The Bears have had an incredibly busy off season.
They signed a franchise quarterback, they made the most of a draft that didn't include a first or second round pick, they made coaching changes, and they added new starters and depth to the offensive line.
The question now is what holes are left on a roster that will see many new faces? I'll give you a hint wide receiver isn't Chicago's biggest concern.
Take a look at the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker and Safety are by far the biggest weaknesses the Bears have. If you don't believe me then keep reading.
Many critics have been hounding the Bears to pick up a big name receiver to go with newly acquired Jay Cutler. Lovie Smith will be the first to tell you the Bears "come off the bus running".
Matt Forte accounted for much of their offense last year and with the re-signing of Kevin Jones and the improved O-line, we should be seeing just as much running in 2009. Even with Jay Cutler at the reins, the Bears will run first and pass second.
Devin Hester will continue to burn defenses and Cutler should be able to hit him in stride unlike Kyle Orton. Add the play action to the improved running game and the Bears will have a deep threat that will score.
Let's also not forget about the Bears short range targets. Both of their TEs can catch and proved it last year when Greg Olsen finished second on the team in receptions (to Forte) and Desmond Clark finished fourth (behind Hester).
Throw in the rookies drafted this year and last years third round pick Earl Bennett, who was Cutler's favorite target at Vanderbilt, and there should be plenty of people to compete for the two available receiver spots.
Linebacker could be the biggest problem for the Bears.
Sure Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs have been to multiple pro-bowls, but if Lance Briggs goes down with an injury Chicago will be extremely vulnerable. Urlacher is still good, but aging. He's not the same player he was four years ago.
Without Briggs on the weak side, Urlacher becomes more exposed.
On Urlacher's other side, the strong side, the Bears saw two different starters last year in Nick Roach and Hunter Hillenmeyer. Neither one of them stood out as as a play maker last year and I don't expect it to change this year either.
Sure, the pick up of Marcus Freeman could help, but I'm not convinced a 5th round pick is the answer if an injury strikes Briggs. And if Jamar Williams was the answer, Briggs would have been playing in a city other than Chicago after his franchise year.
Linebacker may not be the only shortcoming on the defensive side. Safety also has to be a position the Bears take a long hard look at. They signed free agents Josh Bullocks and Glenn Earl and brought in rookies Al Afalava and Dhana Deleston.
That means four of the six safeties that they're bringing into camp are adjusting to new teammates and the Bears' take on the Cover-2.
The only two safeties returning from last year are Kevin Payne and Craig Steltz. Both Payne and Steltz have talent but both are still raw and only in their second year.
It will be interesting to see how the newcomers do in camp and preseason. Glenn could be a surprise. He didn't play a single game in 2007 or '08. Before his injury with the Texans he was becoming one of the better safeties in the league with 75 tackles (61 solo).
Should he regain the level he was playing at in 2006 Jerry Angelo will look brilliant. But a player coming off a two-year break cannot be counted on to return to form.
All in all the Bears have a strong team going into the 2009 season. As a Bear's fan myself I have a lot of optimism about where this team can finish this year. If injuries hurt this team though, they're going to be because of the lack of depth on the defensive side.
The defense has not been entirely healthy since 2006 and it's proven to ruin post season hopes. I think there is adequate depth everywhere on the roster for this Bears team except for the linebackers and the safties.
Only time will tell what this team will accomplish this year. Until then I have one thing to say: Lance Briggs, if you're reading this, STAY HEALTHY!
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