Friday, July 31, 2009
2009 NFL PREVIEW- Chicago Bears
2008 RECORD: 9-7
(2nd in NFC North)
HEAD COACH: Lovie Smith
Key Additions: QB Jay Cutler (trade/Broncos) OT Orlando Pace (FA/ Rams) OT Frank Omiyale (FA/Panthers) TE Michael Gaines (FA/Lions) QB Brett Basanez (FA)
Key Losses: QB Kyle Orton (trade/Broncos) QB Rex Grossman (FA/Texans) OT John St. Clair (FA/Browns) OT John Tait (retired) WR Brandon Lloyd (FA) WR Marty Booker (FA) S Mike Brown (FA)
Offense: Just one name matters here... JAY CUTLER!
The Bears made a huge move trading for Cutler with the Broncos and they are banking on the fourth year quarterback to pay big dividends NOW.
Cutler finished sixth in the AFC in passing a year ago (86.0 rating) when he threw for 4,526 yards with 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He really had a breakthrough year for Denver in '08 and the Bears need him to continue his personal success.
The only problem might be a lack of wide receivers to throw to. The Bears have kick returner extraordinaire Devin Hester in the mix at wideout along with Rashied Davis (35 catches and two TDs), Earl Bennett and Juaquin Iglesias. The Tight Ends are Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark (41 catches for 367 yards and a touchdown).
Olsen (54 catches for 574 yards and five TDs) and Hester (51 grabs for 665 yards and three TDs) both did respectable a year ago while running back Matt Forte led the team with 63 catches and four scores.
Forte, a rookie last season, not only caught 63 balls but also rushed for 1,238 yards and scored eight touchdowns on the ground and 12 overall.
Jason McKie is the fullback and the Bears also have Kevin Jones, Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe available in the backfield.
The Offensive Line will have Olin Kreutz at center, Frank Omiyale and Roberto Garza at guard and Orlando Pace (left tackle) and Chris Williams protecting Cutler and opening the lanes for Forte to run through.
Defense: The defense slipped to 21st overall in the NFL a year ago and the Bears know that has to improve in 2009.
The Bears had the fifth best run defense in 2008, allowing just 93.5 yards per game. But the pass defense was another story. Chicago allowed a woeful 241 yards per game and ranked 30th overall against opposing quarterbacks. They had just 28 sacks but did intercept 22 passes, which ranked tied for third in the NFL.
Up front, the Bears will feature Tommie Harris and Anthony Adams at the tackle positions and Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown at defensive end.
The linebackers are Brian Urlacher in the middle and Lance Briggs and Nick Roach on the outside. Hunter Hillenmeyer and Marcus Freeman are also ready to step up in '09.
Corey Graham, Nathan Vasher, Zack Bowman, Trumaine McBride and Charles Tillman are the cornerbacks. Tillman will begin the 2009 season it appears, on the injured list.
The safeties are Kevin Payne and Josh Bullocks with Craig Steltz and Glenn Earl ready to play as well.
One thing for sure, the secondary has to be better in 2009 for the team to improve and get back to the playoffs.
OUTLOOK: For the Bears to contend and possibly win the NFC North and a post-season playoff berth, they need better defense overall (especially against the pass) than they had in 2008. The offense, led by Cutler, also needs to step up and show the NFL they mean business.
Playing in the "black and blue" division known as the NFC North, the Bears have to battle the Vikings and Packers for the division crown and also be somewhat cautious with the Lions, a team that nearly beat them in Chicago last November.
If Cutler puts up similar numbers to a year ago, watch out. If not, and that's a real possibility with the untested receivers he has compared to Denver, the Bears will have to battle for everything they can get on offense.
Cutler's rifle arm will open up the offense and keep opponents honest on defense. Most teams simply line up "eight in the box" when playing the Bears, but with a QB of Cutler's ability, that won't be the case in '09.
Bears' fans will be wowed by Cutler's abilities and they also may get frustrated as well when he throws inopportune picks, which has been his short coming early in his career.
Forte was a great rookie running back last season and barring injury, should continue with more of the same.
The defense will also need to improve against the pass and get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season for things to go the Bears' way.
The playoffs are a possibility as the team schedule really is favorable for the Bears. A division title depends on the head-to-head games against Minnesota and Green Bay.
A 10-6 finish is not out of the question, which would get the Bears into the playoffs.
Week 1- at Green Bay (Sept. 13)
Week 2- vs. Pittsburgh (Sept. 20)
Week 3- at Seattle (Sept. 27)
Week 4- vs. Detroit (Oct. 4)
Week 5- BYE WEEK
Week 6- at Atlanta (Oct. 18)
Week 7- at Cincinnati (Oct. 25)
Week 8- vs. Cleveland (Nov. 1)
Week 9- vs. Arizona (Nov. 8)
Week 10- at San Francisco (Nov. 12)
Week 11- vs. Philadelphia (Nov. 22)
Week 12- at Minnesota (Nov. 29)
Week 13- vs. St. Louis (Dec. 6)
Week 14- vs. Green Bay (Dec. 13)
Week 15- at Baltimore (Dec. 20)
Week 16- vs. Minnesota (Dec. 28)
Week 17- at Detroit (Jan. 3)