk to him. I talked to all these tight ends, young tight ends in the league, so if you do see him, tell him to reach out to me because to me that’s what separates the good ones from the great ones.”

Hockenson was still using a scooter to get around as recently as the end of December, but tweeted he was receptive to Gonzalez’s offer. Both actually finished with eerily similar stats as rookies after being taken in the first round — 32 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns for Hockenson, 33/368/2 for Gonzalez. 

Packers

Though it may have ended with a dud, Packers HC Matt LaFleur‘s first season was a rousing success by most measures. Green Bay finished 13-3 and was the No. 2 seed in the NFC which was one of the best debuts of any coach in team history. Packers president Mark Murphy said LaFleur outperformed even his own high expectations. 

“Yeah, honestly, I was a little surprised,” Murphy said via Rob Reischel of Forbes.com. “I was hopeful and I thought [LaFleur] would do well. But, obviously, you look back through the history of the Packers, no other first-year head coach had the kind of success that he did. So that obviously speaks well of him. Obviously with our history, when you do something that’s never been done it speaks pretty well of what you’ve accomplished.”

  • Rob Demovsky reports that Packers receivers coach Alvis Whitted has been fired. 
  • Fansided’s Matt Verderame reveals Chiefs DT Mike Pennel nearly signed with the Packers earlier this season instead of the Chiefs. But Green Bay had an injury at tight end and had to withdraw their offer. 
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