HEAD COACH: Lovie Smith
Key Additions: WR Brandon Marshall; RB Michael Bush; QB Jason Campbell; WR/KR Eric Weems; CB Kelvin Hayden; DL Brian Price
Key Losses: CB Corey Graham; SL Anthony Adams; CB Zack Bowman; DB Brandon Meriweather; OL Frank Omiyale
Offense: Three big names for the Chicago Bears offense in the upcoming season are Jay Cutler, Matt Forte' and Brandon Marshall.
Cutler is the starting quarterback and missed six games a year ago after passing for 2,319 yards with 13 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
Forte' was injured a few weeks later and also missed the remainder of the season after going for 997 yards (4.9 ypc average) and scoring three touchdowns. In addition, Forte' caught 52 passes for 490 yards and a touchdown.
Marshall comes over from Miami after making 81 receptions for 1,214 yards (15.0 ypc average) and six touchdowns.
Cutler and Marshall were teammates in Denver prior to a trade that brought the quarterback to Chicago three years ago.
The rest of the offense includes backup quarterbacks Jason Campbell (1,170 passing yards with six TD and four INT with Oakland in 2011) and Josh McCown. The running game will also feature Michael Bush, who comes over from Oakland and rushed for 977 yards and seven touchdowns while filling in for the injured Darren McFadden. Also available in the backfield is Kalil Bell (337 yards rushing last year) along with fullback/H-backs Tyler Clutts and rookie Evan Rodriguez, who also plays tight end.
At wide receiver along with Marshall is Earl Bennett (out last season with injuries), Devin Hester (26, 369, one TD), Eric Weems and rookie Alshon Jeffery, who might be a starter with Marshall.
The tight end is Kellen Davis, who had 18 grabs for 206 yards with five touchdowns, in limited chances. Matt Spaeth is also available at tight end.
Up front on the line, where better pass protection (49 QB sacks allowed last year) is a must, is center Roberto Garza, guards Chris Williams and Lance Louis and tackles J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi, who had a lost rookie season due to knee problems. Also in the mix is James Brown, Edwin Williams, Chris Spencer, Levi Horn and Chilo Rachal.
In 2011, the Bears finished 24th on offense (314 yards per game), tenth in rushing with 126 yards per game and averaged 188 passing yards a game, which was 26th overall.
The team was averaging 27 points per game when Cutler went down for the season with the broken thumb and wound up scoring 353 total points for the season.
Defense: The Bears were 17th overall on defense last season, giving up 350 yards per game, with 254 pass yards allowed (28th in NFL) while giving up 96 yards rushing, which was fifth overall.
The 4-3 defense they employ has Julius Peppers (11 QB sacks) and either rookie Shea McClellin (Boise State) or Israel Idonije (five sacks) at the ends. The tackles are Henry Melton (seven sacks) and either Brian Price or Matt Toeaina. Corey Wooton, Stephen Paea, Chauncey Davis and Thaddeus Gibson are ready when needed.
The linebacking unit is set with veterans Lance Briggs, Nick Roach and possibly Brian Urlacher, who is going through a slow recovery from a knee injury suffered in the last regular season game. Others looking to help out include Geno Hayes, J.T. Thomas, Jonathan Williams and Dom DeCicco.
The secondary, which was torched often last year, has Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings at the corners with Major Wright and Chris Conte at safety. Tillman had three interceptions with two returned for scores last season. The Bears picked off 20 passes in 2011.
Others in reserve include D.J. Moore (four picks with one TD return), veteran free agent signee Kelvin Hayden, rookie Brandon Hardin (Oregon State), Jonathan Wilhite, Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters.
OUTLOOK: With Cutler and Forte' back in the fold and some added depth at their respective positions with Campbell (QB) and Bush, the offense should be ready to hum along this season.
Throw in the All-Pro Marshall at wide receiver to go with some of the other weapons (including Devin Hester at kick returning) and this team might put up a lot of points.
After allowing 254 passing yards a game last season, the Bears know they have to improve in that area, especially going against the
pass-happy attacks of Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North.
Head Coach Lovie Smith is a defensive minded coach and he wants to see better things from the defense in 2012, which managed just 33 sacks last season while giving up too many big plays.
Urlacher's health is a concern as well as he is not quite ready to go with the season opener looming, but they do feel good with the personnel they have on defense, especially with the drafting of McClellin for the defensive line.
The Bears should contend in the division with the Packers and Lions and there just might be three teams coming out of the NFC North this year for the playoffs.
An 11-5 finish should get this team back to the playoffs and they might be able to challenge the mighty (and hated) Packers for the division crown. How far they go in the playoffs will rest on the defense and the play of Cutler, who has to stay healthy this year.
Week 1- vs. Indianapolis
Week 2- at Green Bay
Week 3- vs. St. Louis
Week 4- at Dallas
Week 5- at Jacksonville
Week 6- BYE
Week 7- vs. Detroit
Week 8- vs. Carolina
Week 9- at Tennessee
Week 10- vs. Houston
Week 11- at San Francisco
Week 12- vs. Minnesota
Week 13- vs. Seattle
Week 14- at Minnesota
Week 15- vs. Green Bay
Week 16- at Arizona
Week 17- at Detroit