Chicago Bears ’09 Quick Hits
Why the Bears have a chance to recapture their Super Bowl form.
2008: 9-7 (2nd NFC North)
Head Coach: Lovie Smith (6th year)
Roster Quick View (*new veteran, **rookie)
Offense (coordinator: Ron Turner)
QB: Jay Cutler*
Has a rifle for an arm and all the other physical tools to be a great passer. So is he the next Dan Marino or the next Jeff George?
RB: Matt Forte
Second-year pro who plays the game like a sage veteran. There isn’t a smoother runner in football.
RB: Kevin Jones
Expected to be a regular contributor now that he’s gone through his ups and downs coming off ’07 knee surgery.
FB: Jason McKie
Prideful player who loves to bring a pop as a lead-blocker.
WR: Devin Hester
Wanna know why he’s so raw as a wide receiver? Because he’s actually a return specialist!
WR: Earl Bennett
Set the SEC career receptions record in just three years at Vanderbilt. Then, caught zero passes as a third-round rookie last season.
WR: Rashied Davis
Good quickness and open-field adeptness could make him a solid No. 2. But he must hone his route running.
TE: Greg Olsen
Expected to be Cutler’s go-to target. Has adequate strength in his long, supple frame. Confidence seems to waver at times, though.
TE: Desmond Clark
Has the quickness of an armadillo, but catches just about everything you throw him. Large lower-body makes him a viable blocker, too.
LT: Orlando Pace*
Future Hall of Famer signed here for less money because Chicago was willing to keep him at LT. The reality is, he’s lost a step and should be on the right side.
LG: Frank Omiyale*
A tackle by trade who has dabbled in guard. Played in just 11 games (1 start) in four years as a Panther. Why, exactly, have the Bears treated him like a veteran cog?
C: Olin Kreutz
At 32, still has excellent power in the phone booth and gets great movement on the ground.
RG: Roberto Garza
Poor quickness limits his range and mobility. That said, he’s survived as a starter for the better part of the last five years now.
RT: Chris Williams
Back surgery spoiled his ’08 rookie season. He has some talent––players don’t get drafted 14th overall for nothing.
6 OL: Kevin Shaffer
Scrappy veteran, but he badly hurt the Browns at RT last season.
Defense (coordinator: Bob Babich)
LDE: Adewale Ogunleye
Is only 32 but doesn’t seem to still have the quickness needed to ferociously finish plays. Bears should implement more of a rotation with Israel Idonije here.
DT: Tommie Harris
Far and away the best DT in football a few years ago. Injuries have since slowed him, though if healthy, he has the all-around quickness to once again be unstoppable.
NT: Dusty Dvoracek
Intriguing fourth-year player who fights hard and shows fantastic strength taking on blocks. Can’t stay healthy, though.
RDE: Alex Brown
Known as a speed-rusher, but he’s actually been a better run-defender in recent years.
3 DE: Mark Anderson
Someone explain this: 12 sacks as a rookie in ’06, five sacks in ’07 and just one sack in ’08. The guy hasn’t lost his quickness, but he’s certainly lost something.
3 DT: Marcus Harrison
Hardworking second-year pro who has potential as a significant rotational piece. Must do a better job untangling from offensive linemen.
SLB: Pisa Tinoisamoa*
Fantastic all-around speed, but really more of a weakside linebacker. Still, might be too gifted to sit.
MLB: Brian Urlacher
Was just an average football player in 2008. You wonder if neck and back problems have permanently hampered the 31-year-old. Probably shouldn’t bet against him just yet.
WLB: Lance Briggs
Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but if bulbs could move, he’d certainly be the most athletic.
4 LB: Nick Roach
Did a good job taking over for Hunter Hillenmeyer as the starting SLB last season. Good speed and acceleration.
CB: Charles Tillman
Chicago’s most physical cover artist. But shoulder rehab sidelined him for chunk of the offseason, and back surgery wiped out his training camp.
CB: Nathan Vasher
Has missed 20 games with hand and groin injuries over the last two years. When he has been in, his technique and instincts have been alarmingly rusty.
NB: Corey Graham
Maturing third-year player who has gotten picked on less and less as his experience builds.
SS: Kevin Payne
Can play FS, but at his best as a physical run-defender in the box.
FS: Danieal Manning
Hard to understand why his outstanding speed and agility have not translated into better range in coverage.
6 DB: Craig Steltz
Fourth-round rookie in ’08; could develop into a poor man’s Mike Brown.
K: Robbie Gould
Has been consistently accurate even in the gales of Soldier Field.
P: Brad Maynard
Left 40 punts inside the 20-yard-line last season, second most in NFL history.
RS: Devin Hester
The best of all time….if he doesn’t have to play wide receiver, apparently.
Offseason Quick Glance
RD PK (OVR) NAME POS SCHOOL
KEY PLAYERS ACQUIRED
FS Josh Bullocks: UFA Saints; 1 yr, $525,000 guaranteed.
QB Jay Cutler (trade Broncos).
TE Michael Gaines: FA Lions; terms unknown.
OT Frank Omiyale: UFA Panthers; $11.5M/4 yrs, $5.5M SB.
OT Orlando Pace: FA Rams; $15M/3 yrs, guarantees unknown.
OT Kevin Shaffer: FA Browns; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
KEY PLAYERS LOST
WR Marty Booker (released).
S Mike Brown (FA)
S Brandon McGowan: UFA Patriots; terms unknown.
OG Terrence Metcalf (released).
QB Kyle Orton (Traded Broncos).
T/G John St. Clair: UFA Browns; $9M/3 yrs, $600,000 guaranteed.
OT John Tait (retired).
Needless to say, the Bears’ offseason was about one man. Jay Cutler will determine the next 10 years for this organization. Cutler came at a hefty price (two first-round picks, a third-rounder, QB Kyle Orton, plus Chicago will likely have to give the ex-Bronco a new contract sometime before his current deal expires in 2011). Superstar quarterbacks are as rare as white owls in pro football, so Chicago can’t be disparaged for taking such a lofty risk. But what’s alarming is that much of the risk is due to Cutler’s questionable attitude. Ask yourself, which of his Broncos teammates actually defended him during the ugly Josh McDaniels rift?
Cutler won’t begin to have as good of pass protection in Chicago as he did in Denver, though the addition of LT Orlando Pace at least makes matters less dire. These days Pace is better suited for the right side, but he won’t be asked to play there. That might leave the job open for Kevin Shaffer, who is a step down from the retired Jon Tait.
Every year we hear GM Jerry Angelo defend this mediocre wide receiving corps. The fact of the matter is, the Bears need more talent here, and it’s doubtful that third-rounder Juaquin Iglesias will be enough. (Fifth-rounder, Johnny Knox, a 4.29 speedy guy from tiny Abilene Christian, will have a learning curve to overcome.) With over $20 million in available cap space, one can’t help but wonder whether Chicago should have gone after Anquan Boldin harder.
Drafting DT Jarron Gilbert in Round Three was a good move. He was highly productive at San Jose State, plus current starters Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek can’t stay healthy. It’s worth noting that virtually all of Chicago’s draft picks had extensive starting experience in college.
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