Chicago Bears 2008 outlook
It just amazes me how many so called experts are saying that the Chicago Bears are destined for the basement of the NFC North this year. They all claim that Rex Grossman is a terrible choice and should have never been re-signed even if it is only for one more year. And then the Bears go and extend Kyle Orton's contract for another year two days later. And they released their #2 receiver in Moose Muhammad and Bernard Berrian their #1 receiver has signed a contract with the division rival Vikings. Berrian is laughing all the way to the bank too. He's not even close to being worth the money he signed for. Also there offensive line needs a massive overall, and they also need safety help. And just because of all of this, the experts pick them for the basement.
Personally, I don't think any of them do their homework or know what the heck they are talking about. I believe that signing Rex and Kyle was a great move. They will compete for the starting job at quarterback and this will only make them both better and determined to succeed. Plus they both know the system very well and have been with the team for at least a few years now. I think that Rex Grossman will win the job. He has a rocket for an arm and can make all the throws necessary for an NFL QB to succeed. But he has to play smart and not throw the ball up for grabs. Kyle Orton is an excellent game manager, but as far as overall talent, Rex has the edge. Yes, Rex has had some bad games in his career. Some awful games as a matter of fact. But he has a 21-11 record as a starter with the Bears and he helped lead them to a Super Bowl just a year ago. He has had more good to great games then he has had bad games. But people only seem to remember the bad games. I still can't figure out why. I believe that he has learned a lot in the past two years. He started out the 2007 season terribly and was benched. This was the best thing to ever happen to Rex. It opened up his eyes and I think it woke him up. When he came back after Griese's injury, he played very well and very smart. He works very hard and has a great attitude. Griese is now gone with the trade to his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I don't think the Bears will sign a free agent QB, there are not really any out there that would help the team. They will draft a young QB in Aprils NFL draft for the future. Probably in the 3rd round. I don't have an issue with the QB situation in Chi-town.
The next issue is wide receiver. With both Moose and Berrian offically gone, right now there are a lot of worries concering the WR position. Devin Hester was basically a rookie wide receiver last year. I believe that this year he will come around and shine in the mold of Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers. Not to say that he will be Steve Smith or put up his numbers, but will be used in the same way and show marked improvement from last year. Mark Bradley will also return from an injury plagued season. He showed some great promise when healthy and will have a breakout year in my opinion. he also has a great rep with both Rex and Kyle. Hopefully the Bears will re-sign Rashied Davis, currently on the free agent market. He made some very clutch plays for the Bears the last two seasons. And the surprise of the year is going to be Mike Hass from Oregon State, who in watching tapes from both college and last seasons pre-season games, catches everything and really goes after the ball in traffic. He has excellent hands and is a great route runner. The Bears will draft a WR or two in April's draft as well to round out the WR core and create competition in training camp.
As far as tight end, they are set. Desmond Clark signed an extension and led the league in yards per catch last season. And Greg Olsen is an up and coming star in the NFL at tight end. Contrary to popular belief, I think that either Rex or Kyle will have plenty of targets to throw to in 2008.
As far as the Offensive line, which does need big improvement, and I was disappointed that they didn't actively go after a veteran in free agency. There are not really any more available that could come in and fill a huge hole. Now there only option is to draft a top notch left tackle with the 14th pick in April's draft. They already have one of the best centers in the league in Olin Kreutz and a very reliable option at either left or right tackle in John Tait. I know we'll have to wait and see what happens. But they need to do something to fill the holes with some talent or they will have numerous problems throughout the season. Right now, this is the one area that really concerns me. Without a decent offensive line, the running game won't improve regardless of who they draft and rex or Kyle will be spending a lot of time on their backs.
At Linebacker, the best news is that the Bears resigned Lance Briggs. Their linebacking core remains intact and this is huge. They also have two very capable backup outside linebackers waiting in the wings. Jerome Williams and Michael Okwo. The will fill in when needed and occasionally give all of the linebackers a rest on plays here and there. They will also be very valuable to the Bears #1 special teams unit on kickoffs and punts. I know the media is all wondering about Brian Urlacher and the recent neck surgery that he had. But according to the Bears, it was minor surgery and he is recovering just fine and should be at full strength in time for training camp. The Bears have also been talking with Urlacher about restructing his contract and if he wasn't healthy, I doubt they would be doing this. Hunter Hillenmeyer is not flashy, but gets the job done and is very consistent. The LB crew should dominate again in 2008.
One of the main issues last year and going into this season is been running back. The Bears should have never traded away Thomas Jones last year and given the reigns to Cedric Benson. Benson just didn't seem to have it as the lone back. I think he does a better job when the competition is always there. The Bears didn't sign a free agent running back such as hometown product Michael Turner who signed with the Falcons. They will have to look for a running back in the draft this April, probably in the 2nd round. Although if a can't miss prospect is available at the 14th pick, the Bears may snatch him up. The good news is that there are a lot of excellent RB prospects in this years draft. I can promise you that Benson will have that competition in 2008 to keep his motor running and have him looking over his shoulder. After his injury last year , people are saying Benson might lose a step. If this is the case, the rookie they draft may win the job in camp and be the starter. A lot of Bears fans are hoping this is the case. Garrett Wolfe is also an excellent option for a 3rd down back with his speed and elusiveness out of the backfield, but because of his size he is not really an every down back.
In the defensive backfield, safety is an issue. Hopefully Mike Brown will be back and healthy again and be able to play a full season. The Bears defense is a different unit with Brown back there. He is a leader and a play-maker. As far as the other safety spot, they will probably draft one or two in the later rounds of the draft. But they do have a couple of prospects that could develop into excellent safeties in there own right. Kevin Payne showed some great promise last year before he got hurt. Brandon McGowan also showed some flashes last year as well. With a year under their belts they could develop into excellent safeties for the Bears this year. But the key is having Mike Brown on the field and him saying healthy all season.
Of course injuries play a big role in the success of any NFL team and last year injuries just basically killed the Bears on defense and drove them to a 7-9 record just one season removed from the Super Bowl. The inconsistency from QB's Grossman, Griese, and Orton and no consistent running game didn't help matters either. But when the defense is healthy and playing Bears defense, the rest of the team plays better as well. So barring any more major injuries and who they actually draft in April, I think the Bears could rise again to the top of the NFC North. Without Farve at the helm, the Packers won't be the same, The Vikings have spent a lot of money, and a great running back, but no quarterback, and the Lions lost offensive coordinator Mike Martz and have to learn a new system this year. So the opportunity to win the NFC North is there for the taking. All we can hope for is that everything falls into place, the players perform to the utmost of their abilities from week to week and hopefully the Bears can get to the Super Bowl again. And this time Win It!