Cutler’s arm will lead a charge on offense, but the Bears failed to acquire a quality receiver in the offseason to be a main target. If the Bears defense can return to form and blitz the offense like yesteryear, Cutler and running back Matt Forte can take advantage of great field position.
Quarterbacks: In the offseason the Bears solved the missing variable to their offensive equation in trading for the deep arm slinger Jay Cutler. There is no doubt that Cutler has the physical skills and abilities to become an elite passer within the league. He has a strong arm and also the ability to lead his team in a fourth quarter comeback.
However, because of all the draft selections the Bears organization gave up to acquire Cutler, the Chicago fans will keep him on a short leash. If Cutler can decrease his mistakes and capitalize off of field position he can have the fans of Chicago believe once again.
If Cutler becomes injured within the season the Bears will be in trouble, as Bears back-ups Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez have very little professional game experience. (8.7)
Running backs: The selection of Matt Forte was a true success, especially considering the misfortunes the Bears have seen in the backfield since losing Thomas Jones. The release of Cedric Benson caused the team a high first-round pick and sent many question marks through the organization when discussing the running back position.
Forte entered the NFL last season running full speed out of Tulane doubling in effectiveness. Forte gained over 1,200 yards rushing all while leading the team in receptions. Forte’s uniqueness in catching the ball out of the backfield and running between the tackles is the Bears’ offensive strong point.
Even with Cutler on the roster, Lovie Smith cannot forget he has a thoroughbred at running back. Smith also should not overwork Forte and cause fatigue down the last stretch of the season with the Eagles, Packers, Vikings, Ravens, and Green Bay late on the schedule. Kevin Jones and Garrett Wolfe could provide the Bears with a substitute or a complement for Forte. (8.9)
Receivers: Cutler may have been a big offseason acquisition which turned many heads, however, the Bears still do not have a true number one receiver to serve as Cutlers target. Devin Hester may be one of the fastest players in the league, but his skills as a receiver are not equal to other teams' No. 1 option. Hester must work on route running and being able to read the defense to become successful.
Rashied Davis and Earl Bennett could have breakout seasons with Cutler under center. One underrated receiver on the roster is rookie Juaquin Iglesias. Iglesias may not have the top end speed of Hester, but he does run great routes and blocks down the field which assisted him in having a productive collegiate career.
Tight ends Desmond Clark, Michael Gaines, and Greg Olson will serve as security blankets for Cutler when the receivers fail to produce. The two may be the best TE duo in the league because of their size, athleticism, and ability to catch in traffic. (7.3)
Offensive Line: The unit may not have upgraded in potential, but it did upgrade in depth with the addition of Orlando Pace, Kevin Shaffer, and Frank Omiyale. Pace, a seasoned veteran, may have diminishing run blocking skills but remains a solid pass blocker. Pace could also shed some of his veteran wisdom on the development of last season’s first-round selection, OT Chris Williams.
Williams will compete for the starting right tackle position with Shaffer because of the departure of John St. Clair via free agency. It is likely that Omiyale will move to the inside of the line at left guard providing good size and youth.
Olin Kreutz and Roberto Garza will return at center and guard, continuing their consecutive starting streaks. Both have the experience and skill to continue to open up running lanes for Forte and protect Cutler in the pocket. (8.3)
Defensive Line: This unit has unquestionable talent and athleticism but was extremely inconsistent last season. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris has great quickness and hands, and if he maintains a steady course he can get back to his once Pro Bowl form.
Alex Brown, Israel Idonije, and Adewale Ogunleye are key contributors to the defense. Brown has been the most consistent contributor to the defense since their 2007 Super Bowl appearance. Ogunleye has lost some of his speed which resulted in many of his team leading sack performances, but this season he could be rejuvenated under new line coach Rod Marinelli.
The Bears also drafted defensive ends Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton to add depth, athleticism, and youth to the line. Gilbert was dubbed by many league scouts as the most athletic end in the 2009 class while Melton had a consistent career at Texas opposite of Brian Orakpo. (8.4)
Linebackers: After a few dismal seasons the linebacking corps depends on the success of Brian Urlacher. Urlacher must return to his Pro Bowl form, as last season he was not the impact defender due to him having problems shedding tackles.
Lance Briggs should continue to dominate because of his athletic ability and size. Briggs has great awareness and can read plays prior to them developing, resulting in tackles at the line of scrimmage. Third-year linebacker Jamar Williams is a decent backup for Briggs; Williams must develop field awareness if he hopes to survive within the Bears’ system.
Hunter Hillenmeyer and second-year linebacker Nick Roach will compete for the strong side backer position. Hillenmeyer is a veteran who assisted the Bears throughout the years of their hard-nosed defense which led to their 2007 Super Bowl appearance. Hillenmeyer has great field awareness and the size to play in the middle, but lacks speed in man coverage against backs and tight ends. The 2009 season marks a contract season for Roach as he will attempt to display his skills in order to land a big contract within the offseason. (8.5)
Defensive Backs: Last season the Bears were horrible in pass defense ranking 30th within the league, and with the departure of safety Mike Brown there is a major hole to fill. Josh Bullocks, Craig Steltz, and Glenn Earl will be called upon to replace Brown, however, Browns leadership will be missed.
The Bears drafted safety Al Afalava in the sixth round to be a possible replacement for Brown, but a free agency addition or drafting a safety higher would have been more reasonable. Kevin Payne will be the starter at strong safety because of his physical and aggressive style of play.
Charles Tillman will return as a starter following his offseason shoulder surgery, but the right side corner remains in question. Nathan Vasher and Corey Graham are the leading candidates, but rookie D.J. Moore, who shows promise, could also join within the competition. (7.3)
Special Teams: There is no question Devin Hester is one of the premier returners within the league, however, following a season in which he doubled as a wide receiver his production has decreased. If the Bears want Hester to return to form they should limit his touches at receiver in hopes of having a 100 percent returner. Or possibly have Manning take more returns in order for Hester to develop as a receiver.
Kicker Robbie Gould and punter Brad Maynard are two important pieces to the Bears' field position puzzle. Gould has an outstanding leg, making 26-29 attempts last season, while Maynard led the NFL with punts inside of the 20-yard line. If they continue to have a productive season the Bears can prosper from the field position of Maynard's punts and the accurate leg of Gould. (8.8)