After finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year, Bears’ GM Jerry Angelo made the statement “we must solidify the quarterback position.”
Well, Angelo has done just that. He not only solidified the quarterback position, he managed to sign a possible franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler.
Cutler, a Pro-Bowler threw for 4,526 yards with 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. While these numbers are impressive, the true tales of the tape are his sacks, third down completion percentage, and interception to pass attempt ratio.
Cutler was sacked 11 times on 616 pass attempts. That equates to one sack every 56 pass attempts.
He performed well on third down, completing 61.9 percent of his passes, with 18 interceptions on 616 attempts; a 1:34 ratio.
Cutler achieved these numbers without a consistent running back. Imagine what he can do with rookie sensation Matt Forte and a solid running game taking the pressure off.
Comparing these numbers against Orton’s 2008 campaign (18 TDs, 12 INTs, 2972 yards, and 27 sacks) it is obvious that the quarterback position received an upgrade. Orton did suffer an ankle injury in the season which limited his numbers, but Cutler’s mobility makes a huge difference.
Quarterback Acquisition: A++
With Kyle Orton gone and Rex Grossman a free agent, Caleb Hanie is projected to be the No. 2 quarterback behind Jay Cutler. Hanie has yet to take an official snap (regular season).
Bears’ GM Jerry Angelo did express confidence in Hanie as he complete 29 of 49 passes for 321 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions in last year’s preseason.
Hanie is expected to be challenged by Brett Basanez for the backup role. Basanez does have experience in the NFL, although limited, going six of 11 for 56 yards and one interception in a 2006 contest with the Carolina Panthers.
Backup Quarterback Non-acquisition: D
(If Cutler goes down for any period of time so too would the Bears’ season. A veteran presence is needed. Hmmm, Brian Griese perhaps.)
With the departures of Terrance Metcalf, Fred Miller, John Tait, and John St. Clair on the O-line, the Bears shored up the left tackle position by signing Orlando Pace to a three-year deal.
Pace, could split time with last year’s first round pick, Chris Williams, who missed significant time last season while recovering from back surgery.
The Bears also acquired tackles Frank Omiyale and Kevin Shaffer through free agency and drafted guard Lance Louis from San Diego State in the seventh round.
The roster has tremendous depth regarding the interior line. Center Olin Kreutz and guards Roberto Garza and John Beekman will be the starters. However, it remains to be seen who will start at the tackles.
Does Pace still have some gas left in the tank to protect Cutler from the blind side. Can Williams live up to his first round billing? Who will win out between Shaffer and Omiyale? Their 2008 starts certainly speak for themselves, Shaffer—15 and Omiyale—one.
Offensive Line Acquisitions: B- / B+
(Depends on whether Pace can remain healthy and Shaffer can be consistent on the right side. If either breaks down, speed rushers could exploit this weakness)
The wide receiver position for the Bears has been one of intrigue—a few years ago it was called a place where wide receivers would go to die.
The Bear’s 2009 draft class brought three new receivers to the mix, Juaquin Iglesias, Johnny Knox, and Derek Kinder.
Iglesias is a product of the 2008 Oklahoma Sooners prolific passing attack. Transferring his talent to the NFL will be done though crossing routes over middle and returning kicks.
He’s a warrior across the middle, snagging badly thrown balls (although with Jay Cutler at the helm I am not too sure how many will be bad) and his return ability will allow Danieal Manning to have an occasional breather.
Knox on the other hand is a pure speed threat. A product from Abilene Christian, Knox will stretch the defense and open up the underneath routes for Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Greg Olsen, and others.
Kinder will add depth to the receiver corps and can play special teams.
Wide Receiver Acquisitions: B
(There may not be a true No. 1 or tall polished receiver, but these draft picks will server well in multiple receiver sets. Their only weakness lies in their the lack of experience.)
On the other side of the ball, five of the nine draft picks were spent on defensive players. While in free agency, the Bears brought over free safety Josh Bullocks from New Orleans and defensive back Glenn Earl from Houston.
Signing Earl and Bullocks can possibly fill the Mike Brown departure. If that doesn’t work, third year player Corey Graham could step in to assist S Danieal Manning. The signing of Earl is intriguing, as he is coming off a foot injury and will be reunited with defensive backs coach Jon Hoke. Hoke worked with Earl in Houston.
Sixth round pick FS Al Afalava will provide depth and should be a presence on special teams.
Fourth round pick DB D.J. Moore has exceptional hands and agility, yet his lack of speed may relegate him to back up Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman
Defensive Secondary Acquisitions: C
(The experience and leadership of Mike Brown will be missed and it is unclear who will step up and establish themselves as "the guy.” The Bears must fill this void if they want to successfully defend the deep ball.)
The tandem of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs will be a formidable duo once again. Fifth round selection and former Ohio State Buckeye Marcus Freeman could be a potential star in the making.
At 6’, 230 lbs, Freeman did underachieve at times in college; however, his skill set could be a blessing in disguise for Chicago’s D and Lovie Smith.
Linebacker Acquisition: B+
The Bears’ linebacker corps is solid. However, the addition of Freeman brings a tremendous upside. (No weakness here.)
In 2008, the Bears’ defensive line reeked with underproduction. While he is not considered a free-agent per se, I do see the addition of Rod Marinelli resurrecting the D-Line again.
Third round selection Jarron Gilbert is a freak of nature. Check out his pool trick on YouTube. His size and athleticism should translate into a solid interior pass rusher behind Marinelli and will provide depth to D-Line
In the fourth round, the Bears drafted defensive end Henry Melton out of Texas. At 6’ 3” 260 lbs, Melton moved to DE from running back just two years ago. He speed and quickness could just be what the Bears need to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks from the edges.
Defensive Line Acquisitions: B
(Gilbert and Melton could fit in the rotation depending on how the season goes. Both are extremely athletic and provide depth, yet each will need to step up the game if they want to contribute to Marinelli’s and the team’s demands)
After going 9-7 the Bear’s offseason acquisitions plugged many holes (QB, DL, CB, and S). They have added depth to the offensive line and linebacker positions. However, a true free safety needs to step up as well as a right tackle.
With OTAs now in full swing, look for the Bears’ to solidify these positions and be a team headed back to the playoffs for 2009.
Free agency and Draft Acquisitions: A-