Grading Every Chicago Bears Starter's 2012 Regular Season
The Chicago Bears are done for the year after missing the playoffs for the second straight season. They managed to get to 10 wins, but they will ultimately be remembered for squandering a 7-1 start.
What transpired this year ultimately cost Lovie Smith his job. The defense was strong, but the offensive woes proved to be too much and the team is now looking for a new leader.
At this point, evaluations of the current roster need to take place. There is a split between the offense and defense in terms of the kinds of seasons that the starters had.
Here are the grades for all of the Bears' starters this season.
Jay Cutler: C+
It was truly an up-and-down season for Cutler. He was largely handcuffed by the lack of protection and an offensive coordinator who was completely inept when it came to calling plays.
Still, Cutler had his faults this season. The first Green Bay Packer game in Week 2 was a breakdown on his part, as he had four interceptions. He needed to have a better game on the road in Week 12 against Minnesota, and he was erratic again against the Packers in Week 15.
Cutler played his best football of the season against the Cowboys, Titans, Jaguars and Seahawks. Only the latter team is a playoff team with a quality defense. The Bears lost that game against Seattle at home.
Overall, Cutler finished the season with a completion percentage below 60 percent for the second straight year, and he failed to get to 20 touchdowns again. He did a fine job moving around in the pocket all year while making plays with his feet, but he needs to be more accurate in the future.
Matt Forte, RB: C+
It was a tough, grind-it-out kind of year for Matt Forte. He barely got over 1,000 yards, which is hardly a prolific honor anymore for a running back. Forte also only had six total touchdowns all season and was hampered by injuries yet again.
Yes, the offensive line was bad but Forte still lacked the burst and big play ability that he has shown in the past. He only went over 100 yards rushing three times and had over 50 yards receiving in only one game.
You have to wonder if the wear and tear is beginning to set in on Forte. He struggled to stay healthy and just didn't show the explosion he did last season before the injury.
Evan Rodriguez, FB: B
Injuries forced the rookie Rodriguez to miss all the entire month of October. He was sold to everybody as a smaller pass receiving tight end, but he ended up playing fullback all year and caught only four passes.
Rodriguez could have sulked over his new role but he didn't. Instead, he turned himself into a very good lead blocker who could be a playmaker under a better style of offense in the future.
The Bears needed a go-to receiver. They found him in Brandon Marshall.
The Pro Bowl weapon set all kinds of franchise records with 118 receptions and over 1,500 yards. He also set a career high with 11 touchdowns.
Yes, Marshall had some drops, but it's tough to critique a guy who was the sole big play threat on offense. He had an amazing season.
Alshon Jeffery: C+
Jeffery only played 10 games this season due to various injuries. When he was on the field, he flashed some big play capability but definitely showed his inexperience.
Jeffery struggled to get separation against physical corners and pushed off too often instead of beating his man to the spot. Still, considering that he was a rookie with not a lot of time on the field, it was a decent season for Jeffery.
Kellen Davis: F
Davis was supposed to be an elite tight end who could make plays down the middle of the field this year. Instead, he put together one of the worst seasons by a Bears tight end in recent memory.
The Bears only got 19 receptions out of Davis this year, and only two of those resulted in touchdowns. It wasn't for a lack of effort by Jay Cutler to get him the football. Davis could often be seen dropping passes, week after week. He was a complete disaster all season, from start to finish.
J'Marcus Webb, LT: D-
It seems like a lifetime ago that Jay Cutler was cursing and pushing Webb during Week 2 in Green Bay. It was surprising Webb didn't fall over when Cutler gave him that minor shove.
Webb was bad in every way. A speed rusher was able to go around him with no problem because he can't move his feet, while a power rusher can just go right through him because he lacks the strength and arm technique.
When it came to the running and screen game, Webb gave the Bears nothing either. The only time Webb had success is when the pocket was rolled away from him or when he was given ample help from a tight end or back.
James Brown, LG: C-
Brown is not a guard. He is a backup tackle who was thrust into the role after Chilo Rachel quit on the team. Therefore, Brown did the best he could given his lack of talent and knowledge of the position. It wasn't good, but it certainly wasn't the worst effort on that line this season.
Roberto Garza, C: D
Your center is supposed to be a leader, and a guy who rallies the troops and gets the rest of the line in order. He should be one of the toughest guys on the team as well as one of the smartest. Garza didn't have any of these attributes.
In addition, he was not good when it came to recognizing blitzes, opening holes in the running game and providing support to the guards next to him.
Gabe Carimi, RG: F
This is a rare feat. Carimi was bad at two positions this year. He started the season as the right tackle and was benched only to be brought back as a guard when Lance Louis went down with an injury.
The game he had against the 49ers should be shown to young offensive lineman everywhere on what not to do.
Carimi had some of the worst technique you could find in the league all season. He was not able to move his feat and constantly got pushed to the side. He also had terrible mental lapses all season, committing penalties in bad spots.
John Scott, RT: C
The veteran Scott did an admirable job filling in when he took over for Carimi after the game against San Francisco, but he provided a sense of stability on the right side once he took over.
Julius Peppers, DE: B-
Yes, Peppers had a solid season but there were games when he seemed to just disappear. He still managed to finish with 11.5 sacks, but he had only one forced fumble and two pass deflections this year. Last year, he had four of each, and the year before he had nine pass deflections.
Henry Melton, DT: A-
Despite missing two games this year, Melton had a career high 31 tackles and six sacks. He was a force up the middle and showed great speed and the ability to chase down plays on the sidelines. Melton was honored with his first Pro Bowl selection.
Stephen Paea, DT: B-
Paea is by far the toughest player to put a grade on. A lot of what he does doesn't show up in the stat line but that still doesn't completely let him off the hook in the measurable categories.
He stayed healthy this year, for the most part, and he did a nice job freeing up Melton and the linebackers. Still, he could have had a bigger impact on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Where he can improve is having more tackles for loss. He did manage to get 2.5 sacks on the season.
Corey Wootton, DE: B+
Was Wootton the starter? Absolutely he was. As the season went along, he was on the field more often than Israel Idonije, and with good reason.
The Bears have been waiting for Wootton to bust out as a quality pass rusher and they finally got it from him this year. Wootton's speed rush off the edge caused quarterbacks fits all season. He finished with seven sacks and two forced fumbles.
Lance Briggs, WLB: A-
This was another great year for Briggs. Early on in the season, he was a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate with two pick sixes. As the season went along, he was the leader on a defense that saw Brian Urlacher become largely ineffective due to injuries.
Nick Roach, SLB: B+
Roach is a very underrated player and had an outstanding season. When he played in his usual strongside position, he did what he has done since being a starter and that is shed blockers and funnel runners toward the cavalry.
It was when Roach took over for Urlacher that he really showed his value. Not only is he versatile enough to play the middle linebacker role, but he did it in a more athletic and proficient way than Urlacher did this season.
Brian Urlacher, MLB: C
The injuries really slowed down Urlacher this year. He lacked the explosiveness and big play ability that we have seen from him in past years. In the first half of the season, he was very slow and practically expendable. In the second half, he was better but he was still outplayed by Roach, who took over after Urlacher's hamstring injury.
Charles Tillman, CB: A+
How does Tillman follow up his first Pro Bowl season from last year? He does it by going out and having an even better season in 2012.
So exactly what did this guy do this year? He had three pick sixes and an astonishing 10 forced fumbles.
Tillman was a true game-changer all year and was by far the best player on defense for the Bears this season.
Tim Jennings, CB: A
For the longest time, the Bears have bee waiting on Jennings to be more of a ball hawk, a guy who seeks out turnovers and finishes them. This year, they got nine interceptions from Jennings as well as a Pro Bowl season.
Chris Conte, S: B+
Conte provided true stability to the back end of the defense. He is a guy who is usually in the right spot and hardly gets beat deep. He had some issues with personal fouls during the year but otherwise played smart football all season.
Major Wright, S: B+
First off, it is an accomplishment for Wright to finish the season playing all 16 games. This was the first time in his career that he stayed healthy all year. He was rewarded with career highs in interceptions, pass deflections and tackles. He did well playing around the line of scrimmage.
Devin Hester, KR/PR: D
It's one thing to be shut out in touchdowns when you are the most prolific return man in history, but it's another thing to not even be productive at all when you are kicked to.
Last year, Hester had 12 less punts come his way but managed to have 133 more yards and two touchdowns. He failed to average 10 yards per punt return this year, though, after averaging over 16 yards in the last two seasons.
Robbie Gould: B+
Before the injury, Gould was having his usual outstanding and accurate season.
Adam Podlesh: C+
For the first half of the year, Podlesh was one of the worst punters in the league and was in danger of losing his job. In the second half, he bounced back and proved to be a valuable weapon in field position.