2012 Chicago Bears: 3 Weakest Positions Heading into Training Camp
In Phil Emery's first offseason as Bears general manager, he has gone out and gotten quarterback Jay Cutler new weapons on offense (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Michael Bush) as well as improving both the cornerback position (Kelvin Hayden) and special teams (Eric Weems and Blake Costanzo).
Despite Emery's improvements there are still major weaknesses on a team that is expecting to not only contend for the division but also for a Super Bowl.
Here are the Chicago Bears three weakest positions heading in to this summer's training camp.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
After many years of struggling to find a franchise quarterback, the Bears were able to acquire Jay Cutler in April of 2009. Although Cutler has struggled at times in Chicago, one of the biggest reasons has been his lack of protection from his offensive line.
For the last few years, the Bears have been adamant in their belief that former seventh round pick J'Marcus Webb is the answer to protecting Cutler's blindside.
Despite there not being many options to replace or even compete with Webb, the Bears remained steadfast and did not add to the position so far in the offseason. Many believed with Riley Reiff still on the board when the Bears selected in the first round of last month's draft that it was almost a certainty that they would select Reiff to compete with Webb. The Bears ended up selecting defensive end Shea McClellin and failed to address the position throughout the remainder of the draft.
In order for the Bears to succeed this season, Cutler will need to remain upright and they better hope that Webb can take the next step and become a more reliable left tackle.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
During the offseason, the Bears re-signed veteran defensive end Israel Idonije as well as drafting another end in Shea McClellin. With their stability at the defensive end position, the Bears released veteran defensive tackle Anthony Adams, failed to re-up with Amobi Okoye and left many to believe the Bears would look for a defensive tackle in the draft.
Seven rounds came and went, and the Bears seemed content with the defensive tackles on the roster: Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, and Matt Toeiana. Before the start of mini-camps, the Bears brought in two veterans, John McCargo and DeMario Pressley, but neither are expected to be much more than depth.
Despite Melton's productive 2011 season, little is known about what the Bears will be able to get out of both Paea and Toeiana. Despite not being the presence he once was, Anthony Adams was a terrific run-stopper and the Bears will likely struggle up the middle without him or Okoye.
If Paea can live up to being a former second round pick and combine with Melton's ability to get to the quarterback, they have the potential to become a very good defensive tackle tandem in the league, but being one of the most demanding positions on the field, the Bears need to find solid depth behind them.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Other than the quarterback position, no other position has been more scrutinized during the Lovie Smith era than the safety position.
Combination after combination has been put on the field during Smith's time, and few have actually been successful. For the third straight season, the Bears have taken a safety in the third round (Brandon Hardin) and appear to be willing to give him every chance to become a starter.
Even though the Bears are very young and athletic at the position, throughout the years it has lacked veteran experience. In an offseason that featured guys like LaRon Landry and O.J. Atogwe, the Bears once against felt better with what they already had on their roster.
Playing in a division with quarterbacks like Aaron Rodger and Matthew Stafford, as well as wide receivers like Calvin Johnson and Greg Jennings, pass coverage is key to slowing down powerful offenses.
The Bears better hope that some combination of Chris Conte, Major Wright, Craig Steltz, and Brandon Hardin can develop into a strong tandem, or they will be left watching Johnson and Jennings catch touchdown after touchdown against them.