Following the draft, the Bears have made some interesting acquisitions they hope will give them a wider pool in training camp to choose from for those holes left unfilled.
Realistically, however, the holes at receiver, safety and in the depth chart are quite obvious and will continue to shine until the preseason gets into full swing—when the coaches (along with the public) get to weigh in on whether they can be filled or how bad they will be exposed.
Still, the Bears have stocked up on viable options in most positions.
For example, the Bears currently have almost a full offense of wide receivers alone on the roster with ten:
Derek Kinder *
Eric Peterman *
Devin Hester (listed as PR/KR on website)
Granted, there isn’t too many names on this list that many outside their own families would openly recognize, let alone as a wide receiver. But having a pool of ten receivers (ranging in size and caliber) to choose from to find and NFL-ready gem would make any coordinator content.
“[I’m] really pleased with all of them, in every aspect—the mental part, the learning part of it, physically,” Ron Turner said in an interview for the team website about the three rookie receivers.
“The number one thing they all did that jumped out at us was they caught the ball really well," he said.
With these ample numbers, the team still should look to plug these holes at receiver in a number of ways.
First, they can take these guys to training camp and squeeze the best four, six, eight into the regular season, plain and simple as usual. As we’ve seen time and again, all it takes is a couple to make a good offense. And to think that Devin Hester and Earl Bennett have not progressed is simply absurd.
Of course, Derek Kinder, Juaquin Iglesias, and Johnny Knox were all drafted, just in case, to make impacts as well.
Though this would sacrifice his amazing skills at returner, perhaps the best idea for Devin Hester to fill his role as receiver—and the need for a number one receiver altogether—is to keep him off of special teams—something unimaginable several years ago when they represented the NFC in Super Bowl XLI.
If Lovie decides to cut those extras, perhaps Darrell Jackson is an option off free agency. He’s a decent receiver who acquired some chemistry with Cutler in Denver. Justin McCareins is another option.
Instead, the Bears could use several of these extras (receivers and otherwise) to pull off another trade before the season begins, as I doubt they’ll keep all ten anyway.
Sure, Angelo will not get an Anquan Boldin with even a boatload of these extras. But perhaps a trade for a mid-grade receiver to help out would be adequate. Greg Jennings and Wes Welker were once considered mid-grade, you know.
Regardless of the decision, the receiving corps will either be good or not. Right now the question is how weak of a weakness is the receiving corps?
Let’s say weak, but not as weak as many expect. You see, a good unit can help that weakness. A unit involves 11 men.
Many critics of the Cutler acquisition say that he will suffer from the lack of talent at receiver. In essence, critics look at the effect that this disparity will have on Cutler rather than how Cutler will affect the receivers. Cutler will undoubtedly help the receiving corps with his strong arm and ability to buy time.
Yet, it is not only Cutler with his strong arm who will affect the receiving corps in a good way. Cutler, along with Matt Forte’s success in 2008 creates a balanced attack. Forte’s success out of the backfield will continue to force linebackers and safeties to stick their eyes on the flats, leaving receivers like Hester to fly up the field.
Except, this year, Cutler can throw the big one.
Still, it is up to the new-look line to get results before any success can happen. Chemistry and discipline is key. If the line cannot open holes and, thus, force defenses to stick seven or eight in the box to contain Forte, then the receivers will not get those open opportunities to allow a decision to be made; Did they fill the hole or not?
However, if the receivers can’t run their routes, catch the ball, nor get first downs, their weaknesses on the outside will continue to shine bright—exposed harshly as they were last year. Judging by the widespread criticism the Bears have endured for how they’ve reacted to their disparities at receiver, that hole can be extremely glaring.
On the defensive side of the ball, nine linebackers join nine cornerbacks on the roster. Options are aplenty for defensive coordinator Bob Babich, too.
After Mike Brown’s departure, the Bears had a glaring need at safety heading into the draft. Yet by passing up on their second round pick, the Bears also passed up on safety Rashad Johnson.
With seven safeties in camp, however, the Bears, again, have options.
Danieal Manning is projected to be the starting free safety...for now. In his contract year, the Bears will need him to.
That is, unless the Bears decide to go to their young safeties.
Kevin Payne has shown promise and should continue his progression. Still, Payne is young as is Craig Steltz. With the evolving offenses of the NFL along with the rapid trend of gunslingers acquired into the NFC North, Payne and Steltz will be tested. Early.
Youth is the biggest problem in this department. The safeties are young but have potential. Unfortunately, we won’t see how that potential pans out until they hit the field.
Very much like the situation at receiver, the talent is there but youth allows a fear of the unknown. That is precisely the biggest problem. The safeties haven’t proved anything yet.
Also like the offense, the unit as a whole will allow the safeties to sink or swim. If the defensive line plays as they did last year, the safeties are much more susceptible to biting on those play-action passes. Those experiences can, not only hurt a young player’s confidence, but also the Soldier Field scoreboard.
In all actuality, I believe that not much has to be done with the safeties. These guys have size and speed. The biggest challenge for the Bears is fixing the line and cornerbacks around them.
In this sense, the hole lies, not necessarily on the safeties, but on the unit as a whole.
The hole will be glaring if players like Tommie Harris and Brian Urlacher continue to play five years older than they are. But if Jarron Gilbert and DJ Moore can help provide some quick success, the unit can pick up from each other, allowing the safeties to get needed (and successful) reps.
Lastly, the Bears have holes at some positions in their depth chart. Currently, Olin Kreutz is technically the only center on staff. Roberto Garza and Josh Beekman can fill in but are naturally guards. Though the offensive line is better, several are aging lineman, which allow for durability issues.
The remedy for durability issues is depth. If Olin Kreutz were to go down, there would need to be some mixing and matching to fill in, altering needed familiarity and chemistry.
Meanwhile, the battle at tackle should be a good one with Orlando Pace, Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale, and Kevin Shaffer all vying for two starting jobs.
Surprisingly though, another problem with the depth chart is not necessarily what is not on it.
Instead, the addition of Michael Gaines, who’s known for his blocking skills, to the stock of tight ends shows that the Bears are either not happy with their backups in Kellen Davis and Fontel Mines or that they are trying to add some versatility to a pack of tight ends simply known for their pass catching.
This can be good or bad. Either way, Michael Gaines was acquired to fix something, meaning…there’s a problem.
It is hard to tell how the Bears will try to fill these holes and thus how glaring these holes will be until they hit the field. Game plan strategies and coaching can go a long way. Only time will tell how these holes will affect the 2009 season.
Still, the Bears have potential to be very good.
Note: This piece is also a post-draft supplement to an article written before the draft: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/150261-holes-bears-offense-has-potential-to-be-very-good