NFC North Notes: Lions, Jenkins, Udoh, Lowe

The Lions enter Week 18 with a chance to head to the postseason for the first time since 2016, needing a win tonight and help from the Rams this afternoon. Securing a playoff spot would be a testament to their turnaround from a 1-6 start, owing in large part to the play of their offense.

On the other side of the ball, though, Detroit has struggled across the board. The Lions rank last in total defense and are tied for 29th in the NFL in terms of points per game allowed (25.7). That has led to the expectation that a number of offseason moves aimed at shoring up the unit will be among their top priorities.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press identifies the secondary as an area of particular focus with respect to improving on defense (subscription required). A number of starters on the backend (including cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and Jerry Jacobs, as well as safeties Kerby Joseph and Tracy Walker) are already on the books for next season, but many others could be headed elsewhere. Among the notable names of pending free agents is corner Amani Oruwariye, who seemed poised for an extension last spring but has not started a game since Week 8 this season amidst a shift to more of a special teams role. That included being benched in Week 5, a sign pointing to a parting of ways come the new league year.

Here are some other notes from around the NFC North:

  • The Packers took care of an important piece of business recently by extending o-lineman Elgton Jenkins on a four-year deal which could be worth up to $74MM. As a result of the new pact, Green Bay was able to adjust the 27-year-old’s base salary for this season, and reap financial benefits down the road. As Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel details (on Twitter), the Packers’ structuring of the deal will see Jenkins carry a cap hit of only $6.8MM in 2023, a season in which the team is projected to have very little financial wiggle room due to cap spikes from the deals such as those for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, left tackle David Bakhtiari and cornerback Jaire Alexander.
  • Jenkins has a new deal, and could wind up with a new position at some point. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said (via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, on Twitter) that the Pro Bowler could play at any spot along the o-line “down the road.” Jenkins has returned to his familiar left guard spot this year after adding to his time spent as a right tackle earlier in the campaign; he also has experience at center and left tackle dating back to previous seasons.
  • Oli Udoh had been facing misdemeanour charges stemming from an incident in October, but the Vikings guard is now in the clear. Odoh was charged with resisting an officer without violence and disorderly conduct after he was removed from a nightclub during the team’s bye week, but those charges have been dropped, as noted by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert. A statement from his attorney reads in part, “The video evidence and eyewitness testimony we presented to the prosecutor made clear that the allegations in the police report were completely fabricated and Oli was unlawfully arrested.” Udoh had been relegated to backup duty in 2022, but he could see starter’s snaps at right tackle moving forward in the absence of Brian O’Neill.
  • The Bears are set to lose a member of their coaching staff with the regular season coming to a close. Defensive backs coach James Rowe is leaving the team, per ESPN’s Courtney Cronin (Twitter link). This had been his first season in Chicago, after he had also spent time in similar roles with Washington and Indianapolis amidst several college stints. Rowe will head back to his alma mater, UCF, to serve as their new defensive passing game coordinator.
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