The Chicago Bears have had some key players step up in big ways this year, form all over the field in all different positions. It seems like when one area struggles, the other side helps them until they get going.
When the offense struggles to put up points, like they did against Detroit, the defense keeps them in games and makes it possible to win games putting up just 13 points.
The Bears have stepped up their game in all different parts of the team, and that has all come together for a 5-1 record, and sole possession of first place in the NFC North. The Bears still have to play the likes of Minnesota, San Francisco and Green Bay, but, so far this season, the Bears have gotten the job done game in and game out.
There are a lot of players who have stepped up this season and deserve credit, but there are a select few that have really shown themselves as the most improved...and others who have not.
Henry Melton is a player on the rise, and the Bears should be glad to have him with them.
Last season, Melton had just 24 tackles all season—18 being solo tackles—along with seven sacks and zero forced fumbles.
Through six games in 2012, Melton has 18 tackles—14 solo—along with 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Needless to say that Melton has had himself a monster season so far, and shows no signs of slowing down.
If Melton keeps this up, there's no telling where he can be with the Chicago Bears at the end of this year, and beyond.
Hester has seen his share of ups and downs throughout his career, but none as low as this.
Hester has just 91 yards through six games this season, and zero touchdowns. Hester is a player who has seen increased time at the wide receiver position, but, at return man, we have witnessed the explosive speed and fire power of Hester go to waste as he runs from side to side instead of forwards every time he receives the ball.
This past offseason, the Bears went out and got Eric Weems, a player who's specialty is special teams returning, to help Hester like Knox used to.
If Hester doesn't step it up at return, he could lose the punt returning spot to Weems, something that Hester should avoid at all costs if possible.
Tim Jennings is perhaps the most improved player on the Chicago Bears so far this season.
Last season, Jennings had just two interceptions for a total of two yards and ten pass deflections. This year, however, Jennings has four interceptions returned for 37 yards and has already tied last season's ten pass deflections.
Jennings was doubted all of his early career because of his height, with people saying he would not be able to play at the NFL level because he is too small.
Since then, Jennings has been playing his mind off, getting awarded the Defensive Player of the Month for September.
If Jennings continues to play at the level that he has, there is no reason he shouldn't make the Pro Bowl and that the Bears shouldn't win at least double digits this season.
Nick Roach is a player who hasn't been mentioned a lot this season, and with good reason.
Roach was a victim of Cutler's injury, leaving him to learn new positions in the linebacking core, however that still doesn't excuse the numbers Roach has put up this season.
Roach has just six tackles this season, compared to 30 he had last season in 15 games, and he only has one pass deflection.
While it may be hard to get pass deflections at linebacker, Briggs and Urlacher seem to have no problem getting in and busting up plays, it's Roach who seems to have the problem doing that.
Roach is not a bad player by any means, and he could still come back and help Chicago down the stretch in achieving their ultimate goal this year. However, he still needs to improve his game skills, or else he could be watching the playoffs from the bench this year.
Whatever it is that Hester lacks in the return game this season, he sure makes up for in receiving.
Hester already has 152 yards this season, and is averaging 15.2 yards per catch, beating last season's average. Hester also has one touchdown this year, which may not seem like much, but it is considering that he had one all of last season.
Hester may not have been a threat last season at receiving, but this year he has really stepped his game up. Earlier this season, he asked for the ball more and more opportunities to make plays. Well, as they say, ask and you shall receive.
This is the season that Hester finally breaks out at wide receiver, and becomes a threat in games because he can out run defenders while Cutler just throws bombs to him every game. Hester has been getting better every game, and that's all you can ask out of your players as an NFL coach. Hester is looking to continue this upward trend as a wide receiver, and put up record numbers as a wide receiver this season.