Chicago Bears: A 2008 Season Preview

Jerry Burnes@@JerryBurnesAnalyst IJune 18, 2008

Remember that old 1994 Chevy Cavalier that your dad said would be yours one day?

You know, the one with the rusted out panels and the driver-side door that didn't open that forced you to get in from the passenger side. The one that had the missing rim on the back right, and those "tires" that didn't really seem like tires.

The same 1994 Cavalier that your parents painted for you before they gave it to you on your 16th birthday, in the hopes that you wouldn't recognize it.

Since you appreciated the effort, you didn't complain until later, and you just accepted the car as yours. Even though you knew it was still the same rusted-out, fume-spewing, one-door-Cavalier.

Well, that's what the Chicago Bears are going to be like in 2008.

The Bears attempted a facelift to give fans some type of hope for a Super Bowl return. Problem is, once you get down to the details, it's really the same old Chicago Bears from 2007.

The biggest problem that faced the Bears was their offense, or lack thereof. By the end of the season, the Bears were in need of a running back, offensive line, and quarterback.

By the end of free agency, the draft, and the Cedric Benson saga, the Bears are in need of a quarterback, running back, and an entire wide-receiver corps.



It is obvious that Rex Grossman is not the answer at quarterback. And although the Bears win with Kyle Orton, he doesn't provide enough of a spark to win consistently.

This was the one area Chicago needed to desperately pursue with either the draft or free agency. The draft was the prime place for Jerry Angelo to pull the trigger and officially end the Grossman-Orton-Griese era.

He didn't.

The Bears passed on Chad Henne, Brian Brohm, and John David Booty; along with NFL-Combine star Josh Johnson.

Instead, they signed undrafted, free agent Nick Hill from Southern Illinois, who will only be a starter by default. Chris Simms might be available soon, but he will not challenge for the starting spot.

Jerry Angelo did a nice job of not signing Daunte Culpepper or any of the other mediocre free agents. He also did right by not giving up everything for possible one-year wonder Derek Anderson.

Jerry Angelo 1, Free Agency 0.

If the quarterback is your Cavalier's engine, you're sputtering to the offseason already.


Running Backs

The need at running back was through no fault of the Bears' management. Matt Forte was a great pickup. He's athletic and fast, much like Thomas Jones was for the Bears. Also, releasing Cedric Benson was the right call.

The problem is that Forte is unproven, so it's too early to say he's going to be the feature back. Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe are not feature backs in the NFL. Wolfe will be good on screens and passes like last season, and he will pick up more carries.

The Bears should have made a move for Chargers' backup Michael Turner. Turner is a hard runner that fits the offense better than Forte will. Add to the fact that he ran behind LaDainian Tomlinson for his entire career. It's safe to say that he learned a thing or two from LT. Nevertheless, he went to Atlanta.

Jerry Angelo 1, Free Agency 1.

Just like you car's "tires", the Bears have "tires" to run on this season. They might hold up and get the job done, or they might just go flat.


Wide Receivers

The need for receivers rests solely on the shoulders of Jerry Angelo.

Muhsin Muhammad, though past his prime, was still a good No. 2 or No. 3 option for the Bears. He's gone now.

Bernard Berrian was the No. 1 man for 2008. The Bears failed to re-sign him, and he jumped ship for the division rival Minnesota Vikings.

In their place, Angelo re-signed Marty Booker, who is well past his prime, and Marcus Robinson, who just recently announced that he is going to retire.

Angelo also added Brandon Lloyd, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. Lloyd never achieved much success there, even with a good quarterback like Jeff Garcia.

He also drafted Earl Bennett from Vanderbilt and Marcus Monk from Arkansas.

Now the Bears will turn to Rashied Davis, Mark Bradley, and Devin Hester to not only spark the return team, but also the receiving corps.

Booker will end up as the No. 1, despite tough competition. Bradley should grab the two spot if he stays healthy.

The three spot should go to Hester, if he can learn the routes. Because the Bears are too conservative on offense, Lloyd will grab the spot and Hester will be situational. Bennett should have no problem inching out Davis for the four spot, providing that Lovie Smith and Ron Turner use a third, rookie starter.

Monk will be a good goal-line receiver. He's a lot like Muhammad; only he's not developed yet.

If the Bears really wanted to improve on this end, they should have chased free agents like D.J. Hackett, Devery Henderson, or even Bryant Johnson or Andre Davis.

Make that Jerry Angelo 1, Free Agency 2.

See, your receivers are like your windshield wipers. If they don't catch very well, you're going to have some trouble driving the car as well as you'd want.


Offensive Line

A nice offseason move would have been bringing Alan Faneca or Flozell Adams to Chicago. Faneca is a five-time Pro Bowler and a five-time First Team All-Pro. He's older, but still has a lot of prime left in him. What better way to rejuvenate a running game than with a top lineman to block for them?

Faneca is now a New York Jet.

Jerry Angelo 1, Free Agency 3.

Angelo instead addressed the offensive-line need in the draft. He still has work to do to get younger, but he's off to a good start with Chris Williams and Kirk Barton.

Williams should start in Week One. Most first-round offensive lineman are NFL-ready by then, and Williams should be no different. Barton will be groomed as John Tait's replacement, hopefully. Barton is an Ohio State alum that blocked the run like none other in college.

Tait will start as the other tackle with Williams. Roberto Garza and Terrance Metcalf will start at guard, and Olin Kreutz (like there's anyone else) will start at center.

Faneca would have been nice, but Angelo is on the right track with young linemen.

Remember those rusted panels? Angelo is slowly but surely ordering new ones, instead of scrounging through the scrap heap for them. Let's just hope they all fit.



The defense last year was the victim of an injury epidemic. It spread through the Chicago defense like the Great Chicago Fire.

Expect a big rebound with Lance Briggs re-signed and Brian Urlacher presumably healthy. Hunter Hillenmeyer will still be solid.

Mark Anderson, Adewale Ogunleye, and Tommie Harris will be the sure starters on the line. Israel Idonije, Dusty Dvoracek, and rookie Marcus Harrison will challenge for the final defensive tackle starting-spot.

Alex Brown is the odd-man out. With the amount of injuries suffered last year, he should still be around for a good amount of snaps. He'll be traded before he becomes a free agent, though.

Nothing will change at corner. Nathan Vasher, Charles Tillman, Trumaine McBride, and Ricky Manning Jr. will be the big four.

At safety, Mike Brown will catch the start at strong safety. Craig Steltz will be good competition and a good backup.

The free safety spot will be a battle between Danieal Manning and Brandon McGowan. McGowan is impressing early; so don't be surprised if he sneaks in.

That batch of bad gas you put in your car last year has run its course. You filled up, changed the oil, and now problems should be avoided, despite the high mileage.

Yeah, that sounds like the Bears' defense—healthy despite age.


Special Teams

Another thing your parents added to that car was a new stereo, you know, something to make the car a bit more special. Years later, it's still good. Just like the special teams for the Bears.

Robbie Gould is re-signed and a Bear for a long time. Brad Maynard is getting old, but still very affective. Shane Longest was an undrafted, free agent and will be kicking in preseason in hopes of getting on with a different team. He can boot the ball (70-yard field goal in college practice), but his accuracy is in question.

Hester will be Hester if he gets the ball. Expect a lot of teams to kick away from him. If the offense is on track though, he'll get more chances. Just depends what the lesser of the two evils is.



Don't expect the playoffs from the Bears this season. They have a lot of offensive woes that need to be attended to (their management needs some too, but that's another article).

The Bears will improve thanks to their defense being healthy and go 9-7. Minnesota will win the division going 11-5. Detroit will be third at 8-8, and Green Bay will struggle to a 6-10 season.

The moves the Bears made this offseason, the good ones that is, will pay off in a few years when guys get experience and more pieces can be added to the puzzle. They're not a complete team, but they're a few years away from another possible Super-Bowl-caliber team.

See, the Bears are just like your rusted out 1994 Chevy Cavalier. Just be patient and wait for things to develop, and one day, you'll be driving a brand new, non-rusted, tire-and-rim bearing, two-door Corvette that will run like a dream.

Just remember, with the right series of decisions, that Corvette will run forever and be a classic. With wrong decisions, it'll turn right back into that rust bucket Cavalier that's better suited for the junkyard than the road.


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