After Chicago's management made The Move* by trading away their first and second round picks (along with spare part, Kyle Orton and a third rounder in '10) for all-Universe quarterback, Jay Cutler; many pundits, fans and haters alike praised the move, deeming Chicago the de facto 2009 NFC North Champ before the NFL Draft even went down. An imaginary and predetermined division title is a lot of pressure for a team with a rapidly aging defense, a spongy soft offensive line, and one offensive playmaker not named "Cutler," his name is Matt Forte and he accounted for a sick amount of Chicago's offensive output in 2008.
No, for an offense you need a loaded offensive line, with the proper blend of strength, youth and just a touch of seasoning. Additionally, you're going to need remarkably consistent wide receivers with poise and hands outfitted with Velcro, not Earl Bennett, human blur: Devin Hester and the reanimated corpse of Rashied Davis.
But the offense's forecast isn't all cloudy skies and 50 degrees, no, the O does have some good things going for it. Greg Olsen is a stud that should give would-be tacklers second thoughts, especially now that Cutler will be finding him loose in the flat.
Matt "I earned those yards with your pain" Forte, as previously mentioned, is a human tank/manchild that can think of nothing better to do with his playtime than gain yards and smack the defense in their face for the trouble. Plus the additions of the aging but still capable, Orlando Pace and the adequate Frank Omiyale will immediately pay dividends in the trenches, where last season the tissue soft offensive line led to Kyle Orton getting rushed, sacked, injured, et cetera.
As many question marks that do come built into the 2009 Bears offense, the one factor that's most important, is healthy Jay and healthy Matt in the backfield. If these two stay healthy and capable of "Rock You Like a Hurricane"-type production, the Bears will be putting points up by multiples of seven and not three.**
If they do happen to get a few serious dings and owies, the Bears offense is going to be ugly, like, Elephant Man ugly. No experienced, let alone, talented back up quarterbacks or running backs in the stables of Soldier Field right now, which, is less than optimal. Granted, Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson can get theirs, but do you really want a tailback by committee led by the other AP?
So if the Bears offense can at least hold serve with the upgrade to Jay Cutler at quarterback; the big questions are really all on the defense. How can a flammable secondary be shored up with an undersized rookie CB?
Will the still reliably burnable Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman ever return to modest form and be decent again? Will Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs regain the respective steps they've lost?
The Bears defense has been skating by on reputation since the 2006 Super Bowl season; and last year, with an offense that couldn't get paid to stay on the field*** the Bears defense far too often grew tired and punchdrunk after being left out to dry on the field. Just look at the games against Carolina, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, et al for proof: late leads that all became late losses.
The addition of rookies Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton to the defensive line will --if the rooks can catch on quickly at training camp-- be an immediate benefit; supplying added depth and exceptional speed to a line that, again, looked very tired way too often last season.
With expectations higher at Halas Hall than they have been in recent times; and with a gifted quarterback leading an offense that's, well, headed in the right direction, the Bears have got a great chance at winning the division, making it to the playoffs and getting knocked out by a team outfitted with an offense that can grind down the Bears shoddy defense. If the Bears rookie additions on defense, Gilbert, Melton and wee lad, DJ Moore can make an impact then the Bears have a legit chance at going deep in the playoffs.
*Uhh, y'know, like "The Drive" led by another former Bronco QB, John Elway. Look it up, toddlers.
**See: Gould, Robbie. Chicago's kicker and most "legit" offensive "threat" last season.
***I mean, they did get paid, but you get the idea...