4 problems the Bears must address
4 problems the Bears must address
From O-line to cornerbacks
Dan Pompei On the NFL
If the Bears couldn't be preparing for a Super Bowl appearance, then the thorough beating they endured in the NFC championship game might be the next best thing that could have happened to them.
The Packers are forcing the Bears to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Not everything they see appears as flattering as it did a little more than a week ago.
Here are some of the problems that separated the Bears from the Packers, and some solutions to bridge the gap.
What's the problem? If the team was starting to convince itself the starting five offensive linemen could continue to improve and become a solid unit next year, the Packers pass rush gave them some sobriety. The problem the Bears are facing is the three defensive lines in their division may be the best three in the NFL.
Potential solutions: Olin Kreutz, whose contract is expiring, still can play at least another year. And the Bears really need his leadership. So the team should try to re-sign him.
The Chris Williams experiment at guard is over. He was a bandage at the position, but he isn't stout enough to remain there. He needs to be moved back to tackle and allowed to compete for playing time there.
The team might want to consider moving J'Marcus Webb to left tackle, and probably will. He didn't have a great game against the Packers, but the kid has a lot of potential.
And there needs to be an influx of talent. Either the Bears need to draft a guard/center and sign a free agent offensive tackle, or draft a tackle and sign a guard.
Some decent veterans around the league have expiring contracts.
People will talk about Logan Mankins, but acquiring the Patriots guard seems like a pipedream. Then again, so did acquiring Julius Peppers and Jay Cutler.
Others to keep an eye on include Falcons right tackle Tyson Clabo, Packers guard Daryn Colledge, Panthers center Ryan Kalil and Seahawks center Chris Spencer.
In terms of the draft, there is some depth. If Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey, twin brother of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, is available when the Bears draft in the first round, he would be a good fit because he has played center and guard. The Bears could start him at guard with the idea of moving him to center when Kreutz moves on.
Resurrecting Lance Louis at guard also is a possibility.
What's the problem? The hope was Mark Anderson would provide the counterpunch to Julius Peppers. He was shipped out in October. Israel Idonije developed into a nice complementary player, but he had 1 1/2 sacks over the last seven games.
Tommie Harris flashed at the end of the year, but did not do enough throughout the season to justify paying him nearly $5 million next year. He would be worth keeping around only if he's willing to take a cut in pay.
By the end of the year, it was too easy for opponents to take Peppers out of the game, and the Bears put very little pressure on Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. The Bears need another pass rusher who can burst off the line and can get upfield quickly.
Potential solutions: It's a very good year for defensive linemen in the draft. The Bears will think hard about using their first-round pick either on an end or a tackle who can replace Harris.
Among the ends who could be available when they pick in the first are Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, Ohio State's Cameron Heyward and Pittsburgh's Jabaal Sheard. Most people consider Georgia's Justin Houston an outside linebacker, but he could be a fit in the Bears' scheme.
If the Bears' highest-rated defensive lineman is a tackle who can rush the passer, they can go that route as well. Among the possibilities are Miami's Allen Bailey, Illinois' Corey Liuget, Oregon State's Stephen Paea and North Carolina's Marvin Austin.
The team also should try to re-sign nose man Anthony Adams, a potential free agent.
What's the problem? Most have no doubt Caleb Hanie should be the No. 2 quarterback this year.. But there was little doubt to most this season.
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz, however, appears to be more comfortable with an experienced veteran.
Potential solution: Either Martz has to get on board with Hanie or the Bears have to pay a veteran they can count on. They can't wait until exhibitions to pick up whatever is left over and expect that player to be able to win a championship game.
Among those who could be available are Marc Bulger, Josh McCown and Kerry Collins.
The Bears haven't wanted to pay a No. 2 quarterback premium money because they are paying Cutler so much. But they might have to, even if it means getting by with less at say, linebacker or guard.
What's the problem? The Packers went after Tim Jennings hard, exposing a problem area that had been masked pretty well most of the season.
Potential solution: It would not be wise to go into training camp thinking the Bears are set at cornerback. At the very least, they need competition.
The good news is they have three young cornerbacks with potential in Zack Bowman, D.J. Moore and Joshua Moore. They need to give those players opportunities.
It wouldn't be a bad idea to use a mid- to late-round choice on a corner either, given that Charles Tillman soon will be 30.