Chicago Sun-Times

Grading the Bears heading to camp

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As players prepare to report to Bourbonnais for the start of training camp, here's a position-by-position look at the Bears on paper before the pads start popping. It might be fun to compare what we think we know about before training camp to what we find out during the preseason and regular season.

Here goes, a brief position-by-position analysis based what we saw last year, improvements that have been made during the offseason and how they might project this season. Basically, it's my gut talking. Yours may see things differently.

QUARTERBACK:

Cutler will be better. He has to be. He will still make bad decisions and bad throws but there's one thing to remember about Mike Martz's offense that hasn't been discussed much lately. It always seems like somebody is open, especially in the red zone. How many time during Kurt Warner's career, for example, do you remember him flipping an easy pass to a wide-open receiver for a gimme touchdown? Criticize Cutler all you want, but time after time last season (the 49ers game leaps immediately to mind), he dropped back and nobody was open, forcing him to try to thread the ball through the eye of a needle for a completion. That won't be the case as often this year, which will help him immeasurably.

Projected grade: B

RUNNING BACK:

Matt Forte should be better, Chester Taylor is the perfect compliment for this system and Harvey Unga has promise. A solid running game should also help Cutler.

Projected grade: B +

OFFENSIVE LINE:

I think Chris Williams can develop into a solid left tackle. As for as overall talent, however, I don't believe this group is much better than average. I've talked to person after person who are convinced that new offensive line coach Mike Tice will squeeze every ounce of ability out of these players, which makes me give this unit the benefit of the doubt.

Projected grade: C +

RECEIVERS:

We'll include the tight ends in this group, too. Mainly, the question is, will the receiving corps play as well as it did late last season or as inconsistently as it did before that? The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. It's a reasonably talented group but expect more growing pains while players learn a new system.

Projected grade: B -

DEFENSIVE LINE:

I don't believe in the myth of Tommie Harris. Sorry. Israel Idonije, Mark Anderson and/or Marcus Harrison need to have career years. As you can probably tell after two sentences, I don't have much confidence in what looks to me like an average group, and that's with Julius Peppers.

Projected grade: C

LINEBACKERS:

Easily the strength of the team. Brian Urlacher has something to prove and will be an absolute beast. Lance Briggs is capable of having another Pro Bowl-caliber year and whether Pisa Tinoisamoa or Nick Roach starts on the strong side isn't a big deal because both are solid. Hopefully, this unit can make up for shortcomings in front of them and behind them.

Projected grade: A

SECONDARY:

This is the unit that could determine the team's fate. If Chris Harris and, say, rookie Major Wright proved to a capable safety duo and the corners stay healthy, this may still only be a slightly above average secondary. But what happens if one of the safety spots remains unsettled and a cornerback or two goes down to injury? The bottom falls out, that's what happens. I just don't see the top-end talent or the depth here.

Projected grade: C -

SPECIAL TEAMS:

They always seem to come together under Dave Toub, which is why I'm giving the unit that includes kicker Robbie Gould and punter Brad Maynard the highest grade yet. Devin Hester told me he has changed his offseason conditioning program with the hope of improving his return game. The Bears better hope it works because they're going to need every edge they can get.

Projected grade: A

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21 Comments

Not a bad post from Hayes. The O-line won't finish as a C if the QB, RB and receivers finish as Bs. It will be feast or famine so that if Cutler and Forte have good years, the O-line will too. Or the opposite will happen and they will all stink. The group I worry the most about is the secondary. I think we also tend to discount what a healthy Urlacher means to this team. Hopefully he will remind us with a good year.

To me a key question for the Bears is not really a position question, it's a coming of age question. Due to the Cutler deal, and some bad drafts, the Bears have been trying to develop some under-the-radar young players in the last couple years. If they are to succeed this year some of those guys will have to step up and surprise us a little.

I'm talking about players like Hanie, Asiata, Louis, Melton, Gilbert, Wright, Wooton, Knox, the Moores, Bennett, Aromashodu, Beekman. It's natural to assume these players will stay at the bottom of the roster. That doesn't mean it's true. Players come out of the woodwork every year in the NFL to start and play at high levels. If the Bears are to have a good year, a handful of these younger dudes will have to climb the ladder and gain some respect in the league. If they do, some of those Cs will turn into high Bs and the Bears will be able to contend.

If not, if Haye's evaluation is correct, they probably finish 3rd in the division again.

It will be fun to review these projections as the year goes on. Personnaly, I can hardly wait.

Seems reasonable - though I think the defensive line has the potential to move from average to very good. But, then again, so did Rex Grossman...
And what? No love for the special teams?
It would have been nice to see an A+ on the report card...

The one thing that bothers me about this offense is that Martz has never been afraid to put the pedal down, and try to take an opponent out early. That seems to be when most of the turnovers happened for his previous teams. Lovie has traditionally forced a conservative game plan, which might take away from the Martz mantra of "strike, strike, strike, and keep going until the whistle blows"

The offense should be able to move the chains, and keep the opposing defense on the field (incidentally, how teams beat us the last 2-3 years), but they need to be able to finish. That means TDs, not FGs. Otherwise, the defense will not be able to hold without an interior line to speak of, and without a strong coverage group on the back of the defense. Harris is better, but still not what I would call a "coverage" safety.
Any injuries on the defense are going to put more pressure on the offense, and that means taking more chances, being more aggressive on offense. If Lovie lets it happen, I will be impressed. If it works, I will be even more impressed. If it works, we may not win the division, but we could put a lot of pressure on the winner to play hard all 16 weeks to make sure they clinch. That will not be a good thing for a certain 41 year-old QB whose body is going to eventually give out....

Actually MS the Bears offensive line could be just plain Bad and the QB could still have a great year. Just look at the Packers last year.

Some of these grades don't make a lot of sense. I like the QB back grade but you are playing safe, it could be a middle of the road B. Its a high risk high reward offense and probably be either an A or a D.

I don't get the RB grade at all. Martz does not have a big history of running the ball that much. Taylor is 30, not a good thing for a RB and putting Unga on the list???? I agree Forte should be better but he also won't see as many touches. Its also hard not to be better than he was last year with his only 100 yard rushing games coming against Detroit. C+.

Offensive Line I think C+ may be a little gernerous. Tice is not running his protection schemes, he is using Martz's and Martz has a lot of no protection, protection schemes. Not a very talented group to begin with, playing in a new system that gives up a lot of sacks. This is not an easy offense for offensive linemen, not having a lot of talent only makes it worse. Being undersized in the middle and old will not help either. This could be the biggest problem the Bears have. Grade C.

I think Recievers is right at B-. Like the run and gun offenses seen in the 80's average receivers can look good and great recievers can look all world in this offense. The TE should not even be a topic until Martz proves otherwise.

I have to agree with the D-Line grade. What would be a career year for Harrison? He could be the guy that has solid year. He was not close to being great last year or even good, but he did improve late. Playing next to Peppers will boost his game. C is pretty much dead on.

Secondary is dead on.

As for special teams. Everyone keeps talking about when Hester will return to form on returns. News flash, Knox and Manning are already in form on returns. Maynard is a worry though, his play fell off last year. Shaw needs a follow up year. At worst this unit is a strong B.

I believe in Tommie Harris for one reason...I have to. If this guy doesn't return to form, the Bears are in trouble, and yes, even with Julius Peppers. The good is the fact Tommie Harris is only a 7 year vet, he's still pretty young, it isn't like he's a 10 year vet with major health problems. There is reason for optimism believe it or not, Harris came on late last season, in weeks 10-17, Harris had 7 tackles for loss, 2 1/2 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery. Harris has had a pretty quiet off-season also, i.e. hasn't had any surgeries for the first time in awhile. So maybe. The optimist in me is screaming GO #91!!

With the importance of the under tackle position in Chicago's scheme, I can't figure out why they haven'r brought anyone in free agency wise to at least spell Harris. They have drafted guys although. Take a guy like Marcus Harrison, he is going to be getting reps at the under tackle position, but I like him better at the nose. Chicago brought in Jarron Gilbert last april to be an under tackle, but the guys been getting most of his reps at end. Maybe Henery Melton another draft pick from last year. The guy does have the athleticism to play the position, but he's raw. Young players like Harrison, Gilbert, and Melton are gonna be key along with Harris.

And yes, Brian Urlacher is gonna be a Beast along with Lance Briggs and Nick Roach now GO BEARS!!

I agree with most except for the "D" line and secondary. Don't forget about Anthony Adams and the "wildcard" Corey Wootton. This unit will surprise! As for the secondary, it's addition by subtraction. They got rid of the dead weight, Vasher and Payne, and got Harris and Wright! These two units go hand and hand. Our "D" will be in the top ten this year, no doubt! GO BEARS!

I agree for the most part especially with the disbelief in the T. Harris myth. We all should stop thinking that with the doble coverage on Peppers Harris will thrive, or now that Harris has a motivator in Peppers, etc. T. Harris will for the raimder of his time here fail. I hope to God that I am wrong on that theory, though. Now the secondary, I too am iffy on because there might not be any solidity. There must be some solidity in order for there to be any success in the secodary, and I just dont see it. The O-line I beliefe should have received a D because they are simply too incompetant and too incapable of meshing. There's no solid back-ups if one of the men goes down, there's also no coordination. The LB are top quality, IF they can all stay healthy. And the WR should be interesting because whom do they pick to be starters? We shall only see. Again, I hope to God that I am wrong on all of my skepticism.

**I don't believe in the myth of Tommie Harris. Sorry. Israel Idonije, Mark Anderson and/or Marcus Harrison need to have career years.**

LOL! Talk about undersating some of the biggest losers in football. Harris is a nutcase and a cripple. Izzy won't do much, Anderson is a former flash in the pan, and Marcus Harrison is Fat Albert. Sure Alex Brown was sailing into the sunset of his career, but these dorks are not much better.

So, Creighton, you think stating the O-Line "could be the biggest problem the Bears have" is groundbreaking? I'll give you a grade of DB for that.

ahhh...is time to give these LOOSERS my GRADES!

QUARTERBACK A++++++

Cutler is perfect. a total dream.

RUNNING BACK F-

Foret is a BUST kevin BUMsted!!! wake up and smell teh soda!

OFFENSIVE LINE Z+

Chris williams is a BUST agaian BUMsted!! man i am allawyas reight!

RECEIVERS F

More BUSTS ans hester is two stupid to be an anfl receever!!

DEFENSIVE LINE 0

ow wow nothing but BUSTS hear.

LINEBACKERS D+
i will go easy on them sense lancey lance went to the probowel.

SECONDARY F

Manning SUKcs! weright is WRONG and a total BUST! oh ans dont forget abot tahtsuper BUST STELTZ! yea EAT it BUMSted!!

SPECIAL TEAMS
teams donut win on special teams. so no grade sense they dont mater.

bears will go 4-12 this year.

but uo huys now me old crap-ton...just trying to be podsative..

ps heyBarndo...hope taht METCALF PILLOW is nice and cumfy looser!


Sorry to interrupt this serious conversation, but I just saw something hilarious.

On "sports look alikes" Devin Hester and Whoopi Goldburg were pictured together as the look alikes!!!

LMFAO!!!

Actually I am the guy that predicted the Chris Williams injury his first year. The weak right side of the Packers line after the second pre-season game last year. I predicted the offensive line being a problem sense after 2006. I predicted Josh Beekman and Frank Omiyale would be bad before they ever played a snap. I predicted the struggles with run blocking last year, I pretty much have accuratly predicted the Bears on this blog for 3 years. Actually the list of my pedictions is long and very very accurate. Thats why guys like you get mad, you can't see what I can see and its frustrating for you. You name and I called it way early and every one hated me for it.

However I didn't make any prediction today.

By IMHOtep on July 27, 2010 7:58 PM
So, Creighton, you think stating the O-Line "could be the biggest problem the Bears have" is groundbreaking? I'll give you a grade of DB for that.

Thats also not a prediction, thats a response to what Neal wrote. Maybe you should learn to read. But thats a nice partial quote.

The secondary could also be the biggest problem, thats kind of what Neal was hinting, I think O-Line, with the secondary being the second biggest problem. So can you see the reply now, do understand it now that I explained the big scary words to you.

By the way nice name IMHOtep, are you big scary Mummy. I can't imagine you are actualy smart enough to know who the real Im-hotep was. Why don't you Wiki and pretend like you know. Don't let the big words on the wiki page scare you.

"Brian Urlacher has something to prove and will be an absolute beast."

Neil, I believe my trademarked term is "Total beast!" And Urlacher is NOT it. We need to get Michael Okwo back. He was Jerry's third-round mauler. Ferocious he was! Unfortunately he was just a misunderstood treasure trove of talent that no one else could see. I cried a river when he was cut.

I'm Kevin Bumstead and Jerry Angelo approves this message.

This is actually a somewhat accurate posting by Jensen. In addition to it, a couple suprising wild cards on defense MIGHT be Corey Wooten and Corey Graham. We all know that Mark Anderson will get pushed over on running plays and make Lovie and Jerry's decision to replace A. Brown with him (for the second time, see 2007) look terrible, AGAIN. If Wooten can bring his game from Northwestern to the NFL level, than that not only solidifies the DE position opposite of Peppers, it allows Idonije to help on the inside which we need because Anthony Adams is the only DT that we can definitely count on. Harrison is just a hope until he consistently proves otherwise and Tommie Harris has proved to be a bum. We can't count on Harris again this year because he has failed us miserably for the past 2 seasons. Corey Graham has been solid all-around when he has started at CB, but lacked some speed. He supposedly has been running significantly faster this offseason since being a couple of years removed from a bad foot injury late in his college days. If these reports are true, he might be a gem and add much needed depth at CB. However that doesn't help the FS position which concerns the crap out of me. We still don't have a safety on the roster that has the necessary combination of instincts and speed to play FS, except possibly Major Wright. But because he's a rookie, we don't know if the pass coverage instincts are there to go with his excellent speed. His inexperience and lack of familiarity with the NFL game is a significant short-term concern too.

Neil Hayes...

How about us fans giving you a grade...

How about an F- --------------------------

Giving the O-line a grade of C+ confirms that you either know nothing about football or that you are a mouthpiece for the bears organization. This group is an F until it provides some proof that it can do its job. Same goes for the D-line. The wide receivers and the running game are going to go the way of the O-line. Cutlers health will also depend on the O-line.
Exactly....what did the bears organization do to improve the O-line?
What did the bears do to improve the D-line a year ago? I'll give you a hint....he was 0-16 as a head coach. What was the results of that supposed improvement? Now look at this years improvement for the O-line? What do you think will be the results? Give you a hint....take a real good look at the opponents for this years matchups. 8 games with real playoff teams and 3 games with 2008 division champs. Still having a tough time coming to a conclusion? Then get off the Bears payroll. That should help your brain cells function a little better.


Don't worry Neil, some people on here show their ignorance of football by comparing the W/L record of a positional coach when he was a head coach and trying to relate that (somehow) to his ability to coach a certain position. As I have mentioned on here several times, guys such as Simeon Rice, Warren Sapp, McFarland, etc. give Marinelli nothing but praise for what he did with the D-line at Tampa. But, since he didn't do the same here, his stint in Detroit must have erased any positional knowledge he once had. Moronic at best. {Go tell Art Shell that he doesn't know anything about coaching offensive linemen since he wasn't a good head coach.}
The true facts are that the performance of the Bear's D-line over the past few years {with Marinelli coaching them and without} is a direct result of the type of player Bear's management has drafted.
Tom Harris (I refuse to call a grown man "Tommy".}: Great collegiate player who came into the league with a bum knee and along with that, his mental "stability" has been quesationable at best over the years.
Anthony Adams: Great motor, but lacks the pure physical talent to be a dominant player play in and play out.
Marcus Harrison: Wish he had Adams work ethic and motor.
A. Ogunleye/A.Brown: Basically the same player. They will give you one or two dominant games a year and then be average in 14. Jason Taylor was the real force on the Dolphins line and Ogunleye benefited from that. Alex Brown is not even close to Taylor.
As for the O-line, once again don't expect miracles. Maybe Miracle Whip. Your O-line coach and OC don't believe in the same protection schemes. This can only lead to disaster, especially given that the Bears have not addressed the talent issue since drafting a hurt Williams.

As for your grades, Neil, the RB one bothers me a bit. Why is it assumed Forte is going to be better? And let's get Unga to make the team before we include him in a grade..ok? I do like your secondary grade. Although I might have went with a "D". Why didn't you grade the Bears coaching and management as well. Lovie looked like an idiot at the infamous "3 headed press conference." And once again, Angelo was "pantsed" on the second day of the draft by a team in his own division. And then wasting picks on a weak DB and a QB when you're already down bullets didn't and still doesn't make sense.

Not to belabor the point, I do think the grades were a little generous for the offense and not so for the defense.

Cutler for instance had at best for last year a C grade, way too many turnovers. I certainly hope for major improvement but a grade of a B- is the absolute most he should receive.

The Wide Receivers have potential but ran wrong routes did not finish routes etc last year. They are all still very young and improving but a grade of C is all they deserve at this point.

The running backs grade of C is a stretch given their past production and lack there of on third and short and in the red zone last year. I would love to give them a B grade for potential but they have not gotten off the bus running for a few years now.

O line grade of C- is also the best we can put down given the fact that nothing yet has been achieved for 2010. Of course I hope that the grades for each of these areas go up into the B and even A range but might not do so until mid year when the offense may start to gel.

Unlike most I am of the opinion that it will be the defense and special teams that will save the bacon for the first half of the season and will be stalwart throughout the year.

The Defense is going to surprise with a top 5 ranking by year end and will be stellar to start the year.

The addition of Peppers is going to make a huge difference, Peppers is going to prove that he is the man and Tommy Harris may also try to prove he is the man which could be good for the overall defensive line. The D line will have a pass rush that will be their best in years which will improve the entire defensive performance.

D line grade a B with Peppers getting 10 or more sacks and many forced fumbles and rushed throws that will turn into interceptions.

The D line starts the effort which will translate to the following grades for the other areas of the defense.

Linebackers are the best unit in the league an A grade.
The corners and nickel with the added pressure of the line will be graded a B with the safeties earning a C grade but improving to a B by mid season.

Special Teams A+ for the year, turnovers and returns will fuel a very good year.

The defense / special teams will allow the Bears to carry at least a 5-3 record into mid season and will help the team finish with a worst case scenario of 9-7 for the year and make the playoffs.

Lovie, may even save his job which I I am not to jazzed about.

Yes, Martz likes to push his offense to the lmit and "strike, strike, strike". And Lovie is much more conservative in his philopsophy.

That's why Mike Martz has a Super Bowl ring and Lovie Smith is on the hot seat.

Some more classic quotes from Creighton?

By Creighton on July 27, 2010 11:33 PM
"I pretty much have accuratly predicted the Bears on this blog for 3 years. Actually the list of my pedictions is long and very very accurate. Thats why guys like you get mad, you can't see what I can see and its frustrating for you."

Well don't forget this one Creighton.

"In fact I am so sure that Angelo will not get him [Cutler] that if he does, I will be outside Soilder Field in a hot pink panties that say spank me, singing the Crackers Happy birthday to me while holding up a sign that reads Brando rules and I suck... First home game and I will also paint myself Orange and Blue and get a tattoo thats says Angelo is the man on my forehead."

http://blogs.suntimes.com/bears/2009/03/rocky_mountain_high_bears_repo.html

Oopsies! Looks like you were wrong on that one Creighton, way wrong as a matter of fact. But you never did man up, did you? When people asked you about it you simply went into hiding and then came back with a bag of excuses bigger than the size of your ego-swelled head.

Man up, Creighton. Man up. Who agrees?

By Kevin Armstead on July 27, 2010 3:54 PM
I believe in Tommie Harris for one reason...I have to. The optimist in me is screaming GO #91!!

Kevin, this is not a daytime TV soap opera. Tommie Harris is not a heart surgeon operating on your sister. Take some depressants and settle down. I fear for your well being that, in the event the Bears do win the Super Bowl, you will literally explode from sheer joy and ecstacy. Settle down.

By val's a gal on July 28, 2010 5:09 AM
"Neil Hayes...

How about us fans giving you a grade...

How about an F- --------------------------

Giving the O-line a grade of C+ confirms that you either know nothing about football or that you are a mouthpiece for the bears organization."

Do you see now Neil? When you let the speech go uncensored, it's a win-win for everybody! Because then the biggest of doofuses come on here and post and, subsequently, we can all laugh at them.

Yes, Val. Neil is a mouthpiece for the Bears org. since he graded them to be fairly average. Just like anyone who doesn't think Beck's comments on Urlacher were a big deal is a mouthpiece for Fox News according to you. Seriously, the team finished 7-9 last season. It's not like they were '08 Detroit.

Also by Val, "Give you a hint....take a real good look at the opponents for this years matchups. 8 games with real playoff teams and 3 games with 2008 division champs. Still having a tough time coming to a conclusion? Then get off the Bears payroll. That should help your brain cells function a little better."

Hahaha! Neil, how are you not in tears laughing at this!? There goes Val again pretending to "know things" and then exposing his canyon of ignorance.

Val, some questions for you.

Do you think the '09 Cardinals, a playoff team, will be the same this year? (Hint: Boldin and Warner are history.)

What about the Jets? (Hint: Lost Thomas Jones (1400 yds rushing)and picked up Ladainian Tomlinson (730 yds rushing))

Eagles? (Hint: McNabb, Westbrook...gone.)

How about the Vikes now that AP's backup is on our team?

Do you kind of get it now? Strength of schedule means nothing and teams always change. The '06 Bears were nothing like the '07 Bears. '07 Lions nothing like the '08 Lions. '07 Dolphins nothing like the '08 Dolphins. '08 Steelers nothing like '09...

I 100% agree It's time to man up! Creighton has an answer for everything and they are all exuses. Creighton is probably in his late 20's early 30's and probably still crys to his mom when she takes him to Walmart and doesnt buy him a pack of Ugeo cards.

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on July 27, 2010 8:59 AM.

Cutler knows he has big challenge ahead with Martz was the previous entry in this blog.

Bears' to-do list for training camp is the next entry in this blog.

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