Kyle Orton – The man has been more than we could ever have hoped for. After playing inconsistently the first couple games, KO has come on strong the past five, showing flashes of brilliance against some top tier defenses (and the Lions).
Matt Forte– Rookie sensation and if it weren’t for a certain QB over in Atlanta, Forte would be the clear cut front runner for offensive rookie of the year. He has been versatile out of the backfield showing the ability to not only run the ball, but to catch and block as well.
John St. Clair – Probably the biggest surprise (yes, more so than Orton) St. Clair has been a beast protecting KO’s blindside and has done it against some of the best pass rushers the NFL has to offer. Just look at who he has lined up against: Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, Gaines Adams, Trent Cole, John Abraham, Dewayne White (he plays for the Lions, that’s why you haven’t heard of him), and Jared Allen. Talk about a baptism under fire.
Up until this year, St. Clair was viewed as a serviceable back-up with his best attribute being his ability to fill in at any offensive line position. The man has not only filled in nicely for Chris Williams, but he has to be providing some competition for Williams when he returns fully healthy.
Wide receivers: I know, our top two pass catchers are Forte and Greg Olsen (GO) but that doesn’t diminish the fact that our receivers, while maybe inconsistent, have played better than anyone thought.
- Devin Hester –
o Beginning of the year thoughts: Fast but has trouble running any route that isn’t a fly pattern.
o Now: That is not the case anymore as Dev has shown an impressive ability to go across the middle and beat pro bowl corner Asante Samuel for a touchdown in the first half of the Eagles game on a nice stop and go route.
- Marty Booker –
o Beginning: Too old and slow.
o Now: After an unimpressive start, Booker has come on making some great catches, although he did drop a few catchable TD’s. However he has shown a burst of speed on two separate plays, one when Orton over threw him after he had burned Ken Lucas of the Panthers and then his touchdown against the Vikings where he caught a ten-yard button hook and then ran past four Vikings for the remaining 40 yards. Not exactly the old man we all thought he was.
- Rashied Davis –
o Beginning: A career number three receiver.
o Now: After dropping a couple passes in the first two games, Rashied has been growing a consistent option for Orton that culminated with a great catch in the corner of the end zone for what should have been the game winning touchdown against the Falcons. His teammates have nicknamed him “Big Play Rashied”.
- Brandon Lloyd –
o Beginning: Another underachieving player we took off the Redskins trash bin.
o Now: Lloyd was nothing short of amazing before he was injured. His acrobatic catches (not to mention heads-up plays on special teams) have made him into Kyle Orton’s number one target when in the game. If both he and Dev continue to develop, they could be a very good starting tandem for a team that has been lacking good play at receiver since Marty Booker was here the first time.
Corey Graham– After both Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman went down (and Danieal Manning and Brandon McGowan) Graham and Trumaine McBride were pressed into more prominent roles and Graham has responded incredibly. He has been all over the field the past few games, making tackles, breaking up passes, and topped it off with an interception of Gus Frerotte last week.
He is not playing like a second year back and there is even talk about him taking over the starting position from Vasher, even when he returns. While I think that is a bit much, it shows how far Graham has come since the Bears selected him in the fifth round pick last year
Adewale Ogunleye, Tommie Harris, Mark Anderson: Now, I didn’t say the whole D line for a reason. Alex Brown has played harder than just about anyone on the defensive side of the ball, Dusty D has been a beast stuffing the run up the middle, Israel Idonije has filled in very well when Tommie was out and rookie Marcus Harrison has shown a lot of upside. But the simple fact of the matter is that there has been basically no pass rush, especially the past couple weeks, from these three. Let’s break it down game-by-game:
- Peyton Manning: threw 49 times—sacked twice (A. Brown M. Harrison)
- Jake Delhomme: threw 21 times—sacked three times (A. Brown, M.Brown,I.Idonije)
- Brian Griese: threw 67 times—was not sacked at all.
- Donavon McNabb: threw 41 times—sacked three times (I. Idonije, D. Manning, H.Hillenmeyer)
- Lions QB’s: threw 39 times—sacked four times (A. Brown, L. Briggs, M. Harrison, A. Ogunleye)
- Matt Ryan: threw 30 times—was not sacked.
- Gus Frerotte: threw 40 times—sacked twice (K. Payne, T. Harris)
So that would be a total of 14 sacks out of 300 times a QB has dropped back to pass, and only two of them by Harris and Ogunleye (Mark Anderson, our pass rushing specialist, has zero). Unacceptable. We are sacking the quarterback roughly ONCE OUT OF EVERY 21 TIMES they drop back (21.43). That is almost beyond pathetic.
Now let’s compare that to the other NFC North teams:
1.Vikings: 254 drop backs against with 16 sacks = one sack out of almost 16 drop backs (15.88)
2.Lions: 174 drop backs against with 12 sacks = one sack of 14.5 drop backs
3.Packers: 244 drop backs against with 13 sacks = one sack out of nearly 19 drop backs (18.77)
Now the Lions have played one less game, but regardless that’s embarrassing. The 49ers have the exact same numbers as the Packers but the Cardinals of all people are averaging 1 sack for every 11 drop backs (10.94). The defense needs to step up and needs to do it soon.
Brian Urlacher: I realize Brian is the face of our franchise and his expectations might not always be fair, but doesn’t it seem like he has dropped off? His production is down and he just seems to be invisible on the field some games. Again, it could be just because I am so used to hearing his named called all the time the past eight years, but he is not playing like the perennial pro bowler we have grown accustomed to.
Devin Hester (returner): I understand that he has a bigger role in offense and that we lost our special team captain, Brendon Ayanbadejo to the Ravens, and that teams are still trying to kick it away from him, but Hester’s return numbers are down, both in punts and kickoffs. And its not just touchdowns, his average yards per return have dropped significantly as well.
It could be that he is trying to do to much, or the opposing teams are playing that much more disciplined and focused, or the fact he has missed some time with injury, but hopefully he snaps out of it soon because the Bears need to keep winning the field position battle, especially with the way the defense has looked recently, and one more return for a TD will make the rest of the special team units we have on our schedule very nervous.
Lovie Smith and Bob Babich: First off, I put Babich here as a simple formality. His title is defensive coordinator, but I believe he is nothing more than a puppet, there to do what Lovie tells him. Lovie is a defensive guy and you know this defense is his brain child. And let’s face the fact, whatever scheme he has implemented, this soft cover two or whatever, it isn’t working.
For this scheme to be affective, you must be able to get to the QB and that just simply has happened. If the front four can’t generate some pressure, you need to change things up and blitz more. If Lovie wants to keep disguising his defense by bringing the linebackers up and then backing them off, every once in while you need to bring the house so you can keep the opposing offense honest.
When he doesn’t, it means the LB’s have to exert a lot of effort just getting back into their zones to cover and a half decent quarterback can pick us apart (see Griese, Ryan, Frerotte). Enough is enough. We have two weeks to figure this out before we have to face the Titans (The Lions are in there, but they don’t count), Lovie, FIX...THIS...PROBLEM!