The Chicago Bears were 7-3 and on their way to another playoff run. That was until they lost their 2 leaders and best offensive players in quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte. Like many teams, the loss of a starting quarterback and running back was too much to overcome, and they finished the season 8-8, losing 5 of their last 6 games. On a positive note to another injured star, Brian Urlacher should recover in time for next season from a knee injury.
GM Jerry Angelo and offensive coordinator Mike Martz are no longer with the team. Head coach Lovie Smith, offensive line coach/assistant head coach Mike Tice, and quarterback Jay Cutler will meet together to see if Mike Tice becomes the new offensive coordinator, or if they bring someone in from the outside. Chicago will now be in the hunt for a new GM, and a successful GM just became available in Bill Polian. For those of you that don’t know, Bill Polian built up the Bills back in the day when they made Superbowl runs, he took the Panthers to the Superbowl in their 2nd season of existence, and built an elite Colts team that let him go because they didn’t want his son, Chris Polian, to be their new GM sometime down the line. Bill Polian knows how to scout college players and draft well to assemble talented teams, and Chicago is next door to Indianapolis.
The Bears pride themselves in defense. You know about their stud linebackers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, defensive end Julius Peppers is a monster, and Charles Tillman is another Pro Bowl impact player.
They have some holes at safety and would like to add another linebacker to complete the core. With their cover-2 scheme, they rely on pressure from their front-4, led by the aforementioned Julius Peppers. The Bears like the players they have and the depth: Israel Idonije, Henry Melton, Matt Toeaina, Corey Wooton, Anthony Adams, Amobi Okoye, and Stephen Paea. Perhaps they draft another defensive tackle to stuff the middle.
Brian Urlacher covers a lot of ground, using his safety-like speed to drop into coverage and track players down sideline-to-sideline. Lance Briggs is a do-it-all outside linebacker, and they should be targeting an outside linebacker.
In the secondary, they should get ahead of the curve and move their star player in Peanut Tillman. They should move him to the free safety position, and look at what Pete Carroll is doing in Seattle. The next wave of cornerbacks will be the bigger players like Brandon Browner, whom is a Pro Bowl alternate. Another guy of that mold is a name most people are familiar with, Antonio Cromartie. These bigger guys can cover ground on the outside with their length and size and I’m telling you, this will be the new wave of defensive backs and you will see it more and more. As for the Bears, draft 2 big cornerbacks 6-foot and up, move Tillman to roam like Ed Reed, and draft/sign a strong safety to play in the box, since Urlacher acts as the 4th member of the secondary anyways for this defense.
The “O” in Chicago
The growth of Jay Cutler as a leader and a player was fun to watch and that should continue to improve. Matt Forte is expected to get a contract that he rightfully has earned, and they committed to possession receiver Earl Bennett for the next 5 years. They should be getting a new backup quarterback as well.
Wide receiver figured to be another position they will focus on, whether it’s through the draft or free agency, and there are a few names that will be available. If we know anything about the other receivers, it’s that Roy Williams and Devin Hester don’t figure to stick around long, or in Hester’s case, should be used sparingly like Percy Harvin and Darren Sproles. I see a role for Dane Sanzenbacher, he made some plays for the Bears and caught a couple of touchdowns in the redzone.
Kahlil Bell proved his worth and will be the 2nd running back next season. Marion Barber will most likely be let go, but if he remained he would be 3rd on the depth chart.
Chicago has big tight ends that are better blockers than they are receivers right now. Perhaps they add a receiving tight end to the mix. The offensive line had its ups and downs, but moving Matt Garza from guard to center worked out pretty well, resulting in his first Pro Bowl selection. They have young talent in Chris Spencer (1st year with team), Chris Williams (injured), and Gabe Carimi (injured rookie).
I think this team would feel comfortable with Mike Tice as offensive coordinator (he is the assistant head coach as well), and he has worked wonders as the offensive line coach to a young and injury-riddled unit. But to further develop Cutler and call plays accordingly for the strengths of this offense, they should be calling Tom Clements, quarterback coach for their rival Green Bay Packers. Throughout his career, he has worked under Lou Holtz, Mike Ditka, and Bill Cowher. This is the same man that worked with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when he becomes an offensive coordinator, and shortly after a head coach himself. Getting Clements won’t be easy, as several teams figure to give this guy and call and pry him away from the Packers.
Keep in mind, this team went to the NFC Championship game last season, one game from the Superbowl after losing in the big game a few years before. Then they proceeded to a 7-3 recorded before losing their 2 best offensive players. The Bears are close, and just need to get healthy this offseason, while adding a few players at key positions (WR, LB, DB).