NFC North Preview: Chicago Bears
By Ross Husson
I’ll continue my series of previews of NFC North teams with the Chicago Bears. If you missed my preview of the Vikings, you can read it here. The Bears finished last season one game away from the Super Bowl. The story of the NFC Championship game was the mysterious departure of Jay Cutler in the third quarter. Cutler faced tons of criticism from Bear fans for not being “Chicago tough”.
The biggest need for the Bears in the offseason was to strengthen their offensive line. Chicago allowed the most sacks in the entire league last year including giving up ten sacks to the Giants in which Jay Cutler got knocked out of the game. The Bears spent their first-round selection on right tackle Gabe Carimi. Before training camp, the Bears let go of veteran and six time Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz. The Bears signed former Seahawks center Chris Spencer to replace Kreutz. In their first preseason game against the Bills, the offensive line was dismal. Bears fans started to panic but after watching Monday’s game against the Giants, they can feel more confident. All eyes were on the offensive line for the preseason game and they performed pretty well. The pass protection was great but they did have some struggles establishing a running game.
Speaking of the running game, the Bears have some serious depth at the running back position. The Bears return Matt Forte, who had a decent season last year, and Chester Taylor. They also brought in Marion “The Barbarian” Barber after he spent six seasons with the Cowboys. However, don’t expect Barber to get that many touches outside of the area that the Bears struggled last year, the redzone.
The Bears got another ex-Cowboy in the offseason, our old friend, Roy Williams. Roy Williams has disappointed so far in the preseason, he has not caught a pass yet. I watched him drop two passes in the first two possessions on Monday which caused two three-and-outs. Consequently, Williams is taking heat from the Chicago media and analysts. Roy Williams is ahead of Johnny Knox who lead the team in receptions in 2010. A lot of fans are calling for a switch to put Forte ahead of the veteran Williams. Also, the Bears lost TE Greg Olsen, a big piece to their passing game in recent years, to the Carolina Panthers.
On defense, the Bears struggled and allowed 41 points against the G-Men on Monday. Lovie Smith was not happy after the game and starting using sarcasm describing the performance of the defense. Bear fans shouldn’t worry, they still have Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. Defensive end, Julius Peppers, put a lot of pressure on Eli Manning in the opening series of the game. Peppers anchors the defensive line that includes Israel Idonije, Henry Melton, Anthony Adams, and new acquisition Vernon Gholston. An area of concern for Chicago is the secondary especially Major Wright. Major Wright, second-year pro out of Florida, played pretty poor against the Giants including completely whiffing on an attempted tackle on Brandon Jacobs.
The Bears got pretty lucky last year, they won seven games by seven points or less (including two games the Lions should have won). They were kind of the opposite of the Lions who were extremely unlucky in 2010. The Bears season depends on the offensive line. If they can’t perform, the Bears are in trouble. Until they do, I don’t think the Bears are going to do nearly what the did last year. Starting the season with the Falcons, Packers, and Saints doesn’t help either.
My prediction for the 2011 Chicago Bears: 8-8, 2nd in NFC North