Chicago Bears: Devin Hester and the Chicago Bears' 7 Best Playmakers
The Chicago Bears have never been known as a team laced with playmakers up and down their roster.
With that said, this season's team has a few guys capable of changing a game with their presence and ability to create game-changing plays.
The Bears are going to need these players to step up if they have any shot at winning the NFC North again, and after a season filled with lucky breaks last year, this year's team can't expect the same good fortune.
This list will cover the seven best playmakers on the Bears and how valuable their play is to the team.
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To NFL fans outside of Chicago, Charles Tillman may not seem like much of a playmaker.
But as every Bears fan knows, Charles Tillman has made plays during his career in Chicago that have won games.
Tillman has easily been the best and most consistent defensive back for the Bears during the Lovie Smith era and is still playing at a high level.
Tillman is best known for his ability to force fumbles and create turnovers, both staples of the Lovie Smith defense, and those skill sets allow for him to thrive in the Bears' version of the Tampa 2 defense.
Tillman led the team in interceptions last season with five and also forced three fumbles.
Tillman has forced 17 fumbles since 2006, by far the most for a defensive back in the given time span.
Tillman will need to have another big year in terms of forcing turnovers if the Bears are going to have one of the best defenses in the league, and once again compete for the NFC title.
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Brian Urlacher is another monster playmaker on the Chicago Bears, and is a huge part of why the Bears' defense was so good last year.
The middle linebacker position in the Tampa 2 defense is by far the most important position, and Urlacher plays it as well as anyone ever has.
Urlacher is the leader of the defense, and arguably the entire team. He makes all the calls on the field in a manner that could most easily explained as the quarterback of the defense.
Urlacher had a huge bounce-back year last season recording 125 tackles (the most since 2006), four sacks (the most since 2007) and three fumble recoveries (the most in his career).
Urlacher was injured nearly all of the 2009 season but used the time off to recharge and came back as good as ever.
The NFL lockout limited training camp time and allowed for more rest for Urlacher, which should once again be helpful to the veteran linebacker.
Urlacher knows how important he is to the defense, and I expect nothing less than a great year of playmaking and overall dominance form the linebacker.
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Johnny Knox is capable of making plays both offensively and in the kicking game, which makes him an extremely valuable part of the Bears team.
Knox is a threat to return kicks and run a go route to the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown.
It seems like people forget that this guy is entering only his third season in the league. He has a chance to develop into a poor man's DeSean Jackson—well, at least a homeless man's DeSean Jackson.
Knox caught 51 balls for 960 yards last season and scored five touchdowns.
I expect all of those numbers to increase this season, especially the touchdown total.
Knox is currently the Bears' best wide out, and Mike Martz should look to run plays with that in mind.
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Now onto the most polarizing player in the NFL, Jay Cutler.
Cutler hasn't played in a real NFL football game since the NFC Championship, and we all know what happened there.
Cutler is still facing criticism from NFL fans, players and analysts about his injury and many are still, ridiculously, questioning his toughness.
While I don't see Jay Cutler as the type who is going to give a damn about what ESPN says, I can at least hope he will come into this season with a chip on his shoulder and want to prove everyone wrong.
With that said, Cutler didn't have a bad season last year, not at all.
Cutler threw for 3,274 yards last season, extremely average, and had a 23-16 touchdown-interception ratio, also solid.
Cutler was also sacked 52 times last year, by far the most in the NFL.
Playing behind a terrible offensive line with an offense lacking quality, skilled position players, Cutler still managed an 86.3 passer rating and helped lead the Bears to the NFC title game.
Instead, Cutler is constantly criticized for not only his lacking toughness, but his play on the field.
His smug remarks to the media and general not-giving-a-damn attitude may warrant a lot of this, but not nearly as much as he gets.
It comes down to the fact that no fans outside, and even a few inside, Chicago really like the quarterback, and that's what drives the media.
Now we've proven Cutler is a good quarterback who had a solid season last year, but what makes him a playmaker?
Simply put, his arm, but we could even say his entire body, makes him a playmaker.
Cutler has the ideal body for an NFL quarterback: athletic, mobile, a cannon for an arm and overall strength.
The problems Cutler has run into are in the decision making aspect of the game, which isn't always necessary for a playmaker.
Cutler's arm gives him the ability to fire a 40-yard dart between two defenders into the hands of wide out.
Cutler's legs allow for him to scramble for extra yards and get away from the defensive linemen who will inevitably be chasing him down every play.
I expect a big year out of Cutler in his second season in the Mike Martz offense, and he should put up better numbers.
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Matt Forte could potentially be higher on someone else's list of the Chicago Bears best playmakers, but I see him right around three.
Forte does have big-play ability, but is more of a consistently solid running back who can catch the ball out of the back field and methodically move the ball down field.
Forte doesn't break off a ton of big runs, but did tear off an impressive 68-yarder last season.
Forte rushed for 1,069 yards on 237 attempts and averaged 4.5 yards per carry.
Forte also caught 51 passes for 547 yards and is the real reason he is on this list.
Forte's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is a huge part of the Bears' offense and the reason he ranks so high in the league in total yards every year.
I hope Forte doesn't get distracted if he isn't awarded with an extension by the time the season starts, but I'm afraid it could happen.
I could potentially see a down year from Forte unless the Bears lock him up long term before Sunday.
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Julius Peppers scored a huge pay day when he signed with the Chicago Bears before the 2010 season and, so far, he is earning every penny.
Peppers had a huge first season with the Bears and while his sack numbers were down, his overall impact level was up.
Peppers changed the Bears' defense and took them from above average to elite in a matter of months.
Peppers had eight sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions last season and made plays for the Bears' defense without recording any stats.
Peppers' presence on either side of the defensive line frees up the rest of the linemen and even allows the linebackers to run more freely with the blocking mostly focused on No. 90.
Peppers is an athletic freak, and his combination of size and speed is unmatched by anyone in the league.
I don't think Peppers is due for a down year this season, and his sack numbers should increase.
Over the span of his career, each time Peppers' sack total was down, he came back with a monster year, and last season Peppers' sack total was down.
A low sack season last year could be a sign of aging, but I still feel Peppers has a lot left in the tank.
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Not only is Devin Hester the Chicago Bears' top playmaker, he is probably the entire NFL's top playmaker.
Hester does most of his damage on the special teams, returning kicks and punts, but also makes plays on offense as a wide receiver.
Hester had three return touchdowns last season and while the new NFL kickoff rule should slow his kick returning numbers, his punt-return game should be as dominant as ever.
Hester is also developing as a wide out and improves every season.
He is a good fit to the Mike Martz offense and if his route-running skill would ever catch up with his quickness and speed, he would be dominant.
Hester could have a nice year as a receiver this season and I really don't expect his special teams numbers to drop too much, either.