Grading Every Chicago Bears Starter's 2013 Regular Season
Changes to the roster will come, but before the Bears can move forward they must evaluate the team. The offense seems to be on the right track, while the defense needs a complete overhaul.
Here are the grades for the starters this season.
Jay Cutler: B-
In a season marred by injuries, Cutler struggled to maintain any sort of rhythm. It's tough to start the season, miss games and then come back. His completion percentage took a dive during the season as he tried to get back in the swing of things. Even still, Cutler was solid the majority of the time.
Josh McCown: A
Nobody ever thought the Bears had a chance at the playoffs when Cutler went down. Give McCown a ton of credit; he was outstanding in relief and proved he was more than just a backup.
Mat Forte: B+
Coming into the season, everybody pointed to Forte as the focal point of the offense. He responded in a big way. His Pro Bowl season was impressive due to his durability and flexibility to do multiple things for the team. He set career highs in receptions and rushing yards and was very good in picking up the blitz.
Tony Fiammetta: B
The role of the fullback has largely diminished throughout the NFL, but guys like Fiammetta are still needed. When called upon, he did a very good job setting the edge and opening holes for Forte.
Brandon Marshall: B+
When you look up the word consistency in the dictionary, you should see a picture of Marshall. No matter who the quarterback was, he still found a way to have another outstanding Pro Bowl season with more than 10 touchdowns and 100 receptions.
Alshon Jeffery: B+
This will long be remembered as the breakout season for Jeffery. He seemed to get better every week and finished the season as one of the league's brightest young stars. His amazing acrobatic catches seemed to be on every highlight film after every game.
Martellus Bennett: B+
The Bears needed a viable option at tight end this season, and Bennett responded in a big way. He came to Chicago after a career high last season, and all he did was eclipse that this year. Even with Marshall and Jeffery, Bennett was highly productive and very dependable.
Jermon Bushrod: B
Left tackle has been a problem for the Bears in the past, but with Bushrod the problem was solved. The prized free-agent signing had a very good season solidifying the blind side for Jay Cutler and Josh McCown.
Matt Slauson: B-
Slauson did a good job to help lock down the left side of the line. He was good in pass protection but wasn't as dependable to run behind. Still, he was a good pickup by the team and had a strong season.
Roberto Garza: B
What a nice bounce-back year for the crafty veteran. He struggled mightily last year but came back to anchor this line and provide some much-needed leadership up front.
Kyle Long: B-
Many thought drafting Long in the first round was a reach, but he proved them wrong. The rookie was an instant starter with not much experience at the position but found himself getting better every week. His no-nonsense attitude and mean streak brought an attitude to an offensive line the Bears were looking for.
Jordan Mills: B+
What a find Mills was. The rookie right tackle out of Louisiana Tech was drafted in the fifth round and started immediately. He goes about his business with a quiet, workman-like demeanor and was outstanding in both run and pass blocking.
Shea McClellin: D
Aside from the first Packers game, McClellin was a virtual no-show all season. He is supposed to be a pass-rushing specialist and failed miserably in that regard. It's still too early to call last year's first-round pick a bust, but he's on the edge.
Corey Wootton: C
Due to injuries, Wootton was forced to play out of position for most of the season. Give him credit for stepping up, but he is not a defensive tackle and it shows, especially against the run.
Jeremiah Ratliff: C
The Bears took a chance on Ratliff in large part due to desperation. It took him some time to get his legs underneath him, but he did a decent job considering he is still recovering from a gruesome groin injury.
Julius Peppers: F
With the departure of Brian Urlacher and all the injuries, the Bears should have been able to rely on Peppers for production and leadership. They got neither from him in what was his worst statistical season in over five years.
James Anderson: C
What Anderson did this year was OK and mostly forgettable. It's tough for him because his position doesn't call for a major role, but he is still partly to blame for the poor run defense, and he failed to make a lot of high-impact plays throughout the year.
Jon Bostic: D
Bears fans might have thought they were getting another stud rookie middle linebacker like Brian Urlacher, but they got the opposite. When Bostic became the starter after the injury to D.J. Williams, things got worse. They got worse because it was clear the young man wasn't ready for the speed and ingenuity of the NFL.
Lance Briggs: C-
Even before Briggs got hurt, he wasn't having that great of a season. The New Orleans game really sticks out, as he was constantly burned on screen passes and stretch runs. When he came back, he was clearly out of shape and half a step slower.
Chris Conte: D
It was clear all season that teams went into the game with the mindset of attacking Conte. He was constantly burned on big plays and consistently out of position. When the Bears gave up a big play on defense, Conte was usually in the picture.
Major Wright: F
If Conte was bad, then Wright was worse. He was terrible against the run and couldn't cover a receiver in a brown paper bag. When you look at some of the angles he took when trying to stop the run, you could only wonder what the heck the guy was thinking out there.
Tim Jennings: B
When Charles Tillman went down, Jennings became the No. 1 corner and responded nicely. He specifically had good games against Dez Bryant and Josh Gordon, who are two of the league's best receivers.
Charles Tillman: C-
Before Tillman got hurt, the ageless wonder looked like he was beginning to slow down. He had three interceptions but was getting torched by receivers.
Zackary Bowman: C+
Bowman is a veteran who will provide you with just enough to get by. He actually did a little more than that when elevated to the starter role after the injury to Tillman.
Robbie Gould: B+
It was another banner year for one of the league's most accurate kickers of all time. His highest point was a career-high 58-yard field goal, but he did have a low point when he missed a game-winning kick in overtime to beat the Vikings.
Adam Podlesh: C-
Podlesh continues to be an up-and-down punter. When he's on he's one of the best in the league, but when he's off he just kills the Bears in giving up poor field position. Who could forget his punt against the Eagles that virtually started that firestorm?
Devin Hester: C
There were some bright spots for Hester, but it is becoming clear he's beginning to slow down. He is no longer the league's most prolific and feared returner.