Chicago Bears: First Half Grades

Ed LeiserCorrespondent INovember 10, 2009

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 08: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears waits for the play call during a game against the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field on November 8, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cardinals defeated the Bears 41-21. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

At 4-4, the Chicago Bears are not living up to their lofty expectations so far in 2009-10.  After an impressive 3-1 start, the Bears have struggled on both sides of the ball over the last month, losing a pair of lopsides games against the Bengals and Cardinals.

Eight down, eight to go for the Bears.  Let's evaluate the Bears at the halfway point.

Jay CutlerGrade: C+

So, this is what it's like to have a franchise quarterback? 

Cutler has been so-so in his first two months as a Chicago Bear.  He's been abused and beaten by opposing defenses, thanks in part to a porous offensive line.

But Cutler has also thrown his fair share of picks (12), and the Bears offense looks very average in most areas.  The passing yards keep piling up (2,046), but many of those yards have happened in a come-from-behind, desperation stage of the game.

We'll let Cutler slide...for now.

But he will eventually shoulder most, if not all, of the criticism if the Bears continue to lose.

Running Back
Matt Forte and Garrett Wolfe.  Grade: C

One thing was for sure coming into this season: Matt Forte was a superstar. 

One thing is sure now at the halfway point: Matt Forte is an average NFL running back.

Forte is averaging a very pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry and has only found the end zone three times. 

His backup, Garrett Wolfe, only has 22 carries on the year, so it is not a large enough sample size to see his work.

The aging, slow offensive line has to take some of the blame for the rushing unit's lack of effectiveness.

Wide Receiver
Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, and Johnny Knox.  Grade: B-

Considering this unit was a weakness before the year began, the Bears have to be pleased with the first two months for this group.  Devin Hester may not be a No. 1 wide out, but he is outperforming several Pro Bowlers so far this season.

Hester (41 grabs, 548 yards, 3 TD's) is out-performing Lions stud Calvin Johnson (24, 352, 1), Cardinals Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin (35, 404, 1), Bills misfit Terrell Owens (23, 281, 1), and Panthers star Steve Smith (34, 478, 1). 

You certainly can't be upset with those results.

Bennett, a redshirt freshman if you will, has teamed up with true freshman Johnny Knox to form a respectable two-three combo, and give Cutler two more serviceable options at this point.

Tight Ends
Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark.  Grade: B-

Many (myself included) had Olsen pegged as a Pro Bowler this year.  He has looked good for the most part, but his numbers are a little inflated due to his recent three-touchdown performance against Arizona.

Clark has only recorded 10 grabs this year, so he is a disappointment for most.

Offensive Line
Orlando Pace, Josh Beekman/Frank Omiyale, Olin Kruetz, Roberto Garza, Chris Williams.  Grade: F

F is for Flat-out awful.  This unit is old, slow, and, simply put, bad.

Cutler has no time in the pocket to look downfield, and Forte has not gotten many holes to maneuver through.

Expect major changes down the road for this unit.

Defensive Line
Alex Brown, Mark Anderson, Adewale Ogunleye, Tommie Harris, Marcus Harrison, Israel Idonije, etc.  Grade: C

This was the strength not only of the Bears defense, but of their entire team.  Considering that, this unit has been a disappointment.

Tommie Harris has lost his game and now has lost his mind (his ejection three plays into Sunday's game shows he is not right mentally to be playing this game). 

Alex Brown and 'Wale Ogunleye have played good, but the overall lack of play-makers led the Bears to trade away their second-round pick in next year's draft to Tampa Bay for underacheiving defensive end Gaines Adams.

The trade could pay dividends, but it should never have been made because this group was supposed to be much better.

Rod Marinelli still has plenty of work to do with the d-line.

The Cover-Two needs pressure from the front four on the defensive line.

The Bears are not getting it.

Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmayer, Nich Roach, Jamar Williams, Pisa Tinoisamoa, etc.  Grade:  B+

Probably the bright side of the team, the linebacker corps has played great.

Considering two of the three starting linebackers (Urlacher and Tinoisamoa) are both out for the season, the group has played even better than expected.

Briggs looks the part of a Hall of Famer at times, while Hillenmayer, Williams, and Roach have stepped up their games when they needed to.

If this season is saved, it will likely be because of these guys.

Peanut Tillman, Zack Bowman, Al Afalava, Danieal Manning, Nathan Vasher, Kevin Payne.  Grade: C

It's hard to pick on this bunch too much, because Bowman is a second-year man (a medical redshirt if we stick to the college game analysis) and Afalava is a rookie drafted in the fifth round.

But it's easy to pick on this bunch when you consider former Pro Bowler Nathan Vasher (yes, he made a Pro Bowl) lost his job in Week One, and Kevin Payne (a starter last year) also lost his job in Week One.

Tillman was also put it his place by Chad Ocho Cinco and Larry Fitzgerald this past month.

Yes, they're good.  But as the No. 1 corner on a supposedly good defense, you need to step up your game, Peanut.

Special Teams
Robbie Gould, Brad Maynard, Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, etc.  Grade: B

Gould is 8-10 and 16 of Maynard's 34 punts have landed inside the 20-yard-line.

You can't fault either of those two gentlemen for their efforts.

Hester and Knox remain a dangerous pair when returning kicks.

Final Thoughts
As you can see, there's a lot of C's on the report card. 

C's are average, and so are the Bears.

The Bears are who we thought they were.  At 4-4, they are painfully mediocre.


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