Chicago Bears: What Needs to Be Done to Become Contenders in NFC North?
Everyone knows about the big time offseason acquisition of WR Brandon Marshall. But does that move alone make the Bears automatic contenders in the tough NFC North Division? What else can be done to help the team make a run at the division title and prevent the arch rival Green Bay Packers from winning the division title in back to back seasons?
Well for starters, the WR position was improved tremendously this offseason. With the addition of Brandon Marshall, and the pick of Alshon Jeffrey in the draft, the Bears now have the depth at the WR that they have always needed—not to mention, Earl Bennet and Devin Hester (and Johnny Knox, when and if he can get back to full health).
At quarterback, the Bears did well again. By going out and signing Jason Campbell as well as bringing back Josh McCown, they have taken the right steps to prevent another Caleb Hanie-like incident should starter Jay Cutler go down again this season.
So, with those additions, they should be all set, right?
Well, not so fast. There is one area that the Bears are still weak in that could prove to be costly if not addressed before the start of the season: secondary.
With the exception of Charles Tillman, the Bears are thin in their secondary to say the least. Ever since Mike Brown left the team, they have struggled to find a decent replacement at safety. And at cornerback, Tillman was the only bright spot. Granted, Cory Graham did make the pro bowl, but that was mostly for his contributions on Special Teams, and he is gone now. So the Bears are looking pretty depleted in the secondary right now.
In the draft, the Bears, lead by new GM Phil Emery, took steps in the right direction, though some of the picks left Bears fans scratching their heads. In the third round, they picked up safety Brandon Hardin, who is a free safety out of Oregon State. Hardin, while a decent player in college, did only play five games last season due to injury for the Beavers.
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The Bears do need help at safety, no doubt.
However, they can't afford another draft pick who has high expectations and gets injured shortly into his rookie season, like Chris Williams or Gabe Carimi. This move was in the right direction as far as team needs, but Emery really took a risk drafting somebody who has played so little as of late.
In the sixth and seventh rounds, the Bears again decided to try and improve the secondary, by drafting Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy, both cornerbacks. But how well do the Bears expect them to do?
Most players drafted so late rarely even make the roster, so it is no guarantee that these two will be any exception. The Bears are in dire need of help at corner, but waiting until the sixth round to try and improve the position is another Emery move that left fans with more questions than answers. The Bears need to get a veteran player at corner—someone who has experience and can help the team compete and be effective THIS SEASON, not in seasons down the road.
All of the pieces are in place for the Bears to make a run at the division title, but there is no way that they will ever win it with holes all over the secondary, especially when they have to go against not only Aaron Rodgers twice a season, but also the dynamic duo of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson twice a season as well.
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This means that any team who wants to be competitive and win the division will need to have a secondary that doesn't leave fans cringing and closing their eyes every time an opposing passer goes deep. Last season on multiple occasions, the Bears would have won games had they had a better secondary.
One specific game was against the Kansas City Chiefs, where a Hail Mary pass before halftime proved to be the difference maker as the Chiefs won by a final score of 10-3. If the Bears want to beat the Packers, Lions and Vikings this year, they are going to need a secondary that is able to take away the threat of the long ball and force teams into the arms of Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers on the ground.
Football is a team sport. And without every person at every position playing at a high level, the whole team is going to end up suffering from it.
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