ESPN Chicago bears Season preview
Expert Picks (Consensus: 3rd)
The Bears finished third in the NFC North last season with a 7-9 record. For more Bears coverage, visit: Kevin Seifert's NFC North blog ... on Twitter | Clubhouse
DIVISION FINISH: 3 The Bears have some interesting pieces, from quarterback Jay Cutler to defensive end Julius Peppers to the running back tandem of Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. But can they put it all together quickly enough to challenge for supremacy in this division? John
DIVISION FINISH: 3 As long as Mike Martz can cut down on Jay Cutler's interceptions and Mike Tice can build a protection scheme for his quarterback, the Bears can present an exciting offense. They'll need more offense because the Bears are no longer built to win on defense. Adam
DIVISION FINISH: 4 It's not the Jay Cutler-Mike Martz relationship that fans should wonder about. Fans should wonder about who is going to give Cutler the time he needs to run Martz's offense. Matt
DIVISION FINISH: 3 A potential surprise team, the Bears will play better than their record shows in the end. I believe in this passing game, and if Tommie Harris and Julius Peppers play up to their immense abilities, Chicago will be fine on defense. Seth
ESPN The Magazine
DIVISION FINISH: 3 Last year's risky investment, Jay Cutler, won't excel in Mike Martz's anticipation-based, empty-formation offense. Not sure the $118 million the Bears spent on free agents this year (Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor) was wise either.
Five things you need to know about the Bears:
1. The weak link of this team is the offensive line: This group struggled last year but is still returning four of five starters to a new scheme that doesn't provide them with much help. New coordinator Mike Martz wants his tight ends and running backs in pass patterns, not helping with blitz pickup. That makes the job especially tough for new line coach Mike Tice, whose early answer has been to retrofit existing personnel. Roberto Garza moved from right guard to left guard, and Frank Omiyale has shifted from left guard to right tackle. But early preseason returns were not encouraging, especially from a pass protection standpoint.
2. Quarterback Jay Cutler has a tough task ahead of him: After throwing an NFL-high 26 interceptions last season, Cutler finds himself in a new offensive system that historically produced higher-than-average interception rates. In short, Martz's system is more of the high-risk, high-reward variety. Even Cutler admitted, "I'm going to throw some [interceptions] this year. I'm not going to lie about that." Kurt Warner once threw 40 interceptions over a 27-game stretch in this scheme.
3. Chris Harris needs to play strong safety: The Bears made safety one of their top offseason priorities, re-acquiring Harris from Carolina and using their top draft position on safety Major Wright. Harris has played both strong and free safety, but at this point in his career, he's best served near the line of scrimmage rather than playing center field. Harris would be a notable upgrade as a strong safety, but for that to happen, the Bears need Wright or another candidate to win the free safety job so Harris can remain at strong.
4. Receiver Johnny Knox is a natural in this offense: Speed is a virtue in any offense, but it's near-mandatory in the Martz scheme. Not only is Knox the Bears' fastest receiver, but he's also an underrated route runner who knows when to slow down and how to break. Early in training camp, he was far ahead of the equally explosive Devin Hester and Cutler was clearly favoring him in drills. That trend continued early in the preseason. Hester has since made some progress, and Devin Aromashodu has established himself as someone who deserves playing time as well. But if the Bears are going to have a No. 1 receiver this season, it will be Knox.
5. The jury is out on middle linebacker Brian Urlacher: A calf injury sidelined the former Defensive Player of the Year in the second preseason game, a relatively minor injury that nevertheless cost Urlacher some valuable playing time after missing 15 games last season. The question is not whether the injury will hamper him this season. It's whether Urlacher, at 32, will ever be an upper-echelon player again or if he is destined to finish out his career as an average player. Other than another injury, we really got no indication one way or the other from training camp and the preseason.
-- Kevin Seifert, ESPN.com
Scouts Inc.'s Fabulous Five
Scouts Inc. has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the season, giving Insiders a leg up on the competition with exclusive grades and scouting reports.
TOP FIVE PLAYERSANALYSIS1. Julius Peppers
6-7 | 283 (Grade: 90) He is explosive off the ball and can use his long arms to control and shed blockers quickly. 2. Lance Briggs
6-1 | 242 (85) His great quickness, speed and agility make him an outstanding coverage defender. He has a good feel for route progressions and anticipates break points well to jump passes effectively. 3. Brian Urlacher
6-4 | 258 (82) Urlacher is still a physical and emotional leader of the Bears' defense when healthy. He is an explosive run stopper and an effective pass defender when not playing with nagging injuries.
4. Jay Cutler
6-3 | 233 (79) He has the physical talent to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league. When he's focused, Cutler can be dominant with his arm strength and ability to throw through small windows.
5. Tommie Harris
6-3 | 295 (78)Harris has above-average size with excellent athletic ability and deceptive strength, but he had the least productive year of his career in 2009.
Grading scale: Elite (90-100), outstanding (80-89), solid starter (75-79), good starter (70-74)
Major Wright: Safety a work in progress.
Summary: Recent trades for quarterback Jay Cutler and defensive end Gaines Adams left the Bears without a first- or second-round pick. Knowing they wouldn't pick until the middle of the third round, the Bears scoured the country for second-level safeties and came up with one -- Florida's Major Wright -- they believe will be a permanent starter by the end of his rookie season. Defensive end Corey Wootton (Round 4), an elite pass-rusher at Northwestern, dropped because of concerns about his knee. The Bears then took a flyer on quarterback Dan LeFevour, a local product whose weak arm dropped him to Round 6.
What to expect: Wright was on track to be a Week 1 starter before a broken finger slowed his training camp progress. He is expected to be healed in time to play early in the season, and it's almost certainly a matter of time before he takes a starting job. Coaches were crowing about his instincts during training camp, and a relatively high draft pick taken at a position of need usually has a fast track to the field. Wootton could contribute as a situational pass-rusher, but the Bears were working this summer to overhaul his technique and hinted he must get stronger.
Project Webb: Offensive line coach Mike Tice likes to take on raw prospects to develop over time, and this year J'Marcus Webb (Round 7) fits that bill. At 6-foot-7 and 335 pounds, Webb has the build to develop into a tackle on either side of the ball. He probably needs to gain some weight and certainty get stronger, but a year spent with Tice as a reserve, or on the practice squad, could put him on his way.
-- Kevin Seifert, ESPN.com
Lance Briggs and the Bears defense will need to shoulder much of the burden for Chicago to compete in the NFC North.
What the Bears do best: Build linebackers.
Is there a position and a team more closely linked than linebackers and the Chicago Bears? From Bill George to Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary to Brian Urlacher, linebackers in Chicago are revered, and the Bears still turn out one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL. With Urlacher coming off a wrist injury that cost him 15 of 16 games last season, the Bears hope that some sustained health will finally visit a defense that has all of the pieces to be great.
Linebacker Lance Briggs has been named to five straight Pro Bowls, just the fourth linebacker in franchise history to do so (George, Butkus, Singletary) and he's led the Bears in tackles in each of the last two seasons. The addition of Julius Peppers along the defensive line -- helping to knock pulling offensive lineman to the ground -- should only increase the opportunity for the Bears linebackers to make plays.
What the Bears need to improve: Protect Jay Cutler.
Cutler didn't help himself by forcing passes into tight spots in 2009, but the Bears offensive line didn't do him any favors either. The Bears brought in O-line coach Mike Tice during the offseason to help shore up the team's biggest weakness -- the question is, does Tice have enough time and enough good players to do it. While the Bears have several moving parts along the line, left tackle Chris Williams, a first-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2008, is the most important key to Cutler's protection. Longtime center Olin Kreutz had offseason Achilles tendon surgery and should improve after spending most of 2009 in subpar health.
The biggest challenge for the line of scrimmage will be holding sturdy in a Mike Martz offense that demands so much out of an offensive line. Martz's old Rams didn't score points because of its skill players alone. They had a firm, physical line that was up to the rigors of pass-blocking. Chicago's crew will have to prove it can do the same.
Which Bear needs to step up: Wide receiver Devin Aromashodu.
While the "other" Devin (Hester) gets most of the pub in Chicago, Devin Aromashodu is more of a prototypical wide receiver. At 6-2 and 201 pounds, Aromashodu has the length to become a dependable player in Chicago's retooled offense. Though he has started just three games in five NFL seasons, Aromashodu offered a few glimpses of his potential at the end of 2009. Over the second half of last season, he caught 24 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns and found himself as one of Cutler's favorite targets. While Hester, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox have more seasoning, Aromashodu's upside should not be overlooked.
Predicted record: 8-8.
The Bears were big players in the free-agent sweepstakes, grabbing Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna, among others, to end a slide of three years without the postseason. So many things have to go right in Chicago -- Martz and Cutler have to click, Urlacher has to stay on the field, Peppers has to live up to his huge contract. With Green Bay and Minnesota as clear-cut favorites, the Bears have an uphill slog.
Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/201...#ixzz0ySkGHQPU
No ESPN "experts" predict us for anything better than third.
I think I find this one to be the funniest though
Bears could sure surprise a lot of people by playing better than their record shows which will land them in third place. DIVISION FINISH: 3
A potential surprise team, the Bears will play better than their record shows in the end. I believe in this passing game, and if Tommie Harris and Julius Peppers play up to their immense abilities, Chicago will be fine on defense. Seth
In other words, the Bears could be a really good team; the problem is most of the other teams are going to be a lot better!
Always hurts to see your team predicted to be a bottom feeder or mediocre. The talking heads are in love with Brett & Co. and Rodgers Packers. On paper, who can blame them? That's why you play the games though.
I think they were spot on about our holes and they are a concern. In my mind, the Bears are going to have to prove something to me too before I pick them to win the division.
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I think people are over-estimating the Vikings. I'm smelling a ho-hum season from them. I think there a lot of factors weighing against them that 'analysts' aren't taking into account.
Last edited by Butka; 09-03-2010 at 09:17 AM.
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3rd or 4th place in our divisions sounds about right.
Eh last year we were the media darling to Win the divsion and peter king even had us going to the SB again, Kinda like being the underdog and doubted, seems to work alot better for this bunch
Originally Posted by chisportsfan
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Agreed, think BOTH the vikes and Packers have serious "D" problems heading into the seaosn and vikes now have the rice/harvin problems on top of it.. Would not suprise me at all to see vikes take a big step back, and the packers in alot of shootout's,,
Originally Posted by Butka
GAY ! !
The vikings have Brett Favre and the Packers have Aaron Rodgers who should tear up the NFC north.
Originally Posted by dabears54
Dream on Bear Fans your team sucks.
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