At the Beary Least, Cutler Makes Chicago a Contender

Chris MurphyAnalyst IMay 6, 2009

LAKE FOREST, IL - APRIL 3:  Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith looks on as new quarterback Jay Cutler talks to the media  during a press conference on April 3, 2009 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Jim Prisching/Getty Images)

In order for the Chicago Bears to succeed in their 2009 campaign they must stay healthy, improve and perhaps completely change their defense and protect Jay Cutler.  Cutler, however, cannot be the be-all and end-all of this football team. The Chicago Bears did not miss the playoffs last year because of their quarterback. The Chicago Bears missed the playoffs last year because of their defense. 

Last year was a complete surprise for the Chicago Bears in good and bad ways.

Their elderly offensive line held up incredibly, Matt Forte became a force to be reckoned with in the backfield, Devin Hester was a disaster on special teams and their defense completely fell apart with help from Tommie Harris finding Jesus instead of the opposing quarterback, having absolutely no safety help and in no way attempting to stop underneath routes.

This led to a worthless season which could have been a winning season had the Bears been mediocre instead of awful on special teams and defense.  

What there is to be excited about is the Bears have not regressed at any position coming off a 9-7 team. In fact, in most cases, the Bears have highly improved at their positions. Besides the obvious quarterback improvement the Bears have also improved their offensive line, receiving core and their secondary. 

Kyle Orton had a very good season with this offense, so by all probability Jay Cutler should have an even better one. Cutler has the same offense as Orton except he loses Marty Booker (Who cares?) and gains Earl Bennett, who hopefully by now has learned the playbook. 

If Matt Forte can continue to run the ball hard and be a big target as a receiver, Cutler should be fine. Look for Greg Olsen to have a huge year with his new quarterback.   

At offensive line the Bears sub Orlando Pace for John Tait and add a healthy Chris Williams. Orton was sacked 27 times last year which was in the middle of the pack amongst quarterbacks, so that number should decrease with this improvement on the offensive line plus the mobility of Cutler. 

An unsung move by the Bears was signing Frank Omiyale and Kevin Shaffer in case Pace or Williams get hurt. Two very good lineman who can easily fill in if either starter gets hurt.

On the defensive side the Bears added Josh Bullocks at free safety who is better than anyone the Bears had last year playing safety. Unfortunately that is the only change on defense which means players are going to need to step up. The Cover 2 stops the deep ball and the run, if Tommie Harris feels like it, but allows receivers to sit underneath and slowly move down the field. 

The Bears need to better cover receivers and instead of focusing on getting turnovers, just guard their man. Fumbles are great, but how about not allowing receptions instead?  The defense should even more rest than last year with Cutler and Forte running the offense. 

This leaves them zero excuses to allow teams to run up the score on them however, so beware, defense, the offense is no longer your little brother you can blame everything on.

All this adds up to a pretty successful season seeing as the Bears were 9-7 last year and have these improvements to build on plus the fact their schedule is far from impossible and they're in the worst division in football. 

The biggest obstacle once again Bears' fans is that damn Brett Favre. He just refuses to go away.  No matter what you say about Favre's performance last year, he is a big improvement from Tavaris Jackson for the Vikings. What are the chances he ever underthrows Bernard Berrian?  The Bears finish at best 10-6 and win a Wild Card spot.