Jay Cutler, Brian Urlacher, Craig Steltz?! The Chicago Bears' Starters for '09
QB: Jay Cutler. Cutler is coming off a Pro Bowl year in 2008 throwing for over 4000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Proclaimed to be the first "franchise" quarterback the Bears have ever had, and considering that Cutler's 4526 yards was more than any Bears QB EVER, they could be right.
RB: Matt Forte. Coming off a stellar rookie year, Forte will have to make adjustments with Cutler sharing the backfield. As a rookie, Forte actually led the Bears in receptions with 63 catches. Former QB Kyle Orton was good at checking down and allowing Forte to make catches in space.
Bronco running backs last year only had 43 receptions (spread out among six different players) and that was with Cutler having 616 passing attempts.
So it might take some adjustment for Forte, but in the end, he should be facing much fewer eight men fronts and that is the best remedy for any team
FB: Jason McKie. The Bears are stuck with McKie it appears. While Jason has had his moments, overall he has not been as effective as the Bears would have hoped. He was also the primary player on arguably the worst play in the Bears offensive playbook. The fullback dive. If I never see that play run again, it will still be to soon.
WR: Devin Hester, Earl Bennett. Ah, the Achilles heal of the Bears it looks like. Hester will be one of the starters for the Bears. While still developing, Hester showed the ability to just blow past defensive backs at different times last year.
His numbers were alright, but if the Bears want to win, Hester's development is imperative.
Starting on the opposite side will most likely be Bennett. Bennett was the name most often thrown around when the Cutler deal happened. Bennett and Cutler played together at Vandy and Cutler went back there after his rookie year to throw passes to Bennett for Bennett's pro day.
While Earl has had some problems getting on the field since he was drafted, expect the coaches to give him a chance coming out of camp (unless they pick up someone through free agency).
TE: Greg Olsen. You should also add Desmond Clark there as well, but for the sake of keeping this structured, Olsen will be the starter and after a solid second half of the season last year, look for Greg to blossom with Cutler throwing to him.
C: Olin Kruetz. One of the longest tenured bears on the roster, Kruetz has been a staple on the line for the past decade. The Hawaiian sensation was an almost shoo-in to the Pro Bowl. that is up until this past season when his contribution seemed to drop off dramatically.
He is still the vocal leader on the line, on the offense, and in the locker room. And look for another couple solid years out of him, especially with the more mobile Cutler behind him.
G: Josh Beekman, Frank Omiyale. That means veteran player Roberto Garza will be relegated to a back up role. Beekman surpassed all of the expectations last year becoming a reliable starter in place of Terrance Metcalf.
Omiyale was picked up from the Carolina Panthers' practice squad and while he has had limited opportunities, most scouts around the league anticipate that he will be a consistent starter.
T: Orlando Pace, Chris Williams. If we did not have a major hole at receiver, this position might still warrant some worry. Pace was a Pro Bowl player for many years while with the Rams, but now at age 33, coming off three straight seasons of injuries, and moving to protect the QB's blindside at LT, you worry about his overall durability and his quickness.
And speaking of durability, Chris Williams missed almost the entire season in 2008 due to back problems. That and his lack of experience should make Bear fans shift uneasily on every 3rd-and-9 play.
SS: Kevin Payne. Payne is a lock and has shown some exceptional skills at strong safety. Occasionally he misses a tackle, but he will only get better with the more games he plays and his general pass coverage has improved.
FS: Craig Steltz. Steltz is listed at free safety just because there is a lack of other options (the only other one being free agent pick-ups Glenn Earl, who hasn't played a game in two years, and Josh Bullocks).
This would also be an area of concern and has already had Bear fans speculating which safety could be available come the third or fourth round.
WLB: Lance Briggs. Briggs is the best linebacker on the team. He has gotten better and better each year and is developing into one of the top five linebackers in the NFL. At somepoint, once Brian is ready, you have to figure he will make the move to middle linebacker.
MLB: Brian Urlacher. Urlacher is no longer the dominate force of old. He has trouble shedding blockers and nagging injuries have seemed to slow him down just a step. That said, he is still the quarterback of the defense. He is still capable of great things, and knowing the No. 54 is patrolling the middle of the field makes me feel good.
SLB Nick Roach. While Briggs and Urlacher's names are etched in stone at their positions, Roach has competition coming from Hunter Hillenmeyer and arguably Jamar Williams, who was supposed to replace Briggs when he left a couple years ago.
Roach replaced Hunter midway through last season and while Roach has played well, he has to feeling the heat. Hopefully that drives him to be even better.
DE: Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye. Brown should have been given the MVB award last year if it was not for Forte. He was spectacular coming off the end in both pass rush and run stopping.
Wale however, continues to get old and has not come anywhere near the 15 sacks he recorded before the Bears traded for him. Look for Mark Anderson to push him or even super sub Israel Idonije.
DT: Tommie Brown, Dusty Dvoracek. Tommie needs to bring it this year after a bad season, both statistically and mentally. End of story. Dusty is listed as a starter just because I had to put someone.
Look for competition from Anthony Adams and the best candidate, Marcus Harrison due to Dusty's continual injury problems. Regardless, there will be a constant rotation at DT throughout the season and throughout every game to keep them fresh.
So are we happy? Right now there are gaping holes at receiver and arguably safety and quite a few questions on that offensive line.
Free agency should bring in at least one receiver who will be able to compete with Bennett for a starting role. Former Bear Brandon Lloyd is still available, as are a multitude of mid range ability receivers who might not be long term solutions, but should be able to stop the bleeding.
The Bears are also almost guaranteed to select a college receiver in the early rounds of the draft.
Safety and offensive lines are a concern to me because they do not appear to be as big of concerns to others. Listed as a safety on our roster currently is: Craig Steltz, Kevin Payne, Cameron Worrell, Glenn Earl, and Josh Bullocks...Need I say more.
While there is some guarded hope, the offensive line just seems either old or inexperienced.
Signing Cutler should not be the end of the moves...It should be the beginning.
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