2013 minicamp/OTA preview: Looking at the NFC North

USA TODAY Sports

Defensive shifts mark the biggest moves in the NFC North in 2013.

As teams begin the long preparation for the 2013 regular season, the NFC North will boast some new-look defensive names. Now it remains to be seen whether they can fill large, vacant shoes -- and it all begins at team's OTA and minicamp schedules.

When was the last time you can remember a Chicago Bears defense without Brian Urlacher in the middle? What about the Packers' secondary without Charles Woodson? Two decades of combined defensive experience have left the division due to roster turnover, and while both teams have plans to mitigate the loss of their talents on the field, it remains to be seen how their locker rooms will manage without the leadership of Urlacher and Woodson.

The Bears and Packers are retooling their defenses, but it's the Vikings and Lions who are looking for offensive answers. Minnesota has the reigning MVP in Adrian Peterson, but there are still big-time issues at their quarterback position, and Christian Ponder's job will be considerably more difficult without Percy Harvin available. Meanwhile in Detroit, value didn't match up with their need at wide receiver in the draft -- and coming off the worst season since his rookie campaign, Matthew Stafford will need to manage without more weapons.

Chicago Bears

OTAs: May 13-14, May 16, May 20-21, May 23, June 3-6

Rookie minicamp: May 10-12

Mandatory minicamp: June 11-13

Jay Cutler just needs time to throw, especially with Brandon Marshall available downfield. To this end, the team made the bold move to select Kyle Long in the first round in the hopes of adding some much-needed protection. There were murmurs during the draft that the Bears could consider a new QB, but they flew in the face of this perception as they added more talent all over the team.

With the exception of Long, the rookies to watch are second-round outside linebacker Jon Bostic, and fellow linebacker Khassem Greene. The two will be asked to be heir apparents to Lance Briggs and free agent James Anderson (who was signed from Carolina). Chicago elected to pass on scout-favorite middle linebacker Arthur Brown, who would have been a natural replacement for Urlacher -- and they'll hope Bostic can prove an equal talent.

Complete Bears coverage on Windy City Gridiron

Detroit Lions

OTAs: May 21-23, May 28-29, May 31, June 3-4, June 6-7

Rookie minicamp: May 10-12

Mandatory minicamp: June 11-13

Kyle Vanden Bosch is gone, as is Cliff Arvil who's headed to Seattle. First round pick Ziggy Ansah will bring his 3D glasses to the motor city, hoping to bring a new dimension to the defense. In terms of raw potential he has the same upside Jason Pierre-Paul showed when the Giants selected him in 2010 -- now it's all about improving Ansah's technique.

While getting a pass rusher was a need pick, so too was finding another weapon for Matthew Stafford -- which they failed to do. Free agent running back Reggie Bush adds some versatility, but they're still leaning on a 31-year-old Nate Burleson to be a No. 2 receiver -- which could be problematic.

Complete Lions coverage on Pride of Detroit.

Green Bay Packers

OTAs: May 20-22, May 28-30, June 11-14

Rookie minicamp: May 10-12

Mandatory minicamp: June 4-6

Aaron Rodgers is the highest paid quarterback in the NFL, and rightfully so. His constant combination of yards, accuracy, and wins is unmatched. The Packers understand where their bread is buttered, adding two running backs and two offensive tackles to ensure long-term support for their quarterback.

The addition of two rushers changes the face of Green Bay's offense. Up to this point they've been known for one of the league's deepest receiving corps, but allowing Rodgers to work off a true play-action makes them more effective -- if you can imagine it. Some believe they got the draft's two best running backs in Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, and the two backs can complement each other with Lacy's north-south running style, and Franklin's shiftiness.

Complete Packers coverage on Acme Packing Company

Minnesota Vikings

OTAs: May 28-30, June 4-6, June 10-13

Rookie minicamp: May 3-5

Mandatory minicamp: June 18-20

After the first round the Vikings boasted three of the draft's top prospects. Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes have enough versatility to give the defense new looks, while Cordarrelle Patterson was the most raw of the top receivers, but his potential is off the charts.

If these three picks pan out, then the Vikings find themselves in a great position. Until Patterson develops, however, they'll once again need to lean on Adrian Peterson -- especially without Percy Harvin. Trading the talented receiver was a necessity, but it puts a lot more pressure on the league's MVP to return to the playoffs.

Complete Vikings coverage on the Daily Norseman

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