Chicago Bears Fill Holes on Both Sides of Ball
When looking at a stadium's all-time record for all-time touchdowns thrown, you wouldn't expect a player from another team to be in the top five.
Every offseason there is talk of the Bears finally going out and getting a top quarterback to head the offense, and every year we are stuck with the same mediocre and perhaps terrible quarterbacks lining up behind center.
But this offseason was different.
The Bears finally did it when they traded for the Denver Bronco's quarterback, Jay Cutler. While this is only one move and only one step towards a Super Bowl Championship, it is probably the biggest offseason move in Bears history.
But what does this move mean for the upcoming season? If this is just one piece of the puzzle, what are the other pieces and what do they bring to the table? With a new quarterback in place, what other areas does this need to improve upon and what polls remain to be filled?
Let's start by looking at the offense; this is still the potential weak spot for this team.
In order to get Jay Cutler in the offseason trade, the Bears traded away two first-round draft picks. That usually isn't a big deal since players still can be found in the second round and those drafted even later can come in and actually make a difference on the team.
However, with the Bears in need of some extra wide receiver help, the trading away of these draft picks became a big deal.
The Bears didn't disappoint on draft day as they use three of their picks on the wide receiver position. The receivers that burst out are Johnny Knox of Abilene Christian, Pittsburgh's Derek Kinder, and Juaquin Iglesias out of Oklahoma.
Iglesias is a 6'1'', 210 pounder who was said to be a great route runner with good size as well as good hands and run-after-catch ability. Jerry Angelo and the coaching staff expect him to compete for a starting position.
While he was overshadowed by an Oklahoma team full of stars, Iglesias led the team in receiving the last two seasons. His last season at Oklahoma was undoubtedly his best. He caught 74 passes for 1,150 yards and had 10 touchdown receptions in his senior year.
Knox was singled out because of his speed (4.34 40 at the combine) as well as his big play ability.
In just 25 starts at Division II Abilene Christian Knox caught a school record 118 passes for 2227 yards and had a Lone Star conference record of 30 touchdowns. His draft stock began to rise after a great performance in the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star game and the NFL combine.
Knox's numbers, despite coming from a Division II school, were enough to impress Lovie Smith who said that he thought Knox looked like a guy who had come from one of the bigger schools. Knox's speed should keep him in the running for a wide receiver position and give the Bears another option returning kickoffs.
Kinder on the other hand, is still trying to recover from a torn ACL suffered in 2007.
In 2008 he returned to catch 36 passes for only 422 yards and three touchdowns. This pick seems like it may be taking a chance on a guy whose numbers diminished after his surgery in 2007. But Kinder is a big, strong receiver and anytime you have a guy like that there is a chance that he can make the team.
So as it stands right now, these rookie wide receivers will be competing for jobs alongside Devin Hester, Rashid Davis, and maybe, Earl Bennett.
Although if two of the rookies perform well in training camp, one of them might be able to take the spot for Earl Bennett as the Bears' third option.
If this holds true, the Bears' wide receiving corps may be young but they will be very talented, and we are just going to have to see how these young guys fit into the offense.
Continuing with the offense, there are a few holes on the Bears offensive line.
The offensive line was decent last year, allowing running back Matt Forte to have a breakout season, but much of the offensive line is aging while some of the younger players are struggling to get a hang of being an offensive linemen in the NFL.
This offseason, to address the issue, the Bears went out and signed offensive tackle Orlando Pace, who is in his 13th year in the NFL.
You have to wonder if this move had more to do with his veteran status than with his current skill set. While he still is a very good tackle, it seems as though the Bears want him on the team to help teach some of the younger guys and to help them improve as a group.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears needed to improve and add to the cornerback position. The Bears secondary struggled last season because of youth and inexperience.
Charles Tillman will still anchor the Bears' cornerbacks but he will have to be surrounded by new faces this season. The Bears are attempting to fill these positions with a smattering of second-year and rookie players.
The Bears drafted D.J Moore out of Vanderbilt to help fill this hole. Moore is said to be a versatile athlete who goes after the ball more like a wide receiver than a traditional cornerback.
His experience as a kick returner also showcases the fact that he has above average speed. In his junior year, he recorded 58 tackles, seven pass deflections, six interceptions, four-and-a-half tackles for losses, one sack, and one forced fumble.
The depth chart seems to be the following: Peanut Tillman, Nathan Vasher, Corey Graham, and D.J Moore.
With the departure of Mike Brown, the Bears have some big, if not injury-prone, shoes to fill. It seems as though this will be mostly done from inside the organization, even though the Bears did draft a safety in this year's NFL draft.
This call will most likely be filled by a combination of Craig Steltz and Kevin Payne, while the free safety position will be once again patrolled by Danieal Manning.
The rest of the defense had some struggles last season, but it was mostly a matter of them not playing well and that should change this season.
The biggest weakness for this team still seems to be the wide receiver position.
Step one was getting a high quality quarterback. Step two will be developing the young inexperienced rookie wide receiver's into viable options for Jay Cutler to throw to.
Last year, while the quarterback duties were not carried out very well, neither were the receiver duties.
This could be a glaring hole in the Bears armor if exposed.
If the rookie receivers perform better than expected and Devin Hester becomes more adept at actually catching the ball, the Bears' offense might look better than last year.
But if we get more of the same from Devin Hester, the rookies will need to step up in order to make sure that our lack of wide receiver depth doesn't cost us throughout the season.
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