Evaluating the 2010 Chicago Bears was a difficult proposition. There seemed to be a success ultimatum as we believed we were looking at the end of tenures for both Lovie Smith and GM Jerry Angelo. Make the playoffs or else. Win a playoff game or else. The season brought two new coordinators and one of the game's elite edge rushers in what was believed to be a last-ditch effort to save the jobs of the current Halas Hall establishment.
Then something changed. They stopped looking like a team at the end of the rope and started playing like a team at the start of successful run. Young defensive linemen making big plays. Young receivers making plays on the outside. New corners establishing themselves opposite Charles Tillman. The offensive linemen got better, a bit, as the year went on. The old dogs were still there - Urlacher, Briggs, Peanut, Chris Harris, Jay, Forte, Skunk - but this was clearly not an aged group trying to win before the window closed.
I don't want to spend all offseason analyzing what transpired over the 2010 season. So today I end the evaluation period. Starting next week and after the Super Bowl, it's all-systems-go on the 2011 campaign. A year I truly believe can be and should be special.
On the B-side we'll look at every area of the Chicago Bears roster.
Forget the Jay Cutler "controversy". It'll be nothing more than Steve Rosenbloom's catch phrase whenever Jay struggles in the future. Jay's development in 2010 was terrific and should continue next year. The Bears also established in the NFC title game that they have a more than serviceable backup in Caleb Hanie.
Running Backs, Tight Ends
These are two positions where the Bears should literally spend none of their attention for the next nine months.
Johnny Knox and Devin Hester are terrific speed options on the outside and Earl Bennett has proven to be a reliable slot/possession man and a favorite target of Jay Cutler. But the Bears can not enter another season without a proven threat at the position. They need a player that can catch a slant route and take it to the house. They need a player who can beat a corner for a jump ball in the end zone (the Packers have three). They need a verifiable #1.
Three parts. (1) Decide whether Olin Kreutz and Roberto Garza have more left in the tank. (2) Evaluate the potential and find true positions for Chris Williams and J'Marcus Webb. (3) Cut Frank Omiyale. Seriously, I don't have the patience. Would anyone have any issue with the Bears taking seven offensive linemen in this year's draft and hoping to strike gold with one or two?
Not sure how to complain about these guys.
Urlacher and Briggs are two of the best in the league but the Bears need to start developing young talent at this position for two reasons: (1) Urlacher/Briggs won't be able to stay this healthy for an entire season very often and (2) Urlacher and Briggs aren't going to be here forever. Re-signing Pisa Tinoisamoa is not a must and I expect the Bears to look at this position relatively early in the draft.
Assuming Chris Harris and Danieal Manning return, developing Major Wright becomes to the top priorityat safety. Peanut had an excellent season and Tim Jennings was perhaps the defense's biggest surprise. DJ Moore showed excellent ballhawk at the nickel corner spot. Depth at corner is a need for every team, every offseason, and the Bears won't be the only fanbase clamoring for their club to sign Namdi Asomugha.
The Bears need to re-sign Rashied Davis, Corey Graham to avoid the mistake they made several years ago when they let Brendon Ayanbadejo go. They can't afford to let Brad Maynard walk but they must bring competition to camp this summer.
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